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Categories

  1. Career
    1. My One and Only
    2. Interning at the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
    3. S. Takata Memorial Research Library and My Research Theme
    4. Building a Career in Japan - Don't let the Japanese people beat you in linguistic skills and cultural comprehension -
    5. 67 years after World War II
    6. What is a life plan? From the National Bar Exam to becoming a painter
    7. Job-hunting experience note -Receiving a job offer from the first-choice company is not a dream-
    8. Job-hunting experience note -Self-analysis is about "Constructing one-self"-
    9. The skill-levels of world-class top talents are extremely high. That is why, in order to compete against the world, ambition and aspiration is necessary.
    10. Japan's passport did not come falling from the skies. Fight now for the respect of the future Japanese.
    11. OECD Internship Report
    12. Settling down in Waseda
    13. Be true to yourself, boldly step forward into the things that excite you!
    14. Job Hunting experience notes
    15. In Finland, as an Artist and a Researcher
    16. Using My experiences from Waseda,
    17. Waseda:An everlasting bond
    18. Recent report from Denmark
    19. Submission from WiN member (Recent Report)
    20. Memories of Waseda
    21. My experience at Waseda
    22. My time at Waseda University
    23. Teaching Position at Korea University
  1. Event Reports
    1. C21 Tokyo Challenge
    2. Enjoying a taste of South-East Asia: Vietnamese Bánh Mì Sandwiches and Milo
    3. Looking Back on the "Go Global Japan" English Presentation Contest
    4. Student Visa Day at the American Embassy
    5. 3rd Place Finish in the "Hong Kong Cup"
    6. Students' Day at the American Embassy
    7. ASIAN STUDENTS ENVIRONMENT PLATFORM 2012: Environmental field studies by students from Japan, China, and Korea
    8. Reflections on the Universitas21 Undergraduate Research Conference 2012 Part 2: Non-academic conference learning
    9. Reflections on the Universitas21 Undergraduate Research Conference 2012 Part 1: Academic conference learning
    10. The 7th Foreigner's Traditional Japanese Dance Exhibition: Waseda University student performers' questionnaire interview
    11. [Event] Universitas 21 Undergraduate Research Conference 2012 at Waseda University - ended in a great success!
  1. Gourmet
    1. What Do You Do With a Major in Ramen?
  1. Others
    1. "Ship for South East Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP)"
    2. Exchange Students from US Reunite at Waseda after 30 years
    3. "Like" WiN on Facebook!
    4. WiN Blog starts
  1. Sports
    1. Learning How "To Think" Through Waseda University's Track & Field
    2. Participating in the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships
    3. "Participating in the XXV Winter Universiade Games (2011/Erzurum)"
    4. My experience with Waseda's American Football Bukatsu
  1. Study Abroad
    1. Shifting Cultivation and the Challenge of Sustainability in Mopungchuket Village, India
    2. Building the TOMODACHI Generation
    3. Kakehashi Project Report
    4. The Double Degree Program at Peking University
    5. Camping and Snowshoeing in Canada
    6. An Encouragement of two-stages approach to study abroad
    7. Studying abroad in Brisbane, Australia
    8. A new kind of Study Abroad
    9. 14-Day Short term Study Abroad Program in Chowgule College, Goa - "What can I do? What can they do? What can you do?"
    10. From Tsugaru strait to the African highest peak Kilimanjaro
    11. PIANO LINE -Seattle Study Abroad Chronicles-
    12. In Finland, as an Artist and a Researcher
    13. What I learned about China through Shanghai Fudan University
    14. Why are those who've experienced study abroad programs a little different? -Full Japanese SILS student reveals the whole story of studying abroad -
    15. China, The Neighboring Country You Do Not Know ~ My Encounter at Peking University ~
    16. Study Abroad Experience Notes
    17. C'est la vie! This is life! Work hard, Play hard.
    18. Study abroad @ Taiwan
    19. Study abroad @ Beijing
  1. Study in Japan
    1. Visiting the Prime Minister's Residene
    2. IPS Summer School 2016: Culture Meets Culture
    3. The World is Smaller than We Think
    4. Waseda Summer 2016
    5. The Opportunity of a Lifetime
    6. Experiencing Village Life at Kijimadaira
    7. A Fantastic Opportunity
    8. A Rewarding Experience
    9. An Amazing Experience
    10. Take Me Wonder by Wonder
    11. I Couldn't Ask for More
    12. Another Kokusaibu Story
    13. SAKURA Exchange Program in Science
    14. I Want to Go Again!
    15. More than Good Sushi
    16. Immersive Experience into the Japanese Culture
    17. 40 Years of Memories in a Photo
    18. Experiencing Everything First Hand
    19. Waseda Summer Session wasn't like any other Summer Camp
    20. Looking Forward to the Past
    21. Weeding a Rice Paddy ~Field Trip to Niigata~
    22. Japan Study Students to Waseda: A message from the class of 1983-84
    23. Developing Medical and Welfare Robots ~The Challenges of Kabe Laboratory, Faculty of Human Sciences~
    24. Recollecting experiences of Exchange Programme at Waseda
    25. Kuroda Kazuo Interview: About Studying in Japan
  1. Volunteer Activity
    1. Taking the first step in volunteering
    2. "Volunteer experience in earthquake-hit area Natori"
    3. "The Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Volunteering"
    4. How my perspective changed through volunteering
    5. Tohoku Volunteer
    6. Great East Japan Earthquake    "Fumbaro East Japan Support Project"

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Blog

My One and Only

Name: Nobuko Akashi
Nationality: Japanese
Enrollment year and status at Waseda University: Doctoral Course, Graduate School of Faculty of Letters, Arts and Sciences 1994-2000
Current position: French Lecturer at Waseda University (2003-)


When I received this wonderful invitation to write an article for the WiN organization, initially I found myself at a loss for words. As I have contributed articles to many magazines/journals over the years, writing is usually an activity that comes easily to me. However, when I thought about what to say about my experiences with the French language, with Waseda, and with study abroad, my thoughts became curiously stopped up. I think that initially there were simply too many emotions trying to get out all at once.
Along with all these emotions came the lyrics of song from many years ago.

        “If I hadn’t met you on that day, what kind of woman would I have become?”
                                                                ― A song from the Showa era, Megumi Asaoka’s “Seedling”

Although the exact date that we first met is difficult to pin down, the love of my life has always been the French language. When I try to think about what kind of woman I would be without it, I can’t picture myself at all. French is truly my all and my everything.

 “France is beautiful!” “France is delicious!” “France is amazing!”
I often try to appeal to my students in this way, and as far as the three points above are concerned, there aren’t many people who would disagree.

However I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me quite a long time to realize this for myself. One reason for this was that since France was the very first foreign country I ever visited; so for many years I simply assumed that such breathtaking beauty, delicious food and fascinating culture was simply the norm for all foreign countries. However, after travelling to more than 25 different foreign countries, I realized just how special France really is. I had been standing on the highest peak the whole time and didn’t even realize it.

Over the years French has helped me to meet a number of interesting people, and as I have often found it easier to speak my mind to people who are not from Japan, many of my closest friends hail from French speaking world as well.

My first study abroad was a one year master’s course in Literature at Nantes University, which I was able to attend thanks to a generous scholarship from The Rotary Foundation. After finishing my master’s, I moved to Germany for family reasons, and lived there for 4.5 years. At that time I was just beginning my doctorate, and so, aside from working on my thesis research, I only needed to attend two classes per week. Although they were luckily both held on the same day, I still had to commute to France from Germany by train once a week. The route was 6 hours one way, which meant a total of 12 hours travelling in one day. In the same span of time, you could take a plane from Narita all the way to Paris!  I would wake up at 6am, leave Germany, arrive in Lille by 12 noon, attend both my classes, board the homeward-bound train at 6pm and arrive back at home by 12 midnight. 

However, I didn’t find this schedule to be a burden in the slightest. My normal route led me from Germany to France by way of Belgium. I was always fascinated by the view out of the train window, which changed along with the people boarding and leaving the train. I remember one time when I was returning home to Germany and had to change trains in Ghent.  Ordinarily the Germany-bound train would come from across the Straight of Dover from Britain, but it was often delayed in stormy weather. As I stood waiting in the station in Ghent one stormy day, an announcement was broadcast over the PA in Flemish (a language closer to Dutch than to French). However, I couldn’t understand a single word of it. I approached another passenger waiting on the platform and tried asking a question in French. It’s said that the Flemish and the French have a long history of mutual distrust, but seeing that I was Japanese, this Flemish-speaking Belgian passenger translated the broadcast into French for me without a hint of resentment.

Even more memorable than my master’s and doctoral studies however, was the intensive course that I took to receive a bachelor’s degree in teaching French as a foreign language.
 

①フランス語教員研修.jpg

A commemorative photo taken in 2002 with the other participants at a French language teacher training course

At that time, I was receiving financial support from both the French government and the Japanese Ministry of Education in the days before it became the modern Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). I found out about a program that covered a year’s worth of study in only one month, and if you could handle the work load it would grant you a degree as well. Though I was excited to think about such wonderful opportunity, I realized that the curriculum would be extremely intense. It consisted of four classes held Monday through Saturday from 8:30am until 6pm, with 4 comprehensive examinations held every two weeks: a workload that even a French native speaker would find overwhelming.

From morning till night my classmates and I worked and lived together. Most of them were already teaching French in various local schools, but wanted a certificate (qualification) that would allow them to teach overseas as well. We would meet first thing in the morning in the cafeteria for breakfast, have lunch together after our morning classes, and regroup once again in the evening for dinner. After that, I would either return to my room or head out onto the terrace of the dorm café and share a bottle of wine with my classmates in the growing dusk. Sometimes we would discuss Japanese literature late into the night. Once one of my classmates ventured an opinion that although Haruki Murakami was more popular in France, his personal favorite was Ryu Murakami, who he felt would surely win a Nobel Prize someday. I will not easily forget these nights. With such a busy schedule, it would be natural to spend my one day off simply recuperating, but I took every opportunity and invitation I could to get out of my room on the weekends as well.

To tell the truth, I never got to know most of the other students in my graduate-level literature classes. But this course was different: we were all living under the same roof and sharing the same food, and as a result, I became very intimate with the other students on the program. And over time, they began to open up to me about their personal struggles such as bad boyfriends, fathers struggling with alcoholism, and fears of being trapped in France for the rest of their lives. I realized that, in France as in Japan, it is often easier to share your most intimate fears with someone from a totally different culture rather than with someone who shares the same background. Thanks to this environment, a movement began among our classmates to put pressure on the teachers to graduate us as a group. In short, the other students decided that they wouldn’t accept their degrees unless every student would be able to graduate, native and non-native alike, a sentiment that surprised and touched me greatly.
 

③レティシアと横浜で.jpg

A friend I met in training named Leticia; we reunited in Yokohama when she came to Japan in 2013

②マリのパーティー.jpg

A party in 2015 that I was invited to by Marie, another friend I met through teacher training

Through experiences like this, as well as through the many years I have spent as a teacher, French has connected me with thousands of people. And over the years I’ve had similar heart-to-heart talks with foreign students studying in Japan as well.

One such encounter was with a brilliant Korean student named Park. Park was not on a short-term exchange, but had entered Waseda as a full-time, matriculated student.  Originally he had wanted to study in France, but eventually settled on Russia for his further study abroad due to its proximity to Asia. When I went to see him off, I told him I hoped he would continue to be a link between S. Korea and Japan. When he replied, “That’s exactly what I want to be” I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would do just that. Another full-time student I met was Ren from China. She was always smiling and cheerful, and would sometimes point out little mistakes that I myself had made. There I was being taught by my own student! And when she got a perfect score on the final exam, it absolutely bowled me over: even though she was learning a foreign language (French) in yet a different foreign language (Japanese), she was still at the top of the class.

Speaking different languages allows us to cross the barriers of nation and ethnicity and connects us to people all over the world. 

Teachers are at best a temporary presence in their students’ lives. Even at its longest, the official relationship between a teacher and a student lasts only a scant 4 years. However, I would like to think that the bonds that I have made with so many of my wonderful students have not faded over time. I also hope that I retain a small place in their memories of their youth. Writing this blog gives me hope that even after my students graduate or return to their home countries they will be able to take a minute to read up about me and see what I’m doing these days.
 

④教員室.JPG

In the teachers room showing off "Festival", the French textbook that we use to teach students
at the Open Education Center. The Open Educaiton Center is very popular with foreign students
.

As a kind of homage to the wonderful life that the French language has made possible for me, I am currently creating a space where lovers of France can gather only a two minute walk from Iidabashi, so if you are interested in French culture, please keep one eye open for this little fleur-de-lis blooming in a quiet corner of Tokyo.

The last line of that old song returns to me once again, “I’ll never leave your side.” I couldn’t imagine a life without French; It will be a part of me as long as I live.  

        “Si je ne t’avais pas rencontré ce jour-la, quel genre de fille serais-je devenue?”
        ("If I hadn’t met you on that day, what kind of woman would I have become?")
 

看板イラスト.jpg

Hope to see you after school at Atypique!

 

 

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