Name: Bilguun Chuluunbaatar
Status at Waseda University: 1st year, Graduate School of Business and Finance
On December 2nd, 2016 I had the opportunity to participate in a special event held for foreign students by the First Lady of Japan, Mrs. Akie Abe at the Prime Minister’s Official Residence. The students invited to participate in this event were MEXT government scholarship students studying at various Japanese Universities who possess a firm command of Japanese. When I heard that only two students would be selected from Waseda I realized that the selection process would be quite competitive, but I decided to give it a shot and fortunately I was accepted as a participant.
The 22 foreign students who participated in this event hailed from 17 different countries and are currently enrolled at universities all across Japan, such as Hokkaido University, Hiroshima University and Kyushu University. Aside from one undergraduate student, the majority of the participants were Master’s and Doctoral students pursuing a wide variety of research here in Japan.
The event hall before the opening speech
The event began with some warm words of welcome from Mrs. Abe. Mrs. Abe spoke in a very understated and friendly manner which I found to be quite engaging. In her speech, the First Lady mentioned that as the wife of the Prime Minister she often traveled to foreign countries and was told by many people from around the world about how much they loved Japan. Such comments made her curious to meet with those students who had chosen Japan out of all the countries in the world to study in.
After that, each student gave a short self-introduction and described their various research topics. I was really impressed with the wide variety of fields and research topics that my fellow students were studying. In my self-introduction, I focused on how the Great Kanto Earthquake of 2011 had drastically changed my way of thinking up until that point.
Originally I was I majoring in Japanese language education at the Mongolian National University of Education. During my 3rd undergraduate year, one year after the disastrous events of 3/11, I visited Japan through a program that brought foreign students to the affected areas in an effort to strengthen international support for disaster relief.
As someone who comes from a seismically stable inland country, that was the first time I realized how severe and unpredictable natural disasters could be. I told the First Lady that I was very moved to see how courageously the disaster victims were working to rebuild their communities and that was the experience that made me decide to study full time in Japan in the future.
After our self-introductions, we tried our hand at making sushi under the supervision of a chef from a world famous Ginza sushi restaurant. It was the first time for all of us to make sushi ourselves, so we all tried our hardest to make each piece as well as we could.
Since sushi is normally made by laying a piece of fish on top of rice, I had assumed that the taste of sushi comes down mostly to the type and quality of the fish used, but the chef explained that the rice, especially how it is cooked and seasoned, is an equally if not more important contributor to the final product. Although I have been in Japan for almost 3 years, I don’t often have the opportunity to eat sushi, so I never really paid attention to the different flavors of sushi. But thanks to this sushi-making experience, I feel like in the future I would like to learn more about the flavors of sushi and be able to describe them more fully to my fellow Mongolians.
After eating our self-made sushi, we received a tour of the Prime Minister’s residence. As we walked through the various rooms of the manor, it became obvious how sturdily built it the complex was. Mrs. Abe’s secretary explained about how some of the events surrounding the “Feb. 26th Incident” happened right in the Prime Minister’s residence, and showed us some of the historical remnants from that time. “The Feb. 26th Incident” refers to an attempted coup d’etat held from February 26th to February 29th, 1936 when a group of young army officers influenced by the radical “Kodo” army faction lead a group of 1483 soldiers in revolt against the government.
We were also shown a room that contained a number of rare ornaments and artifacts that had be sent to Mr. and Mrs. Abe as gifts from various parts of the globe: a veritable trove of cultural treasures from all over the world! Among the objects on display, I even saw a bow and arrow that had been given by the President of Mongolia himself. A very curious room indeed!
After the tour, the day’s events were brought to a close. Thanks to the warm words of Mrs. Abe, the support of the MEXT directors, and the opportunity given by Waseda University, I was able to experience a day that I shall not soon forget.
During my time as a student here in Japan, there have been times when nothing seems to be going well, but there are also days where I feel like I’ve learned and accomplished a lot. This day was certainly one of the high points of my student career here in Japan, and one which reminded me of all the people and institutions supporting my studies here. Exchanging comments and opinions in Japanese with students from so many different countries made me very excited to continue in the future to foster friendly international relations even beyond the borders of Japan and to make the most of my time here in Japan learning about and appreciating different cultures.