Bullet Trains, Godzilla and Temples – The Real Japanese Experience

Elise L, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts

Ritsumeikan University (Semester 2, 2016)

In the Fall Semester of 2016 I studied at Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, Japan. I was part of the short term ‘Study In Kyoto’ program (SKP), but because I study in the Business Track my home campus and life was actually in Osaka.

Ritsumeikan University, Osaka Ibaraki Campus, from the ninth floor

I lived in a studio apartment (in the same building as many other SKPers) about forty minutes by train from uni. OIC campus was only completed in 2015, so dormitories are still under construction. Our apartments were small (22m2) but had everything we needed and I really came to love that little space. Being based in Osaka, we also had places like Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara only an hour away by train! Cost of living in Osaka seems moderate – rent is quite high and travel can be expensive (a ride on the bullet train can cost hundreds of dollars…), but food is very cheap and it is easy to walk to many places.

Home base – Aya Mikuni apartments

SKP students were assigned a Japanese student buddy, and they helped us with the little complexities of day-to-day life – how do you pay your bills when you can’t read them? How do you call the maintenance guy when you don’t speak Japanese and he doesn’t speak English? Our buddies helped us to function as residents rather than tourists, as well as taking us sightseeing and making us feel very welcome.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, feat. Godzilla

I spent more time on campus at Ritsumeikan than I ever have at QUT, and the timetable was more intensive than I’m used to – going from part-time study to 10 x 90 minute classes a week was a bit of a shock to the system! I studied Japanese too, and I’d highly recommend it – the things we learned were very practical for everyday life. There are also many university events to attend – we volunteered in a Haunted House at the Halloween festival, and we supported the university team at their American football games (go Panthers!). I attended the first World Community Power Conference in Fukushima, which was fascinating, and also visited the Toyota factory in Aichi.

My top 3 tips for studying in Japan:
1. Say yes (hai/はい)!
A piece of advice that my Dad gave me when I moved from our small country town to the big city of Brisbane. Whether it’s a student excursion on offer, or grabbing dinner with new people, say yes. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t have to do it again, but at least you tried!

2. Learn the language!
Downloading an app, buying a phrasebook or enrolling in classes like I did – language was the biggest barrier I encountered in Japan. By the time I left, I was able to have very simple conversations, and that felt like a huge achievement when I couldn’t even read my own mail.

3. Get an ICOCA card
A bit like a gocard in Brisbane, except you can’t get a discount as an international student (boo). It streamlines your travel process (no queueing for tickets), works across the whole country, and you can pay for a travel pass –  I had unlimited travel between my university station and the central Osaka station (with my home station being in between) which was worthwhile. Just don’t lose your card!

Japan is an amazing country and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, despite travelling as much as my budget allowed. My exchange actually postponed my graduation by a year, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat – in fact, I’ve already booked my flights to go back!

The famous red tori gates of Fushimi Inari shrine, Kyoto

Interning with Kyoto Journal

In the second semester of 2016 I was afforded the opportunity to study abroad at Ritsumeikan University, Osaka, Japan. During that time, I also undertook an internship with Japan’s longest-running independent English publication, Kyoto Journal.

Initially focusing on Japan, specifically the ancient capital of Kyoto, the quarterly magazine has broadened over the past thirty years to include insights and perspectives from all of Asia. The publication is run and produced by an incredibly talented and committed team of volunteers based locally, nationally, and internationally.

I discovered Kyoto Journal while searching for articles about Japan, trying to do some ‘pre-reading’ before I arrived in a new country. I loved the style of the magazine and was interested in the articles and the volunteer nature of the publication, so I emailed them to see how I could get involved. If you’re on exchange (or even if you haven’t left yet) and you find an organisation that you’re really interested in – reach out to them! You never know what might happen.

My role as an intern varied quite a lot. I did research, collaborated with other volunteers to build information databases, participated in brainstorming for new projects and PR, interviewed a local apprentice artisan, provided feedback on a crowdfunding campaign, and helped to prepare for an upcoming photography exhibition. Kyoto Journal does not have a designated office space, so work was done and meetings were held in coffee shops, public spaces and at Impact Hub Kyoto, a co-working space to which Kyoto Journal has a membership. I enjoyed this transient and collaborative approach to working, which also allowed me to see parts of Kyoto that I would not have otherwise encountered.

Impact Hub Kyoto (L) and working at the Rohm Theatre in Kyoto (R).

The volunteer nature of the work meant that the entirety of the Kyoto Journal team that I met, whether online or face-to-face, were very committed to and excited by what they were doing. Being a volunteer also allowed for a great deal of flexibility – I was based in Osaka and studying full-time, so it was understood if I could not make it to Kyoto on short notice. Everyone else has jobs, families and other commitments as well, which makes for a dynamic and engaged team – volunteers who have made time in their lives to be involved. Everyone wants to be there and bring their best to the job.

As far as I know, this flexibility and work-life balance is atypical of jobs in Japan, but I would assume that this comes down to the fact that involvement with the editorial side of Kyoto Journal is entirely volunteer-based.

Despite my short stay, lasting only a few months, I was made to feel very welcome and valued. It was incredibly rewarding to work with such a passionate, talented, diverse group of people and I’m very grateful to the Kyoto Journal team for allowing me to be involved with this unique publication. I’m looking forward to being involved in their Kyoto photography exhibition when I return to Japan in April!

(from L to R) Elise, Hirisha Mehta (Head of Design), John Einarsen (Founding Editor) and Ken Rodgers (Managing Editor) study an early edition of Kyoto Journal.

 

Highlights of my Time in Japan

Jackie: Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan – Semester 1, 2016

At KGU you have three accommodation options; you can apply for a homestay, apply to live in a dorm or you can find your own options. I chose to live in a dorm because I had never lived independently before. I had always wondered what on campus living was like and it was well worth it. I made close friends with the other girls I lived with and it was a nice area to be in. It wasn’t too far from school or a grocery store or the bus.jackie_4

The highlight of exchange in Japan was the amazingly rich and diverse culture. One day I would be in Osaka (which is known in Japan for being the life of the party) exploring all the weird and quirky things. The next day I would be in Kyoto exploring the incredibly significant and important government building, learning about all of Japans history from my friends who are smarter than me and staring in awe at the Sakura (Cherry Blossoms) wondering how a flower could be so beautiful. (Side note: also the food was amazing. My friends and I still message each other about how much we miss Udon and Sashimi).jackie_3

My exchange was amazing and if I could do it again or go back and extend my trip I would. I learnt so much about myself and other cultures, which I would never have known otherwise. I can’t recommend Japan enough as a host country. I feel like I have seen so much of Japan because of my exchange and for that I will be forever grateful.

Interested in going on a QUT Student Exchange? Learn more here. Or drop in and see our exchange ambassadors at Gardens Point in A Block.

Jackie’s Exchange in Osaka, Japan

Jackie: Kansai Gaidai University, Osaka, Japan – Semester 1, 2016

Nine months ago, just after Christmas, I was mentally preparing myself to go to Osaka, Japan to study at Kansai Gaidai University for 4 and half months. The whole thing terrified me. The thought of going to an unfamiliar country, where I knew two words of the native language, where I didn’t know a single soul and where I would be on my own for the very first time in my life, gave me so much anxiety.

Me and my New Friends

Me and my New Friends

However, I pushed through and on the 17th of January, with tears in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach, I said goodbye to my parents and went on my way. When I landed in Osaka I was a nervous wreck. I got through customs, pulled myself into the nearest bathroom and had a little cry. Little did I know I was about to embark on one of the greatest adventures of my life.

 

The first people I met at the airport were welcoming and lovely. They were exchange kids from all across the globe and all just as scared as me. There were some from America others from Argentina and myself from Australia (I guess we had an A thing going on?). We all stuck to each other as a survival method and became good friends. We hung out every day, had classes together and explored every inch of Japan that we could. We made friendships that I hope we keep for life.

The schooling was very different from back home. It wasn’t modeled on a Japanese system but rather an American. In a lot of ways it reminded me of high school. jackie_2I saw the same people every day, we all hung out during set lunch times and there were certain classes that were mandatory (Japanese). It was nostalgic but exciting. Sometimes I found the curriculum a little frustrating compared to back home as it wasn’t very academically challenging. I really enjoyed the Japanese classes I took and feel that they helped a lot. (If you are going to KGU, please, please, please take the Kanji class. I get it, it’s intimidating but if you’ve never studied Japanese before it will make your life so much better.)

Want to learn more about QUT’s Student Exchange Options? Click Here…

Always things to do

I budgeted around $4000 of my own money, my youth allowance and the $4000 QUT scholarship. However NUCB required prepayment of rent for one semester students before I received the scholarship. I had to actually borrow money from my parents to cover the shortfall as it was $4000 and I had already purchased my airfare.

Generally about Y15,000 easily covered my weekly expenses and left me a little to go out with. I was lucky and received a Y25,000 monthly scholarship which covered the shortfall from my youth allowance for my weekly expenses. I found it sometimes difficult to stick to my budget as there were always things to do, places to visit or new foods to try. So I often broke my budget a little when I was sightseeing outside of Nagoya.

I think the cost of living is lower than Brisbane, excluding rent (I don’t know what Brisbane’s rent is since I still live with my parents), as you can eat and travel cheaper.  There were lots of relatively cheap restaurants near the dorm and the convenience stores sold cheap bento. I got a prepaid travel card that saved my money for my uni travel but also let me ride for free between certain stations. NUCB also had half price bus tickets which was brilliant.

I generally used a travel money card and net banking instead of using an Australian card as it tend to charge extra overseas. Getting a bank account in Japan was fairly difficult and NUCB did not recommend getting one unless you were working while studying or staying there for a year. However it was annoying that I could only withdraw money at 7-11 and post office. ATMs and many businesses would not accept a foreign card. You are required to pay Japanese health insurance but it’s not expensive at about $20 per month and worth it if you visit the dentist or need to visit a doctor.

Studying Business from a different perspective

I studied only business and culture courses while at NUCB. Studying business from the perspective of a different culture as well as learning more about that culture and its history was very interesting. English not being the native language was not a problem due to how all the teachers and exchange staff spoke English. Although sometimes some of the teachers had trouble understanding and answering questions.

I think the academic intensity was higher due to more classes, but the actual assessment was a bit easier. Unlike QUT, lectures were more common, with less classroom work and interaction except for in culture class and innovation management. Presentations were used as assessment in every class, and were generally 20-30min or full period presentations long. This was a great opportunity to work with other students. Every class has a final exam, unlike QUT, this was a bit more stressful as exam period was over 5 days and you had to do around 7-10 exams, sometimes 3-4 per day depending on your courses.

Accommodation at NUCB

Accommodation at NUCB

My accommodation was a private dorm room. It came with furniture, bedding, a pan, dishes and cutlery and also had air-conditioning, a washing machine and a private bathroom. However the kitchen was rather small and only had one burner which made cooking somewhat difficult. But the large range of relatively cheap food available nearby meant I didn’t have to cook every night. It was located close to transport and NUCB while being walking distance vicinity of downtown Nagoya which was great. NUCB also had a share house and another dorm building in different areas; and are currently building a new dorm near Sakae.

Fourth best Business School in Japan

Nagoya University of Commerce & Business (NUCB) is the 4th best Business school in Japan according to Eduniversal and its business courses are consistently ranked highly within Japan and Asia. Nagoya also has lower living costs compared to Tokyo and is more centrally located. I had also heard that NUCB ten to organise field trips for its exchange students. As it turned out, the trips and events organised by NUCB were very fun and educational.

I got the opportunity to hike a world heritage pilgrim trail, attend the NUCB school festival, and visit the Toyota factory. I would also not have been able to visit the Kii mountain range or experience a school festival without NUCB organising them.

Toyota Factory Visit

Toyota Factory Visit

Japan is a country with a long history and an amazing culture. It’s almost hard to believe sometimes that you are visiting a 15th century castle or a city that is over a millennia old. Nagoya is located near the middle of Japan’s main island. It’s under an hour from Kyoto and two hours from Tokyo by bullet train. So it was very convenient for trips to Kyoto, Takayama and Shirakawa-go.

The undergrad campus is actually located outside Nagoya in Nisshin city, about 45 min away by train and bus. Nisshin campus has lots of sports facilities and clubs to join; for example: archery, snowboarding, baseball and comedy clubs. But unlike QUT it is not located near a city so it is not easy to leave campus to grab lunch due the 15-20 min bus trip and irregular bus times. They do have a good and cheap cafeteria that serves ramen, curry and set meals as well as a Mos Burger and 7-11 on campus.

Info Sheet: Japan – NUCB

Nagoya University of Commerce and Business (NUCB):

Eligibility: UG & PB / Business Faculty

Location: Nagoya is conveniently located in central Japan, within easy reach of the country’s many places of interest, including Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Nagano.

Accreditation: AACSB, AMBA

Discipline Areas of Interest:

  • Economics
  • Management
  • Commerce
  • Communication
  • Japanese Studies

About:

  • NUCB is the first and only institution in Japan accredited by AACSB and AMBA.
  • Four of the graduate school programs have been highly ranked in Eduniversal’s “Best Masters Ranking 2011”, the global graduate education evaluation system. NUCB’s Taxation Program has been ranked 1st in Asia and 10th worldwide.
  • PG programs are offered at the heart of the vibrant city of Nagoya’s central business district; UG programs are offered at the beautiful Nisshin countryside.
  • Higher purchasing power, with living costs around 25% lower than Tokyo
  • All courses offered in Exchange Program are taught entirely in English

Testimonial:

“Undertaking the Exchange Program to Nagoya, Japan in Semester 2 2010 was the best experience of my life thus far. I really enjoyed myself. It was an invaluable life experience that no amount of time spent in the class room can be comparable. When I arrived I had no working knowledge of Japanese culture, language or society. However, the Japanese reception, in general, made me feel so welcome and I was able to adapt and appreciate my new surroundings in no time.” – Felicity Mashuro

Please see Xiunan Yue’s testimonial here: https://blogs.qut.edu.au/business-exchange-students/testimonials/student-testimonial-nucb-japan-xiunan-yue/