Learning Japanese language and culture in Tokyo

Joshua C., ​Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
Meiji University Winter Japanese Language Program (February 2019)

Hi there! My name is Joshua Crowley and I am in my 4th year at QUT Studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments (Design) / Bachelor of Business (Marketing). I decided to undertake a short-term program to make my summer break a little more exciting than usual, and boy was it an adventure!

I decided to have my short-term program in Japan and to participate in the Meiji University Japanese Winter Language Program. I have always been an avid consumer of Japanese media, culture, and the language especially. I had basic knowledge of phrases and can read Hiragana and Katakana, but unfortunately my Kanji is not up to scratch. This program was a great way to get a foothold of how to tackle aspects of learning the language, and to make many friends from all around the world.

Where did I stay?

For this program, I decided to stay with a homestay family to get the full experience of Japanese hospitality, and to see the day to day commute when living outside of central Tokyo. I stayed with two homestay families, as I left Australia a little earlier before the program to visit my previous homestay again in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a must see!

My homestay family

My homestay in Tokyo was far from central Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture, which is roughly a 1-hour train ride to Meiji University. Public transport in Japan is very easy, but quite expensive. On average, I spent JP¥2000 per day (around $25) riding various trains, to get to and from my homestay as well as visiting various cities across Tokyo. It is important to budget well prior to departing Australia, and to investigate cheaper options such as the Japan Rail Pass or even regional passes for short term trips. Unfortunately, due to my travel itinerary it was not worth purchasing the pass. On the plus side, I had delicious dinners after a long day at uni, such as hotpot!

I miss hotpot for dinner

 

How was the language program?

On the first day of the program we all had to sit a Japanese language test, which tested our reading, writing and speaking ability. Depending on your performance during the test, you were placed in one of four classes, from introductory up to advanced. The classes themselves were very informative with enthusiastic teachers and student volunteers, eager to help in any way possible. However, the lessons were conducted at a fast pace and fully in Japanese with limited English and it was easy to get confused, so it is highly recommended to brush up on your Japanese before joining the program! These classes took place over a 2 ½ week period, with classes taking place mostly on weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for students to explore Tokyo and its surroundings.

My university for the program

We also participated in various cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, and dressing ourselves in Kimonos!

The cultural part of the program

Kimonos time!

Learning Japanese is a long process but is highly rewarding once you start to understand the grammatical and character-based systems. At the end of the program, I currently still am not able to hold a full conversation in Japanese but am able to now convey my message across through basic sentences.

Special memories?

Many lifelong friends were made throughout my month across Japan. In my spare time between classes, I took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Sapporo, and various places around Tokyo. One highlight of my trip was experiencing -15°c temperatures whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the Hokkaido region. Amazing snow sculptures carved with insane amounts of detail scattered the streets of Sapporo, bringing in tourists from all over the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

From humidity to snow and back again

Final Thoughts

Upon returning to Australia after only just a month, it took some time to readjust back to a humid climate, as well as settling back into a more relaxed Australian lifestyle. For those who have not been to Japan, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an exchange destination due to the amount of amazing people, food, and cultural norms that embodies Japanese society. I hope to undertake a full semester exchange in 2020, as I cannot wait to see what else Japan has in store.

See you soon, Japan!

Pokemon mania

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