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About Fraser

I am a third year Law/Justice student currently anticipating an exciting exchange in Kyoto, Japan.

Coming back to AUS

My time in Japan – after 5 months – has ultimately come to an end. It was an unforgettable time that (like a cliche) went all too quickly. But I must say, it’s good to be back in Australia, the familiarity and nostalgia of home are comforting. Not to say that there weren’t any challenges upon my return. Maybe the strangest negative aspect about returning home was the uncomfortability about suddenly being surrounded by Australians as opposed to Japanese people! I was surprised that I felt so uneasy being surrounded by my own countrymen and women. However, this feeling soon passed once I met up with some familiar and friendly faces.

Now, I suppose I should recap my time in Japan; but how could I possibly condense 5 months into a mere few hundred words? I think that I cannot and any attempt I would make would be abysmal. Nonetheless, I can make some confirmations for those who are thinking of coming to Japan. Japanese people are lovely and polite, the scenery and culture are mesmerising and in general it is a fantastic place to experience.

I think the most important part about exchange is not the place you visit, but (cliche incoming) the people you meet whilst on it are. People from around the World with different views and experiences that can make you a better person and make your time truly unforgettable. I’ve met people from Germany, Poland, China and more whom I can say are my firm friends. These people are what made my time in Japan so unforgettable and I couldn’t ask for a better group of friends.

So, if you are anxious about going on exchange or can’t quite make up your mind about whether it’s a good idea or not, I would suggest that you think about the possibilities of what could become of such an adventure. The people you could meet, the places you could see, the food you could eat, the things you could learn, the experiences you could have. I’m not promising that it will all be amazing, but there is so many fantastic possibilities that could become blissful realities if you take a chance. So, take a step in the dark and see what becomes of it for yourself.

KFC and Japanese Christmas – Holiday Time in Japan

The holiday season is an interesting time in Japan. Although they still celebrate Christmas and New Years in Japan, the way in which they are celebrated is the opposite to Australia. There are also some odd and humorous quirks that Japan has added to these holidays which make them refreshingly different.

The most obvious difference between the way in which these holidays are celebrated is their level of importance. In Japan, New Years is a far more important time of year then Christmas. The New Year has a deeper cultural significance for the Japanese people and it is a time that you spend with family. Subsequently, on New Year’s Day these family’s will go to a temple together to remove their sins and start the year afresh.

Christmas, on the other hand, is a holiday that you often spend with friends. Most will provide gifts for friends and family but it is not considered a significant holiday for most people in Japan (Ritsumeikan even made me go to uni on Christmas). So, as you can tell this is quite the opposite from Australia where most people will spend time with family on Christmas and friends on New Year’s.

There’s also quite an interesting quirk to Christmas in Japan that I and a lot of foreigners found quite funny when we arrived here. But, to this oddity any semblance of justice we have to go back and understand the history of how this custom came to be.

Back in the mid 1970’S, KFC ran an ad campaign to promote the idea that KFC’s fried chicken was in fact a Christmas meal. They had slogans such as ‘Kentucky for Christmas’ and ‘Kentucky Christmas’. This ad campaign (for some reason) was incredibly successful and now many Japanese people buy KFC’s fried chicken.

In fact, the demand for KFC’s chicken is so high that you often have to order it weeks in advance to even get a single bucket. Other chains such as MOS Burger and Family Mart have taken advantage of this surplus in demand by also providing their own Christmas fried chicken.

If you’d like to such an ad, click the link here.

Well, there you have it, some of Japan’s odd little cultural differences on full display during the holiday season. It’s a nice change from Australia and gives these holidays an interesting and unexpected twist.

Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this:

 

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

I’ve been living in Japan for two months now and I’ve started to settle into a weekly routine. This has proven to be convenient and demonstrates that I have adapted to life here in a somewhat competent manner. Yet, I still miss the excitement of those first few weeks. It has made life here feel slightly more monotonous and the charm of living in a new country seems to have worn off.

I’ve been attempting to offset this feeling by travelling to different places and cities on weekends. For example, the past two weekends I have been to Takayama and Fukuoka. Both of which were interesting cities that contrast greatly with one another; from a quiet city within the Japanese Alps to a sprawling metropolis in the southern sub-tropical island of Kyushu.

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

This travelling has been very rewarding and, come to think of it, the only travelling that I have completely organised by myself. This has been a good learning experience and provides me with a rewarding sense of independence; especially since I have travelled alone on both of these occasions.

I would thoroughly recommend that you work up the courage to travel alone on exchange. I have found that I engage more with my surroundings and have more meaningful experiences. You also learn to think more for yourself and do what you want to do, as opposed to relying on others to make decisions for you or doing things that you yourself find mundane and uninteresting. (Not to mention the amount of difficulties that come with attempting to organise other people)

On the topic of making friends whilst on exchange, it is surprisingly easy. Most people that you will meet on exchange are other international students who are as excited and nervous as you are at the beginning of the semester. As a result, people are, in most cases, more open to socialising in an attempt to off-set those feelings. Currently, I can say that I have met many people from many different places that I will remain in touch with once this exchange ends.

Also, studying in Japan hasn’t proved to be too intensive so far. Coming to Japan, many people would mention the stereotypical notion of Asian study habits and then suggest that this means that Japanese work loads will be ‘extreme’. However, I have found that I do more or less the same amount of work here than I did in Australia. There are more university classes, but this translates to less homework, which I personally find very pleasant.

All in all, life here is great, but inevitably, living overseas loses it’s initial charm after a while. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if you do experience a similar feeling do not despair. Even the smallest changes can get you out of a rut. I found that travelling got me out of mine, but I could be something as simple as trying new foods. Find the thing that excites you and do it.

Until next time.

 

 

Japan – First Impressions

Hello everyone,

It has now been about a month since I left Australia for the land of the rising sun and I am beginning to settle into life here. Classes have begun, I’ve made quite a few friends and I have experienced the devastation of a typhoon! Twice!!! But what have I learned from these initial experiences, and more specifically, what have I learned about Japan?

Well firstly, Japan is visually very stunning. Many of the temples in Kyoto fit in seamlessly with the surrounding gardens, which – in my opinion – are even more beautiful then the temples themselves.

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The Japanese clearly revere nature, so much so that they build fences around trees and construct supports for boughs and branches that bend too precariously!

Japanese people are also very friendly, helpful and incredibly polite. Many Japanese people will treat you with great kindness. An example of such kindness is if you become lost whilst out travelling you will be approached by a multitude of people asking if they can help you in any way possible.

The food is also incredible (as most would already suspect) and I have yet to be disappointed by a meal. Additionally, the food here is so cheap that, in fact, eating out is only slightly more expensive then making your own meals! And not being a particularly good chef myself (quite a shocking one actually) it would be safe to assume that I eat out far more often than I did in Australia.

These are all very pleasant aspects of Japan and it must be said that, in general, Japan is a very pleasant place to live. However, if there is one thing I could warn people about before they come to Japan it is the emphasis the population places on order and rules.

This doesn’t only entail abiding by the law (of which you should do regardless) but the multitude of social rules that govern day to day life in Japan. In fact, people who break more serious social rules or continue to break minor social rules are often stigmatised as deviants and treated as such. Personally, I do not like this aspect of Japanese culture, as it forces the populace to discard their individuality and focus on conforming to cultural ideals. But, if you would like you’re stay here to be a pleasant one you should undoubtedly respect these rules.

So, one tip that I can offer to people considering an exchange to Japan is to have a sense of the many social rules that govern the society before you come here. This often involves simply being polite and bowing; but there are more subtle rules, such as limiting physical contact even when exchanging money with shop clerks. For more information please check out the link posted below, which comes from the youtube channel I recommended in my previous post: Abroad in Japan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GCuvcTI090

Overall, I can say that in my short time here I have learnt a lot about Japan, but obviously there is still much more to know. The culture here is vastly different from Australia’s laid-back way of life. As a result, I have had my fair share of pleasant and unpleasant experiences during my stay. Nevertheless, I am acquainting myself with a completely different society here and I am learning new things and discovering new perspectives every day. In the end, that is all I want from this experience.

Sayonara.

Excited would be an Understatement (Preparing for Exchange)

Hello everyone,

My name is Fraser and I am currently a third year Law/Justice student who is a little bit too excited (and undoubtedly very nervous) about his upcoming exchange to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. During my semester abroad I will be studying Japanese full-time – which is just as well, since I only have a very preliminary knowledge of the Japanese language (In fact, this knowledge is close to non-existent).

When I told my friends and family that I had decided to live in Japan for the next six months the common response could be summed up in one sarcastically spoken statement, “Good luck with that.” To be fair, this reaction is rather warranted – it is foolhardy for someone who can barely speak Japanese to live in Japan, let alone study there! So, why would I make such an impulsive choice?

Put simply, it is because Japan is a mystery to me. I have never been there before and know little of their history or culture; and the unknown is rather exciting to me. Stepping off of a plane, in a place that you have never experienced the likes of before fills me with adrenaline. I know that this reasoning may not appeal to everyone (and undoubtedly some of you will see me as naive); but this is first and foremost an experience for me to broaden my mind in ways that I cannot do in the comfortable familiarity of Australia. And what better way to do that then to experience a lifestyle, culture and place that I have never known before?

So, as I wait for tomorrow’s nerve wracking flight to Japan, I should divulge how the pre-departure experience has been for me and some tips and tricks for anyone considering an exchange to the, ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

Preparing for the exchange initially was a daunting task. It seemed that there was an insurmountable amount of work to be done ahead of me. Fortunately, the pre-departure checklist provided by QUT is a fantastic organisational tool and promotes a sequenced approach to exchange preparation. As a result, preparing for the exchange – on the formal paperwork side of things – presented little difficulties. One recommendation I can make is to constantly ask both the QUT faculty and your host university questions about any aspects of the process you are unsure of. They are there to help and seemed more than happy to answer the multitude of inane questions I posed to them.

Also, if you have never been to Japan before, like me, the most difficult aspect of the pre-departure process may be preparing for the inevitable ‘culture shock’. QUT also provides a lot of information on how to deal with culture shock; but for those considering an exchange to Japan, I must recommend that you watch the YouTube channel: Abroad in Japan. This site covers everything from must have experiences to Japanese language tips to the do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture. I found that this site has really helped with my anxiety and made me feel more prepared for a life in Japan.

If there is one thing I could recommend to those who are considering an exchange is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t go for a safe or easy option, really try to push yourselves into the unknown and experience what you may never get the chance to experience again.

As for me, the next blog will either demonstrate that the decision to throw myself into the unknown was a good one or one that was mislead by bravado and excitement. But, whatever the outcome, I will learn something.

Sayonara everyone, till next time.