Fredrik NYBERG has been studying the Japanese language for just ten months. Arriving from Norway in October 2012 at the age of 23, he enrolled in a Japanese language school called Yokohama International Education Academy. “Japan is fun because it’s so different from Norway,” he says, his eyes lighting up.
It was manga that piqued his interest in Japan. “In Norway, English translations of Japanese manga are sold in bookstores. I started reading them when I was about 20 and began dreaming of coming to Japan.” Worried about the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster, his mother tried to dissuade him, but he managed to convince her by explaining that “it is safe now.”
Working as a car mechanic since the age of 17, Fredrik had savings of 2.5 million yen. Though he isn’t currently employed, he gets by on his savings and a monthly scholarship of 48,000 yen from the Japan Scholarship Foundation, an independent administrative corporation. He lives in a one room apartment in the school’s dormitories.
“I need about 120,000 yen a month,” says Fredrik. “My rent is around 60,000 yen. Other than that, I spend roughly 60,000 yen on leisure and eating. I almost always eat out, so it ends up costing a little bit too much.” However, since he found himself a Japanese girlfriend he’s been cooking more frequently. “She comes to my place on weekends. I cook Norwegian, she does Japanese and we eat together.”
Fredrik lives in Yokohama, but he often spends his free time in Tokyo. “In Tokyo, I like places such as Ueno, Akihabara and Shibuya. I like Minato-Mirai in Yokohama. There are many other places I like.” He’s been on domestic trips, too: to Matsumoto (Nagano Prefecture) and Atagawa (Shizuoka Prefecture).
He’s enjoying his life in Japan, but even so, there are some things that bother him. “Japanese dishes often have seafood in them. I can’t eat them because I am allergic.” Also, when he wasn’t familiar with Japanese customs, he was shocked to see Japanese slurping ramen. In addition, he was reprimanded at a hot spring resort for breaking one of the rules.
How did he make such rapid progress in Japanese in only ten months? “I have four hours of class a day at school. Recently we’re mainly preparing for exams. I also study for about an hour at home,” says Fredrik. His hobbies have been useful for his studies. “I learned kanji reading novels and manga. I like TEZUKA Osamu and ‘Ashita no Joe’ manga, and I love MURAKAMI Haruki’s novels. As for anime, I love works by Studio Ghibli. I love and often watch variety programs on TV. I have difficulties with grammar, honorifics and especially the difference in particles between, “は, が, を, に,” so I’m listening to recordings on my iPod.”
In the future, Fredrik says he wants to study game or web design. “I’d like to obtain the N1 level of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before graduating from my Japanese language school, but it’s unlikely,” he says, scratching his head.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo
[From Hiragana Times September Issue 2013]