Category Archives: Japanese in Japan

Shared Houses Are Best for Learning Japanese

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Melodie ALRIC

“It’s been exactly a month since I came to Japan. I can’t speak Japanese yet and it’s frustrating. But at the same time, it also gives me an incentive to study harder,” Melodie ALRIC from France says cheerfully. Melodie is 20 years old and a student at the University of Lyons. She’s been studying the Japanese language for two years. “In my college, the emphasis was on reading and writing. So even if I can communicate with my Japanese friends on Facebook, I can’t talk to them face to face,” she laughs.

Melodie became interested in Japan and the Japanese language through Japanese anime and manga which she became familiar with from a young age. “Naturally I saw and read them in French. I loved a manga called ‘NANA.’ I also found “MONSTER” interesting because it’s set in Germany and has scenes where the main character, who’s Japanese, prepares Japanese dishes for Germans.”

Melodie also gradually became interested in Japanese culture and history. “Japan’s culture and history are completely different from France’s. That’s why I wanted to know more and took Japanese language classes. There’s a student exchange program between the University of Lyon’s and Japan’s Musashi University. I used it and came to Japan with a plan to stay for a year.”

Because of the exchange program between the universities, there’s no need to pay tuition at Musashi. For a place to live, she chose a shared house near the university after consulting with Tulip Estate, an organization that manages many women-only shared houses and actively welcomes non-Japanese. The living room and kitchen are shared. The rent including utilities is 59,000 yen a month.

“The room is small but private. As we are all women, I feel safe. Another good thing is I can walk to the university and have no transportation expenses. We’re now six or seven in the house and everyone else is Japanese, so it’s the best environment for studying Japanese. When there’s some word I don’t understand, they all explain it to me by writing kanji or drawing images.”

“Because I’ve just arrived in Japan, I needed an extra 1,000 euros this month. I had to pay some insurance fees,” says Melodie. “From now on, I think I’ll only need from 800 to 900 euros a month. It’s for the rent, eating expenses, money to go out with friends and what have you.” She has saved about 4,000 euros because she wants to travel. Her parents gave her 3,500 euros for expenses for September through to December.

In Japan, she strolls around visiting different neighborhoods or museums. “Unlike France where shops are closed on Sunday, convenience stores are always open and handy,” says Melodie.

Melodie likes traveling and wants to work in the travel industry in the future. “I’d like to plan out trips for leisure and business people and organize events.” She intends to travel around and see a lot of Japan in her one year here. “I’m now planning a trip to Kyoto. I want to travel around Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa.”

Tulip Real Estate Co., Ltd.

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Hiragana Times November Issue 2013]


I’m Experiencing Japanese Culture First Hand

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Maria REYES

“As a matter of fact, I was in Japan from the age of four to eight for my father’s job,” says American Maria REYES. Growing up, she began to miss Japan and joined a Japanese culture club in college. “I began to read books on Japanese culture and took up tea ceremony as a hobby.”

She made a lot of Japanese friends through these club activities. After one of them told her about the International Cross-cultural Committee, an organization that arranges internships in Japan, she applied. “I was in my second year of Japanese language studies, so my speaking ability was limited. My knowledge of the language, however, compared to other applicants, was an advantage.”

As part of the ICC program, the intern works for two months in Japan and is able to have the experience of going on two trips within the country. The cost, including rent and a 24-hour phone support service, is US$5,500. Maria passed the selection process, but her parents didn’t approve of the idea. Her father had concerns about the cost and whether the program would really be useful for Maria’s studies. Her mother was worried about her safety.

Maria says, “So I persuaded my father by saying, ‘This is a wonderful opportunity.’ I told my mother that ‘Japan is safe and I’ll have some support.’ My family isn’t rich, but they put up the money in the end, saying, ‘If it’s for Maria…’”

Maria arrived in Japan on June 25 and settled into a shared house in Ota Ward, Tokyo. The other residents there besides Maria, are two Japanese, one Malaysian and one American. Maria’s bedroom is about 20 square meters in size. The living room and the kitchen are shared. She’s doing her internship at Takaso Inc., a company based in Akihabara with links to the fashion industry. She sometimes goes to their office in Shibuya, too. Her hours are from ten am to four pm.

“I’ve been lucky,” says Maria. “Some companies only give simple tasks to interns, but I’ve been put in charge of a project. Also, when they learned my major was international marketing, I was asked to ‘Please do a presentation on how this company’s marketing should be done.’”

“The best thing about this internship is I’m actually using knowledge of Japanese culture I acquired from books,” says Maria. “For example, when I made my presentation, I asked if there were ‘Any questions?’ However, no one said anything. I anticipated this, so I made eye contact with my boss. He then encouraged questions by saying, ‘Does anybody have any questions?’ Then they all began to ask questions.”

“The difficulty of Japanese is that people don’t voice their opinions. You have to read the atmosphere,” says Maria. “But if you are in trouble, people sense this and come to your rescue. One day four or five people came to my help.” On her days off, she wanders around searching for nice cafes. “Japanese sweets aren’t too sweet and that’s what’s great about them. I love matcha and tea so much that I’m thinking of opening a cafe one day to introduce the custom of tea drinking to the US.”

International Cross-cultural Committee

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Hiragana Times October Issue 2013]


A Good Way to Make Progress in Japanese is “To Like it”

Category : Japanese in Japan

 

Fredrik NYBERG

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.

Yokohama International Education Academy

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Hiragana Times September Issue 2013]


They Came to Japan Drawn by an Interest in Games and Samurai

Category : Japanese in Japan

Alberto SESTI
Giulia VALENTI

Alberto SESTI and Giulia VALENTI came to Japan in March and are studying Japanese at TOPA 21st Century Language School in Koenji, Tokyo. Alberto and Giulia are both from Rome, Italy. Alberto played Japanese games as a child and this led to his interest in Japanese culture. He studied Japanese language and history in college.

Giulia was interested in Japan’s samurai, and she studied karate for more than ten years in Italy. After developing a fondness for Japanese pop culture, including fashion and visual-kei bands, she decided to go to Japan to study. Both share an interest in cosplay. They often cosplay as characters from the popular game “Final Fantasy.”

“Before coming to Japan, my family and I were worried because the Italian media had reported that the water in Tokyo was contaminated after the Great East Japan Earthquake. But I was relieved to hear from a Japanese friend that these news reports were exaggerated and I didn’t change my resolve to go to Japan,” says Alberto.

The two of them study at school every day from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Giulia says kanji is the hardest to study. Alberto says kanji is his forte, but he has a hard time studying sentence patterns. In addition to studying at school, they also learn a lot of Japanese by watching Japanese dramas. “I’ve recently been watching ‘Last Cinderella’ and ‘35-year-old High School Student,’” says Alberto.

Alberto and Giulia live together in Toshima Ward. They spend a lot of time together watching TV and going to their local Book Off (a store selling used books and CDs). “Japanese houses are small. We quarrel from time to time, maybe because we are in the same room most of the time,” they say, half joking.

On her days off, Giulia often goes to Harajuku and Shibuya. “In Japan there are many people who enjoy all kinds of fashions. I like that it’s acceptable for people to dye their hair all kinds of colors,” she says. Giulia cooks both Italian and Japanese food. “I like things like curry rice, soba, omuraisu (omelet with rice) and oyako-don (chicken and egg on rice).”

Alberto says he often goes to Akihabara on his days off. “Wherever you go in Italy, the landscape looks the same, but Japan has all kinds of scenery, old towns, new towns. I never get bored.” Alberto says he wants to get a job with a Japanese game developer in the future. Giulia wants to find a job in Japan related to fashion.

TOPA 21st Century Language School

Text: TSUCHIYA Emi

[From August Issue 2013]


Learning Japanese in Japan

Category : Japanese in Japan

The best way to learn a language is to live in the country where it’s spoken. In Japan, most learners go to a Japanese language school. Japan has many such schools. And there are a lot of learning materials.

The Kichijoji Language School in Musashino City, Tokyo, has four terms a year. It has about 100 students, though this depends on the time of year. Courses are run for eight different levels. In addition to these, there are also private lessons and preparation courses for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

“The goal of the Kichijoji Language School is to get you to be able to produce the language that you’ve studied,” says principal TSUCHIYA Iwao. “Teaching only to read or only to write isn’t effective. So we put emphasis on conversation practice where students use what they’ve learned at each level. Living in Japan, they hear honorific language used in everyday conversations. Since it’s hard for them to use such language, they practice it until they can.”

One good thing about Japanese language schools is that the students can learn about Japanese culture and make friends through school events. The Kichijoji Language School offers excursions for those who wish to participate. Excursions are to well-known spots or places where they can learn Japanese history, places like Kamakura or Mt. Takao. Events like yearend parties or summer evening festivals, commonly held at Japanese companies or schools, are also organized. “Sometimes students organize their own trips and invite along classmates,” says Tsuchiya.

At the Kichijoji Language School, about 20% of graduates go on to higher education institutions in Japan. “Some go to Japanese college or vocational school while others continue their studies in their own countries. We had a student who came to Japan to work after working as a cartoon animator in his country.”

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Evergreen Language School

The Evergreen Language School is in Meguro Ward, Tokyo. In addition to running courses for those wishing to enter higher education, the school runs standard courses, two or three days a week courses and private lessons. Though it varies over the course of the year, the total number of students is currently about 20. The school takes part in events held in shopping arcades, holds speech contests and organizes cultural exchanges with private high schools.

“It’s been 25 years since we founded our Japanese language school and during that time, people from 70 countries have studied with us,” says principal NAITO Sachiko. “Currently we only have a few students because we haven’t been recruiting overseas at study abroad centers.” The Evergreen Language School was founded in 1949 as an English conversation school. “We give lessons that are tailored to suit our students’ needs. In terms of Japanese lessons, five years ago the ambassador to Senegal studied with us every day for a year and a half and after this, ties between Japan and Senegal were strengthened,” says Naito.

“We had a case in which a German who had come to Japan to start a headhunting business was transferred to our school from the Japanese language department of a famous private university. After graduation, some students stay in Japan to go on to higher education, to work, or to start a business. I’m glad they are active in so many areas.”

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Academy of Language Arts

“Since we have students of so many different nationalities, I’ve often noticed a difference in each student’s background and general knowledge,” says KUROKAWA Hikaru who is an administrator for the Academy of Language Arts (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo). The school has about 100 students and average class sizes of about 12.

“We offer Japanese language classes that focus on improving communication skills in conversation, in conjunction with using a textbook we have lots of discussions, debates and pair work. I’m happiest when I see students making progress who didn’t speak a word before,” says Kurokawa.

The advantage of studying Japanese in Japan is of course that you have more opportunities to engage in conversations in Japanese. When you go out, most people on the street are speaking Japanese. Most station names are written in kanji, but they are often also written in hiragana and the roman alphabet. You can practice reading those names.

Watching TV is another effective way to learn. Advanced learners can pick up common Japanese expressions as well as words that have recently entered the language. Advanced learners can also learn about what’s happening in Japan and study the Japanese way of thinking. Beginners are ought to watching news shows with sign language. As they are aimed at people with hearing difficulties, the announcers speak slowly and the subtitles are accompanied by hiragana text. It’s possible to learn Japanese conversation while at the same time enjoying dramas and animations.

For those who like to sing, karaoke is another good way to learn. The lyrics are shown on screen. So you don’t fall behind, the letters of the lyrics change color to indicate which part you should be singing. It’s important to choose slow tunes as most new hit songs have many words to pronounce in quick succession and are hard to sing.

Working full time or part time is also a good way to learn. With your Japanese colleagues, you not only talk about work but also chat, so your vocabulary grows. At work, you are obliged to use honorific language which many foreigners tend to avoid. It is good practice. However, you need to be careful because, depending on the type of visa you have, the occupation you can have and hours you can work may be restricted.

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Japanese textbook section at a bookstore / Manga section
協力:紀伊國屋書店新宿本店

Large bookstores often have a section containing textbooks for learning Japanese in which books for all levels are sold. Those bookstores also stock useful learning materials, such as cards for memorizing kanji. If you go to the children’s book section, you’ll find many easy, useful books such as illustrated dictionaries and picture books.

Manga are also excellent materials for study. Most manga are covered in plastic film, so you can’t see the contents before buying. Some popular ones, however, come with samples that show what kind of manga it is. Manga cafes stock a wide range of comic books for you to browse. There it’s possible to choose a title based on whether the kanji has hiragana readings and on the kind of language used.

Text: SAZAKI Ryo

[From Hiragana Times February Issue 2013]


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