Land of the Rising Sun

I have fallen in love with this country over and over again and currently the thought of leaving makes me incredibly sad. It’s crazy to think that a year ago I was filling in my application forms for accommodation and now I’m sitting in the middle of Tokyo after travelling around, seeing the most amazing sights and meeting some truly lovely people. One of my favourite places in Tokyo is the Harajuku area of Shinjuku. It’s the young person’s oasis, full of fashion, restaurants and giant rainbow candyfloss. You’re definitely encouraged to be yourself here, as you’ll see many people expressing themselves with bright pink hair and platform shoes – think Camden with extra rainbows.

From Kyoto to Hiroshima, I have made the most of my Spring Break and seen as much as I could before my second and final semester begins in a few weeks’ time. Japan is a students’ paradise with so many incredible places to visit and not necessarily that expensive! I urge anyone coming to Japan to study abroad, or even on a holiday, to see as much as you can – you will not regret it. I’ve seen monkeys in Nagano, a snow festival in Hokkaido, more shrines and temples than I can count in Kyoto and a beautiful water jinjya in Hiroshima – and that’s just a small part of what I’ve seen.

Before studying abroad, Japan wasn’t even on my radar as a place I had to see and now I realise what a mistake that was! My time here has opened my eyes to the world in which we live; there are so many incredible places for us to discover! Living and studying here has been a truly wonderful experience. My classes are really interesting and thankfully my Japanese language skills have come along so much since I’ve lived here. However, the best thing about studying abroad is the people you get to meet. I now have friends from all over the world, from Argentina to Germany, some of whom I’m hoping to go and visit in their home countries!

I’m very lucky to be the recipient of a JASSO scholarship which has helped me live in Tokyo. As you might expect, much like London, it is not the cheapest of places to live. However, with that said, you certainly get more than your money’s worth. I urge anyone thinking about studying abroad not to worry about the financial side of things, as there are many scholarships and grants available to you as well as your normal student finance if you’re from the UK! It’s just a matter of research and applying for as many as you can!

I wouldn’t change my experience for the world and I still have about four months left to enjoy. Considering I nearly didn’t apply for year abroad, I’ve had quite an adventure this year and long may it continue!

The City That Sinks into the Blue

University of Reading student studying abroad in Japan for a Full Academic Year.

Daniel is currently studying abroad at the Sophia University in Japan as part of his English Language degree at Reading. Read his blog entry about settling into his new home in Asia for next academic year.

I never imagined when I started university two years ago that I would be sitting here in Tokyo with the sound of the subway occasionally rattling by, writing a blog post about my first few weeks in this amazing city. To say that this was the best decision of my life is a definite understatement. In order to prepare for such an adventure, you can research interesting landmarks to go and see, maybe even plan a few day trips you want to experience and click through the endless pictures that epitomise why you decide to go on a study abroad placement in the first place; but nothing can truly prepare you for seeing your new home with your very own eyes.

The endless surprises Tokyo throws at you, whether it be a shrine right next to the hustle and bustle of the city to the amazing restaurants hidden away down a side street – the possibilities seem endless here. There is always something to do or somewhere new to go! Another thing that feels endless is the city itself. I was lucky enough to go to Tokyo Tower and see some amazing views of Tokyo at night and it went on as far as my eyes could see – it was truly phenomenal!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Japan for a Full Academic Year.

Of course, it’s very easy taking part in all of these fun activities to forget that you’re on the other side of the world away from all of your home comforts and the people you love and who love you. However, my advice is this – study abroad is what you make of it and you must always remember why you wanted to go abroad in the first place! For me, I wanted an adventure full of culture, language and education and so here I am getting as much of this as possible! A recent visit to the Kamakura, just outside of Tokyo let me a see a glimpse of the culture and religion that runs so deep in Japan. The shrines and giant Buddha, named Kotoku-in were phenomenal to discover and I’m so excited to see more!

University of Reading student studying abroad in Japan for a Full Academic Year.

Sophia University itself has been wonderful so far! Located right in the city centre, it’s about 25 minutes away on the subway from where I live in Shin-Koiwa! It’s as though Sophia is a small city all on its own with high rising buildings all contained on its small campus. I’m really enjoying my Japanese languages classes especially; I seem to be improving much quicker now I am immersed in the language. Of course, nothing can beat the swans on Whiteknights Lake, but there is a definite sense of community here that I certainly feel a part of. I’m hoping to join a sports team, either water polo or basketball this semester, as I certainly hope to meet so many more interesting people in new social circles as well as have fun!

This sense of community is down to the people – and it goes far beyond the walls of Sophia! The people of Tokyo are the best part; never have I experienced such a polite and helpful community to help you out of any predicament – especially their patience with the (temporary) language barrier! After a night of karaoke and all you can eat and drink, the thing you need most when struggling to get the correct train home is a friendly member of the public to help you out!

次回まで (Jikai Made!)

Until next time!