Your time abroad is probably one of the most exciting experiences in your life. You will meet new friends, learn about a new culture, speak a new language, and open your eyes to a whole new world. Readjusting to life back home can be another big change for you; it may take some time before you feel settled in again in your own home. To reach the full potential of your study away experience, you can use a number of ways to assimilate, maintain, and deepen the many things you learned in Japan.
Here are just a few tips for making the most of your Japan experience:
Eat foods similar to what you had in Japan.
Food can be an integral part of culture shock as well as reverse culture shock. Spending some time abroad allows your taste buds to discover the different ingredients and cooking styles of a particular region. Back at home, you may find yourself longing for those familiar tastes. Seeking out Japanese restaurants in your area will give you the chance to have familiar foods from Japan, remind you of your experiences abroad, and may become part of your regular diet.
Japanese noodles. | KCP Flickr
Keep a journal.
Keeping a written or video journal will allow you to chronicle your time abroad, your experiences, and even your personal growth. You can look back on fond memories of your adventures and your thoughts at the time. It can bring in a flood of sensations of what life was like in Japan.
Bungo Stray Dogs. | Screengrab from YouTube video by Crunchyroll
Watch Japanese movies, anime, television shows.
Find ways to watch Japanese movies, in Japanese. You can skim etflix, Hulu, or YouTube for any Japanese shows that you can find. The familiar sights and sounds of Japan in your own home can be a means to slowly reintegrate in this simple and entertaining way.
Connect with the friends you made in Japan.
Keep in touch with the friends you made while in Japan as well as reconnecting with your old friends from home. You can use Facebook, Skype, email, text messaging, and so on. Friends near and far can help ease your transition. It’s also a wonderful way to share your experiences.
KCP Summer 2016 Kamakura trip. | KCP Flickr
In time, things will fall back into place. You’ll develop new routines and incorporate what you’ve learned into your everyday life. Your Japan experience will truly be an asset for your future!
What exactly is Gakko Hojin?
Put simply, Gakko Hojin is a rigorous educational evaluation and accreditation process overseen by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government ministry.
Japan has the third-largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP), and it is the world’s second largest developed economy. It can be said that the learning market in the country is set to global standards: it has the second-largest higher education system in the world, with more than 1,200 universities and colleges.
Japan’s education system is one of the world’s most internationalized, with thousands of international students included in the total enrollment of the country. In the postwar era, the Ministry of Education has been the central authority. It oversees the establishment and recognition of tertiary (higher-ed) institutions. The status of Gakko Hojin (educational corporation) can be granted only by the government to entities who are under strict compliance. To obtain this status, educational institutions are required to meet stringent measures in curriculum, administration, governance, accounting and finances, physical facilities, and land holdings. The status of Gakko Hojin entitles the institution and its students to government grants, deferred loans, tuition subsidies, scholarships, preferential treatment on tax law and social insurance fees, and even discounted rail passes on some instances.
KCP campus. | KCP Flickr
Founded in 1983, KCP International is recognized as a leader in Japanese language education. It is well known for its Japanese language and cultural immersion in Tokyo. KCP is a not-for-profit educational foundation. In April 2007, KCP International Japanese Language School, one of the largest and most highly recognized language institutes in Japan, was granted Gakko Hojin status.
KCP students and faculty. | KCP Flickr
Study abroad is an exciting and eye-opening experience for anyone. Being in a new place away from home and all your familiar things may take some getting used to. There are several stages you may feel when in a foreign country: initial elation, culture shock, gradual adjustment, and finally adapting to your new second home in Japan.
Here are a few tips on transitioning to your life in Japan:
Learn about Japanese culture before you go.
Read up on what to expect once you arrive in Japan. You’ll have a heads up on what clothes to pack and the proper courtesy and manners to observe. You wouldn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb or unintentionally offend.
Fall 2016 students at KCP tea ceremony. | KCP Flickr
Keep an open mind.
Every country has its own unique culture. Keep an open mind and observe, take in, and embrace the many layers of Japanese tradition and culture. It also helps to have a positive attitude towards every new experience. It may give you a deeper understanding and awareness of what and why certain things are followed in Japanese culture.
Make new friends.
Go out of your way to meet new people. You will encounter other students from other countries taking the same Japanese language course. Making new friends allows you to learn more about what life is really like in another country. Befriending someone from Japan and other countries will enable you to build your network of friends.
Fall 2016 Ikebukuro Dorm welcome party. | KCP Flickr
Immerse yourself in local activities.
Do what the locals do. Tokyo is a bustling metropolis that has many intriguing sights and activities. Keep abreast of new things that you can join near your area.
Explore new places.
Go where the locals go! Get out of your comfort zone. KCP is right in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. Being right smack in the middle of the bustling metropolis offers lots of places to explore: temples and shrines, narrow alley ways, and majestic gardens. You’re never left without a new place to explore each day.
Going up Mt. Fuji. | Mike Doeren at KCP Flickr
Keep a journal about your experience.
Keep a record of your experience abroad such as a journal (written, video, and/or photo). This will give you the chance to look back on your experience and the changes in your perception and understanding of Japan and the Japanese. This will also give you memories to look back on after your stay abroad.
Keep ties to family and friends back home.
Write emails, send post cards, share blog posts, photos, and videos with family and friends. Let them join your adventure vicariously.
Summer Short-term 2016 students at Yamanashi. | KCP Flickr
Japan is known for their outrageous fads, cosplay, anime, manga, and gaming. Aside from all those great things that make the country so unique, they also have a Cat Island (Tashirojima) and a Rabbit Island (Ōkunoshima).
Tashirojima is a small island in Japan in Ishinomaki, Miyagi. The island is a small fishing community of about 100 residents. It is known as Cat Island because of the number of cats that live in it. Amazingly, cats outnumber the locals almost four to 1. The stray cats thrive on the island because residents believe that feeding the cats will bring them wealth and good fortune. These cats roam freely in the streets and most can be found hanging around Nitoda Port.
On a tiny island on the Inland Sea of Japan, in the city of Takehara, in Hiroshima Prefecture, there is Ōkunoshima also known as Usagi Jima or Rabbit Island because of the unbelievable number of feral rabbits that call it home.
If Cat Island and Rabbit Island are not enough, believe it or not, Japan also has Zao Fox Village! Zao Fox Village is located in the mountains near Shiroishi in Miyagi Prefecture. The village is a haven for over 100 animals and six different types of foxes. Foxes are a huge part of Japanese culture and history and figure in several Japanese folktales.
Foxes at Zao Fox Village. | Olena Shmahalo
Zao Fox Village is a preserve with small houses and structures to house foxes. There is a shrine with statues and a torii. The animals roam freely, there is a petting zoo, and visitors are rewarded with the beautiful Miyagi Zao mountain scenery. The Fox Village is close to the town of Shiroishi that can be conveniently reached by a bullet train to Shiroishi Station. From there, it’s a quick 20-30 minute drive to the picturesque mountain preserve.
Fox, close up. | Olena Shmahalo
Watch the foxes of Zao Fox Village in action in this YouTube video by Rachel & Jun:
Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92wtDKCtOiU
Zao Fox Village is a wonderful addition to your bucket list of places to visit when in Japan!
Headaches and migraines can be a common occurrence easily be remedied using natural substances rather than medication. These natural remedies can be a more healthful alternative, too.
For many study abroad students away from home for a long period of time, it is imperative to know what types of medication need a prescription, the allowable quantity for personal use, what is available over the counter, and what types are not allowed to be brought into the country. This information is essential to know when travelling to Japan.
In Japan, bringing medication from overseas into the country is controlled by the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and the Customs Law. The Japanese government observes strict compliance primarily to prevent health hazards caused by defective products. Restrictions like this on medication when travelling make it very useful to know some helpful tips in treating the more common ailments. Here are some remedies to try in relieving headache pain and tension:
Eat some nuts. The National Headache Foundation identifies about 20 types of headaches, from tension headaches to migraines. Research suggests that nuts such as almonds contain salicin which when consumed creates salicylic acid (primary by-product of aspirin metabolization). Consumption of 10 to 15 almonds a day are said to make regular headaches less severe.
Almonds. | HealthAliciousNess
Exercise. Regular exercise is great for your health. Regular physical activity also allows the body to release endorphins which can dull the sensation caused by a headache. Exercise regularly to maximize the overall benefit. Don’t forget to warm up and cool down after every exercise. Most of all, enjoy the outdoors. Fresh air and beautiful scenery can only do good for your overall well-being.
Omega-3 fatty acids are more than just for the heart. Some studies show that taking fish oil helps reduce migraine and headache pain. Research shows that ingredients found in fish oil may decrease blood clotting and inflammation, lower blood pressure, and promote a steady heart rhythm. All of these help reduce the inflammation of blood cells that press and pinch nerves.
Fish oil capsules. | Jo Christian Oterhals
Minimize consumption of foods containing monosodium glutamate (MSG). This is a common ingredient that promotes umami flavor in Japanese cuisine. It is derived from an amino acid, called glutamic acid, which occurs naturally in various foods. MSG is said to trigger migraines or headaches in some people as it excites neurons. Be conscious of food labels, and you can request restaurants to refrain from using MSG when you feel it may trigger a headache.
MSG. | Shoreline
Japan is a country rich in beautiful landscapes, natural resources, and wildlife. One of Japan’s popular indigenous wildlife species is the Japanese macaque.
The Japanese macaque is known as saru (monkey) in Japanese but to distinguish it from other primates of the world, it is called Nihonsaru (Nihon means Japan in Japanese). The Nihonsaru are Old World monkeys, a group of primates that fall under the superfamily Cercopithecoidea. They are also known as “snow monkeys” because they live in areas where snow is prevalent throughout the year.
Japanese macaque. | Martha de Jong-Lantink
Jigokudani Monkey Park (地獄谷野猿公苑) or Jigokudani Yaen Kōen in Yamanouchi, in Nagano Prefecture, a part of Joshinetsu Kogen National Park (locally known as Shigakogen), is located at the northern area of the Yokoyu-River. Jigokudani, or Hell’s Valley, is aptly named for the boiling water that spumes from the crevices of the frozen ground.
The area is surrounded by steep cliffs and cold forests, and heavy snowfalls cover the ground for about four months of the year. Jigokudani is accessible solely via a narrow two-kilometer footpath through the forest. The place is relatively well known, but the difficulty in getting there makes it hard for many visitors to access.
Jigokudani Monkey Park. | David McKelvey
Jigokudani is famous for the many wild Japanese macaques or snow monkeys that inhabit the area during the winter. They climb down from the steep cliffs and forests to enjoy the warm waters of the hot springs (onsen). The monkeys tend to want to stay all year round because they are also fed by park attendants. Visiting Jigokudani at any season will allow you to see hundreds of monkeys.
Taking a bath. | Yosemite
Jigokudani Monkey Park and the Japanese Macaques are only some of the few unique things to see and explore when in Japan.
We love to see photos taken by our KCP students, as these offer a first-hand view of what strikes them while in Japan. KCP Summer Short-term 2016 student Mike Doeren shares with us his photos of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji scenery. Thanks for sharing, Mike!
Night life in Tokyo. | KCP Flickr.
Never a dull moment in Japan. | KCP Flickr.
Lanterns. | KCP Flickr.
The journey into Fuji begins. | KCP Flickr.
Met by the sun. | KCP Flickr.
The sun rises at Fuji’s peak. | KCP Flickr.
Descending Fuji. | KCP Flickr.
Temple wishes. | KCP Flickr.
Want to see more KCP photos? Visit KCP Flickr.
Shogi, or the “General’s Game, a two-player strategy board game, is the most popular native variant of chess in Japan. From the Song Dynasty through the Ming Dynasty in China, there are stories that numerous trade convoys travelled along the southern islands and all around the Indian Ocean. The Chinese traded with the Japanese and other Southern Asian countries. This could have influenced the development of shogi. The oldest documents mentioning the existence of shogi are found in the seven-volume writings of Fujiwara Yukinari (972 – 1027), the Kirinshō.
Human Shogi at Mt. Maizuru in Tendo, Yamagata. | foooomio
The Japanese city of Tendo in Yamagata Prefecture is known since the Edo period for the traditional craft of producing shogi pieces. Tendo Sakura Matsuri Festival is an event, usually in April of each year, that celebrates the arrival of spring. The festival is a fun-filled event that hosts a variety of attractions such as traditional dances, a parade with people joining in carrying portable shrines—one of the most anticipated events, the Ningen Shogi.
Red Army in Human Shogi. | foooomio
Blue Army in Human Shogi. | foooomio
The Ningen Shogi or human shogi is a popular spring event where armored or kimono-clad people act as shogi pieces. The game is much like chess. Players (called Kishi) battle by moving pieces of different roles in order to capture the king. The Ningen Shogi is set in a time 400 years ago during the warring states period. The human shogi has people dressed up as warriors in full armor who represent the game pieces. The game of professional Kishi is recreated on a 16m-long (52ft), 14m-wide (46ft) gigantic board. With the crown cheering them on, the game brings a lively atmosphere and is a sight to behold.
Watch the Ningon Shogi in action in this YouTube video by yamagata tabibito:
Click image or here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihREJp91pOI
Chanoyu, the Japanese Tea Ceremony, is part of Japanese culture. It is a union of many Japanese arts with the focus on serving a bowl of tea with a pure heart.
The earliest record of the history of tea in Japan dates back to 9th-century text references by a Japanese Buddhist monk. Japanese priests were sent to China as envoys to learn about Chinese culture. The priests soon returned with the habit of drinking tea. A priest named Saicho first brought tea to Japan, and Emperor Saga welcomed the growing of tea plants in the country.
Practitioners of Chanoyu practice the principles of Wa Kei Sei Jaku (harmony, respect, purity, and tranquility). These are integrated into their study of tea and into their everyday lives. Sen no Rikyū (1522 – April 21, 1591), also known as Rikyū, is considered the historical figure with the most profound influence on chanoyu, the Japanese way of tea. Rikyū said that tea is nothing more than boiling water, making tea, and drinking it. It is this simplicity that makes the study of Chanoyu a lifelong pursuit.
Check out KCP Fall 2016 students as they experience the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
For more photos of the event, visit KCP Flickr.
Japan is known for anime and manga art, technological advancements in robotics, and beautiful and picturesque scenery. Cherry-blossom or hanami season brings in thousands of visitors each year to witness the splendor of the blossoming flowers. Bonsai is another art form that focuses on the long-term practice of cultivating and shaping miniature trees that are grown in a container.
Star Wars rice paddy art. | yari hotaka
The Japanese can create amazing art in almost any form imaginable. Another art form that is uniquely Japanese is rice paddy art (田んぼアート tambo āto), where people plant various types of rice in different colors to create elaborate designs in a paddy field.
In 1993, the people of Inakadate, a village in Minamitsugaru District in Aomori Prefecture in the Tōhoku region of Japan, were searching for a means to enliven their village. Archaeological explorations in the area gave rise to the realization that rice had been grown in Inakadate for over 2,000 years. The villagers thought of honoring their history by planting a rice field. They used four different types of heirloom and modern strains of rice to create breathtaking pictures in the rice paddies. For visitors to be able to view the entire image, a castle tower 22 meters high was erected at the village office.
Napoleon design. | Captain76
For the first nine years, the farmers only created simple images of Mount Iwaki. Over the years, more elaborate, complex, and modern designs have graced the site. In 2006, over 200,000 people came to witness the awe inspiring work of art. Other villages in Japan have also come to create their own tanbo art such as in the village of Yonezawa, in Yamagata prefecture.
Rice paddy art is just one of the many things to discover about Japan!
Sengoku busho design. | Captain76