KCP is located in Shinjuku, the business, entertainment, and shopping center of Tokyo. There’s always something that catches the eye, whether it’s the bright store lights by the streets or the spectacular foliage in Shinjuku Park. Fall 2012 student Emily Cole leads us around the KCP neighborhood through her photos.
Uniqlo stores can be found all over Tokyo. This one is about a 5-minute walk from school.
A common sight in Tokyo: Mopeds and a slew of parked bicycles.
Going out for coffee can sometimes be a little pricey in Tokyo (avoid Starbucks to escape sticker shock), but ChocoCro has pretty reasonable prices.
Roaming the streets of Shinjuku.
Shot from a path outside of the Shinjuku Park gates.
I visited the park three times during my stay in Tokyo: once each month that I was there. Behind me stands one of the maple trees for which the park is so famous.
For more of Emily’s photos of Shinjuku, visit our Flickr set. You can also read our other blogposts about Emily. If you have a question for Emily about her photographs, please ask her.
We recently invited three former KCP International Japanese Language School students to dinner. Over lots of great sushi, Dana Greenfield (Winter 2011 – Spring 2012), Brian Bergquist (Spring 2012), and Nathaniel Hattrick (Spring 2012) reminisced about their time in Japan and shared insights into our study abroad program in Tokyo. The dinner conversation was lively and enlightening as the three shared their personal experiences with KCP.
Luckily, we got to record the conversation in video and without further ado, we offer you these various food for thought, in five succulent segments!
Dana, Brian, and Nathaniel talk about their learning process at KCP.
What’s a typical day like at KCP? The three offer us a glimpse of daily life in the program.
In this segment, they share insights about surviving in Tokyo and succeeding in the KCP program.
Dana, Brian, and Nathaniel share their thoughts on KCP teachers and support staff.
How has KCP affected these alumni? The students talk about how they have grown from having studied at KCP International.
Visit our KCP channel in YouTube for more KCP-related videos.
One of Japan’s first public parks is Ueno Park (上野公園) in Taitō, Tokyo. Established in 1873, the park remains a favorite destination for locals and tourists. Not only is it a vast, gorgeous area of ponds, gardens, and thousands of trees, but it also houses several shrines, temples, and museums including the Tokyo National Museum and the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.
KCP Fall 2012 student Emily Cole had the opportunity to enjoy the scenery at Ueno Park during her stay in the program. These are her fantastic photos of several park areas. Thanks, Emily!
This shot looks out across one of the ponds at the southern end of the Ueno Park area. Taken in October when green still dominated the area. The water plants seem to dwarf the skyscrapers. | KCP Flickr
Changing of the seasons. Same place as the previous picture, but a month later when reds and yellows are creeping across Tokyo. | KCP Flickr
I’ve read that Japan has a fascination with Rockabilly. Ueno is also a great place to catch a plethora of street performers. The two combined to form the basis of this snapshot. I wish I had a longer lens so I could have better captured the cute kid in the background trying to dance with the adults. | KCP Flickr
A thousand Buddha statues in a temple graveyard just outside of Ueno Park proper. | KCP Flickr
These food stalls are lined up outside the temple situated roughly in the middle of the Ueno Park ponds. Every time I went to Ueno these food stalls were there, so they seem to persist whether or not there’s a festival going on. | KCP Flickr
For more of Emily’s photos of Ueno Park, visit our Flickr set or our previous blog post. If you have a question for Emily about her photographs, please ask her.
KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares some effective tips on language learning in Japan. Thanks for your wisdom!
Since I’ve been back in the States, I’ve received emails from students going abroad and currently abroad asking for advice in how to survive in Japan, how to meet people and make friends, and so on. Today, a student asked me how to study in Japan to make learning easier. This made me think back to how much trouble I had when I started learning Japanese, and the methods I developed to help make learning this new language easier. So, without further ado, here are my tips for learning a new language.
Tip #1 – Take notes
Of course you take notes in class, but when I was abroad, buy a small pocket notebook to carry around with you at all times. Throughout the day, every time you hear a word you don’t recognize, wrote it down, find the definition, and studyd it. Doing this will greatly help you increase your vocabulary .
This method works for some but not others, depending on one’s preferred style of study. Rote memorization is a useful tool when learning vocabulary. It teaches us to quickly associate a foreign word with its English equivalent. Some teachers may not like this method because they want you to learn to think in that language, but that can be a bit more difficult for students who are not already multilingual.
Tip #3 – Get a partner
Having someone who is more fluent or even a native in the language, who can correct your mistakes and maybe even teach you new ways to remember things, can only benefit you while you’re in a new country. Take advantage of any and all help that is available to you.
Tip #4 – Study often
It’s hard to want to study more than you have to sometimes, but putting forth that extra effort is going to get you extra results. Don’t settle for just passing your classes. Develop a connection with your host country by learning to communicate properly.
Tip #5 – Immerse yourself
This can be much easier said than done for some people. Some may not have the social skills, the confidence, or the desire to completely come outside their comfort zone and be around people they can’t communicate with. However, being in a foreign country, the more exposure you have with the language, the easier it is to pick up. This method may take time, but it definitely helps.
You can also visit Hector’s online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his language learning tips, please ask him.
In this 4-part series, former KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares tips learned during his time at KCP. In this final installment , Hector offers tips on making friends and studying.
Tip 8—Make Friends Before you Come to Japan
This is not only a great way to prepare for the trip and learn about the culture, but it’s a great way to make a pen-pal, practice your speaking skills, and learn to live as a local. There are sites, like Japan-guide.com, where you can look for language exchange partners in Japan. You have the ability to look for people in certain regions as well. So if you know you’re going to be in Tokyo, you can look for people in Tokyo. This is a great tool—once you develop a relationship with these pen-pals, they will likely help you adjust to life in Japan when you get here. Besides being able to read, write, and speak the language fluently, they know the best spots, they know how to save money, and they‘ll help you adapt in any way they can. If a goal is to make connections around the world, this is a great place to start.
As a student, you’re going to want to go out and see the city, hang out with friends, and so on. However, don’t forget the reason you’re here in the first place. You’re here to learn. You are a student and your schoolwork should come second to nothing while you’re abroad.
While abroad, you are a representative of your country. Don’t be that guy/girl who always wants to party and get wasted, never comes to class on time, and treats the experience like a vacation. You will not make friends this way, at least not with the right people. I’m not saying you have to spend 6 hours a night studying (though some KCP teachers might recommend it). But you know yourself well enough to know how much time and effort you need to put into your studies. Do it. By spending more time studying, not only are you setting yourself up for success in the school, but you’re also spending less time clubbing, shopping, eating, and wasting money. Make this time abroad count. It can open doors for you that would not be available otherwise.
Coming to Japan has been the greatest experience of my life so far. I am happy to have been able to share my experience and these money-saving tips with you. I am on my own journey, heading towards new horizons in international education. I wish the best to all students in their future endeavors. I wish success to those who work hard for it. I wish discipline and motivation to those who lack them. I wish goals for those who have not yet started the mission. And last but not least, I wish happiness and peace to all. Maybe one day, our paths will meet and we can learn from each other.
In this 4-part series, KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares budget tips learned during his time at KCP. In this third installment, Hector offers suggestions on socializing and staying connected.
Tip 6—Get Involved in School Activities
Over my KCP semester, I attended a few cooking classes. They are a way to (1) help students meet and socialize with Japanese students from local universities, and (2) teach students (specifically the long-term students) how to cook so they can save money on food. It’s a fine opportunity to learn how to make great-tasting food and save money at the same time. The classes usually cost a few hundred Yen to attend, for the ingredients you’ll be using. And it’s a small price to pay. After all, you’re learning something invaluable. You’re learning to live on your own. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.
Everyone has and/or needs a cell phone nowadays, myself included. But what price are you willing to pay? In Japan, the prepaid cell phones available to foreigners who will be in the country for a while are not really that expensive. However, you can’t make calls to the U.S. without a hefty fee, and how many people do you really know in Japan just yet? I’m not saying a cell phone is a bad option; it’s just not the only option.
However, you cannot just buy a prepaid sim card from a Japanese carrier and stick it in your phone. These do exist in Japan, but not many people know about them. If you have a smart phone and can get it unlocked by your service provider before you come to Japan, that may be your best option. The service provider is called B-Mobile. They offer sim cards that give access to Japanese mobile networks, but you can access data only. This is not a major issue if you are handy with finding cool apps for your phone. Using WiFi or data, you can make calls to the U.S. for free using apps like Talkatone, which sends calls through Google Voice.
There are texting apps too. I use Heywire, Line, and Skype, all free. Within Japan, you can make cheap calls through Skype. If you have friends who have some of the same apps as you (Heywire or Line, for instance), you can call and text for free. I highly recommend this. Of course, many of these apps require registration on the phone, so install them before you leave the States; you won’t be able to install them when you’re here. Using the B-Mobile sim card, you will be given a Japanese phone number for the purpose of identifying and connecting your phone to the data network, but it cannot make or receive calls or texts. The card costs about 9,500 Yen (about $115) and is initially valid for up to 4 months. They start you with 1GB of data. Use this data sparingly and it will last you the entire term.
Use WiFi whenever possible. I advise against streaming videos while using data as they will eat your data alive. If you run out within the 4 months, you can recharge for about $40, which also extends the validity term of the sim itself. If you have questions about this seemingly complex process, feel free to email me.
In this 4-part series, former KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares budget tips learned during his time at KCP. In this second installment, Hector offers tips on shopping and packing smart.
Tip 3—Don’t Shop in the City
When I first got to Shinjuku, I was mesmerized by all of the department stores and shops available. Uniqlo, Bic Camera, Isetan . . . If you’re looking to file for bankruptcy, by all means, this is the place to start. But once again, venture outside the city, to places that are maybe 40 minutes away by train. These places are usually less populated and seem suburban compared to places like Shinjuku, and their local department stores will usually have the same items for much better prices.
*Little known fact: Walmart is in Japan. They operate under the name Seiyu, a department store chain they acquired a few years ago.* Here you’ll find some really cool things you can’t find in the States, but under the “Homestays” label, so they are less expensive.
Tip 4—Don’t Fall for Tourist Traps
I can’t stress this point enough. As a study abroad student in Japan, you will likely take part in excursions to popular tourist locations for lessons in history or just sightseeing. These places sell things for a reason. Most tourists may not be traveling to many other places. So, coupled with the high tourist population and overpriced goods, they are guaranteed to make a pretty penny off each item, especially knowing that most tourists will want to bring home gifts from where they’ve visited. Don’t fall for this. You now have the knowledge. Save yourself the money and the regret. You can find stores that sell similar items for much cheaper. Items that are exclusive to one place are the exception. Use your own discretion (not the sense of convenience) to decide if you want that shirt from Tokyo Disneyland and that $100 Noh Mask from Asakusa.
You’re going to be in Japan for at least 3 months. So, how exactly do you plan to get that 200-lb. red oak dresser to Japan anyway? You absolutely do not need 5 suitcases filled with clothes and junk. Bring enough underwear (socks, undershirts, underpants) for about 1½ weeks, about 5 days’ worth of outfits, 1 or 2 dressy outfits, and maybe some workout clothes. That’s all you need. It’s called doing laundry, and I recommend it at least once a week. Part of your experience abroad is to become independent, learn responsibility, and to learn to take care of yourself.
This is a good start that will save you tons on fees at the airport. Chances are, you’re going to want to bring home gifts to family and friends. If so, you’ll need at least 1 or 2 extra suitcases for gifts alone. Add that to the 5 you already have, and you’re looking at a few hundred dollars in baggage fees when you come home.
Travel as light as possible. Bring one bag with all of your clothes and necessities, and 1 or 2 other bags. You can check up to 2 bags for free (depending on your airline) and carry one bag and one personal item (laptop, instrument, small bag). Get here with as little as possible because I promise you, unless you lose your luggage, you will be going home with more than you came with.
Stay tuned for more invaluable tips from Hector! Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it.
You can also visit his online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector, please ask him.
In this 4-part series, KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares budget tips learned during his time at KCP. In this first installment, Hector offers tips on how to save on food expenses and ways to explore the country.
I’ve received countless requests from people asking me to write a blog on my experience with making a very small amount of money go a very long way. It is possible, even in an expensive country like Japan. It’s not always easy, but if you follow this guide, it will enhance your experience *and* keep more money in your pocket for things you REALLY want to do.
Tip 1—Brown Bag It!
I love Japanese food. When I first came to Japan, I wanted to eat at every restaurant I saw. This is obviously not a good idea. The average food-stand lunch meal in Japan is anywhere from about 500 to 900 Yen.
Advertisement outside a food establishment. | KCP Flickr
“Well, what does that mean to me?” you might ask. Well, do the math. I’ll even be nice and stay on the cheap end of this one for you. Let’s say 500 Yen for lunch per day, and we’ll assume just weekdays. That’s 5 x 500 = 2,500 Yen per week. A term at KCP is roughly 12 weeks. 2,500 x 12 = 30,000 Yen. “English please?” That’s about $360 over 12 weeks just for lunch. Once again, I was nice in assuming you would go for the 500 Yen lunch every day. But life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, you’re going to want the 900 Yen lunch just because it looks, tastes, and or smells better, which quickly depletes your funds. Trust me, I know. I did this for the first 3 weeks. That is, until I learned the tricks.
Living with a Japanese family, I learned a lot that most students don’t, because they live in dorms. So, here’s the secret. Japanese people are very conservative of resources. One phrase that you will learn and appreciate when you come to Japan is “Mottainai”—wasteful. It implies a sense of regret for wasting food. Because of this outlook on conserving resources like food, every night about 30 minutes before any local grocery store or convenience store closes, all of the prepared food goes half-price. It’s called “Han-gaku.” These terms will come in handy when you get here.
Portions are also usually very generous if you get to an eating place early enough. On average, I spend about 150–200 Yen a day on lunch. This is a considerable savings. Invest in a bento (lunch) box from the Hyaku-Yen (pronounced En) store, basically a dollar store, and you’ve just cut your food expense in half over the course of your term. Congratulations!
Tip 2—Become an Explorer
Who said you need money to have fun? If you have an adventurous spirit, take a hike, literally. Japan is huge if you’re traveling on foot. It may take some motivation, but pick a direction and just walk for a few hours. You will see places and things in Japan most foreigners will never see. To be frank, most students stay within the city and don’t care to venture into the unknown, unless it’s accessible by train. If they get lost, it’s easy to get back. The train–subway system is the most efficient in the world.
Getting lost in mainstream areas of the country is really tough. But take a trip to a city only locals have heard of; not only will you impress them by having gone to such an unusual (for tourists) place, but you will find things that may interest you more than the city’s tourist attractions—public bath houses, car and motorcycle showrooms, really great food, and so on. I usually saved these trips for the weekends when I had lots of free time.
Becoming one with your surroundings is the name of the game. In Japan, it doesn’t matter if you speak great Japanese. If you try hard to blend in and act as the Japanese act, you will be much more accepted by the Japanese.
Stay tuned for more invaluable tips from Hector!
You can also visit his online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his saving suggestions, please ask him.
Our Summer Japanese Anime-Manga program is ideal for students with an interest in Anime and Manga who want short-term summer study in Tokyo. Enjoy insight into these Japanese popular art forms and how they relate to society and culture, and learn some Japanese while you’re there. The program includes an exciting series of lectures and excursions under the direction of highly regarded teachers. Don’t just take our word for it—read the views of students who’ve been in the program.
Kohiyama-sensei and Suzuki-sensei were very helpful and understanding. It made learning new Japanese forms much better.—Dawn Ushijima
Awesome! Best Japanese instructors I have ever had, and I’m encouraging my university to send their students. —Adam Johnson
My teacher, Kato-sensei, was encouraging, helpful, and very nice. I loved being in her class.— Sarah Snook
All of the students are very cooperative and friendly to one another. It goes to show how connected we are and that we are not alone when it comes to a shared interest.—Alexander Mauricio
I thought the content was just what I needed : ) As someone who’s never taken a Japanese language class before, it was nice to have a class that was both challenging and not overwhelming.—Sarah Snook
History of Anime / Manga: I learned a lot of things about anime and manga that were a complete surprise to me.
Anime / Manga and Japanese Society: This showed me how deeply anime and manga have impacted Japan.
Anime / Manga and Business: Very good to introduce the business behind anime and manga (it’s a big part of their success) and see the people responsible for creating such wondrous things.— Alexander Mauricio
Everyone did an excellent job on their presentations. It really demonstrated what we have learned.—Alexander Mauricio
I loved the presentations! It was fun listening to everyone’s different takes on anime/manga and realizing what we all learned.—Sarah Snook
Posing in front of anime-covered coin lockers in Akihabara. | KCP Flickr
I enjoyed looking around Akihabara, learning some of the history, and the tour of the Kotobukiya store.—Sarah Snook
Toei Animation Studio:
I loved seeing the animation studio and the people who make some of the most popular shows in Japan.—Alexander Mauricio
Going to Toei Animation Studio was so inspiring to be able to see what goes on behind the scenes in making animation.—Sarah Snook
A very fun visit, seeing how a manga series affected a town for the better.—Alexander Mauricio
The museum was very busy but very interesting in its wonders of fine art and animation.—Alexander Mauricio
This was the best summer I’ve ever had, and I now have a better understanding of what I want to accomplish in life.—Adam Johnson
I loved the program, the friends we made, and the staff who supported us all the way through our learning experience. It is very hard to say goodbye to a country that has touched the hearts of so many people.—Alexander Mauricio
AMAZING, LIFE-CHANGING! Thank you so very much, KCP! Really, I couldn’t have spent those four weeks in a better way, and I miss Japan and KCP already.—Deanna Nardy
I absolutely loved the anime/manga program. All the teachers and staff were very pleasant, welcoming, and helpful. I learned so much in only a month! I can’t wait to go back to school next month and tell everyone about what I learned : ) I thank everyone at KCP for giving me the opportunity to take part in the program and for all the time and support they’ve given me. I want to work hard; I hope in the next few years I can go back to Japan, perhaps for an extended stay. Once again, thank you for everything. I wish you all the best. : )—Sarah Snook
For more fun posts from our Summer Anime 2012 program, visit: