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Studying Japanese in Japan

1:23 PM

Last July 2014, I was admitted into the 4-week Conversation course at Kudan Institute of Japanese Language and Culture (KILC) in Tokyo, Japan through the International Cultural Exchange Fund (ICEF) Scholarship.


I knew about this from Kudan Philippines' Facebook Page and decided to apply for the scholarship at around April. I then received a notice that I was accepted into the program around the end of May and then I was preparing for my month-long study trip to Japan in July! I won't dwell on the process on how to get your Visa as KILC will help you with that. Don't hesitate to keep in contact with them should you have any questions!

Anyway, studying Japanese in Japan is an experience you won't surely forget. There are a lot of things to learn and because your classmates will definitely be from other countries, you get to learn a few things about their culture as well. To get my point across, I'll be discussing some of the things you must remember about studying Japanese in Japan.


Your Japanese sucks right now, trust me, it'll get better.


You might think that when you get to Japan, you must already know how to speak their language to be able to get by but this wasn't what I did. I went to Japan with my knowledge only at the beginner's level  (not even N5!) and I couldn't read Hiragana and Katakana that well. Admittedly, I had a hard time but while I went on with the lessons and as I was going around Tokyo, I could feel that I was becoming more confident in speaking Japanese by speaking with the locals. Although the conversations were very basic, I felt really accomplished if I could speak to them without having to look up what they said or asking them if they spoke English.

I'll share with you a scenario that I was in while I was hunting for Portrait of Pirates figures in Akihabara:

Me: P.o.Pはなんかいですか? (What floor are the P.o.P.s?)
Staff: 2かいです。(2nd floor)
Me: ありがとございます。(Thank you very much.)

It is in these simple scenarios that you can get to appreciate what you're learning and being able to talk and hear the locals also helps in developing your Japanese accent - making your speaking more coherent and not stiff - if that makes any sense. At the end of your trip, you'll definitely notice the difference of what you knew then and what you know now.


You think you know Japanese Culture? Think again.


With almost 2 decades of watching anime, 5 to 6 years of reading manga and 2 years of cosplaying, I thought I already knew almost everything about the Japanese culture. Well, I thought I did but then again, you can't fully understand a culture if you don't experience it and this is one of the most important things in your trip that you should always remember.

You might be thinking now that when you get to Japan, you'll want to go to this place and to that place - you know, the tourist stuff, but it is when you are living among the locals that you get to experience their culture. You ride the train with them, you cross the street with them and you buy from vending machines and コンビニ (convenience stores) and get to interact with them and you join festivals or community events.

It helps that you have prior knowledge about their culture and with that, you won't get 'culture shock'  but knowing and experiencing are two different things but a combination of both gives you a sound understanding of the Japanese culture.

Case in point: I'll share with you my Tea Ceremony class experience that I had at KILC. It was through this class that I got to experience the tedious art of the Tea Ceremony. I learned that there's a certain row on the tatami that your knees should be parallel to when you're kneeling. That you need to turn the cup twice towards you before drinking and that after drinking, you have to turn it twice again before you put it down. That to mix the tea, you have to flick your wrist really hard repeatedly to create a lather foam and that the thicker the foam, the tastier the tea is.

I didn't know that Tea Ceremonies were that detailed up to the placement of the things and it was through that class that I got a glimpse of that part of the Japanese culture. I had fun doing this but I also felt my legs cramping as I wasn't used to kneeling for long periods of time. Depending on the institute that you chose to go for your study, I recommend that you sign up if they have activities like this.


You're 90% a student and 10% a tourist.


I know you can't get rid of the idea of going to the places in Japan that you've always wanted to go to  but remember, you are a student. Your priority should be going to class and doing your homework.

I did go around Tokyo after my class but I always got home at around 5pm so that I can study and rest. It's nice to go around so that you can practice what you've learned and for your own leisure as well but don't forget why you're there. Well, if you think you can handle class and going around without harming your studies then go for it. 

I had some classmates that forgo going to class to tour around but they ended up not understanding the lessons and eventually, they gave up trying to learn the language as a whole. I found it a bit sad because: 1) they paid for their trip and school and it's such a waste if they couldn't maximize what they paid for and 2) their enthusiasm for learning the language isn't that much there and I know that there are people who would want to be in their place - learning Japanese and being in Japan. 

So if you don't want to waste any of your time and money, do set your priorities straight as you will find it fulfilling in the end.


Final Thoughts and Thanks


Hopefully you find these tips or reminders helpful should you wish to study in Japan. It was also through this experience that I realized how much I knew and did not know about the Japanese culture and this is a part of my life that I'll definitely cherish.

I could share with you every day of what I did during my month-long stay but that'd take forever and I'd like to treasure some memories on my own. But for places that you'd like to know more about and visit, do check out my other entries with the label Japan.

Thank you to KILC because through the ICEF Scholarship, I was able to learn the Japanese language and understand the Japanese Culture better. ほんとうに、ありがとうございました!

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