My stay in Japan, the first 4 months

Well, the semester here is coming to an end, and so is my intensive Japanese course here at Shinshu University. Next semester (April) I will be a normal student enrolled at the faculty of arts. I’m not quite sure yet what courses I will be taking. I’m considering Korean or classic Chinese among others. Though I would really like to take some English classes as well, because I’m very curious about the level here. But worries for later I guess. Right now I feel it’s time to take a good critical look at my stay in Japan here up until now. I’ll point out the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good :

Nagano Ken :
I love Matsumoto and the Nagano Ken in general. The city is surrounded by mountains and beautiful nature. I can’t wait for the Spring to do some serious hiking in the area. Furthermore, this is not Tokyo or Osaka which is very nice. Don’t get me wrong, they are both obviously attractive and interesting city’s, but I’ve been in Tokyo three times now and to be honest it always feels good to get out of there after a few days. It is just more relaxed here, not so crowded, a lot more rural I guess. Something I also appreciate about my home town in Belgium. I think I could seriously work and live here for a long period. Though from a tourist point of view Matsumoto might not be so attractive, it has it’s beautiful buildings and traditional culture. Also Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka are not that far away, so if you want to leave for a while, it is perfectly possible, by bus ! .

The Food :
I thought I would have a hard time adjusting to the different kind of food style here. But I’m enjoying every meal here 🙂 . I did lose some weight, but that’s only natural of course. But I have to hand it to the Japanese, they know their food.

The People :
There are some really good people here. If you’ve read my blog you’ll know that some people have treated me very well here, even though I was almost a complete stranger to most of them. I’ve been treated to countless meals & beers. I’ve been invited to Onsen, to fly in an airplane, to go snowboarding etc. But generally, these people have not been students. They were either adults, or young people who have graduated. More on this later (unfortunately under “The Bad” ….)

My Japanese and the Language Course :
I’ve always been an average student in Leuven. I don’t intend to change that. But I do feel my Japanese has improved a lot here. At first I figured the course would be boring and an endless review of things I studied earlier. But especially the grammar classes were very useful. Some of the teaching staff was also very enthusiastic and friendly.

Living on your Own :
Though it comes with certain responsibility’s (some I had never faced before) and duty’s, I’m actually enjoying living on my own. Even though my apartment is the size of a shoebox, it still feels like your own place. Sure you have to clean every week, preparing food and doing the dishes takes time and there is never something completely done. But still, the freedom…. .

The Bad :

Japanese, nay, Asian Students :
Our relationship (well I can’t speak for the other Belgians I guess but I think they feel the same) with Japanese students hasn’t been as good as I had expected. Though this might have something to do with the rural character of Matsumoto (foreigners, especially Western ones are still rare here) , it is very hard to become friends with Japanese students here. I’ll give you some of my personal opinions about this :
First of all, people here assume you don’t speak any Japanese and thus are even afraid to talk to you. Once it has been established that your not American, but speak Japanese , things usually go more fluently.
I don’t know if it is because Matsumoto is Inaka (rural…) , but there is little to no Night life here amongst students (or so it seems). People do activities in their student circle, but outside of that, the number of students that actually goes out drinking is on the low side. Going out is also quite expensive here compared to Belgium, perhaps another reason.
The Japanese social system also has a major part to play in this I think. I’ve discussed this dozens of times with other foreigners in Japan and unless you know something about this, it’s pretty hard to explain. But for example inviting Japanese people usually takes a lot of work. After a while it gets annoying to always have to take the initiative, and after a while you just give up and go out with the people you have already befriended. This is something Asian I believe, because we experienced the same with Korean students here. Of course there always exceptions (fortunately).

Other than this, I don’t have any bad things to say. Don’t misunderstand me : I’ve got enough friends here already to make my weekends interesting. Besides, the other Belgian dudes here are all cool and I’ve even made some American friends as well who are always prepared to have a good time. And in the local Izakaya’s and bars you always meet new people, but usually ,as before, these are older people working etc.. not students. Perhaps Japanese people need to get of their Island some more and see what’s going on in the rest of the world (that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth). I can discuss these things for hours and hours, so hit me up if you’re interested. Hopefully though, next semester we’ll meet a lot more cool young people at the faculty of arts.

The Ugly :
“The ugly” are some random facts about Japan that annoy me. Small things that don’t really matter but are still funny or just plain silly.
First of all, Japanese people can not drive cars. We all experienced this on many occasions. There is no regard for cyclists or pedestrians. It’s really shameful at times. Second : Fashion. I can not believe some of the clothes and outfits I have seen here. Though I am not one to judge people on their clothes or hairstyle, some of these Japanese students really look like…downright pussy’s. Third : the price of beer in cafes and bars will make many people in Belgium shiver. It’s cheaper to just buy liquor really, though I don’t want to encourage that of course. Fourth : Japanese toilets : Give me a good old Western toilet any day (like in my apartment). But it has to be said that the Western toilets here are so good. They all have heated toilet seats etc. . Fifth : The people here that speak English are few and far between, yet they always want to try it, even after you’ve noted that you speak Japanese. And last but not least : No I’m not German, no I’m also not American. I’m from Belgium….and no Belgium is not a foreign communist country and it is not located above Spain. 🙂

So I’ll be doing some travelling in the coming 2 months, and I’ll try to keep everyone informed about that. Later.

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