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All good things come to an end

The amazing semester at Seinan Gakuin University has come to an end. The semester officially ended on the 18th of May but I stayed in Japan until the 27th for my bachelor’s thesis. I conducted a tour for a group from Finland in Kyoto and now I’m spending my days writing the thesis. The trip went well and I’m happy with the results. If you want to read about this trip, or just look at the pictures if you can’t read Finnish, you can begin the story from this page.

The last few weeks of the semester were super busy and I didn’t have time to do anything else than just study. I had to write four essays for my Japanese Cinema, Natural World of Japan, Japanese language and Performing Arts (Traditional Culture) courses, and I also had to study kanji, practise my moves for the final test in judo and study for the final tests of psychology and calligraphy. I finally received the grades for my courses, and I couldn’t be happier. Studying hard had paid off.

So, I finished all the courses I had started with perfect scores. The two Japanese credits equal four ECTS points, so all together I got 36 points while studying in Japan. That’s one course more than I had to take, but hey, I went there to study and I wanted to get as much out of the experience as I could. It was a lot of work, but courses like judo and calligraphy gave me energy to sit down and study the other subjects.

Studying at Seinan Gakuin University was amazing and I made a lot of friends and learned so much more about the culture. The area where the university is located is perfect, and you really don’t need to leave far away for anything – everything’s right there. If you want to see what my day living in Fukuoka looked like, you can check the picture post in my Finnish blog.

I recommend this experience of studying in Japan if you’re already somewhat familiar with the language and if you’re ready to commit studying more. There will be a lot of homework for the Japanese language and you can’t skip your lessons as you want to – it’s a lot more different university than what you’re used to in Finland. If you’re ready to commit yourself for studying go for it – you will get a lot out of studying in Fukuoka!

A holiday in paradise

In April me and my two Chinese and two Taiwanese friends travelled to the tropical island of Okinawa. It has been my dream for years to travel there, and now that I was already in the Southern Japan it would be easier and cheaper to access there than it was before from Kyoto or Tokyo. We stayed in the main island of Okinawa for three nights and got a great deal from a travel agency – it only cost us around 28 000 yen (280 euros) each for three nights in a beach hotel, the return flights and a rental car. The trip was more awesome than I could have imagined.

The flight took us about two hours to the capital of Okinawa. Okinawa is a part of Japan but it’s heavily influenced by the Chinese culture and they even have their own dialect which in my opinion can be called a language, since it’s impossible to understand for the Japanese living in the mainland. This dialect is mostly spoken on the smaller islands, so I didn’t have any problems with the language while visiting the main island of Okinawa.

Our hotel was perfect and it was located right next to an emerald coloured sea and a white sanded beach. Besides bathing in the sun we visited some sights in Okinawa as well including a huge aquarium, fruits land and a castle which gate is featured in the rare 2 000 yen bill.

Since one of my Taiwanese friends had an international drivers license, it was convenient for us to move from one place to another by a rental car. The attractions on the main island of Okinawa are a bit far away from each other, but if you have a car, you can access them easily.

I fell in love with Okinawa and I’ll definitely travel there again in the future.

Sakura ~ Cherry Blossoms

The cherry blossom season in Japan is the best time of the year. Japanese people love these light pink and white flowers because it symbols the perishness of life. These flowers bloom only for one week in the Spring, and the Japanese love doing picnic, or watching the flowers (hanami) as they say, under the cherry trees. And so did we.

Watching the beautiful cherry blossoms fall makes you think about how you should enjoy the life as it is and live in the moment. Your time studying abroad with your friends is limited, but you shouldn’t worry that the time would run out – otherwise you’ll forget to enjoy the once in a lifetime experience you have been given.

Sunny Monday

It was quite rainy here for the past weeks but now it’s nice and sunny. The wind is still cold as it blows from the North. I wonder when the wind is going to change its direction…

They say it’s been colder than average this winter in Fukuoka. Because of the cold weather the cherry blossoms are opening late. They’re supposed to open here this week and the best time of viewing should be one week later. Can’t wait to see those beautiful flowers in full bloom!

Actually I’ve already seen some cherry blossoms here. There are many different species of cherry trees so some of them have already opened. The most common species is yet to be open so everyone’s waiting for it to see a lot of them at the same time. It’s common to have a hanami (flower viewing) party under the cherry trees when they’re at their full bloom.

It feels weird that the flowers are blooming and the oranges and lemons are at their best season here. It’s still cold, why aren’t they freezing? It’s weird how the temperature feels so cold even though it’s been around +10 degrees celsius these days. It has to bee the wind. If you’re coming here for Spring semester, don’t forget to bring your jacket. It’s going to be cold for the most of the time you’re staying here. Luckily I didn’t do the same mistake as I did last year when I went to Korea (I was freezing without winter jacket for two months…).

Few weeks ago I went to Nagasaki to be a part of a tourism research. For two days we travelled by bus, tram and taxi to various tourism destinations inside the city and checked if it was easy for a foreigner to travel there without getting lost or confused. We also asked other foreigners about their experiences and made a report out of it. It was quite a nice and educational trip.

We just had our mid term exams for Japanese language and Japanese Cinema courses. For other courses we only have the final exam or final paper. For Japanese we had to write an essay about unusual laws in our home countries and make a presentation out of it as well. We also had to make a speech and take a written exam. I was so exhausted after the exams. The Japanese language studies are taking most of my energy here, but I can say I’ve learned a lot of advanced level vocabulary that I thought I’d never be able to memorize. I can’t say for other Japanese courses, but the Advanced Japanese course is very good and you’ll get a lot out of it if you take it seriously. And you have to take it seriously here.

Halfway there

Wow, it’s already the halfway of the semester. When did this happen? Time flies by so fast here it’s a bit sad. Every day there’s so much to do. I have kanji tests almost every day so when I come back to my room from school I have to study. And then it’s time to sleep again. And then it’s the next morning. I’ve been super busy during the weekends as well – we always have some fun things to do. I wish the time would slow down a bit… I still have many things I want to do and experience before returning to Finland.

My friend from Ajou University, Anouk, came to Fukuoka last month for her internship. Few weeks ago we did a road trip to Itoshima near Fukuoka. Itoshima is famous for it’s oysters and they were delicious indeed. We also saw the married rocks (pick above).

It’s Spring time in Fukuoka. Last weekend we went to Maizuru park in Fukuoka to see plum blossoms. They’re so beautiful!

In few weeks the cherry blossoms should be blooming as well. Looking forward to that!

Spring Break

It’s been only one month since I begun my studies here and it’s already Spring Break. Or actually the Spring Break is already over and school begins again on Monday. Whoops, how did that happen?

My Spring Break didn’t begin that well. I got a serious influenza virus and was laying in my bed for almost a week. I had to skip three days of school because of that. First I tried to survive with my Finnish medicine I had with me but then I had to go to the hospital to get some proper treatment. The doctor gave me a prescription for proper medicine. Visiting the doctor cost 1900 jpy (19€) with the Japanese Health Insurance (which you need to purchase when you move here) and the medicine was about 1300 jpy (13€). Not that bad.

Fukuoka Seen from Fukuoka Tower

We had purchased ferry tickets to Korea for our Spring Break beginning Monday the 6th so I was really nervous if I was going to get well before our departure. Luckily my fever went down during the weekend and by Sunday I felt a lot better already so I was ready for our Spring Break trip to Busan.

Gwangan Bridge in Busan by night

We stayed in Busan for five days and had a wonderful time there. We rented a small apartment by the Gwangalli Beach and we could see the famous Gwangan Bridge from our window. It was truly amazing.

Our apartment in Busan

It takes only 2 hours and 55 minutes by ferry from Fukuoka to Busan so it’s my recommendation to visit Korea during your stay here. It feels quite expensive to be back in Japan after super cheap restaurants and shopping opportunities in Korea, but we’ll survive. At least I don’t have to buy any cosmetics here in Japan anymore since I bought a LOT while in Korea. I loooove Korean cosmetics!

Now I have a lot of school work to do since I was sick and then went to Korea… Don’t know where to begin. And it’s such a beautiful day outside I’d just want to go for a walk. Maybe I’ll do just that to refresh my mind. Then it’s all studies, I promise!

Winter time in Fukuoka

I’m watching as the huge snow flakes fall on my balcony. I didn’t think I’d witness snow in Fukuoka since it’s been so sunny and actually quite warm for the past three weeks since I arrived here. I’m happy to see snow covered mountains from my window though – the mountains always look the most beautiful when they’re covered with snow.

The lessons have begun for real at Seinan Gakuin and a few days ago we had to make our final decisions on which courses we’d like to take. I did some changes on my original plan and I decided to take the following courses: Advanced Japanese, Intermediate Japanese (only the kanji part), Japanese Psychology and Society, Japanese Performing Arts, Calligraphy, Introduction to Japanese Cinema, Natural World of Japan and Jūdō. The Cinema course hasn’t started yet but I’m hoping it will be interesting. All of the other courses seem to be quite interesting for me, so even if I didn’t actually have to take this many courses I’m still going to go with them.

The language courses are quite intensive and I’m having a kanji test almost every day. But kanji are the main reason I’m taking not only the Advanced Japanese but also the Intermediate Japanese – I really want to learn more of them! And I have. For the past week I’ve been coming home straight from school and done basically nothing else than studying kanji. It’s a hard work but it’s so rewarding to notice you can read something new every day. I’m becoming addicted to kanji.

For the weekdays I’m studying hard, but on the weekends it’s time to relax a bit. I’ve made some amazing friends here and we’ve been having a great time together. Our weekends have been consisting of izakaya, karaoke, ice cream challenge, and a manga convention, to name a few. In a little over a week we’ll begin our Spring break and we’ll be heading to Busan in South Korea for five days. Busan is easily accessible from Fukuoka and it’s only a three hours ferry ride away. Can’t wait for all the spicy food and inexpensive clothing and cosmetics! It’s been quite expensive living here in Japan because of the strong yen and weak euro, so it feels good to go somewhere cheaper for awhile. ^^;

Finally in Japan with Internet access

Yahoo~ So, we arrived safely to Fukuoka with Laura one week ago. We didn’t get the Internet access to our rooms before this Tuesday so we did some sightseeing before the classes begun. The semester begun yesterday but I’ve only had two classes so far.

As you may see, we did take the ferry here as planned. The ferry was very comfortable and our cabin with eight beds ended up having only two other people besides us staying there. The ferry had an awesome hot spring bath with a great view over the sea. You could really relax there while travelling. I really recommend this way of getting yourself from Osaka to Fukuoka!

My room here in Fukuoka is super cute and the whole International House is awesome. The room has its own restroom, sink and a fridge but you need to use the common kitchen and showers.

During the orientation on the 6th we had a Japanese language proficiency test as well. The test took almost three hours and it included listening, grammar, vocabulary, kanji and essay parts. We had to take the test so they’d know in which Japanese language class we would be assigned for. I was assigned for advanced level and was actually quite scared of it but as I joined the class yesterday, it seems like we’re all about the same level in speaking and listening. I don’t know about other students kanji knowledge but I think I’m one of the weakest ones in that area. I’m actually going to join the intermediate Japanese kanji lessons few times a week besides my advanced course so I can make the most out of learning kanji here. It’s going to be hard work but I’ll do my best!

So far everything’s been great here and I love how kind everyone is. It feels so comfortable here and I can’t believe it’s been almost two years since my last visit to Japan. This is the first time I’ve ever visited this city and it already feels like home. I love Seinan Gakuin and Fukuoka!

Heihei Finland, ようこそ Japan

I’m leaving to Japan tomorrow. I already did my online check-in so now I’ll only have to navigate myself to Helsinki-Vantaa airport and leave my luggage at the baggage drop counter there. I’m going to take a bus from Jyväskylä to Helsinki-Vantaa airport via Lahti. The bus will leave at 11am tomorrow and arrive to the airport at 15:35. My plane will leave at 17:25 so I should have enough time to find the right gate.

I’ll arrive to Osaka on Wednesday morning and will take a ferry from there to the island of Kyūshū. Finally I’ll arrive to my final destination Fukuoka on the 5th of January. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to update my blog since we were told we’ll be able to register our own laptops to the campus network only after the orientation which takes place on the 6th. But I’ll update as soon as I can. 🙂

See you again, Finland!

Ready to go

Last Friday I went to Helsinki to collect my Japanese visa. Yes – I finally have my visa to enter Japan! There was again some delay with my Certificate of Eligibility arriving from Japan and it somehow got stuck in the bureaucracy of Finnish customs. I have no idea what the problem was and I don’t know how a piece of paper could cause any problems at the customs. Well, long story short, I got the certificate last Wednesday and begun preparing for my trip to the Embassy of Japan by taking passport sized photos and filling out some essential forms. It took about half an hour at the embassy for them to make and print out my visa. The lady there was super friendly and helpful – she didn’t only give me the visa but she also told me great information about living in Japan and what should I do after I arrive there. She also informed me that in Finland we can’t unfortunately get the multiple entry visa to Japan so if I want to travel to Korea, for example, I have to apply for a re-entry permission in Japan.

Christmas in Osaka.

Last week I finished my courses at JAMK for this semester and I only have one more essay to write before I’m all set to leave to Japan. I can’t believe how fast this semester has flown by. Now suddenly I find myself leaving to Japan just in two weeks. It feels absurd. I keep thinking if I’ve forgotten to do something I should have done before leaving. At least I have my visa, an insurance for myself and my luggage, flight tickets and a place to stay in Japan. I still need to exchange some Japanese yen though. Should do it this week I guess. Noticing that 1 euro is still only 100 yen doesn’t encourage me to go and exchange some though.

SGU Campus area. International House at the upper left of the map is the dorm where I'll be staying.

Last week I got an e-mail from the international office of Seinan Gakuin University containing maps about the campus area, information about the orientation day and the beginning of the semester and some basic information about Japanese currency, plugs etc. Friday 6th of January will be the orientation day for us exchange students and it will be held from 9am to 5pm so again we’ll have a full day filled with information. The orientation day also includes Japanese placement test that will decide which level of Japanese course you’ll get to join to. I wish I could join the advanced Japanese but I’m afraid my insufficient kanji knowledge will drop me to intermediate level. We’ll see.