F U K U   w a   U C H I

I think I'm turning Japanese

Plans but no visa yet

It’s all happening again… I got my visa to Korea last winter two days before my departure. I should have gotten the papers for my student visa from Japan already in October, but there’s no sign of the papers yet. I have four and a half weeks left in Finland before leaving to Japan. I have three weeks left before Christmas holidays. I really hope the Japanese embassy in Helsinki will be open between Christmas and New Year – otherwise I might be screwed.

Okay, maybe I’m just being paranoid (again) and everything will work out just fine. It should anyway.

Despite the lack of my visa I’ve made some plans for arrival to our final destination, Fukuoka.

We (me and Laura) have a reservation for a ferry from Ōsaka to the island of Kyūshū. The trip takes overnight and costs 7 800 yen per person, which is around 73 euros. We decided on a Meimon Taiyo Ferry for our cruise through the Seto Inland Sea. From Shin-Mojiko it will take a short shuttle bus and train ride to get to Hakata station in Fukuoka.

Here’s our schedule which we informed Seinan Gakuin about:

Departure: 3rd of January, 5:25pm
Arrival: 4th of January, 10am

Departure: 4th of January, 4:50pm
Arrival: 5th of January, 5:30am

Departure: 5th of January, 5:35am
Arrival: 5th of January, 6:15am

Departure: 5th of January, 6:36am
Arrival: 5th of January, 6:55am

There should be some local students picking us up at Hakata Station on the 5th of January at 6:55am. Poor guys have to wake up super early for us! どうもすいません, thank you and sorry, as they say in Japan.

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Less than three months to go ~ time is flying by so fast

It has been more than one month since I last updated this blog. As I’m looking the picture I posted last time I can’t imagine it was summer back then. Time is really flying by so damn fast. The trees at my home street don’t have any leaves left and the days are rainy and cold. I wonder when we’ll have 初雪, the first snow of the season. The first snow always cheers me up since it will make the days a little bit brighter.

Purikura - sticker photos in Japan with my friends from work. Kyoto, June 2010.

Lately all I’ve been doing is to study and work so that’s why I haven’t noticed how the days have gone by. I’m super happy that I have a part time job so I can save some money for my exchange. Also, few days ago I got a letter from JAMK saying that they’ll grand me a scholarship worth 1250 euros for my exchange! Yay! I think I’ll survive in Japan together with the JAMK scholarship, monthly stipend from KELA (a little less than 500€/month) and my savings from work. It’s gonna be expensive in Japan though – 1 euro is now 100 yen which is the lowest in more than 10 years. When I was living in Kyoto in 2008 1 euro was almost 170 yen… Oh how I miss those days when everything in Japan was actually cheap!

Last month I contacted Seinan Gakuin about some changes in our arrival schedule to Japan and at the same time they told me they’ll send me some essential papers for applying for a Japanese student visa this month. It would be great to be able to apply for the visa already. Last time my Korean visa was about to be late because of bureaucracy at the university and at the embassy. This time I really hope I can finish all the paper work well before leaving to Japan.

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New Friends

Last week we had a welcoming picnic for international students who begun their studies at JAMK this semester. I went to this event with my Korean friends and bumped into these two girls from Seinan Gakuin. Chiaki and Moe came to Finland only few weeks ago and they’re planning on staying here for one whole year! I learned a lot from them about Fukuoka and Seinan Gakuin University. I even learned some Fukuoka dialect!  おもしろか!

BBQ with Moe and Chiaki from Fukuoka and my Finnish friends.

Today I also met with Laura, a Finnish girl who’s going to Fukuoka with me in January. We’ve been studying at the same campus for two years now but we’ve never actually met. Today we were discussing about our transportation and paper work regarding our upcoming exchange. It’s nice to have someone you can share your thoughts with! Laura has also begun her exchange blog, which you can find here.

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Flight tickets ゲット

Lately I’ve been searching the cheapest and the most convenient way of getting myself to Fukuoka next January. The cheapest way seems to be flying to the city of Osaka and taking a train/bus/ferry from there to Fukuoka. This is exactly what I’m going to do. I got a pretty nice deal from Kilroy Travels and I got myself a student discount for direct Finnair flights from Helsinki to Osaka and back for only about 820 euros.

I’m not sure yet how I should get from Osaka to Fukuoka, but I’m thinking of asking about this from Seinan Gakuin. Maybe they’ll have some recommendations.

These days I’ve been working my ass off in order to collect some money for my upcoming exchange. I really want to visit my friends in Korea again once I’m in Fukuoka and besides that I would like to explore the Southern parts of Japan. I’ve been to Kyūshū before only for a few days so there’s still a lot to see. I truly wish I’d have some time and money to fulfill my dreams of visiting Okinawa as well.

Me in the city of Beppu in Kyūshū.

Next Monday a new semester at JAMK will begin. I’m kind of excited to go back since the last time I was there was in February. I’m also excited about the fact that the beginning of this new semester means that I only have four months left before I’ll go back to Japan!

Beautiful Fukuoka

I found these two great videos of Fukuoka from YouTube. Can’t wait to see the city with my own eyes!

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The beginning

Hello and welcome to my blog! This blog will serve as an information package for any future exchange students that are going to study at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka, Japan. I will update this blog regularly, but my Finnish blog will have more pictures and more random stories than this one.

Fukuoka is a harbor city closest to the Korean peninsula.

Fukuoka is a harbor city closest to the Korean peninsula.

My exchange experience will begin in January 2012 and I’ll be staying in Japan until May the same year. I’ll join the International Division of Seinan Gakuin University, so that’s why the semester is a bit different from normal university semesters in Japan. The International Division has quite a nice selection of Japanese language and culture courses available in English. I’m aiming for the Advanced Japanese course, but I think I’ll have to revise some kanji in order to be able to join the course.  頑張るぞ!I’ll do my best!

Why Japan?

I’ve been interested in Japanese language and culture since I saw Pokemon on Finnish TV. At first I had no idea it was from Japan, but when I found out where this show came from, I wanted to know more about this country and culture. Even though I was interested in the language and culture on an early age, I only joined my first language course in the first year of high school in 2002-2003. I took all three courses available in a community school in my home town Jyväskylä during my high school years. I graduated in 2005 but had no idea what I wanted to do in the future so I decided to work in a junior high school while doing political science studies in an open university.

Right after I had started working and studying political science I heard of an opportunity to study japanology (Japanese language and culture) in the city of Vaasa in Finland. Right away I did my decision to apply for this study program when it was possible again. Next Spring I did my first trip to Japan and after returning back to Finland I was sure what I wanted to do with my life. I applied for the japanology program, got accepted and begun my new life in Vaasa.

My first time in Kyoto, Japan in February 2006.

My first time in Kyoto, Japan in February 2006.

I loved studying Japanese language and culture, I loved the people and the teachers and my new surroundings. The first year was quite easy but on the second year studying became harder. I spent one month of the summer between my first and second year of studies in Japan and I begun teaching the beginner Japanese language courses at an community school in Seinäjoki. I also passed my first Japanese Language Proficiency Test (Level 3) in December 2007.

My first time in Tokyo in July 2007.

My first time in Tokyo in July 2007.

Until 2007 I thought Japanese language was quite easy because speaking the language feels similar to speaking Finnish, but in 2008 I noticed the kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese language) are very hard for me to learn. In order to learn more of the written Japanese I took an intermediate course in Japanese language in Kyoto in the summer of 2008. After the summer in Japan I felt a lot more comfortable with the language.

With my host sister in Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, July 2008.

With my host sister in Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, July 2008.

In the end of 2008 I was expected to know around 1 000 kanji characters and I felt like it was the limit for me to remember, even though it’s only about half of the characters used everyday in Japan. In the beginning of 2009 I applied for the Monbukagakusho scholarship for Japanese language and culture studies in a Japanese university. Even though they said my interview in Japanese went well they couldn’t give me the scholarship because of my insufficient kanji knowledge. There were nine applicants for this scholarship in Finland and only one of them was granted with the scholarship. After this failure I wasn’t confident at all with my Japanese language skills for quite a while and I couldn’t get myself to study more and I begun to forget a lot of kanji I had already learned before. I failed my final kanji exams at my university and couldn’t begin my graduation thesis.

I felt like I needed a break from Japanese and a change of environment so I decided to apply for the degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management at JAMK University of Applied Sciences. I got in and begun my new studies while still teaching beginner Japanese for the third year at the same community school as before. Teaching helped me to keep up my language skills without stressing me out too much since I didn’t have to focus on advanced kanji skills. Again, I loved my new student life!

As soon as I learned that it was possible for us to do our first mandatory practical training abroad I knew I’ll have to go back to the place I had left my heart in – Kyoto, Japan. I sent about ten applications to different traditional Japanese hotels in the city of Kyoto and soon got a positive answer from Togetsutei Japanese Inn. I begun my ten week practical training there in April 2010.

At work with my colleagues. Kyoto, May 2010.

At work with my colleagues. Kyoto, May 2010.

After returning back to Finland I did my first gig as an interpreter with a Japanese group visiting Finnish enterprises while learning about our entrepreneurship. It was hard work but a really nice experience. After finishing my work as an interpreter I knew I had to learn more advanced and technical vocabulary in order to really master the language. I felt, and still feel like, I’ve been stuck in the intermediate level for many years now.

Visiting Nokia HQ with the Japanese group.

Visiting Nokia HQ with the Japanese group.

In Spring 2010 I had applied for a study abroad program in South Korea and I was leaving there for sure in February 2011, but in December 2010 I heard that my university had done a mutual agreement with a Japanese university and for the first time it was possible for us students to apply for a semester in Japan. I knew my possibility to get another semester abroad might be low but I still got to try. Just before I left for Korea I heard that I got accepted for a second semester abroad – I was going back to Japan!

I feel privileged to be able to do not only an internship but also two exchange periods abroad. Hard work has paid off for sure. I’ll do my best in Japan to finally jump from intermediate to advanced level – not only with oral language but also with writing. F I G H T I N G !