Etsuo’s Corner: experiences studying in Japan


Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

This week, I would like to share the experience of senior Christopher Perez who studied abroad in Japan. Although he studied in the same university as me, International Christian University, we did not meet each other. As I interviewed him, I saw Japan from another perspective and found interesting facts. These findings were very fresh and interesting for me because I did not feel or experience them in Japan.

“I was interested in learning the language and when I went to high school, I started studying Japanese. When I started studying Japanese, I realized a lot of things I like come from Japan, such as cartoons and games. I got more interested in Japanese and after studying Japanese for three years, I decided to study Japanese more and that is why I chose Guilford. Although Guilford has Japanese courses, those courses were easier for me, and I had to wait through two years of learning Japanese at Guilford until I went to study abroad in Japan.

“Even after arriving in Japan, riding on the train and seeing Tokyo all around me, the feeling had not yet sunk in that I was actually there. There, only getting a ticket and stopping at the appropriate station was very hard. Almost all people spoke Japanese, and I felt I was very much a minority, and then, I realized I had come to Japan.

“When I started my life in Japan, I had many difficulties. Of course, speaking Japanese was very hard for me. For example, when I went to register in the city where I would be living, I thought I could get by with my Japanese, but in the end, the clerk was stuck using Google Translate with me.

“Especially when I tried to make a joke, it often did not make sense. I realized that making a joke is very different in the U.S and Japan.

“I also stayed off campus, so I went to the university by bike. But the street in Japan is very narrow and I almost caused an accident several times. In addition, one of the unforgettable experiences I had was that I and most of my friends were stopped by the police many times. I could see myself as a foreigner in that experience.

“One of the nice sides of Japan was that few people yell at each other and fight. Japan was safe and I only saw people fighting one time. The country was very beautiful and the food was very delicious. I still remember the taste of the food that I often ate in Japan.

“On the other hand, people do not say their opinion directly but talk behind the backs of other people. They also want to be in a group much of the time, which was very strange for me. On the negative side, people were often ostracized because of the emphasis on groups in the collective culture.

“After studying in Japan I could feel how much I changed in terms of emotionally and mentally. I also lived in a share house, and there, I could meet people from all over the world and talk with them. That experience gave me a lot of things to learn. I really recommend studying abroad because the experience will change your life. Going to the other side of the world and making friends will lead you to change your life.”

Before this, I did not realize that Japanese individuals tend to not speak directly, but talk behind people. Also, his observation that people in Japan generally want to be with a group was very interesting.

I was surprised that he and I had similar experiences, but in different countries. For example, speaking the language here can be hard for me and making jokes is difficult. He told me that he felt like a minority in Japan and got stopped by police because there are fewer foreigners in Japan, and the country does not have as much diversity. I also experienced being a minority in a foreign environment, and that cannot be experienced while only staying in the U.S.

Going to another country that does not share the same culture and where you feel different is a valuable experience from which you can learn a variety of things. So, I also really recommend that you study abroad and experience what you cannot experience in your original country of residence.