Paying for Your Study-Abroad Experience

If you’re like me, coming from a low-income family and paying for your own education, the idea of studying abroad, in Japan, may seem impossible. Not only do you have to cover the price of tuition and ordinary living expenses, but there is the cost of traveling overseas as well. To make things worse, with a student visa, you’re only allowed to work for 28 hours a week, making it unlikely that you can work to pay off your expenses. Nonetheless, don’t give up hope! It is possible, and here’s how:

Scholarships

As students, we tend to think of scholarships as something that only the best-of-the-best can get. They’re highly competitive, typically require you to submit an essay, and the deadlines always seem to be during times in which you’re already busy with midterms or finals for the current semester (if you’re a university student, that is).However, that isn’t always the case. Many scholarships (especially one’s aimed at students planning to travel abroad) look at a variety of different factors, in order to allow a wide variety of students the chance to pursue their academic goals. Take for example the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, a Congressionally-funded scholarship which helps low-income students, in the United States, who are planning on studying abroad. It does require that its recipients agree to complete a service project (of your choosing) which promotes awareness of the scholarship and check in with the United States Department of State, but the benefit far outweighs the work that is necessary to receive it.

More importantly, apply for every scholarship you can. Nobody will receive every scholarship, and even scholarships which don’t provide much money can be beneficial. To do so, check with your financial aid, academic, and study abroad advisers (if you are a university student), because they will likely be able to tell you about which scholarships you can apply for through your school. In addition, there are numerous websites which help students to find scholarships, and many local businesses offer them as well. Be sure to ask some of your professors/teachers to look over your scholarship essays for them too. Chances are, they’ll be more than willing to critique them for you, and it’ll greatly improve your chances of getting the scholarships you’re hoping for.

Student Loans

Yes, I said it, student loans. The biggest nightmare of anyone trying to pay for his/her own education. For most students, it’s not likely that you’ll get a full-ride scholarship, and in those cases, they’re almost always a necessity (Unless you’re from one of those awesome countries, like Finland, which pay for your schooling. In which case, why are you even reading this? No, seriously… Why are you reading this?). They don’t have to be an unbearable burden, either. Again, this will require a lot of time and research, but it is possible to find student loans which won’t require you sacrifice your first-born child or sell your mother into slavery to pay off your debt. It’s true that no matter what, they’re not going to be the most ideal way to pay for your education, but as long as you start paying off the interest while you’re still in school, they shouldn’t become too overwhelming when you graduate and have to pay them back.

Save!

Typically, people start planning where and how to study abroad at least a year before going, so it gives plenty of time to save enough money (if you manage your finances properly). In my case, I created a strict budget and limited nearly all unnecessary spending. At the time, it was quite painful – I couldn’t go to the movies with friends or buy any of the new things I wanted, and I even created a strict food budget. I probably didn’t need to be as hard on myself as I was, but looking back, it was completely worth it! I not only saved enough money, that way, to cover my plane ticket and some of my living expenses, but I got to enjoy all of the things I deprived myself, when I got here to Japan.

Come on a working-holiday visa

For those of you in Norway, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, New Zealand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, or the UK who can’t afford to go to school in Japan and aren’t students (I wouldn’t recommend dropping out of school or even taking a break, to go overseas, since that’ll likely cause you a bunch of problems down the road), you should aim for a working-holiday visa. It’s a great way to come to Japan to find work, and while you’re here, you can either do self-study or take some lessons. Actually, quite a few of my friends are doing this, and things seem to be going really well for them. Their Japanese isn’t improving as quickly as my friends who are enrolled at a university or language school – since their main reason for being here is work – but you can definitely notice a difference, since they first came here!

All-in-all, there are actually hundreds of different options you have for studying abroad in Japan and just as many ways to acquire the money that is needed to do so. The best thing to remember, though, is to be patient. Even if you can’t afford to study abroad right now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. Just put some money aside, do some research into which options work best for you, and plan ahead. If you do that, you’ll make it here to Japan in no time!

 

joinusrikkyo

See you, in Japan!

Edit:

Specified which countries are eligible for a working-holiday visa, thanks to information from Patricia Bowden.

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Japan is strange, but not for the reasons you might think.

For many, when thinking about what kind of country Japan is, the first thing that usually comes to mind is that it’s not normal or that it may even be one of the craziest places on earth. After all, with all of its fetish shops, wacky cosplayers, and bizarre festivals, how could it be anything but weird? Surprisingly, however, it really isn’t — at least not in the way you might be thinking. Yeah, it has a bunch of really strange things, but what country doesn’t? Take for example the United States, like Japan it has its fair share of odd TV shows and commercials over the years, be it well-known shows like Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim or lesser-known and slightly creepy things like this ad for Little Baby’s Ice Cream in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania . When it comes to traditions we’re not much better either. Take for example the President’s yearly pardon of a turkey on Thanksgiving day or the fact that every year, we leave it to a rodent (a groundhog, to be exact) to tell us how much longer winter is going to last.
japan-no-further-description-required1
It’s not just the US, either. Whether you’re from Denmark or India, we see these things all the time on social media, meme sites, and even on our way to work or school. For some reason, though, we tend to dismiss these things as an occasional oddity, rather than focusing on them and ignoring the normalcy that is far more common. This isn’t to say that there isn’t anything overtly strange that exists here, in Japan, however. There are numerous — maybe even countless — cultural norms and customs which are completely foreign to westerners, and for those who aren’t used to them, they can be more than just confusing, but frustrating as well. Take for example the idea of tatemae; put simply, it is just the idea that one should put on a public face and avoid expressing beliefs or doing things which others may disagree with, in order to maintain harmonious, positive environment. The problem is, however, that for many Japanese people, it can be difficult to balance tatemae and the expression of one’s honne (true feelings). As a result, even when eating at a restaurant, some people may even reiterate, time-and-time again, just how delicious the food is — even if it is only average at best. In actuality, although it isn’t necessarily tatemae, more than a few Japanese people that I have met during my time here overly praise and complement everyone and everything, regardless of whether or not it is actually needed.
As a foreigner, especially one with a higher level of proficiency in Japanese, this will likely become apparent, relatively quickly. You will likely find that even being able to read simple kanji or able to say something like “konnichi wa (good afternoon),” you’ll be met with things like gasps, clapping, and a bunch of people mentioning how amazing you are and how skillful you are with Japanese — although, it’s quite difficult to believe that they are genuinely impressed and makes it difficult to tell when they truly are. Herein lies one of the biggest oddities of Japanese society: the popular misconception that foreigners simply cannot speak Japanese and that Japan is so unique that foreigners (especially westerners) cannot do or understand things in the same way they do. In fact, it isn’t rare to be asked, “Can you eat raw fish?” or have someone exclaim, “Wow! You can eat with chopsticks?!” while dining with them (as a non-Asian foreigner, that is). These questions and statements are so bizarre that it’s difficult to imagine hearing foreigners gasping and shouting out, “No way! You can use a fork?!” or asking, “Can you eat cheeseburgers?” to their Japanese friends.
Nonetheless, this rather odd way of thinking will likely change as more foreigners come to Japan and become proficient with Japanese. As for its other peculiarities, there are literally hundreds of ways in which Japan is strange. Please, feel free to share your stories and let us know how what your experiences are and what you think is strange or not about Japan!

Communicating in Japan

Coming to Japan for the first time can be a thrilling and exciting journey; but, like any new experience it can present numerous new – and sometimes unexpected – challenges. Whether you have studied Japanese for years, in your home country, or you’ve only recently started, mastering communication will likely be one of your most difficult tasks. As with any language, Japanese has an almost limitless number of ways in which one can express him or herself, and considering the sheer number of words and phrases in Japanese, having gaps in one’s knowledge of vocabulary or phrases that pertain to new experiences can be common, making even something like ordering food, for the first time, a bit of a challenge.

Only eight months ago, having just arrived in Japan – despite studying at my university in the US for roughly three years – this was my experience. Being at an upper-intermediate/lower advanced level, I could easily hold conversation with friends and discuss what I needed to in my classes. Because of that, something as simple as ordering take-out, paying bills, or even going to the doctor’s seemed like an easy task – one that I didn’t need to think about or prepare for. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Like many students who are traveling abroad for their first time, I never actually learned the vocabulary that was necessary to deal with these everyday situations, and having a gap in knowledge of vocabulary, I found myself constantly needing to consult my dictionary and even rehearsing what I was going to say, in order to avoid the confusion and frustration that I was afraid would occur if I didn’t.

The first time I came to understand this was going to McDonald’s and having the sudden realization that I could talk about history, culture, or even basic psychology, but had no idea how to say that I wanted to order my meal as carry-out. Having just been asked “店内で召し上がりますか (Will you be dining in?)?” Being my first time ordering take-out in Japan, I had no idea what the common word for take-out was in Japanese, and being afraid that she would just assume that I didn’t actually know the language, I quickly blundered, “いいえ、外で食べます (No, I’ll be eating outside.).” Had it not been early September, this may have been sufficient; however, likely assuming I was planning on sitting at one of the tables which was out front of the store to enjoy my meal in the warm summer sun, she promptly grabbed a tray out for me and handed me my receipt. Noticing that she misunderstood what I was trying to say, I quickly apologized and explained that I was planning on eating at my dormitory. Thankfully, there was nobody waiting behind me, and listening patiently, she asked something along the lines of “あっ、持ち帰りですね (Ah, take-out, right?)?” and everything worked out pretty well. A bit embarrassed by the whole experience, however, I avoided going back for more than a month (which wasn’t difficult, considering how many amazing restaurants there are nearby).

Looking back, that was probably one of the most educational experiences I’ve had, since I began studying Japanese. It taught me that as important as it is to be able to engage in fun, interesting conversation with a wide variety of people, it’s also important to prepare yourself for the less frequent, but equally important interactions which will occur during your time in Japan. Whether it’s memorizing something as simple as the word 持ち帰りmochikaeri (take-out) or something more difficult, like 糖尿病tounyoubyou (diabetes), be sure to prepare for your trip abroad, by studying vocabulary related to things like paying bills, getting a cellphone contract, talking to the doctor about health problems or concerns, or even words that are necessary in case of a natural disaster. You might not use them very frequently, but they”ll be worth it, in the few cases where you’ll need to use them in daily life.

Daily practice is key, when learning a new language.

Daily practice is key, when learning a new language.

Most importantly, however, just be sure to have fun! Although there’s going to be a lot of things you don’t know, and there will be the occasional difficult moment, you’ll make great friends and create memories which will last you a life time!

"Friendship has no boarders."

“Friendship has no boarders.”

 

The Mysterious Origins of “Teriyaki Chicken”

Growing up in Seattle, WA, on the west coast of the United States, I was relatively familiar with Asian foods and cultures due to the large and deeply-rooted population of immigrants from all over Asia. My family used to meet up on special occasions at a Chinese restaurant called the Sea Garden in Seattle’s International District, and my grandfather even knew the owner. For a cheaper, quicker, and slightly dirtier option, my friends and I would often eat at one of the numerous “teriyaki chicken” restaurants that can be found all over the city. Teriyaki chicken describes butterflied chicken breasts usually served “donburi” style (over rice) with a sweet “teriyaki” sauce. To us, this was Japanese food, made by Japanese people, and it was delicious.

teriyaki chicken.jpg

 

When I would meet people from other parts of the United States, I was sometimes surprised that they either didn’t know what I was talking about when I spoke of teriyaki chicken, or that they would only eat it on rare occasions. Eventually, I came to realize that Seattle was a special place for teriyaki chicken. Indeed, in a Yelp search for “chicken teriyaki,” the medium-sized city of Seattle turns up 263 results, while a comparable search for Chicago turns up only 187, despite the fact that Chicago boasts over four times Seattle’s population. After thinking about it, this difference made sense to me considering the relatively large population of Japanese immigrants living in Seattle.

 

But is teriyaki chicken really a Japanese food? Over the many years I spent eating teriyaki in Seattle, I came to realize that the people cooking it for me were usually not Japanese, but in fact Korean or of another Asian ethnicity. Many of the teriyaki chicken places even have a side menu featuring kimchi, bibimba, and other Korean foods. I started to doubt my self-created narrative of Japanese influence leading to Seattle’s prolific teriyaki output.

 

Analyzing the word “teriyaki” itself, reveals that it must have some relation to Japan. The kanji character for “teri” loosely means shiny, while “yaki” means to grill or generally cook. These words combined do a fairly good job of describing what I eat in my hometown; too good to be a mere coincidence. Plus, even if the people making the food are usually Korean-Americans, why would the food have a Japanese name if it was not originally Japanese?

 

teriyaki sauce.jpg

 

Internet recipes, histories, and general blog posts on the topic are in agreement: the concept of teriyaki, if not teriyaki chicken, comes from Japan. Many allude to teriyaki chicken itself as a traditional food or even a staple and provide advice on how to make dishes similar to what can be found in America. Some take a more nuanced approach, conceding that versions of teriyaki found in America are not Japanese food, but that teriyaki is a traditional Japanese method of cooking that has been modified over the years involving marinating or glazing meat or fish in sauce before cooking it. Ingredients found in “traditional” or “authentic” teriyaki sauce recipes include soy sauce, mirin, (special Japanese cooking sake) sake, and sugar. Many recipes also include garlic and ginger, although some posters claim those ingredients to be non-traditional. A common theme among these recipes is their distinction between “real Japanese teriyak chicken” and “American teriyaki chicken” which they claim is sweetened artificially with products such as corn starch (it probably is).

While I am not in a position to completely debunk those who claim to be making “authentic” Japanese teriyaki chicken, my Japanese coworkers and I agree that it is likely not a traditional Japanese food, and is certainly not eaten by modern Japanese people. One coworker commented that the only place he had ever seen the word teriyaki used was at McDonalds, which serves a teriyaki chicken burger. There are no teriyaki chicken restaurants to be found on the streets of Tokyo, and I have yet to hear of anyone making the dish in their home. The concept of teriyaki may exist in Japan as a sauce used in preparing food, or even a marinade for “yakitori” chicken skewers, (although the word “teriyaki itself is seldom used in reference to this) but teriyaki chicken itself is for all intents and purposes an American food.

 

teriyaki mega mac.jpg

 

Teriyaki chicken is certainly a delicious dish, and I look forward to indulging in a plate or two of it when I return to my hometown of Seattle. However, you should be skeptical the next time someone claims to be making an authentic Japanese version of it. If you are planning to travel to Japan, know that the food here will be amazing, but please do not expect there to be teriyaki chicken, especially that of the “authentic Japanese” variety.

Empress Michiko delights Japanese internet users

Japan boasts having the longest existing monarchy in the world. Even though both the Emperor and Empress are very-well respected and they are kind of a taboo topic for the media if they get too critical, the Imperial Family only plays a ceremonial role in Japan. That is, they do not make any government-related decisions. People’s opinion on both the Emperor and Empress are very positive and pretty much whatever they say or do will be spread and commented by the media or forum users. This time, Empress Michiko became a trendy topic in Japan after showing she’s well updated on Japanese pop culture, particularly about the “digital idol” Hatsune Miku.

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

While visiting an exhibition called “LOVE exhibition” at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, Empress Michiko surprised everyone when she immediately seemed to recognize who Hatsune Miku was. 「これがミクちゃんですか」 Is this Hatsune Miku?, was what the Empress said, as the Asahi Newspaper reports, generating a lot of positive impressions and thoughts on Twitter.

You might be wonder how come this is a big deal, so first let’s talk more about who Hatsune Miku is. Hatsune Miku is a fictional character created for a music synthesizer program (Vocaloid) first released in 2007. She is 16 year old and cute. Youth + kawaiiness is a WIN combination in Japan. What Hatsune Miku’s program does, basically, is have a synthesized robot-like voice sing any song you write or want. Many users of this program started uploading their own Hatsune Miku’s songs to the very popular Japanese video website, ニコニコ動画 Nico Nico Douga, where she quickly became popular. Later, Sega and Crypton Future Media (the creators of Hatsune Miku) would release “Project DIVA”, a music videogame in which players must “support” Hatsune Miku in her singing pressing a sequence of buttons while she dances in beautifully animated videos on the background. This game has been so successful it is a staple of most game centers with a music games area. It also boosted the creation of hundreds of different Hatsune Miku’s merchandise. Hatsune Miku was well received by the Otaku (anime, manga, game lovers culture in Japan) community and she’s the image of many Family Mart products and Domino’s Pizza, for instance. Just google her name and you’ll find thousands of videos, fan art and more.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

But it doesn’t stop there, as the number of fans kept exponentially increasing, the Project DIVA series was taken to the next level through all-digital, animated live concerts. That’s right, no actual live singing, just an amazing display of holograms, animations and lights. Believe it or not, the concerts were such a big success, they even toured cities outside Japan. By the way, this summer (Aug 30th) she will perform in a concert to be broadcasted simultaneously in many venues worldwide.

Hatsune Miku's concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Hatsune Miku’s concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Naturally, there is basically no connection between Hatsune Miku and Empress Michiko, right? I mean, Empress Michiko also has an unusual background for an Empress in Japan; she came from a non-royal family, decided to breastfeed her children (something considered too mundane for the Imperial Family to do), visited several countries together with her husband Emperor Akihito and more, while symbolizing 大和撫子Yamato nadeshiko, a woman with the traditional feminine virtues of old Japan. But now, otakus too will remember her, especially because of the way she referred to Hatsune Miku, using the-ちゃん –chan suffix, which pretty much makes everyone think she is treating her as if she were an actual person. Whatever was going through Her Majesty mind, her knowing who Hatsune Miku knows proves that she really does her best to stay updated on Japanese Culture. Hooray for her!

Eduardo H.
Sources:
Netizens Impressed that Japanese Empress Michiko Knowleadgeable about Pop Culture – Japan Daily Press

皇后さま「初音ミクご存知だったのか」 ネットユーザー「お言葉」に感動、歓喜

ANIME NEWS: Hatsune Miku to perform in theaters worldwide Aug. 30 – Asahi Shinbun

Changed in ONLY 3 days; Amazing Japan

Summer on a beach

I guess everyone might in their summer holiday now.  * student*

Do everyone have fun and enjoy in your holiday time?!! I wish everyone do. Like what people always say, “work hard & play hard“. And I thought I will be in a board holiday ever because I got no plan for my holiday, but I WASN’T I never thought that the camp i went last week could fill and grow me up in only 3days! What an amazing Japan I love so much!

camp1

I just came back from the 3days 2night camp in Nagoya. 本当に最高だったよ!

In camp, there are not only games but also some bible study lesson in different way! However, I love the way they have and I guess everyone do think so too. Because at the last day of camp, almost every of them who I first met, they told me that 3days are too short and they promise that they will be coming for the next year camp too! Wow, I feel so happy that everyone do enjoy. Is like, people give you a such respond that show directly from their heart with happiness. And, this remind me of what my dad always say, Different always create mystical =]

camp2

THIS!! Sounds like studio right? We have music time before and after study lesson thought.

This is the place where we having our lesson and 2 of them who stand in the front are our ‘teacher’ and translator. There are 2 languages all the time, english and japanese. And I think that is great to have 2 languages. The reason is there are some people who don’t understand english or japanese, like me =O   BUT, whenever I listen to these 2 languages for a long time, my listening and speaking skills in both languages has improve so much! What the…… great…!! But, I do have ‘sick in language’ this recently too. I might often speak in the wrong language to the wrong person… now.. LOL  I believe I will recover soon….

By the way, I feel good to have this lesson is because I think that everyone likes freedom. The best i think is people can study in the relax position according to what they want or what they can do. I feel so free at the time when I can sit with my new friends in any free space with different way I can fold my legs or etc etc. Awesome!

Thank you.

Chain Stores employees have gone crazy in Japan

Good afternoon! As I write this article, a thunderstorm has just started not so long ago here in Tokyo. Hopefully it will end quickly so I can go home without getting extremely wet!

However, this is not today’s topic. This time I would like to tell you about a recent “trend”? that has taken many fast food restaurants and convenience store by surprise and owing apologies to their customers; clerks have started to take pictures of themselves in inappropriate poses or situations inside the store, in most cases even still wearing their uniforms. What’s going on? Here’s the timeline.

1. The first freezer incident

Last July, a picture of a store clerk resting carelessly INSIDE a freezer in a Lawson store went viral all over the Japanese internet, before gaining popularity worldwide as well. Of course the picture caused plenty of negative reactions, with many people stating they would never buy ice cream in Lawson from that moment on. Of course, Lawson investigated where the incident happened and decided to close the store since the guy in the pic happened to be the franchise owner’s son. This happened in Kochi prefecture.

Trapped? I don't think so...

Trapped? I don’t think so…

Source: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/lawson-store-closed-after-employee-puts-photo-of-himself-in-freezer-on-facebook

2. The second freezer incident

Days after the incident in Kochi, a copycat appeared and published his pics as well. The style was exactly the same: Just laying down on top of the ice cream.

Source: http://hamusoku.com/archives/7976703.html

3. The freezing trend goes global

And as the freezer cases became known worldwide, some people in neighbor countries started imitating them. Well, it has been a scorching hot summer, so this is understandable, right?

Source: http://en.rocketnews24.com/2013/08/20/its-an-epidemic-worldwide-freezer-diving/

4. The Burger King buns incident

Does it make a very comfortable cushion?

Does it make a very comfortable cushion?

Then, not so long ago a new case was reported in Burger King! An employee took a picture of himself on top of a big plastic bag full of buns. Many internet users seemed to care more about what that suspicious substance in the basket next to him was, though. Burger King stated that the buns in that bag were about to be disposed of, so customers never ate them. Some news reported that he was not fired, whereas other sources say he was fired right away.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/burger-king-japan-buns_n_3714602.html

5. Taco Bell incident outside of Japan

About the same time of the Lawson incident, a Taco Bell worker took a pic of himself licking many taco shells for an internal contest. He didn’t submit the picture, but a friend of his uploaded it to Facebook and eventually it spread all over the web. Gotta be careful about the pictures your friends upload!

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/taco-bell-licked-taco-shells-served/story?id=19328741

6. The recent Pizza Hut dough incident

And finally, last Monday another person decided to make a contribution to the trend, by wearing a mask made of dough. But of course he didn’t do it home, he used Pizza Hut dough and had the pic taken while still wearing his uniform!

You'd better do it home next time

You’d better do it home next time

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/08/20/national/pizza-hut-incensed-by-workers-dough-faced-twitter-stunt/#.UhR9a9KmFWI

So, although I believe this is just a series of silly, immature jokes that won’t last for too long, many people in Japan are wondering, what’s going on among the Japanese youth?? Are they just bored? Are they looking for opportunities to be fired?

Eduardo H.