Japan in the eyes of a university student

This article was written by Wong Kuo Hong who is currently studying in Japan since April 2014.

It has been two years since I left Brunei in April 2014 to continue my studies at the University of Tokyo, Japan. My journey in Japan so far has been nothing short of inspirational. I experienced a very unique Japanese lifestyle, did many things that would otherwise not be possible outside Japan, and also travelled to many stunning places in Japan.

1. Lifestyle

When I first arrived in Tokyo, the thing that immediately struck me was that it was very clean and very organized. Trains run punctual to the minute, people queue patiently in line for almost everything, and despite having virtually no dustbin on the streets, people take their rubbish back home to be sorted and recycled. All waste have to be separated into piles of domestic, flammable, inflammable rubbish, and cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and aluminum cans also need to be separated into different piles and labeled accordingly. It may seem tedious to all of us Bruneian, but the Japanese have been so accustomed to this system that they do it almost automatically all the time.

All trash is sorted and recycled

All trash is sorted and recycled

What Japan is famous for is the gadgets and anime sub-culture. There are many uniquely Japanese electronics that you would not be able to get elsewhere. For example, the toilet seat warmer (which also sprays water to help you clean up after finishing your business), kotatsu (a small table which is heated underneath so you can stick your legs under to table to keep warm during winter) and many more. Vending machines that sell not only drinks, but also ice-cream and tobacco are ubiquitous. At Akihabara, electronics and anime converge. Anime characters have infiltrated deeply into Japanese societies that they appear almost everywhere, not just on gigantic posters hanging down the side of buildings but also on TV commercials.

Akihabara, the haven for cool gadgets and anime trinkets

Akihabara, the haven for cool gadgets and anime trinkets

2. Experiences

As a member of the ASJA-MEXT family, we have the opportunity to experience Japanese culture. One of the activities we had was tea ceremony. It was an awesome experience where we learned about the history of tea ceremony, tasted some delicious Japanese snacks and experienced the real tea ceremony. Other activities included kabuki theatre performances.

Drinking tea during a tea ceremony

Drinking tea during a tea ceremony

Japanese sweets served during the ceremony

Japanese sweets served during the ceremony

A kabuki performance advertisement

A kabuki performance advertisement

A kabuki replica

A kabuki replica

If you are in Japan, don’t forget the Pikachus as well as gundams.

A massive Pickachu ballon at Minato Mirai, Yokohama

A massive Pickachu ballon at Minato Mirai, Yokohama

Two Pikachus at a Pokemon Centre

Two Pikachus at a Pokemon Centre

Big Gundam statue at Diver City, Odaiba

Big Gundam statue at Diver City, Odaiba

3. Travelling around Japan

Throughout my two years in Japan, I have travelled to many places in Japan including historical places such as Kyoto, Nara and Nikko, industrial powerhouse of Osaka, hot spring towns like Hakone, dive spots in Okinawa and also ski grounds in Nagano. Throughout my travels, I stayed in onsen ryokan (traditional Japanese hotels with hot springs) as well as in capsule hotels.

Capsule hotel

Capsule hotel

Toshogu at Nikko

Toshogu at Nikko

Diving at Naha, Okinawa

Diving at Naha, Okinawa

Relaxing after a nice onsen at Hakone

Relaxing after a nice onsen at Hakone

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari, Kyoto

Feeding and petting a deer at Nara

Feeding and petting a deer at Nara

Skiing at Shiga Kogen, Nagano

Skiing at Shiga Kogen, Nagano

It has been an enriching two years in Japan, and in my opinion, I think I have achieved what I wanted before I came to Japan, that is, to broaden my horizon and immerse myself in a new culture which I find interesting. Although my time in Japan may finally come to an end, I believe I will return to Japan one day to discover more new things that this wonderful country has yet to give me.

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