Name: Anne Chan
Location of Study: Hokadate, Hokkaido
Program of Study: Hokkaido International Foundation
Sponsors: Liu Family
A brief personal bio:
I have been learning Japanese since freshmen year of high school. The reason why I started studying Japanese is, a very common answer that is, because I wanted to watch anime and read manga before the translations came out. But eventually I started to also grow interest in the Japan’s culture: the people’s lifestyle, food, and pop culture.
Why this summer language abroad opportunity is important to me:
The SLA Grant is important to me because it gives me an opportunity to fulfill my dream of studying in Japan. Because Asia is farther away from the US compared to Europe, the tuition and flight costs are very expensive. Because I was able to receive funding I, I didn’t have to worry much about the cost. I believe that this is a chance for me to be immersed into the Japanese people’s everyday life style while doing a home stay for eight weeks. The grant is also giving me a chance to improve my language skills in writing, listening, and speaking.
What I hope to achieve as a result of this summer study abroad experience:
During my study abroad, I’m hoping to experience what I’ve only been able to read in books and textbooks. I’m hoping to talk to locals about their life in Hakodate, to participate in summer festivals, participate in local school activities, and just really explore what Hakodate is like. I’m hoping that I will be able to practice my casual speech and learn everyday expression so I can sound more native. I also hope that by participating in this program, I will be able to write my Japanese blog posts better than I have before by writing in longer paragraphs.
My specific learning goals for language and intercultural learning this summer:
1. At the end of the summer, I will be able to write more kanji and if not at least be able to recognize more of them.
2. At the end of the summer, I will be able to speak, write, and listen at a level two semesters ahead of my current level.
3. At the end of the summer, I will be able to bring some of the cultural aspects from Japan back to America and use it in my daily life.
My plan for maximizing my international language learning experience:
I plan to maximize my experience by applying for homestay instead of living in a dorm. Homestay will allow me to experience what a Japanese home is like, what native people do daily, and how Japanese homes are different from American homes. I also plan on participating in as many cultural activities as I can. I plan on going to many of the high school club events such as Judo and Kendo and many even do something out of my comfort zone like participating in a local radio station. But studying and going to activities that the program provides aren’t that only things I want to do. I also wish to go around the area that I will be staying at. If possible, I am hoping to explore outside of the city with the friends that I make at HIF.
Reflective Journal Entry 1:
~When I first arrived in Hakodate, it was raining. Remembering that it rains a lot in Hakodate, I for sure doubted that this was going to be an experience of a lifetime. So I was stuck inside the hotel for the whole night, but by the time I went to sleep that night, I already made friends who shared the same interest as me.
~For HIF, there are two placement tests. One is just listening…and you can only imagine how fast the person spoke. They definitely sped up the MP3 file. And the second placement test is writing and speaking, which weren’t as bad.
~After obtaining a massive headache from the listening portion of the test, what would be better than going to an onsen? Because this was my first time going into the onsen, I was very excited to go but at the same time very uneasy about what is going to happen inside. Once I paid for the ticket to go inside (which was about 400?or 4 dollars), it separates into two sections: male and female. Everyone has to get naked and wash off before entering the actual bath. The water ranged from 38 Celsius to 43 Celsius and depending on what minerals are in the water, the color of the onsen changes as well. While the hot onsen was relaxing, being a winter-baby, I definitely loved the cold-water bath better.
~The day after the placement tests, I met my host family. Everyone’s host family is different. For me, I had a roommate (another HIF student), host mother, and host father. Some students have kids in their host families and some students just had one host parent. While I slept on a modern bed, some people had futons.
Reflective Journal Entry 2:
~When HIF proposed that they had many cultural activities for students on their website, HIF wasn’t joking around. After looking at the weekly schedules, there are at least three activities every week. Activities ranged from traditional activities such as ikebana (flower arrangement) and mochi making to club activities such as kyudo and judo. All of the club activities are done at high schools and because of that, I was able to meet some high school students who have been doing kyudo for a few years, doing judo for 10 years, and sado for 6 years. There was always a performance and then the club member would show us what to do or vice versa.
~I also tried Japanese karaoke for the first time. Every room was definitely more high-tech then American karaoke. There is the regular T.V. and then a wireless remote where you can choose the songs by title or artist name by typing it in. There is also air-conditioning in each room. The karaoke place I went to was Manekineko in Goryokaku. Before 5 o’clock it is $12 per hour for a room and after 5 o’clock it is $15. They have English, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese songs. The songs range from the Beatles to One Direction. Haha
~One of the most popular stores HIF students go to is the daiso, or the 100 yen store. Everything in that store is 100 yen or a little bit less than a dollar, and if it is more expensive than that, there will be a price tag on it. The quality for the items in daiso is 100x better than the item quality in American 99 cents stores. There are many household items, school materials, and snacks. Many students buy pens from daiso because the pens come in packs and the quality is amazing. The only they don’t sell are the friction pens. These aren’t the usual erasable pens in America. These ones in Japan actually erase all the ink from the page.
~Japan, in my opinion, definitely has one of the best technologies in this generation. The first time I rode in my host families’ car, I noticed that the GPS system in the car is not only a radio and a GPS like in America, but it is also a TV. While in America, people have to buy separate machine for television, everything was already installed in a Japanese car.
Reflective Journal Entry 3:
~Something my friends and I noticed is that some of the larger sidewalks have bumpy yellow strips on it. According to some people, that strip is for the blind because they can feel with their feet if they are walking on the sidewalk or not. Another thing Japan does for the blind, is that whenever a “pedestrian traffic light” turns white, there a beeping sound to let them know it’s safe to walk.
~After watching videos on Youtube about taking the train, it seemed like any train I will take will have someone pushing me into the train. However, Hakodate is small enough is there is a lot of space inside the JR trains. A culture shock inside the train was that it is always very silent. No ones talks or talks on their phone (this is actually not allowed). People are only texting, sleeping, or listen to music. The silence made me very uncomfortable the first few times, but as the work started to pile up and I wasn’t getting as much sleep as I wanted, it was very relaxing.
~It was my first time riding trams in Hakodate. The trams have similar rules to the trains. There were some things that the buses and trams in Japan are different from the buses in America. For example, when you enter the tram (or bus) you enter from the back door and grab a small ticket from a box (because you pay by distance travelled) and then people get off the bus from the front and pay while getting off. Something that is very convenient in the buses and trams is that they have a change machine so no one has to worry about not having exact change.
~Purikura (or Japanese photo booths) are very popular amongst the younger generations. Its similar to American photo booths, but you are able to decorate the pictures after taking them. Recently, all of the purikuras make your eyes look bigger, legs skinner, and faces longer. The first time I took one, it was very weird to see my eyes oversized, but I think it grows on you (maybe). The decorating part is definitely the most dun part of it. You can add stamps to the photo, change the background, change your eye color, and draw things on the photos.
Reflective Journal Entry 4:
~There is a school trip that is included in the tuition fee for HIF. Everyone goes to Onuma for around 24 hours. After almost a whole month without being able to hangout with my friends till late at night, it was a fun and relaxing break with everyone. There is an obstacle course, tandem bikes, gym (with badminton, volleyball, and soccer), and an onsen in the basement of the hotel. The rooms are very traditional like: the floor is covered with tatami and everyone sleeps on the futon. Each student also gets a yukata for the night.
~If you are looking for a cheap-ish store to go shopping, I would suggest going to shimamura. This store has both female and male sections. Also, if you live near by Nanaehama, there is a large supermarket called Daiei that has mostly female clothing stores and stationary stores. During the last two weeks on July and August, there is a huge sale throughout the store.
~For books, Dvds, and CDs, the best place to go is a store called Book-off. There are many branches throughout Hakodate. Many of the items are only 100 yen because it’s a second hand store. However, the quality of the materials is still in good condition. In some book off there are also anime figurines.
~During a school day, there was a heavy rainfall so two of my friends and I decided to take a cab from the train station to the HIF building. (Normally we would walk thirty minutes.) The thing that surprised me was when the cab door opened by itself as we walked closer and it also opens by itself after you pay the tab. According to my friends, customers aren’t suppose to touch the cab doors because its regarded as rude. Well, as they say, you learn from your mistakes.
Reflective Journal Entry 5:
~HIF gives all of the students a four day end of the semester break. So during those four days, HIF plans a Sapporo round-trip bus for anyone who wants to go there. Based on the number of people who wants to go, the price is different. This year around 44 people came altogether so the bus and hostel price was $105 for two nights and three days. After arriving at Sapporo, we can sightsee anywhere we want. While in Hakodate, there is barely any night life, in Sapporo a road called Oodori is all lit up and there is also a ferris wheel on top of a building you can ride. There are also many resturants and Izakaya open at night. I wasn’t able to do much shopping there though because the prices were definitely higher than Hakodate.
~Kaiten Sushi: the conveyor belt sushi. Many places have dishes starting from $2.50. But there are also places where you can get each dish for $1 to $2.50 each. I can’t eat fish, so I can’t judge the difference in quality of the taste. But according to my friends, the quality is around the same and everything is very fresh.
~In Japan, there is no tipping needed anywhere. I have to say even though there is no tip given, the service in Japan is better than the service in America; whether it is in restaurants, hotels, or train stations. While in America waiters, busboys, and maids live off of their tips, Japanese workers are paid enough that they don’t need the tips.
~Another thing I have noticed is that Japanese people aren’t able to eat spicy food. On their menus it would say that the dish is very spicy but one drop Tabasco sauce is spicier than the dish itself.
Reflective Journal Entry 6:
~Somewhere every person who goes to Hakodate should visit is the Hakodate Mountain (especially at night). While the day view is amazing there, the night view is even more spectacular. The atmosphere is very peaceful and calming. If you are able to go up the mountain before 7:00pm you can see the sunset. There is a cable car for $6 one way or $12 round trip to go up the mountain
~One of the best culture events that I had was going to a local radio station and making an appearance there with two other HIF students. At first it was nerve-wrecking thinking about how everyone in Hakodate was able to hear me talk but it wasn’t so bad when we were actually talking to the interviewer. He asked us very simple questions such as why did you start studying Japanese, what is your favorite Japanese food, and what was a culture shock. We were even able to get a CD of our interview.
~There is always something very surprising that happens every week. I think one of the most surprising thing this week was sitting on the JR train, waiting to go home, when one of the station employee walked down the aisle saying “Did anybody forget this bag inside the station?” At first, I thought it was some very valuable that an employee would running around to find the owner, but instead it was just a bag full of food. I thought it was amazing how important it was for them to find the owner of lost items.
Reflection on my language learning and intercultural gains:
While I was able to go through 10 chapters of a textbook in two months, I won’t know for sure how much I have improved until I take the placement test. However, I know for sure that I can watch more anime without subtitles than before (haha). I can definitely recognize more kanji but I’m not sure if I can write all of them from memory. After living in Japan, I can see the cultural differences between Japan and America (or just New York City). Recycling, respecting others, and not wasting anything is taken more seriously in Japan, and I hope that I can remember this while I live in America again.
Reflection on my summer language abroad experience overall:
I believe that I was able to make use of the time I was in Japan. At first I thought it was all about studying because it is an intensive class. But it’s not just about that. Finding the balance between exploring Hakodate with friends, interacting with locals by going to the cultural events, and studying is really the key to enjoy the two months in Japan. I also saw an improvement with my listening skills. I definitely understand more than before, but how much my speaking improved is a whole new story.
How I plan to use my language and intercultural competences in the future:
I definitely plan to continue studying Japanese for the rest of my years at Notre Dame and if I can also maybe work in a Japanese company in the future. But if I have the time, I wish to study abroad in Japan again during my junior year in Tokyo to experience the cultural difference between the “country-side” and the city.