• 8回目の来日で就労ビザを取得

    [From August Issue 2014]

    Sonia SOMOZA
    “Since 2005, I went through a cycle each year of coming to Japan to live for a while, and when I ran out of money, returning to my country to work, then I’d save some money, I would quit my job and return to Japan,” smiles Sonia SOMOZA from Spain. “I came to Japan for the eighth time two and a half years ago. Because I found work and obtained a working visa, it has been my longest stay yet,” she says with glee.
    Sonia has liked robots since she was a child. “I was attracted to the Japanese robot ASIMO and the manga ‘Dr. Slump Arale-chan,’ which had robots in it. It triggered my interest in Japan and this led me to begin reading websites written by Spanish people who lived in Japan, and to watching Japanese TV dramas and movies. Movies by the director KITANO Takeshi, TV drama ‘Stand Up!’ and the actor WATANABE Ken, made a big impression on me” she reflects.
    When Sonia was a university student, she also went to a language school to study Japanese. “Japanese is rumored to be a difficult language, so I thought that if I could use it, this would enhance my skills,” says Sonia. “But I didn’t get along with the teachers in the language school and this made me dislike Japanese so much that I stopped studying it,” she smiles wryly. After that, she learned Japanese from a Japanese person residing in Spain.
    When Sonia visited Japan for the first time, she was surprised at the difference in customs. “If you give up your seat for someone on the train, rather than saying ‘arigato’ in gratitude, they apologize, saying ‘sumimasen.’ The food was totally different from Spanish food, too. I wondered about this difference and thought, ‘I want to know more about Japan.’”
    After 2010, she worked part-time in Japan and attended a Japanese language school. “I went to Kai Japanese Language School and studied grammar, reading and writing, kanji, and conversation for four hours each day. As my skills improved, I was able to select my own classes. Since I had trouble reading, I took classes in which we read novels; works like MINATO Kanae’s ‘Kokuhaku.’” Thanks to this, she also passed Level Two (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    The high cost of living in Japan was a problem. “When I stayed in Japan for three months while attending Japanese school, it cost at least 5,000 to 6,000 euros. I economized by doing things like buying cheap from wholesale supermarkets.” During her stay in 2011, the East Japan Great Earthquake hit. “I went back to my own country once to reassure my parents, but I came back again the following year and have continued to stay here ever since,” she laughs. Her parents, who were worried then, now look forward to the Japanese snacks, nibbles, and radio controlled toys that Sonia buys and sends to them.
    Using her English, Spanish, and Japanese, Sonia currently works at a real estate agency called Asiavox Plaza Housing. “Many non-Japanese customers often say that they do not want to pay key money (money paid as a gift to landlords). When this happens, I accompany them to the property so that they can understand that those places requiring key money are more comfortable than those that don’t.” She enjoys shopping on her days off. “I buy unique clothes and accessories in Harajuku, and search for stationery at Tokyu Hands. Because my younger sister is into erasable ball-point pens, I often buy some to send to her,” she says.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年8月号掲載記事]

    ソニアさんは子どものころ、ロボットが好きでした。「日本製ロボットのASIMOや、ロボットが出てくるまんが『Dr. スランプ アラレちゃん』にひかれましたね。それをきっかけに日本に興味をもつようになって、日本に住んでいるスペイン人が書いたサイトを読んだり、日本のドラマや映画を見たりするようになりました。北野武監督の映画やテレビドラマ「Stand Up!」、そして俳優の渡辺謙さんが印象に残っています」と振り返ります。


    Read More
  • 日本語学習で自分自身が成長

    [From July Issue 2014]

    TRAN Minh Hoang
    In the fall of 2013, at the “13th IM Japan Writing Contest” – a contest organized by the International Manpower Development Organization, Japan (a.k.a. IM Japan) – “The Color of My Life,” an essay by Vietnamese national TRAN Minh Hoang, won first prize. Many people were touched by Hoang’s ability to write beautiful Japanese and by his idea of expressing his feelings about life up until that time in colors.
    Through a Technical Internship Program that was set up by the Japanese government, IM Japan accepts numerous highly skilled interns sent by the governments of Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. Taking advantage of this scheme, Hoang came to Japan in June 2011 with 12 colleagues. He’s now receiving technical training at MHI Ship & Ocean Engineering Co., Ltd. (a.k.a. MSK) in Nagasaki City, Nagasaki Prefecture.
    Located at the Nagasaki shipyard of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd., MSK engineers and manufactures tankers, container ships, cruise ships, and more. Trainees like Hoang learn manufacturing skills like welding.
    Hoang says, “The Japanese language is difficult, especially honorific expressions.” MSK encourages trainees like him to study by providing them with two Japanese lessons a week and advising them to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    By responding to the company’s expectations that he take an interest in Japanese and throw himself into his studies, Hoang has been seriously applying himself, sparing no effort. He has thus far managed to pass the notoriously difficult N2 grade (second highest qualification) Japanese Language Proficiency Test.
    Before reaching that level, he drew strength from the encouragement of older colleagues. They not only guide trainees at work, but also take an interest in their health and daily lives. Hoang says of his group leader KANAZAWA Akira and manager UEDA Yosuke, “They are like real family.” At times they seriously reprimand him, telling him that “Alcohol and smoking are bad for you.”
    Hoang will soon finish his three years of training and return home to Vietnam. “I’ll be glad to see my family back home, but I’ll be sad to say goodbye to the folks at MSK,” he says. After returning home, he wants to build on the language and professional skills he acquired in Japan and work towards building ties between Japan and Vietnam. His dream is to someday return to Japan and open a Vietnamese restaurant in Nagasaki.
    In “The Colors of my Life,” Hoang writes, “From now on, I don’t know what colors my life will be painted in, nor do I have any idea of what kind of painting it will be in the end, but I’m learning to enjoy my growing maturity through the study of the Japanese language. Why don’t you try learning a foreign language yourself? You’ll certainly encounter a new you.”

    Text: KOMIYAMA Ranko[2014年7月号掲載記事]



    Read More
  • 関心のなかった日本が好きに

    [From June Issue 2014]

    Dongi USENG LAFI
    “To tell you the truth, I used to have no interest whatsoever in Japan,” says Dongi USENG LAFI from Taiwan with a wry smile. “Many people in Taiwan love Japan and sightseeing trips to Japan are very popular. But I never participated in any. Having an interest in Europe, I studied German in college.”
    However, Dongi came to Japan in October 2012 when her boyfriend was transferred there for work. “I didn’t speak a word of Japanese and on top of that my parents were very concerned because it was after the Great East Japan Earthquake. However, I’d made up my mind to go along with my boyfriend.” Since coming to Japan, Dongi has taken quite a liking to the country. “Everywhere you go in Japan the streets are clean. Trains operate on time. The people are all polite and well dressed. Waste is properly recycled. I think we Taiwanese should learn from this side of the Japanese.”
    She’s been won over by Japan’s culture and nature. “I’ve always been fond of flowers, so I’m practicing ikebana (flower arrangement) and kokedama (moss ball making). While pursuing those activities, I’ve come to acquire a powerful sense of the beauty of flowers. When I saw cherry flowers in full bloom for the first time in the spring of 2013, I was moved to tears.”
    Dongi has also come to like Japanese cuisine. “My boyfriend hated nattou at first. But he liked yuzu chili paste, so I put it in nattou for him. Then he just fell in love with nattou,” she says. “On special occasions, we look forward to eating Kobe beef. We also often go to a chanko-nabe restaurant near our place.”
    She also finds some things problematic. “I was shocked by the high prices in Japan. They are about three times as high as in Taiwan,” says Dongi. “The house we live in now is close to a station and convenient. It gets a lot of sunshine and it’s a good house, but I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard how much the rent cost. In winter, electricity for heating is quite costly.”
    Dongi started studying the Japanese language as soon as she came to Japan. “Thinking that if I was going to live in Japan, it would make sense to study Japanese, I enrolled at the Evergreen Language School (Meguro Ward, Tokyo). School fees are about 700,000 yen a year. I study Japanese for three and a half hours in the morning and work part-time in the afternoon. At night, I study Japanese until late at home. The good thing about Evergreen is that there are never any more than eight people per class. Right now there are five people in my class and we are able to talk a lot.”
    Dongi enrolled in April 2013 and passed the N2 (second highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in July. “Next time, I want to take the Japanese Business Proficiency Test,” she says, explaining her goal. “Even though I’m pretty busy with work and Japanese studies, I’m enjoying life in Japan. Japan has lots of shops selling well-known brands second hand. I’m glad I can buy good quality items cheaply. My Taiwanese friends ask me, ‘Have you become rich overnight?’” she laughs.
    Evergreen Language School
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年6月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • 難しいからこそ挑戦したい

    [From May Issue 2014]

    Casey NOVOTNY
    “I wanted to challenge myself with something big,” says Casey NOVOTNY from Canada. “When it was time to decide my future during my third year of junior high school, I was interested in Japanese culture, history and animation. So I did some research about Japan in a library and learned that the Japanese language has kanji, hiragana and katakana. Having three types of characters, I thought that Japanese must be difficult. For this reason, I wanted to take up the challenge.”
    Casey chose and went on to a senior high school that had a sister school in Japan. He then took Japanese classes for an hour every day. During the first five months of his third year, he studied abroad at this sister school: Meitoku Gijuku High School in Kochi Prefecture. “I’d been longing to do kendo and was able to do it as an extracurricular activity,” Casey recalls.
    He also had difficulties, too, however. His life at the dormitory was completely scheduled from morning onwards, so finding time for both his studies and extracurricular activities wasn’t easy. Furthermore, he was embarrassed of sharing a bath with classmates. He was refused when he asked “Is it okay to wear swimming trunks?”
    He got homesick, too. “In those moments, I would show my roommate pictures of my family and tell him a lot about Canada. I only had a smattering of Japanese, so he listened to me carefully, asking me to repeat what I had said and wrote down what I was saying on paper. I talked a lot and as a result, my Japanese improved. My homesickness was gone and my roommate became like a brother to me.”
    After returning home, Casey had an overwhelming urge to go to Japan again. So he matriculated at the University of Manitoba; a university that had an exchange program. In his sophomore year, he came to study abroad at Kokugakuin University for a year. “I was startled by the crowds in Shibuya. And yet, I was happy at the same time thinking, ‘This is Japan.’ Even busy intersections and riding on crowded trains made a big impression on me,” says Casey, laughing.
    Around the time he graduated from college, Casey passed level one (the highest level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. He then applied for the JET Program (Japan Exchange and Teaching Program) and returned to Japan. As someone well-versed in Japanese affairs, he became a CIR (Coordinator for International Relations) in charge of counseling ALT (Assistant Language Teachers). One day, an ALT got in touch with him to complain, “Even if I have nothing to do, I can’t leave work before the official end of the working day.”
    “I suggest you first act as your Japanese colleagues do. When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” Casey advised. “If you don’t agree with my advice, I suggest you propose some positive way to improve things. If the situation doesn’t improve despite this, you should consider how to make the best of your time here.”
    Casey is currently doing work with study abroad programs at Asia University in Tokyo. “By contacting colleges in North America on behalf of Japanese students, I feel that I’m working towards bridging the gap between Japan and North America,” he says. “With Japanese, kanji and their stroke order are difficult, but nowadays you can type them on a PC if you know how they are pronounced. You should use a lot of keigo (honorific language), in order to commit it to memory while you are still a student,” he advises.
    Asia University
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年5月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • 日本は安全でやさしい人が多い

    [From March Issue 2014]

    Meghan SAHARA
    Meghan SAHARA from Pittsburgh, United States, teaches English conversation to junior and senior high school students at Musashino Joshi-Gakuin High School in Tokyo. She decided to come to Japan on the advice of a friend who had lived in the country. Meghan says she was already interested in Japan because she was fond of films by directors OZU Yasujiro and KUROSAWA Akira.
    “I’ve been here nearly five years. It’s very easy to live in Japan and I like it. It’s safe and there are many kind-hearted people here. I like Japanese food. I can eat nattou (fermented soybeans), too,” laughs Meghan. She studied the Japanese language in college for about a year and says, “Japanese is a beautiful sounding language.”
    Meghan studies Japanese at Iidabashi Japanese Language School at Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo. Honorific expressions and kanji make her feel that Japanese is difficult. “Kanji is hard, but fun. I use a smartphone app called ‘Anki’ in order to study it. The app works in the same way as flash cards and it’s handy that I can share vocabulary lists with friends over the Internet.”
    Meghan got married to a Japanese man and moved to Tokyo in the summer of 2013. Before that, she lived in Hiroshima City, Hiroshima Prefecture, where she taught English at a senior high school. When she met up with her friends over the summer to go to a festival, she met the man who is now her husband. On her days off she spends her time going out for meals or to the movies with her husband.
    One of the tourist attractions she wants to visit in Japan is Tokyo Disneyland. Even when she lived in the US, her native country, Meghan had never been to Disneyland. When she said this to her students, they were very surprised. “They suggest I go soon,” she laughs.
    When she started working in Japan as an English teacher, she was surprised at the strict timekeeping and politeness of students at Japanese schools. She was most surprised by ‘clean-up time’ (when students clean their classroom at the end of the day); something that doesn’t exist in American schools. Meghan says, however, that cleaning one’s school is a good thing. “I think it’s a practice that makes you proud of your school.”
    In her classes she tells a lot of jokes and plays games to create a relaxing mood. “The practice of picking on students one after the other to speak out aloud makes them nervous. Because it’s so unfamiliar to them, it’s quite understandable that they are embarrassed of speaking English in front of classmates. So I first let them practice in small groups.”
    Meghan says that it’s great fun to teach English conversation to students. “Once they understand they can speak freely, without thinking about entrance exams like in other classes, they begin to express their ideas with great flair. It’s rewarding to see the pleasure my students get from understanding what they’re saying in English.”
    Iidabashi Japanese Language School
    Text: TSUCHIYA Emi[2014年3月号掲載記事]


    Read More
  • ホストファミリーとの会話で日本語上達

    [From January Issue 2014]

    Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS
    “Learning languages isn’t difficult at all for me. Stuff like math and calculation feel very hard, though,” laughs Ariadna ROVIRA TENAS. Ariadna is Spanish. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, German, French, English and Italian. In college, she studied language interpretation, translation and Japanese. “I passed yon kyuu (the fourth level) of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test two years ago. I want to try san kyuu (the next level up) next time.”
    In her teens, Ariadna became interested in Japan because she liked Japanese cartoons such as “Crayon Shinchan.” When she was 19, she did a homestay in Japan for a month. She liked Japan even more, so she started studying Japanese in college and came to Japan in October 2013 for another homestay. She used Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan each time.
    “At the moment I’m planning to stay for half a year, but I’d like to stay in Japan as long as possible. So I’ve started working part-time for a Spanish restaurant,” says Ariadna. Before returning to Japan, she got together 14,000 euros for expenses for half a year. “This consisted of 7,000 euros from my grandmother, 3,000 from my father and 4,000 from my savings. The money was saved working in the restaurant my mother runs.”
    At first, her grandmother was against her going to Japan for the second time. She said, “I may not be alive when Ariadna returns.” “But I had a deep desire to go to Japan. When I told her this, she gave me the money she’d saved up over many years.” Ariadna called her grandmother by Skype as soon as she arrived in Japan. “My grandmother was surprised to see my face for the first time on Skype. She looked very happy, though.”
    She’s now staying with the HIRASAWA family; a household of three people: father, mother and daughter. Her Japanese language school is a 15 minutes bike ride away. She gets up at eight in the morning, attends classes from nine to one and works from five to eleven pm. She now makes 800 yen an hour, but might get a raise if she applies herself.
    She often cooks with Tsuyako, her host mother. “I like most Japanese dishes such nikujaga (meat and potato stew), okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza) and shabushabu. I don’t mind the sticky texture of okura, either. But I can’t stand the texture of konnyaku, nor nattou, which smells like the soles of socks. I recently prepared a Spanish dish and they all loved it.”
    For fun, she goes to all kinds of places with her host sister Ami. They’ve been to a music event near Mt. Fuji as well as to Tokyo Skytree. “If there’s something I don’t understand, I ask my host mother or Ami right away. There was a rather large earthquake the other day. I was told to take shelter under a table when the ground shakes. They also took me to a school that becomes a shelter in the event of an emergency.”
    As soon as she hears new words in conversations, Ariadna writes them down on word cards. “I recently added the word moto-kare (ex-boyfriend) after hearing it from my host mother,” she laughed. “I converse as much as possible using words I’ve learned from the cards. I make full use of my brains doing this and the words stick in my memory. Because I can talk with my host family whenever I want, my lifestyle now is well suited to study.”
    Nextage Co., Ltd. / Homestay in Japan
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2014年1月号掲載記事]

    アリアドナさんは10代の頃、「クレヨンしんちゃん」など日本のまんがが好きで、日本に興味を持ちました。そして19歳のとき、1ヵ月間日本にホームステイしました。日本がもっと好きになったので大学で日本語の勉強を始め、2013年10月、またホームステイのために来日しました。どちらも株式会社ネクステージ・ホームステイ イン ジャパンを利用しました。
    株式会社ネクステージ/ホームステイ イン ジャパン

    Read More
  • 日本語を学習してホテルで働く

    [From December Issue 2013]

    Both from China, Urgenbayar and LIU Sichen work for Tokyo Business Hotel (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo). Urgenbayar comes from Chifeng in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Lui was born in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang.
    Urgenbayar came to Japan in 2004. After graduating from college in China, he spent two years searching for a job but was unable to find one. Thinking that as Japan was an economic powerhouse there’d be work, he enrolled in a Japanese language school in Hohhot for half a year. His nomad parents approved and gave him money after selling about a third of the livestock they owned.
    After coming to Japan, he studied for a year at a Japanese language school and then went on to study at the Faculty of International Development in Takushoku University. His major was Japanese culture and language. The university alone cost 800,000 yen a year, and he struggled economically. One of the ways he saved money was to share the rent of a four-and-a-half-tatami room with a shared bathing room and toilet, with a student friend of Mongolian descent, reducing his rent to 22,000 yen a month.
    “I worked at an izakaya (Japanese pub / restaurant) to pay for part of my living expenses. Teachers spoke slowly to me, but patrons spoke rapidly and were hard to understand. I had difficulties with honorific language, too,” says Urgenbayar. After graduation, HASHIMOTO Taiitsu, President of the Tokyo Business Hotel and the father of a friend, gave him a job on the basis of his good character. He first worked at the front desk. Now he’s a cook.
    “I want to work in Japan for the foreseeable future because there’s no work in the countryside in China and the pollution is awful. In Japan, your salary is always paid and the food and water are safe. But I intend to return to China eventually to inherit my father’s job,” says Urgenbayar.


    LIU Sichen

    Liu came to Japan because she had studied Japanese in high school. “Japanese and English were compulsory. Teachers of the Japanese language were usually serious, but at parties they would liven things up with karaoke,” she recalls. She majored in Japanese at college and became an interpreter for a Japanese company.
    The salary, however, wasn’t very good for a recent graduate. “Besides, while I was working with Japanese people, I felt my Japanese wasn’t good enough. So I came to Japan in 2010 and went to a language school for a year and then studied business Japanese at a post-graduate course at Musashino University,” says Liu.
    The school and her living expenses of a little less than 100,000 yen a month were paid for with money sent by her parents and with her salary from her job at a convenience store. “My parents approved of my studies in Japan at first, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, they suggested I return. But I had just been admitted to a post-graduate course. I wanted to further improve my Japanese after graduation, so I got a job at this hotel. Besides, Japan is a convenient place to live.”
    “At first, sushi disgusted me because it is raw, but I love it now. There was a period when I was obsessed by ramen, too,” laughs Liu. After starting to work at the hotel’s front desk, she began dreaming of having a shop or a hotel of her own in the future. “One day, a Chinese guest fell ill and I went to the hospital with him as an interpreter. That made him so happy that I was glad, too. In the future I’d like to do work that makes people happy. I’d also like to act as a bridge between Japan and China.”
    Tokyo Business Hotel
    Text: SAZAKI Ryo[2013年12月号掲載記事]



    Read More
  • シェアハウスは日本語の勉強に最適

    [From November Issue 2013]


    Melodie ALRIC

    “It’s been exactly a month since I came to Japan. I can’t speak Japanese yet and it’s frustrating. But at the same time, it also gives me an incentive to study harder,” Melodie ALRIC from France says cheerfully. Melodie is 20 years old and a student at the University of Lyons. She’s been studying the Japanese language for two years. “In my college, the emphasis was on reading and writing. So even if I can communicate with my Japanese friends on Facebook, I can’t talk to them face to face,” she laughs.

    Melodie became interested in Japan and the Japanese language through Japanese anime and manga which she became familiar with from a young age. “Naturally I saw and read them in French. I loved a manga called ‘NANA.’ I also found “MONSTER” interesting because it’s set in Germany and has scenes where the main character, who’s Japanese, prepares Japanese dishes for Germans.”

    Melodie also gradually became interested in Japanese culture and history. “Japan’s culture and history are completely different from France’s. That’s why I wanted to know more and took Japanese language classes. There’s a student exchange program between the University of Lyon’s and Japan’s Musashi University. I used it and came to Japan with a plan to stay for a year.”

    Because of the exchange program between the universities, there’s no need to pay tuition at Musashi. For a place to live, she chose a shared house near the university after consulting with Tulip Estate, an organization that manages many women-only shared houses and actively welcomes non-Japanese. The living room and kitchen are shared. The rent including utilities is 59,000 yen a month.

    “The room is small but private. As we are all women, I feel safe. Another good thing is I can walk to the university and have no transportation expenses. We’re now six or seven in the house and everyone else is Japanese, so it’s the best environment for studying Japanese. When there’s some word I don’t understand, they all explain it to me by writing kanji or drawing images.”

    “Because I’ve just arrived in Japan, I needed an extra 1,000 euros this month. I had to pay some insurance fees,” says Melodie. “From now on, I think I’ll only need from 800 to 900 euros a month. It’s for the rent, eating expenses, money to go out with friends and what have you.” She has saved about 4,000 euros because she wants to travel. Her parents gave her 3,500 euros for expenses for September through to December.

    In Japan, she strolls around visiting different neighborhoods or museums. “Unlike France where shops are closed on Sunday, convenience stores are always open and handy,” says Melodie.

    Melodie likes traveling and wants to work in the travel industry in the future. “I’d like to plan out trips for leisure and business people and organize events.” She intends to travel around and see a lot of Japan in her one year here. “I’m now planning a trip to Kyoto. I want to travel around Japan from Hokkaido to Okinawa.”

    Tulip Real Estate Co., Ltd.

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo














    Read More
  • 学んできた日本文化を体験できた

    [From October Issue 2013]


    Maria REYES

    “As a matter of fact, I was in Japan from the age of four to eight for my father’s job,” says American Maria REYES. Growing up, she began to miss Japan and joined a Japanese culture club in college. “I began to read books on Japanese culture and took up tea ceremony as a hobby.”

    She made a lot of Japanese friends through these club activities. After one of them told her about the International Cross-cultural Committee, an organization that arranges internships in Japan, she applied. “I was in my second year of Japanese language studies, so my speaking ability was limited. My knowledge of the language, however, compared to other applicants, was an advantage.”

    As part of the ICC program, the intern works for two months in Japan and is able to have the experience of going on two trips within the country. The cost, including rent and a 24-hour phone support service, is US$5,500. Maria passed the selection process, but her parents didn’t approve of the idea. Her father had concerns about the cost and whether the program would really be useful for Maria’s studies. Her mother was worried about her safety.

    Maria says, “So I persuaded my father by saying, ‘This is a wonderful opportunity.’ I told my mother that ‘Japan is safe and I’ll have some support.’ My family isn’t rich, but they put up the money in the end, saying, ‘If it’s for Maria…’”

    Maria arrived in Japan on June 25 and settled into a shared house in Ota Ward, Tokyo. The other residents there besides Maria, are two Japanese, one Malaysian and one American. Maria’s bedroom is about 20 square meters in size. The living room and the kitchen are shared. She’s doing her internship at Takaso Inc., a company based in Akihabara with links to the fashion industry. She sometimes goes to their office in Shibuya, too. Her hours are from ten am to four pm.

    “I’ve been lucky,” says Maria. “Some companies only give simple tasks to interns, but I’ve been put in charge of a project. Also, when they learned my major was international marketing, I was asked to ‘Please do a presentation on how this company’s marketing should be done.’”

    “The best thing about this internship is I’m actually using knowledge of Japanese culture I acquired from books,” says Maria. “For example, when I made my presentation, I asked if there were ‘Any questions?’ However, no one said anything. I anticipated this, so I made eye contact with my boss. He then encouraged questions by saying, ‘Does anybody have any questions?’ Then they all began to ask questions.”

    “The difficulty of Japanese is that people don’t voice their opinions. You have to read the atmosphere,” says Maria. “But if you are in trouble, people sense this and come to your rescue. One day four or five people came to my help.” On her days off, she wanders around searching for nice cafes. “Japanese sweets aren’t too sweet and that’s what’s great about them. I love matcha and tea so much that I’m thinking of opening a cafe one day to introduce the custom of tea drinking to the US.”

    International Cross-cultural Committee

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo














    Read More
  • 日本語がうまくなるコツは「好きになること」


    [From September Issue 2013]

    Fredrik NYBERG

    Fredrik NYBERG has been studying the Japanese language for just ten months. Arriving from Norway in October 2012 at the age of 23, he enrolled in a Japanese language school called Yokohama International Education Academy. “Japan is fun because it’s so different from Norway,” he says, his eyes lighting up.

    It was manga that piqued his interest in Japan. “In Norway, English translations of Japanese manga are sold in bookstores. I started reading them when I was about 20 and began dreaming of coming to Japan.” Worried about the aftermath of the nuclear power plant disaster, his mother tried to dissuade him, but he managed to convince her by explaining that “it is safe now.”

    Working as a car mechanic since the age of 17, Fredrik had savings of 2.5 million yen. Though he isn’t currently employed, he gets by on his savings and a monthly scholarship of 48,000 yen from the Japan Scholarship Foundation, an independent administrative corporation. He lives in a one room apartment in the school’s dormitories.

    “I need about 120,000 yen a month,” says Fredrik. “My rent is around 60,000 yen. Other than that, I spend roughly 60,000 yen on leisure and eating. I almost always eat out, so it ends up costing a little bit too much.” However, since he found himself a Japanese girlfriend he’s been cooking more frequently. “She comes to my place on weekends. I cook Norwegian, she does Japanese and we eat together.”

    Fredrik lives in Yokohama, but he often spends his free time in Tokyo. “In Tokyo, I like places such as Ueno, Akihabara and Shibuya. I like Minato-Mirai in Yokohama. There are many other places I like.” He’s been on domestic trips, too: to Matsumoto (Nagano Prefecture) and Atagawa (Shizuoka Prefecture).

    He’s enjoying his life in Japan, but even so, there are some things that bother him. “Japanese dishes often have seafood in them. I can’t eat them because I am allergic.” Also, when he wasn’t familiar with Japanese customs, he was shocked to see Japanese slurping ramen. In addition, he was reprimanded at a hot spring resort for breaking one of the rules.

    How did he make such rapid progress in Japanese in only ten months? “I have four hours of class a day at school. Recently we’re mainly preparing for exams. I also study for about an hour at home,” says Fredrik. His hobbies have been useful for his studies. “I learned kanji reading novels and manga. I like TEZUKA Osamu and ‘Ashita no Joe’ manga, and I love MURAKAMI Haruki’s novels. As for anime, I love works by Studio Ghibli. I love and often watch variety programs on TV. I have difficulties with grammar, honorifics and especially the difference in particles between, “は, が, を, に,” so I’m listening to recordings on my iPod.”

    In the future, Fredrik says he wants to study game or web design. “I’d like to obtain the N1 level of the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before graduating from my Japanese language school, but it’s unlikely,” he says, scratching his head.

    Yokohama International Education Academy

    Text: SAZAKI Ryo














    Read More