Hello! I am Dana, a Year 3 Japanese Studies Major at the National University of Singapore. I am currently studying at Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Arts (SILS).
As to why I applied for the JCCI scholarship, it just seemed like the most natural decision being a Japanese Studies student who loves Japan! Although my studies at my home university had taught me so much about Japan and its culture, I cannot help but feel that my understanding was still lacking due to my little exposure to the country. That was when I heard about the JCCI scholarship from my department and thought that it might be a really good chance to personally experience Japanese culture and society for myself. The scholarship could not have come at a less opportune time so I finally decided to give it a shot, and here I am!
My past semester in Japan and Waseda University was nothing short of fulfilling. Not only was I able to take very interesting courses, but I was also able to try something new and joined an international dance circle. Through multiple fun rehearsals, I was able to interact and forge friendships with both Japanese and international students. I even got to learn a traditional dance called “Soran Bushi” that originated from Hokkaido and performed at the annual Waseda Festival. It was an exhilarating experience and definitely something I will never forget!
Even outside campus life, I was fortunate enough to have conversations with some Japanese people. My most memorable encounter was probably this one time when I was eating sukiyaki by myself and noticed an elderly lady looking at me for quite a while. My concerns were immediately dismissed when she finally approached me and asked me how the food tasted (apparently she have not eaten salty food in a long while due to health complications). Our small talks soon turned into deep conversations about her life as a widowed parent with children living in different cities, and how she would rather stay out all day at noisy restaurant chains instead of being at home. Before we left, she even gave me 300 yen to get myself desserts and thanked me for listening to her. Although I never saw the lady again, her stories left me reflecting a lot about Japan’s challenges with an ageing society.
I am looking forward to more adventures during my remaining time in Japan!
(Note: Dana wrote this journal during her last few months in Japan. She’s returned to Singapore safely and continues her studies at NUS.)
Hi, my name is Rainer Kwan Mun Hin, and I am a third-year student at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). I belong to the Engineering Systems and Design (ESD) pillar.
I started studying Japanese for leisure three years ago as a way to pass time after my discharge from National Service. One thing led to another and I eventually became greatly interested in the Japanese language and culture. I became the president of SUTD’s Japanese Cultural Society in 2018 and that served as the springboard for studying in Japan. During the summer break, I received an email from the school that contained details of the JCCI Singapore Foundation scholarship. At that period in time, I felt like I had plateaued — without much practical use for my Japanese language ability, there was little I could do to hone my skills further. Thus, I decided to apply for the scholarship so that I could study Japanese further and experience all the history and culture that Japan had to offer for a year. It was truly an opportunity that only comes once in a lifetime — even if I had to delay my graduation for a year.
Among the numerous differences that I have observed between school life in Japan and Singapore, Japanese school festivals are something I feel that Singaporean universities can learn from and appreciate. Currently, I believe that there are no university festivals that are being organised at a university level in Singapore aside from open houses. On the other hand, school festivals are part and parcel of Japanese university life. In fact, some university festivals are even local tourist attractions, attracting tens of thousands of visitors annually. Activities of all sorts and sizes are available for almost all age groups as various clubs and interest groups set up booths and organise activities to pull in visitors. The festivals also help to generate revenue for the clubs which will fund their future activities. Also, the energy and vibes that Japanese university festivals generate are on a level that I have yet to experience in Singapore. The camaraderie that Japanese students experience during the process of preparing for their school festivals creates strong and lasting friendships. This was an aspect that I felt Singapore universities were sorely lacking in; the hyper-competitive university systems that young Singaporean students find themselves in do not leave much room for activities beyond the classroom.
Certainly, if we were to take any leaves out of Japan’s book, school festivals would undoubtedly be my desired choice.
(Note: Rainer wrote this journal before he completed his programme at ICU. He’s now back to SUTD to continue his studies.)