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Japan Alumni eNews (Vol.92)

Japan Alumni eNews Vol. 92 December 9th, 2016

Japan Alumni eNews Vol. 92

1. Life in Japan by Photo Memories of Japan (Photo from readers)

Learn the life in Japan with photos posted by our readers! We look forward to your posts of memorable photos of your experiences in Japan, including your student life, exposure to Japanese culture and history, travel, and more.

1 Photo title (15 words or less)
2 Name (katakana and alphabet)
3 Nationality
4 Name of your school in Japan

December of Japan

The theme of the December issue is photo introduces December of Japan.

Snow
Snow
Namahage (demonic ogre)
Namahage (demonic ogre)
Poinsettia
Poinsettia
Toshikoshi Soba (buckwheat noodles eaten on New Year's Eve)
Toshikoshi Soba (buckwheat noodles eaten on New Year's Eve)

2. Alumni News

Bringing you news and first-hand stories about international students!

1) News on International Students

NEWS 1 : 2015 Total Number of International Students to Find Work in Japan Reaches Record High

The Ministry of Justice issued a press release concerning statistics on the number of international students who were hired by a Japanese company in 2015. According to the press release, the number of international students who applied for a change of status of residence in 2015 to enable them to work in Japan reached 15,657, an increase of 2,699 (20.8%) over the previous year’s total of 12,958. The top three countries (according to nationality of applicants) were China at 9,847 (increase of 1,500 [18%] over previous year), South Korea at 1,288 (increase of 53 [4.3%] over previous year), and Vietnam at 1,153 (increase of 542 [88.7%] over previous year). There was a particularly sharp rise in the number of international students from Vietnam, which contributed to a growth in the number of students who found employment in Japan.

NEWS 2 : Number of Foreign Travelers to Japan Surpasses 20 Million Mark

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced that the number of foreign travelers who visited Japan this year (as of October 30) surpassed the 20 million mark for the first time ever. Although the exact figure is still being tallied, it has already surpassed last year’s total of 19.73 million, reaching a record high. The number of foreign travelers to Japan, primarily from China, South Korea, and Taiwan, has continued to grow significantly. Since surpassing the 10 million mark in 2013, the total has doubled over a span of three years. This growth is attributable to the easing of visa restrictions, improvements made to the tax exemption system, and the expansion of airline routes to destinations in Asia, among other factors.
The Japanese government aims to double the annual number of foreign travelers to Japan to 40 million by the year 2020, which is when the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics will be held.

2) Introduction of Current International Students

Anita Makovec

Name: Anita Makovec
Nationality: Slovenian
University in Japan: Gunma University Graduate School
Major: Social and Information Studies
Academic Year: 1st Year, Master’s Degree
Period of Stay in Japan: October 2015 to present
Japanese proficiency level: Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2







 

I decided to study in Japan because I majored in Japanese Studies and I wanted to improve my Japanese language skills. Studying in Japan had also been my dream ever since junior high school. I came to Japan three years ago for a one-year short study abroad program. I then came back to Japan in October 2015 and enrolled into the Faculty of Social and Information Studies of Gunma University as a regular student in the graduate program. I am still a student in the faculty. I am currently studying about Japanese society in my graduate program. The focus of my research is on the serial kidnappings and murders of young girls which took place between 1988 and 1989, and the perpetrators as well as the Japanese society as a whole.

As for my first impressions of Japan, I was surprised that people waited in line for buses and trains because we never wait in line in my country. One difficulty that I faced was the Wi-Fi situation. Before I came to Japan, I was under the impression that, since Japanese people use cell phones and smartphones everywhere, free Wi-Fi would be available widely. But what I found was that there were very few Wi-Fi spots and the few spots that were available were not free. I am glad that the number of Wi-Fi spots is gradually increasing.

My favorite place in Japan is Gunma. I love it there because the people are kind and the area has a rich natural environment. It also shares some similarities with my country. I especially like visiting Ikaho in the fall time. The autumn leaves are beautiful, and the konnyaku (devil's tongue jelly) and onsen manju (steamed buns filled with anko bean paste) are delicious. My favorite is yakimanju (roasted sweet buns), which is a local specialty of Gunma. A spongy dough is topped with a sweet sauce and grilled. It’s so tasty!

My dream is to complete my graduate program and, if possible, to work in Japan eventually. I am still considering where I want to work. Another dream of mine is to go to the Yukimatsuri, the snow festival in Hokkaido. I don’t like the cold weather but seeing pictures of the festival makes me want to go. I want to see the beautiful scenes with my own eyes, rather than just through a photograph.

If you are interested in studying abroad and deciding whether to study in Japan, my advice would be to overcome your fears and come to Japan. About three years ago, I made the decision to go on a yearlong study abroad program, and I had many concerns at the time. But I’ve never regretted my decision.
I’ve met nothing but kind people, and my Japanese has improved. I’m really glad I came. Studying abroad is a wonderful opportunity to grow as a person. Don’t miss out!

3) List of Japan Alumni Associations

Introduction of “Follow-up Services for International Students who have returned to their Home Countries”

Kagoshima University Ambassadors of Amity

Since the academic year of 2010, we have asked international students who have returned to their countries to serve as ambassadors of amity. Our aim is to disseminate and gather information on study abroad programs and research, and to provide opportunities for exchanges involving international students as well as international academic exchanges.

Ambassadors of amity are asked to carry out the following activities in any capacity they are able to help.
Activities carried out by Ambassadors of Amity
1. Providing information on studying abroad as well as offering consultations to those interested in studying at our university
2. Assistance with activities carried out at our university for accepting international students
3. Disseminating information on our education and research programs overseas
4. Providing our school with information on educational research that is taking place overseas
5. Information on the promotion of international joint research
6. Assistance with developing a network of international students who have returned to their countries
7. Assistance with other efforts for promoting globalization carried out at our university

(In Japanese only)

3. Academic News

Introducing scholarships, grants, unique activities at particular universities, and more!

1) Introduction of faculties/graduate schools

Here we introduce you to particular faculties and graduate schools at Japanese universities.

Ritsumeikan University

Ritsumeikan University

University Profile (as of May 1 2016)
Name: Ritsumeikan University
Kinugasa Campus: 56-1 Toji-in Kitamachi, Kita-ku, Kyoto
Biwako Kusatsu Campus: 1-1-1 Noji-Higashi, Kusatsu, Shiga
Osaka Ibaraki Campus: 2-150 Iwakura-cho, Ibaraki, Osaka
Number of students: 32,580 (Undergraduate), 2,963 (Graduate)
Number of international students: 949 (Undergraduate), 673 (Graduate)

1. About Ritsumeikan University

In 1869, Prince Kinmochi Saionji founded “Ritsumeikan” as a private academy. In 1990, Kojuro Nakagawa, former secretary of Prince Saionji, established Kyoto Hosei School which was given the status of a university in 1922.

Ritsumeikan University’s educational philosophy is “Peace and Democracy” that inherits the foundation spirit of “freedom and innovation” from its origin. It has campuses in Kyoto (Kinugasa), Biwako Kusatsu (Shiga) and Osaka Ibaraki (Osaka) as well as has fourteen Colleges and twenty-one Graduate Schools More than 30,000 students study in Ritsumeikan’s high-level academic and international environment.

In 2018, Ritsumeikan University will establish the College of Gastronomic Sciences with the aim to foster students that can solve global food related issues.

2. Outline and features of distinctive courses

Over 1,600 international students from 59 countries and regions study at Ritsumeikan University’s campuses (as of May 1, 2016). Many of Ritsumeikan’s colleges and graduate school offer international students courses to study with Japanese students in Japanese. The details are available from our website.

(In Japanese Only)

Ritsumeikan University offers three courses that are taught entirely in English. These are;
• Global Studies Major - College of International Relations
• Community and Regional Policy Studies (CRPS) Major - College of Policy Science
• Information Systems Science and Engineering Course (ISSE) - College of Information Science and Engineering

The details are available from our website.

3. Scholarships and Living Support for International Student

Students entering courses at Kinugasa or BKC are eligible to stay at Kinugasa International House or BKC International House depending on the availability.

Financial support is also available for those in need of support. Those who were ranked highly in entrance exams and hold student visa status are able to receive a tuition fee reduction depending on their exam result.

International students are also eligible for other scholarships provided by Ritsumeikan University, Japan Student Services Organization and variety of private companies and foundations. For more information, please see application handbooks.

4. Career and Other Support for International Students

Career planning support is available for international students who wish to work in Japan after graduating. The Career Center provides support in the form of general career guidance, individual career counseling, recruitment information by companies, guidance for job interviews and so on.

The Tutors for International Students Assembly (TISA) provides daily life support and holds events to get to know other students. Several events are held at each campus including a welcome event, Tanabata festival, hiking to famous sites in Kyoto and Shiga, international exchange bus tour, a multi-cultural festival, and a sports festival. Kinugasa Campus and BKC have an international exchange space where international and Japanese students can meet any time.

Each College and International Education Center, Student Office and Career Office of each campus have staff that can provide assistance to international students whenever needed.

2) Application information for scholarships, grants, invitation, awards, etc.

The Iwatani Naoji Foundation

Name of Program:
Iwatani International Student Scholarship

Application requirements:
Individuals with an excellent academic record who require financial assistance for living and studying in Japan and meet all of the following criteria:
1. Privately financed international students with a nationality other than Japanese who have come to Japan from a country or region of East Asia or Southeast Asia *1 for academic or research purposes
2. Individuals who are enrolled in a master’s program or doctoral program at a graduate school or have been admitted into such programs, have completed the third year of their doctoral program, and will continue to be enrolled to earn their doctoral degree
3. Individuals majoring in natural science or a related interdisciplinary field *2
4. Individuals 30 years of age or younger (master’s students) or 35 years of age or younger (doctoral students) as of April 1, 2017
5. Individuals who will not be a recipient of any other scholarship program any time after April 2017
6. Individuals who are able to attend regular gatherings for scholarship recipients (held 5 times a year) including a three-day study tour
7. Individuals who are willing to stay in touch with us even after the completion of the scholarship program through correspondence and other means
8. Individuals who are likely to contribute to international exchanges as well as amity
9. Individuals who are able to handle everyday conversations in Japanese

Note1: Target countries and regions
The list of target countries and regions in East Asia and Southeast Asia are as follows:
(1) East Asia: China, South Korea, Mongolia, Taiwan
(2) Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam

Note2: Major Fields of Study
The major fields of study (primarily related to natural science) are as follows:
(1) All fields related to engineering, science, and agriculture
(2) Medicine (Molecular Pathology and Public Health only)
(3) Pharmaceutical science: (Molecular Microbiology only)

Overview:
The Iwatani International Student Scholarship is funded through donations from the Iwatani Corporation as well as our basic fund investments. The aim of the program is to deepen international mutual cooperation and understanding as well as help improve the lives of people in Japan as well as overseas by giving privately financed international students in Japan, who are expected to maintain close relations with Japan in the future as well as bear the fruits of amity and cultural exchanges, the opportunity to achieve those things by providing them financial assistance for their daily living needs during their stay in Japan.

How to apply:
The following forms must be submitted:
1. Forms for Submission Please write up or prepare the following and submit them to our foundation.
Templates for (1) through (4) can be downloaded from our website:
(1) Application form (Template 1)
(2) Curriculum vitae (Template 2)
(3) Personal statement (Template 3)
(4) Research proposal (Template 4)
(5) Student registration certificate. International students who have been admitted into a school must submit a letter of acceptance or a notification of passing an examination from the applicable university (copies accepted).
(6) Transcript. Transcript from university or graduate school in Japan (original copy). If this cannot be obtained, a transcript from school in your home country will suffice (copies accepted).
(7) Letter of recommendation from advisor. Mark the envelope containing letter of recommendation as “Confidential”. The envelope must be sealed by your advisor.
(8) Medical examination report A medical examination report dated April 2016 or later (Items: chest X-ray, blood pressure, vision, height, weight) or a health checkup certificate issued by the health center at your university
(9) Photograph (recent photograph of upper body: 5 x 3.5 cm). Write your name on the back of the photograph and paste it on Template 1.
(10) Return envelope for notification of results. Write your postal code, address, and name on a standard-sized envelope (235 x 105 mm or smaller), and paste an 82-yen stamp on the envelope.

Application deadline:
Tuesday, December 20, 2016 (Postmarked)

Scholarship amount:
15,000 yen per month per student. 15 students will be selected.
Subsidies will also be provided to cover travel and other expenses required for conference presentations.

Contact:
The Iwatani Naoji Foundation
3F Yaesu h+ Building, 2-4-11 Yaesu, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0028
Tel: 03-6225-2400
FAX: 03-3231-7070
E-mail: information@iwatani-foundation.or.jp

(In Japanese Only)

Dentsu Scholarship Foundation

Name of Program:
Human Resources Training Support Activities for Students

Overview:
We provide financial aid to incorporated nonprofit organizations as well as organizations within universities that carry out activities aimed at human resource development primarily for undergraduate students but also for high school and graduate school students. In doing so, we provide indirect assistance with efforts for student human resource development.

Application requirements:
Organizations must meet all of the following criteria to apply.
• The organization carries out activities and programs aimed at human resource development primarily for undergraduate students but also for graduate school students. (Organizations may apply even if part of their activities involves human resource training.)
• Nonprofit organizations (e.g. incorporated nonprofit organizations or officially recognized organizations within universities)
• Organization has main offices in the Tokyo metropolitan area (Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, or Kanagawa).
• Applicants may be of any nationality but must be able to communicate in Japanese.

Activities Eligible for Subsidies:
The following criteria must be met for an activity to be subsidized.
• Activities are aimed at human resource development primarily for undergraduate students but also for high school and graduate school students.
• Activities are carried out primarily in Japan.
• Activities are not funded or planning to be funded by other private organizations.
Individual activities such as seminars and symposiums are also covered under the subsidy program.

Subsidy amounts:
The amounts will be determined by organizing the recipients into two slots: the undergraduate, graduate school and high school student slot and the general public slot. The maximum annual amount for each slot is 1 million yen.
• Undergraduate, graduate school and high school student slot:
School organizations (such as volunteer centers) as well as activities organized by students will be eligible to receive subsidies. However, activities connected with courses that are part of the regular curriculum (those in which students can earn credits) will not be covered under the program. It is assumed that the student activities are officially recognized by the university and are supervised by faculty members.
• General public slot:
Nonprofit organizations that have been active for one year or more (such as incorporated nonprofit organizations other than the above) will be eligible.

Number of subsidies:
As a general rule, about 5 subsidies will be provided for each slot (about 10 in total).

Subsidy period:
One year (from April to March of the following year)

How to apply:
Download the application form from our website, fill it out, and send it directly to our foundation.

Note:
Please fill out the application form in Japanese.

Application deadline:
We must receive your application by Friday, January 13, 2017.
Selection process: A decision will be made following an applicant screening and an interview which will take place in mid-March 2017. The applying organization will be notified thereafter.
Subsidies will be deposited directly to the bank account specified by the applicant according to the following terms:
• At start of subsidy period: 50% of subsidy amount
• 25% will be paid after receipt of interim report 6 months after start of program and after reviewing the report.
• 25% will be paid after receipt of final report and after reviewing the report.

Contact:
Dentsu Scholarship Foundation Secretariat / Person-in-charge: Yamamoto
4F Dentsu Ginza Building, 7-4-17 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Tel: 03-3575-1386
Fax: 03-3575-1577
E-mail: josei@dentsu-ikueikai.or.jp

(In Japanese Only)

3) Information about International Symposium

NINJAL International Symposium: Mimetics in Japanese and Other Languages of the World

The NINJAL International Symposium focuses on timely issues from the various exceptional fruits of research projects led by the National Institute for Japanese Language and Linguistics as well as collaborative research projects with other organizations. The aim of the program is to share those issues with academic circles and to engage in deeper discussions by inviting experts from overseas.
The aim of this year’s symposium is to look for a common platform that brings together two different approaches for research on onomatopoeia: theoretical linguistics and linguistic typology.

Note: Mimetics is collective term in linguistics for the use of words that imitate and/or describe natural sounds, physical & emotional states, and gestures.

4) Academic Societies

<Literature, Philosophy, Education, Psychology, Sociology, History>

<Law, Politics>

<Economics, Commercial Science, Management>

<Science>

<Engineering>

<Agriculture>

<Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmaceutical Sciences>

5) Japanese Language Tests

4.Business News

JASSO provides information about job-search for both current and graduate international students!

1) Job Hunting Event Information

The Program for Advancement of Foreign Human Resources is being launched from 2015, as a collaborative effort of related government ministries and agencies, and other relevant organizations. The Program seeks to increase employment of international students in Japan, and hence increase the number of highly skilled international professionals in the future, following the recent trend in policy that includes the 2014 revision of “Japan Revitalization Strategy – Japan is Back” (approved by the Cabinet on June 24th, 2014). The ultimate aim is to vitalize the Japanese economy further and enhance Japan’s presence in the global economy.
Through seminars, events and other activities, the Program will strengthen the system of connecting international students and other foreign nationals looking for employment in Japan, with companies in Japan looking to recruit international employees.

  • Fukuoka Gakusei Shokugyo Center
  • (In Japanese Only)
  • Offer job information, guidance for job-hunting, Research industry and self-analyze, Preparing seminar for job-hunting, and a private consultation etc.

For International students

  • 10th Job-hunting Guidance for International Students on Self-Assessment& Researching Business Companies
  • (In Japanese Only)
    Date & time: Thursday, January 19, 2017 13:30–16:30
    Venue: Quality Of Life Seminar Room
    (2F Chiyoda Building, 2-2-22 Kandata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo)
    By: Quality Of Life, Inc.
  • Guidance for International Students on Job-hunting
  • (In Japanese Only)
    Date & time: Thursday, December 22, 2016 15:30–17:30
    Venue: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work
    (12F, El Gala Office Building, 1-4-2, Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka)
    Who can join: International students who are candidates for March 2018 graduation
    By: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work [Fukuoka Gakusei Shokugyou Center]
  • Workshop on Self-Assessment
  • (In Japanese Only)
    Date & time: Friday, January 6, 2017 15:30–17:00
    Venue: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work
    (12F, El Gala Office Building, 1-4-2, Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka)
    Who can join: International students who are candidates for March 2018 graduation
    By: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work [Fukuoka Gakusei Shokugyou Center]
  • Research on Industries & Companies
  • (In Japanese Only)
    Date & time: Thursday, January 12, 2017 15:30–17:00
    Venue: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work
    (12F, El Gala Office Building, 1-4-2, Tenjin, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka)
    Who can join: International students who are candidates for March 2018 graduation
    By: Fukuoka Shinsotsu Ouen Hello Work [Fukuoka Gakusei Shokugyou Center]

Useful web site for International students

  • These web sites has search engine for a company recruiting international students.
  • Asagaku Navi
  • (Gakujo Co., Ltd.)
    (In Japanese Only)
  • Diamond Shukatsu Navi
  • (DIAMOND HUMAN RESOURCE, INC.)
    (In Japanese Only)
  • MYNAVI
  • (Mynavi Corporation)
    (In Japanese Only)
  • Rikunavi
  • (Recruit Career Co., Ltd.)
    (In Japanese Only)
  • Syusyoku-Japan
  • (The Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and Industry/ Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry/ Japan Network for International Education/ PRO*SEEDS)
    (In Japanese Only)

2) Job Hunting Reports from International Students

Huang Siying

Name : Huang Siying
Nationality : Chinese
University in Japan : University of Tsukuba
Major : Humanities and Social Sciences
Period of company : From March 2013 to March 2015
Name of company : Kosaido Co., Ltd.
Japanese proficiency level : Japanese Language Proficiency Test N1

I became I fan of Japanese pop culture in elementary school when I saw the Japanese animation Case Closed. That’s why I majored in Japanese at my university in China. I first visited Japan when I went on a language study program to Waseda University during my summer break of my freshman year in college. After the program, I began to have the desire to live in Japan for a longer period of time and experience Japanese society and decided to study in Japan after graduating from college.

I wanted to find a job in Japan for two reasons. First, I was impressed by Japanese people’s attitude toward work when I worked part time during my study abroad program. I noticed that Japanese people are always on time, take their work seriously, and are hard workers. After that, I began to have a strong desire to work with Japanese people. My second reason was that, after studying in Japan, I wanted to see how much of the Japanese that I had learned could be put to practical use.

The main reason why I chose to work at Kosaido is that my name appears in the name of the company and felt a strong connection to the company. I was also drawn by the opportunity to work overseas. In addition, the thought of serving as a bridge between people and companies for creating a bright future by working in a human resources company motivated me.

An effective strategy that I used during the job-hunting process was to write in a reflection notebook following my interviews. I would jot down answers to questions I was unable to answer during an interview, things to keep in mind, or new discoveries that I made. Reflecting on interviews in this way is a good way to evaluate yourself. Another effective strategy was to actively participate in company information sessions. I had no idea which of the Japanese companies would hire inter international students, as well as the reasons and criteria for hiring them. To find out these things, I think it is important to listen to what people who are working in the personnel department have to say and approach companies actively. One final strategy that I used was to stand in front of the mirror and speak in Japanese slowly and in a loud voice to practice for interviews. The advantages of doing this are that you can check your facial expressions as well as practice your Japanese pronunciation.

What I want to pass on to international students who will be job-hunting is the importance of telling yourself “Where there is a will, there is a way.” I got a true sense of how difficult it is to participate in the job-hunting process (which is unique to Japan) in Japanese, which is not my native language. Even if you are unsuccessful time after time, never give up and do your best until the end. I also think it is important to evaluate yourself thoroughly. In particular, when answering the question “Why do you want to work in Japan?” you will need to look back on your past experiences. It is also a good idea to actively participate in internships. The experience that you gain in an internship can be something you can talk about during your interview. On top of that, one advantage is that you can build a network of people through the internship.

3) Job Hunting Information Article

Researching Industries and Companies and Preparing for the Written Exam

One thing you can do to prepare for the job-hunting process at this stage is to research industries and companies. The purpose of researching industries and companies is to investigate the types of industries and companies you are interested in to find out whether they will suit you.

Researching industries involves doing the following: 1. find out the types of industries that exist, 2. choose an industry you are interested in and do some research on the characteristics of the industry as well as the types of companies that exist within the industry, and 3. do some research on the industries that surround the industry you are interested in (those the industry does business with). Go through these steps to research an industry that interests you. A single industry consists of a large number of companies. The food industry, for instance, consists of manufacturers of snacks, food, and beverages; and wholesalers which import the raw materials or sell the finished food products. As for industries that surround the industry you are interested in, you will see that you will work with a wide variety of industries such as retail (e.g. supermarkets and convenience stores that sell the products), distribution (which transports the products to the retailers), advertising (which creates advertisements to ensure that people know about the products), and IT (which is responsible for selling the products online).

Researching companies involves doing the following: 4. choose a company you are interested in within the industry you researched, 5. find out the products and services the company provides, who the customers (the people that buy the products) are, the company’s strengths and characteristics, the types of people that work at the company (the president and employees), and 6. do some research on competing companies as well. Go through these steps to research a company that interests you.

Researching a single industry and company, as well as the surrounding industries, in this way will give you a better understanding of the industries and companies. What is most important in the job-hunting process is to find out about potential employers (companies) and come up with strategies that are effective for the industry or company you are interested in.

The written exam is an employment test called SPI, which is commonly used in the job-hunting process. You will need to prepare for this exam, as many companies have adopted this exam. The SPI can be taken at a testing center, online, or at a company (paper test).

The SPI has two components: a basic skill assessment and a personality test. The basic skill assessment examines language skills (Japanese) and non-language skills (math). While you cannot prepare for the personality test, you can prepare the language and non-language skill components. It is a good idea to get a hold of a commercially available exam preparation book and try solving all of the problems in the book. This will allow you to get used to the types of questions that are asked in the exam. Many international students especially struggle with the language skill problems, so it would be a good idea to get a head start.

5. Visit Japan

Iwate Prefecture

Have you been travelling around Japan? In this section, we bring you information about sights, events, and foods from all over the country! The December edition looks at Iwate Prefecture.

Golden Hall of Chuson-ji Temple
  • Golden Hall of Chuson-ji Temple

This is a Buddhist hall that is located inside Chuson-ji Temple. It was built by Fujiwara no Kiyohira, the first lord of the Northern Fujiwara, in 1124 and has been designated a national treasure as it exemplifies the architectural techniques that were used during the time period.
As the name indicates, the temple’s interior & exterior is entirely lacquered and is also covered with gold leaf.
It is said that the Northern Fujiwara built their prosperity with alluvial gold, which was mined in the Tohoku region during this period. An abundant supply of that gold was used to build the Golden Hall of Chuson-ji Temple. Word about this golden palace spread to China and was introduced to Europe by Marco Polo.

Genbikei Gorge
  • Genbikei Gorge

This gorge was formed when a river, which flows from Mt. Kurikomayama, eroded. It is located midstream of the river. The entire landscape, which consists of beautifully flowing water and rare stones which formed through the water erosion of sedimentary rocks that were deposited by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Kurikomayama over tens of thousands of years, has been designated a national site of scenic beauty. The site includes strangely shaped rocks, abysses, and a waterfall. The color of the water is a gorgeous emerald green partly due to the sediments from the volcanic eruption which have collected on the river bottom as well as the substances in the hot spring near Mt. Kurikomayama. The gorge shows a totally different atmosphere when the midwinter snow covers the rocky riverside to create a mystical scenery.

Morioka Sansa Odori
  • Morioka Sansa Odori

Morioka Sansa Odori is a festival that has been held each year from August 1st to 4th since 1978. The different forms of Sansa Odori, a traditional dance, from the various outskirts of Morioka City have been combined and turned into an event that attracts tourists. While the Morioka Sansa Odori has a short history compared with the other festivals of the Tohoku region, it has become better known in recent years and is now included among the big five summer festivals in Tohoku. Each group that participates in the festival consists of taiko drummers, dancers, and flute players. The event is also described as “Japan’s biggest taiko parade” because each dancer holds a taiko drum.

Nambu Ironware
  • Nambu Ironware

Nambu Ironware" is made primarily of foundry pig iron but is also made of Japanese lacquer. It is characterized by its simplicity yet sturdiness and durability. It uses a unique technique called kanakedome, which keeps the iron kettles from rusting. The technique involves baking the kettles in a 900-degree charcoal fire for about 30 minutes. Nambu ironware is said to have originated around the 17th century, when the feudal lord of the Nambu domain invited a kamashi (a teakettle caster) from Kyoto to Morioka and had him make a tea ceremony kettle. Since that time, Nambu ironware thrived because the region was blessed with high quality raw materials and the Nambu domain employed numerous casters and kamashi from various regions in an effort to preserve the tradition and develop artisans. The finished products are used for a broad range of purposes, ranging from tea ceremony kettles to daily necessities.

Wanko soba
  • Wanko soba

The basic style of Wanko soba involves serving bite-sized servings of soba (buckwheat noodles) which have been dipped into a hot soba broth. Each time a guest finishes a bowl, the waiter fills the bowls with more servings of soba one after another. This process continues until the guest places a lid over their bowl, meaning that they are full. Traditionally, it had been the custom to serve soba to guests in regions such as Morioka and Hanamaki. Offering small servings of freshly boiled soba in bowls was the obvious solution to accommodating a large number of guests all at once. This method is believed to be the origin of wanko soba.

6. NIPPON Information

This section features enjoyable stories about pop culture, traditions, dining, cutting-edge technology, and more!

1) NIPPON Time Machine

Omisoka

Omisoka
The last day of the year is called omisoka. The term misoka refers to the last day of each month. New Year’s Eve is also called joya. It had once been the custom to stay up all night on joya to welcome toshigami-sama (god of the New Year). According to an old legend, your hair would turn gray or wrinkles would appear if you went to bed early on joya.

In the late hours of omisoka, a bell is rung 108 times at temples all over Japan. This is called joyanokane. This practice is based on a Buddhist ritual and spread across Japan beginning in the Edo period. The number 108 is a symbol of Hyaku Hachi No Bonno (108 Defilements), which is based on Buddhist thought. Bonno (defilements) refer to things that perplex the mind and distress the body. It is said that the bell is stuck to get rid of these defilements one at a time so we can welcome the new year with a pure mindset. The 108th and final strike of the bell takes place in New Year’s Day. This expresses the wish that we will not be perplexed by defilements over the next year.

It is the custom to eat toshikoshi soba (year-crossing soba noodles), which is a seasonal tradition, on the evening of omisoka. This custom is said to have begun during the Genroku period (mid-Edo period). Based on the idea that we will be able to live a life that is long just as the soba noodles (the idea of longevity) and that it will clean our stomach and intestines if we eat soba noodles, we eat tosikoshi soba on omisoka to remove the impurities from the five viscera and to wish for sound health.

2) Lifestyle Information

Nengajo

Nengajo
Nengajo are greeting cards that Japanese send to people who have been good to them to express their thanks while also wishing them a happy new year. In the card, they thank them for their friendly relations in the previous year and ask them for another year of an unchanging relationship. Since ancient times, it had been the custom in Japan to go to the homes of their elders and wish them a happy new year. As people’s acquaintances began to scatter across the country, they began sending greeting cards to those who lived far away to wish them a happy new year since they were unable to visit their homes.

After the postal system was put in place during the Meiji period and postcards were issued, the practice of sending nengajo quickly spread. Then in 1949, nengajo with otoshidama (New Year's money gift for children) hit the market; and the custom of sending nengajo to not only people who live far away but to those who live nearby stuck.

While New Year’s cards are often associated with Japanese culture, there was a time when sending New Year’s cards was common practice in Europe and the United States along with Christmas and Easter cards. But this practice did not last and never became a tradition in Europe and the United States, becoming practically nonexistent starting in the 1920s. It is now the norm to include New Year’s wishes in Christmas cards.

The number of New Year’s cards issued, which reached a peak in 2003 with a total of 4.45 billion cards sold, has declined in recent years. Nevertheless, about 3 billion cards are still issued each year, which means that each person is purchasing about 23 cards. It is said that fewer young people are sending nengajo due to the spread of cell phones, smartphones, and the internet. But wouldn't you be glad if you received a handwritten New Year’s card especially because we live in an era when much of our communication is done electronically? How about sending a nengajo to those who have been good to you recently or those who were good to you in the past?

7. JASSO News

Information about JASSO Scholarship programs, invitation program, Japan Education Fairs, and the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU).

1) Schedule, etc. for 2016 Japan Education Fairs

JASSO holds Japan Education Fairs overseas to provide information to high school students, university students and other individuals who are interested in studying in Japan. We also attend and cooperate to the events and seminars sponsored by other organizations.

2) Information about the brochure “Student Guide to Japan”

For all those considering studying in Japan, we recommend you to read the “Student Guide to Japan” first.
In addition to information on the Japanese education system, scholarships, and daily life in Japan, the guidebook also includes stories on experience of international students in Japan.
You can read the guidebook on the JASSO website, so we encourage not only those who are considering studying in Japan, but also students already studying in Japan to take a look.

You can read in 14 languages such as Japanese, English, Chinese (Simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese), Korean, Indonesian, Thai, Vietnamese, Myanmar language and Bengali, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, French, German, Mongolian, and Portuguese.

3) Official Facebook pages of JASSO and Overseas Representative Offices

We also provide the latest information on studying in Japan on our official Facebook pages. Check them out!

4) Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)

5) JASSO Scholarship Programs

6) Web Magazine “Ryugakukoryu”

The December 2016 issue will be published on December 12th. Please make sure to read it!

7) Follow-up Research Fellowship (Invitation Program)

This program provides former international students who play active roles in education, research and government in their home countries to conduct short term research at universities in Japan.

  • Reports from Fellows FY 2015
  • Osaka City University
    Gifu University
    Kyoto University
    Chiba University
    Tokyo Metropolitan University
    Tottori University
    Yamagata University

8) Follow-up Research Guidance (Dispatching research advisors)

This program provides Japanese academic advisors with an opportunity to visit and to help further research of former international students who are teaching and/or researching at universities or research institutes in their home countries.

8. From the Editor

How did you find the December edition of Japan Alumni eNews?
The year is winding down. Downtown areas are buzzing with excitement with Christmas lights and music. Between the end of the year and the New Year’s Day, there will be numerous events that you can only experience in Japan.
As we mentioned in NIPPON Time Machine, December 31st is referred to as omisoka, and the custom is to eat toshikoshi soba while listening to the bells of joyanokane. On New Year’s Day, you will have many opportunities to experience traditional Japanese culture such as seeing the first sunrise of the year and eating ozoni, a soup containing rice cakes, and osechi, a traditional New Year’s food.
School will be closed during the year-end and New Year holidays. Why not experience Japanese culture in different places?

Japan Alumni eNews Editorial Desk is looking for someone who can share their job searching experiences. We also welcome pictures from your life abroad as an exchange student and your comments for our email magazine. Our next issue of “Japan Alumni eNews” will be distributed on January 10th. Don’t miss it!

  • Information in this issue may change without notice. Please visit their web sites for latest information.

Contact

Follow-up Services Unit, International Scholarship Division, Student Exchange Department Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO)
  • 2-2-1 Aomi, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-8630 JAPAN
  • TEL (telephone) number is +81-3-5520-6030
  • FAX (facsimile) number is +81-3-5520-6031
  • E-mail address is alumni-newsletter at mark jasso.go.jp
  • * Please convert "at mark" to @ when you send an e-mail to us.

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