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Japan Alumni eNews (Vol.69)

Japan Alumni eNews Vol. 69 January 9, 2015


1. Life in Japan by Photo

Life in Japan shown through photos. We look forward to your submissions of memorable photos from your experiences in Japan, including life as an international student, memories from study abroad, Japanese culture and history, travel, and more.

  • How to submit
1 . Photo and photo title (15 words or less)
2 . Name (katakana and alphabet)
3 . Nationality
4 . Name of your school in Japan

Memories of Japan

The January issue of Life in Japan by Photo introduces Memories of Japan. (Honorifics such as "Mr." and "Ms." have been omitted.)

University of Tsukuba
Title: There autumn University of Tsukuba

There autumn University of Tsukuba01
There autumn University of Tsukuba02
There autumn University of Tsukuba03

Song chanwoo (Korea)
Rikkyo University

Nostalgic road Fushimi Inari Shrine
Title: Nostalgic road Fushimi Inari Shrine
Title: Nostalgia
Optical shake summer sky
Title: Optical shake summer sky

2. Alumni News

Introduce news related to international students and student experiences!

1) News on International Students

News 1: International Students Participated in Disaster Drill

The BO-SAI Challenge & International Exchange Sporting Event was held on November 30 at the Busshozan Koen Gymnasium in Takamatsu City, Kagawa. Around 160 international students from Brazil, Indonesia and other countries living in Kagawa participated in the disaster drill while receiving instructions from instructors. Afterwards, there was a sporting event, including table tennis, badminton and soft volleyball. The international students that participated deepened their friendships with one another.

News 2: Global Exchange Event: “Global Kouhaku Competition”

The Global Kohaku Competition and Global Girls Collection were held on November 29 at the Big Hall of the Culture Building at the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. There were around 200 performers and 1,000 attendees. It was a great success, and the participants were from many different countries. The organizer hopes that more international students will take an interest in Japanese culture through the event and that Japanese and international students will increase their global awareness through interactions with each other.

2) Introduction of "Current International Students"

On a bus headed to Hiraizumi on a study tour (center)

Nationality: America
University: Tohoku University
Major: International Research Institute of Disaster Science
Period of Stay in Japan: April 2014 to present
Classification while Studying: Government-Financed
Category if Government-funded: Research Student

Pedestrian walkway at Sendai Station

Hello everyone, my name is David Nguyen.
I’m from the state of Hawaii in the United States. As a Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-financed international student, I became a research student at Tohoku University and will start the doctoral program at the School of Engineering in the fall semester.

This is not my first time in Japan. Five years ago I studied at Waseda University in Tokyo, and after that I also studied at University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa. I’ve been to 24 prefectures all over Japan, from Kyushu to Hokkaido. This is also not my first time in Sendai. I’ve been to Sendai twice now to conduct research at Tohoku University, and both times it was in the winter. I’ve also been to Iwate several times, and I visited Hiraizumi. Hiraizumi is one of my favorite places in Tohoku so far. It’s very peaceful and beautiful, and I like it as much as Kyoto.

@Home (Tohoku University International Student Support Club) sponsored hanami (flower viewing) event

My favorite place in Sendai is Sendai Station. It has a pedestrian walkway, so it’s very convenient for pedestrians, and the many shops make it a fun place.
I currently live in a dorm at the university. Tohoku University has made every effort to ensure that international students can live comfortably, almost as if they’re at home. I’m particularly grateful to the volunteer group “Group-sha,” which provides support to international students.

There are still some issues I face in Tohoku, though, regarding adjusting to life here. For example, in Hawaii, I only had clothes for one season. When I lived in Tokyo, I had clothes for winter and two other seasons. In Sendai, however, because of the drastic changes in temperature and wind, I have to think about the types of clothes I’ll wear in the winter, spring, and summer.
I’m busy every day with studies, but I’m also involved in the basketball club. The other club members welcomed me with open arms. As a student of Tohoku University, I hope to contribute to research on disaster management. I’d like to make a lot of new friends at Tohoku University, and while I’m here, I want to learn how to snowboard.

3) Windows of Alumni

  • Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine
  • Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Alumni
  • URL:
  • (In Japanese only)
  • Kyoto Prefectural University
  • Kyoto Prefectural University of Alumni Association
  • URL:
  • (In Japanese only)

4) Introduction to Japan Alumni Associations

Launching of Kochi University International Students Alumni Network (Thailand) Reunion


On November 20, 2014 a Kochi University International Students Alumni Network (Thailand) Reunion was launched, consisting of international students from Thailand and exchange students from affiliated schools who graduated from or completed programs at Kochi University as well as researchers from Thailand who were on the roll at Kochi University as international researchers in order to build a network with international students who have returned home. There were roughly 50 members for the first event, and the purposes are to foster interaction, friendship, and research cooperation between members, promote the strengthening of partnerships between members and Kochi University, and contribute to development of alumni events and Kochi University. The main activities of the Thai reunion events are as follows:

1 . Foster friendships and interaction between members.
2 . Foster research cooperation between members.
3 . Promote partnerships between members and Kochi University.
4 . Implement other projects deemed necessary.

Additionally, Kochi University established the Kochi University Thailand Liaison Office at partner university Kasetsart University in Bangkok. This is the fourth overseas location established by Kochi University for the purpose of transmitting information on the university, including international collaborative research, acceptance and dispatching of international students, and overseas PR in order to promote international exchange. The opening ceremony was held on November 20, 2014. One of the activities of this overseas office will be PR activities conducted in collaboration with the Thai alumni association to attract international students as part of efforts to bring in particularly exceptional international students from Thailand.
The first meeting of the Thai reunion was a good opportunity for past students to feel a bond with Kochi University again. The chairman, vice-chairman and other directors were elected, and there was a video message from Mr. Katsutoshi Sakurai, director of general and international affairs, who has long been engaged in research and education exchange activities with Thailand. Professor Sota Tanaka introduced the history of exchanges with students from Thailand with photographs.
During the 2010 school year, Kochi University launched the Kochi University International Students Alumni Network (China), and reunions are now held annually, chiefly in Shanghai. On the heels of the launch of the alumni network in Thailand, there are plans underway to launch an alumni network in Sweden during the 2014 school year.
These international student alumni networks of Kochi University are important partners for making active contributions to the international society, particularly Asia-Pacific countries, and we hope to engage in further collaboration to promote internationalization.

3. Academic News

Introduce scholarships, grants, unique efforts by universities, and more!

1) Introducing Faculties/Graduate Schools

We introduce various faculties and graduate schools with unique features in Japan

Kitami Institute of Technology

Blue sky and school

Name: Kitami Institute of Technology
Location: 165 Koen-cho, Kitami, Hokkaido
Current enrollment: 2,112 (as of May 1, 2014)
Total foreign students: 107 (as of October 1, 2014)
Countries represented: 12 (as of October 1, 2014)

The Kitami Institute of Technology was established in 1960 and is the northernmost national university in Japan. Half the students are from outside Hokkaido, including 47 prefectures and 12 countries. Our graduates work as qualified engineers at companies all over Japan and in other countries after having received an education marked by modern facilities and advantaged educational support system.


Kitami City, where the Institute is located, is in eastern Hokkaido in the rich natural environment of the Okhotsk region.
In this rich environment, each student undergoes screening for two departments so that they can select the path of engineering most suited to their preferences. During the first year after enrollment, students take mostly liberal arts and basic engineering classes and gain an understanding of the characteristics of each department and the qualities required. This system allows the students to move forward in the department in which they can study the specialty that best suits them.
On the research side, there are many programs in a wide range of engineering fields, from basic to cutting-edge research, including methane hydrates, which have been called burning ice in recent years and hold promise as next-generation energy, biorefinery, and energy/environmental fields like cold region engineering.
Currently, students select the field of study that most interests them from among the three fields of Mechanical, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering; and Biotechnology, Environmental Chemistry and Materials. In their second year, students choose from six departments (Department of Mechanical Engineering, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Department of Computer Science, Department of Biotechnology and Environmental Chemistry and Department of Materials Science and Engineering).
The educational and research facilities at the Institute include the Cooperative Research & Community Collaboration Center, the Environmental and Energy Resources Research Center, the Instrumental Analysis Center and the Manufacturing Center.

Department of Mechanical Engineering
Through manufacturing, humans and science build a society that respects the natural environment and has codependent relationships that include mutual understanding, support and emphasis. Students study basic mechanical engineering subjects, drafting and design, and engage in practical training. In the third year, they break into the Mechanical Science and Mechanical Intelligence and Bionics courses and study subjects that characterize the courses.

Methane hydrate
  • Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering engages in education that incorporates maintenance and management of social infrastructure facilities and social needs such as environmental conservation and disaster prevention as well as education that leverages the characteristics of the Institute arising from its location in a cold region blessed with a rich natural environment.

Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Electrical and electronic technology is the basic technology that supports modern society and plays a role in the advanced technologies that will lead the way for a rich future society. After the students have first finished studying the fundamentals of electrical engineering, the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering next provides two courses with the purpose of the nurturing of experts in the field of electrical and electronic engineering. In our department, students acquire expertise and also gain broad knowledge about the entire field of electrical engineering.

  • Department of Computer Science

Distinctive features of the Department of Computer Science are the implementation of programming education using very practical Java language before other universities and an emphasis on teaching principles and the basics of software and hardware. At the same time, the Department provides training in practical programming and manufacturing skills through seminars and experiments, mathematics subjects for acquiring basic skills and a wide variety of applied subjects such as optics and images, media, communication, control and more to broaden the students’ horizons.

Department of Biotechnology and Environmental Chemistry
With chemistry at the core, the Department of Biotechnology and Environmental Chemistry aims to develop human resources capable of working in the fields of biotechnology, environment and food. We have established courses in biotechnology and food chemistry as well as environmental chemistry. Each of these courses provides high-level educational research and high problem-solving skills for students, training them to become engineers and researchers who can contribute to the sustainable development of society. Moreover, in cooperation with local communities, we promote research of international caliber making use of the rich resources of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Hokkaido.

Department of Materials Science and Engineering
Materials (i.e. materials of industrial products) are the foundation that sustains the manufacturing industry. Without progress in materials science and material improvements, there would be no industrial development. Our department aims to nurture open-minded materials engineers as new industry leaders through broad education and research of materials engineering including everything from basic materials, such as metals, ceramics, polymers and organic materials, to high-performance materials, such as semiconductors, electronic materials, biomaterials and catalyst materials.

Management Engineering
In their third year, students engage in combined engineering coursework, including management, design, intellectual property theory, marketing theory, venture business theory, scientific technology theory and international exchange theory while taking some specialized subjects in their department. In their fourth year, students engage in management engineering projects and utilize specialized knowledge while developing an entrepreneurial mind along with planning and proposal skills based on a broad perspective.

2) Scholarships/ Grants/ Invitation/ Awards, etc.

Kawasaki International Association

  • Scholarship Programme for Foreign Students
  • Summary:
  • Provides academic subsidies to support foreign students residing in Kawasaki City.
  • Eligibility:
  • People who (1) possess the “STUDY” status of residence (2) are registered in Kawasaki City based on the Alien Registration Act, and are currently residing there (3) are enrolled in a university, technical college, or specialist training course at a vocational school in Kawasaki City (4) are not a government-sponsored foreign student (5) have demonstrated an excellent academic achievement and can obtain recommendation from the school they are enrolled in (6) can participate and cooperate in international exchange activities in Kawasaki City, as well as the internationalization of the region
  • Application periods:
  • Beginning of the school year (please inquire at the school you are enrolled in)

Tochigi City International Cultural Exchange Association.

  • Japanese Speech Contest
  • Theme :
  • Free (Within 5 minutes)
  • Qualification of Participant.
  • Foreigner who is living at Tochigi City and/or around town or city of Tochigi.
  • Mother tongue is not Japanese.
  • Lived in Japan within 5 years.
  • Application Method :
  • Please down load the following URL and take an application form, then present this application either by fax, e-mail, posted mail or bring the application form at the window.
  • Application Period :
  • Until January 30th (Friday).
  • Opening date, time and Place :
  • February 8th (Sunday). Tochigi City Government office, Tochigi City Parliamentary Hall.

3) Scholarships/ Grants/ Invitation Information and Reports

Charitable trust Asia Community Trust

Special Foundation "The Asian foreign students support fund"
Reference: Summary of last year

- Please teach an opportunity and an episode of the group establishment.
"Asian foreign students support fund" (After that called "this fund") was set up by the following purpose in January 2012.
1: A foreign student from Asia and registered at the Japanese university from Asia (a regular university student and a graduated student) through an inter-compress in the Japanese nonprofit organization.
They are provided experience, which difficult to get the experience in the university life such as experience to wrestle with Japanese social new movement and problem, direct interchange with the people of the community and also they deepen Japanese understanding.
2: They utilize the knowledge that a foreign student learned with an inter-compress in the future or a skill in the society of the mother country contribute to the development such as social development businesses. Based on the purpose of this fund, ACT will accept foreign student from Asia as intern from 2012, and supporting the business of the nonprofit organization, NGO/NPO who are offering the opportunity of experience training etc.

- Who is eligible to apply ?
A person of intern object is a person satisfying the following conditions. Foreign students (university student/the graduated student) from Asia development countries (DAC support receipt countries) and registered at the Japanese university.
In addition, to start the internship, it is necessary to get an “Activity permit Certificate” from Immigration Bureau”.
*The Asian DAC support receipt countries are Cambodia, Nepal, Bangladesh, East Timor, Bhutan, Myanmar, Maldives, Laos, Pakistan, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, China, Philippines, Mongolia, and Malaysia. ("Asia" is based on the classification of Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
In addition, by this program, we support it in the group accepting a foreign student as an intern.
The object group shall satisfy the next matter. (We do not do the furtherance to a foreign student individual.)
1: Being a domestic nonprofit organization engaging in the public interest activity such as the social development.
2: That they can make reputation case, the system to teach it to in an interchange.
3: There is the activity results as the group more than three years.

- How much the amount of money?
A grant of the groups is around 250,000-400,000 yen per one case.

- How long is it for the period when it can receive it?
A furtherance object period of 2015 is until from several weeks to eight months between from August, 2015 to the end of March, 2016.
40 days up to for 15 days as a general rule smallest in the furtherance object days as for (the intern period when we can support it)
Even if it is not continuation, we are possible. (For example, three days per week then continue 10 weeks (about two months).
In addition, but the working of the intern (a foreign student) is registered for less than 28 hours in one week (less than eight hours a day) is recognized with "qualification outside activity permit" (summer holidays) for less than 40 hours in one week for a suspension of business period for the long term that an educational institution sets by school regulations once (the Immigration Control Law Article 19).
But we do not bear the responsibility in the Immigration Control Law in the ACT.

- Please tell the recruitment period.
Start the recruitment in April, 2015 and will be closed in the end of May, 2015

- How do you apply?
If the foreign students have interest to join the Internship, we have the following 2 methods.
1: Foreign students know the NPO/NGO, nonprofit organization by themselves (or have interested those organizations), in this case, foreign students contact and talk with those nonprofit organization directly.
2: Register a name at the ACT secretariat.
Based on registration information from foreign student, we are checking the record of organizations and if the condition or purpose of organization is same or similar of the foreign student, in this case, ACT secretariat will introduce the organization to the foreign student.
But there is it even if registered when internship is not found. The introduction back hopes for an intern tray case (by before that a group applies to ACT)
A foreign student contacts an organization and we decide an interview day (as for the person of the distant place, as for the case, as for the consultation with the telephone is possible)
We talk about a condition and the activity contents of the intern, a plan directly and decided.
In addition, it is possible there is not agreed among a group and foreign students.
If foreign student, both of the reputation discord texture agree, A reputation case organization applies to charitable trust Asia Community

- In the case of application, do you have any advice?
*The application foreign student goes to Japan to study from the Asian developing country and foreign student registered at the Japanese university (the regular life of a university student / the graduate student)
*Please perform internship in the days that reached an agreement as far as there are not special circumstances.
*The reputation joining an organization is a nonprofit organization. The profit company / government organization does not become the object.

- Is there the procedure that we must do during receipt?
You have the interchange make a diary and an intermediate report and the last report.

- Others, comment
You can do experiences such as environmental safeguard, activity made with a town, the international collaboration support in a Japanese nonprofit organization.
It is an opportunity that you are able to know another Japan and open acquaintances and you have a new experience and widen possibility of the self.

Comments from scholarship recipients
How did your student life change after receiving the scholarship?

Mr. Hien
  • Mr. Hien (Vietnam)

I was able to realize non-formal education on the site through the intern, I was able to understand that the formal-like school education narrowed down to the small range called the institution of the school, against this, there is non formal education also a doing an active group, method, there are several kinds of objects.
By such a flexible activity, aim is not only children but also whole society, so I realized that the education target will be achieved.
In addition, I was able to understand more deeply about education for the children.
If asked about an education for the children?
Everybody can easy to image a school, subjects etc. but now become a problem how they can cope in a break time and/or after school etc.
After all, it is unable to correspond only by the power of the school, there is an activities which are go out the school, those activities are played by volunteer, NGO,NPO.
Furthermore, I was able to know cooperation with the area between groups of NGO / NPO.
An NGO / NPO to take a mission, that group cannot move into action; cooperation of other groups and the local areas are necessary indispensable.  
I may say that we can do a form of the activity by cooperation between groups wealthily, and cooperating with an area again a mission also activity to be able to expanding concrete.
As a problem and an amendment, it is the improvement (Japanese / English) of the linguistic ability and the health care in the activity spot.
NICE is a Japanese group, but activity is international, therefore, both Japanese / English is usable which ability is important.
It may be serious, but becomes the linguistic motivation. And, in the activity spot of the work camp, I can participate for a long time in the work camp, for this purpose even volunteers & staffs are take care of their health control.
Finally, for the prospects to the future, I want to keep it alive in contact experience with the children, at the training of the graduate school.
I can contact with Japanese and Taiwanese children in camping then I was
able to better understanding about teenager’s development of psychology.
Based on this, I want to use this experience in a training of the junior high school at the graduate school.
In addition, I think that it should have been pushed forward a thought study in the various education scenes which I consider it and was able to image.
The intern enforcement group name:
Non profit organization NICE (a Japanese international work camp center)

  • Activity contents:
1 . Aide international work camp administration of the high school student (Itoshima, Fukuoka Pref.),
2 . Aide secretariat work event administration (Tokyo)
3 . Visit a fair trade cooperation store & doing a business (Tokyo)
4 . Open shop at the event (Fukuoka, Fukuoka Pref.)

4) Academic Societies

  • <Literature, Philosophy, Education, Psychology, Sociology, History>
  • Japanese Association of Qualitative Psychology
  • URL:

5) Japanese Language Test

  • J.TEST (Test of Practical Japanese)
  • (In Japanese Only)
  • 118th
  • Test Date: Sunday, January 18th, 2015
  • 119th
  • Test Date: Sunday, March 15th, 2015
  • Deadline: Wednesday, February 18th, 2015

4. Business News

Provide information related to job hunting for current international students and graduates!

1) Job Hunting Event Information

  • [Object of graduate at the year of 2016]
  • <Sites for International Students>
  • Nikkei Shushoku Navi2016
  • “For International Students” (Nikkei Human Resources Inc./ DISCO International, Inc.) (In Japanese Only)

2) Job Hunting Reports from Current International Students


University in Japan:Kōchi University
Period of Stay in Japan:6 years
Name of Company:AEON DELIGHT CO., LTD.
The level of Japanese-Language:JLPT N1

Why did you want to find employment in Japan?
The first reason was the well-developed training systems in place at Japanese companies. I felt that I could cultivate a new me from scratch, regardless of my major at university. The second reason was that in contrast to Chinese companies, Japanese companies are serious about the job, and I resonate with this way of thinking. I believe that at the start of my career, Japanese companies are optimal for laying a solid foundation for my life.

Why did you choose your current (prospective) employer?
There is work involving China, so I felt I could utilize my language skills. Also, most of the operations lead to energy savings, so the job allows me to make a big contribution to society and the environment.

What kind of business does the company do, and what things will you be involved in?
Description of company’s business: Facilities management, security, construction, materials
I hope to work in facilities management. I’m really interested in LED lighting when it comes to facilities management. LED lighting uses about 50% of the energy that fluorescent light bulbs use, which leads to cost reduction. I hope this business expands from Japan to China as well.

How did you present your strengths to the company?
I told my company about things like my courage to jump into the unknown, my adaptability to new environments, the independence I learned from many years living as an international student, and my nature as a woman of action that can overcome difficulties regardless of circumstances.

When did you start looking for employment?
December 2013.

How many companies did you apply with?
About 25 companies.

What specific job hunting activities did you engage in? (What seminars, websites, etc. did you use?)
I participated in joint and individual company information sessions. I used websites like Rikunavi, Mynavi, en-japan’s student information website, Rakuten’s Minna No Shushoku Katsudo Nikki, and Nikkei Shushoku Navi.

What did you use as a reference for your preparations and company research? What did you find difficult when researching companies?
I participated in job hunting seminars put on at the university and referred to job hunting websites. The thing I had difficulty with was finding out whether or not a company actively hired international students. I think it would be nice if there were special websites out there for international students. Also, it took quite a bit of time, money and energy to go to company information sessions.

What were you careful about with entry forms and your résumé ?
I made sure to fill them out carefully. I also focused on highlighting my strengths as much as possible in the limited amount of space.

What were you careful about in your interviews?
I was particularly careful to speak confidently and cheerfully in my interviews. I also think it’s important to be clear and concise.

What kinds of questions were you asked in the interviews?
I was asked to give a self-introduction and things like what I worked hard on at university, what I could offer to the company, why I wanted to work for them, and what my strengths and weaknesses are.

What are your ambitions and future plans?
I want to find a place for myself in the field of facilities management and roll out energy-saving electronic products and management methods to China.

What advice would you give people who are thinking of looking for employment in Japan?
These job-hunting activities are something you only do once in your life. Don’t let up until you’re finished, because you don’t want to have regrets later, even if you mess up along the way. The process may be trying and difficult, but believe that difficult circumstances are precisely what lead to growth. It’s also important that you work earnestly and more than the next person on gathering information, and you need to ask your professors and those who have graduated before you lots of questions so that you can be prepared.

3) Job Hunting Information Corner

What is the Ideal Candidate?

Ideal Candidate = Hiring Criteria
There are some companies that do not provide details on their ideal candidate and others on recruitment portals and hiring websites. The companies that have provided those details are saying, “This is the kind of person we are recruiting,” and they want students that think they fit that profile (called “target students” from the company’s perspective) to apply. The aim is to save both sides from wasting time and effort, as they will not hire people that do not fit the profile even if they come in for an interview. On the other hand, companies that do not provide details on their ideal candidate want to select from among many students that apply. Moreover, if the characteristics of the ideal candidate are clearly stated, the students’ personal appeal points will all start looking the same, so some companies do not provide these details because they want the students to speak their minds without thinking about hiring criteria and to see the true qualities of the individual.

Sought-After Skills Vary by Company
What companies need in order to grow is competitiveness. In other words, they must secure a competitive advantage. There’s no differentiation if a company is the same as its competitors, so companies develop their own unique businesses. They say if you have 100 companies, you’ll have 100 business strategies. Earlier, I said that companies hire people that can carry out their business strategies, but business strategies are completely different from company to company. Because they hire people that can carry out their own business strategy, the characteristics of the ideal candidate are also completely different. Of course, the minimum skills (basic skills) of a working adult, such as communication skills, independence, and a sense of responsibility will be the same across companies, but the other skills sought after will differ from company to company.

Sayuri Nagao, Work Co., Ltd.
  [Source] Must-read! Real Interviews
by Sayuri Nagao (Hitotsubashi Shoten)

5. Visit Japan

Yamagata Prefecture

Wouldn’t you like to travel and see Japan? Here, we introduce well-known areas, events, and gourmet food in each region of Japan! In the January issue, Yamagata Prefecture is featured.

Zao Onsen Ski Resort
  • Zao Soft Rime

“Ice Monster” is a majestic work of art created by the special climatic environment of Yamagata. The fantastical appearance when illuminated can be enjoyed from the ropeway and near Jizo Sancho Station or on a Night Cruiser snowmobile while you ride around the soft rime.

Ginzan Onsen
  • Ginzan Onsen

This hotspring inn town still retains some remnants of the Taisho period. Lit up by gas lamps, the town is atmospheric at night, and there are various expressions that change by the season, such as fresh verdure, autumnal tints, and snowy scenery. Ginzan Onsen is popular with people all over Japan as a tourist site that can be enjoyed year-round.

Hanagasa Festival
  • Hanagasa Festival

This is one of the four largest festivals in Tohoku. Over a three-day period, a total of around 13,000 dancers (about 150 groups) parade down the main streets of the city. The groups of dancers each wear their own matching outfits and dance to the song Hanagasa Ondo with hats adorned with safflowers in hand. Unofficial participants are welcomed.

Yamagata Cast Metal
  • Yamagata Cast Metal

Many traditional techniques have been passed down, such as unique mold production, pattern pressing and hadauchi techniques, used to produce things like iron kettles, tea ceremony kettles, and flower vases. The bronze crafts in particular are of wide variety, including tea ceremony kettles, and the vermilion temper patterns and copper wire have an established reputation nationwide.

  • Imonikai

The first thing that comes to mind about autumn in Yamagata is imonikai (outdoor parties where guests cook various types of vegetables). On riverbanks throughout the prefecture, many groups can be seen gathering around pots of simmering potatoes. The seasonings and ingredients differ between the inland areas of the prefecture and the Shonai area on the Sea of Japan coast. In the inland areas, it’s mostly beef with soy sauce, while in the Shonai area, it’s mostly pork with miso.

6. NIPPON Information

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

1) Nippon Time Machine

Seven herbs of spring
  • Nanakusagayu and the Vitality of Spring Greens

It’s customary in Japan to eat nanakusagayu (rice porridge with seven greens) on the 7th of January.

In the Heian period (794-1185), the Japanese people believed that the vitality of freshly sprouted young buds drove away evil spirits, so spring greens were picked and eaten to wish for a year of health as part of a custom called “wakanatsumi.” Another custom, which came from China, is to make soup with seven grains (rice, foxtail millet, common millet, barnyard millet, mino, sesame, and azuki beans) and eat it on the 7th of January. This dish is called “nanakusagayu.”

In the Kamakura period (1185-1333), these two customs were combined, and the seven items were called “seven greens of spring” and became water dropwort, shepherd’s purse, cottonweed, chickweed, nipplewort, turnip, and radish. This version of nanakusagayu took root among common people. The seven greens of spring are all familiar vegetables that can be picked around rice paddies and fields.

Rice porridge

Kayu is a mix of soft-boiled grains, beans, potatoes and other items, and nanakusagayu is made by finely chopping seven spring greens and adding them to the rice porridge. It’s a light-flavored dish, seasoned only with salt and is perfect for allowing the stomach rest after eating all the New Year’s foods. It also served the purpose of supplementing nutrition during the winter when vegetables were in short supply.

In areas where the seven greens of spring are not available due to climate, different vegetables, edible roots, and soybean products like aburaage were substituted. Some areas use soy sauce and miso for seasoning, but enjoying the taste of spring while wishing for a healthy New Year is the same everywhere.

Today it’s uncommon, but in the past when chopping the vegetables for nanakusagayu, people used to sing a song entitled “Nanakusabayashi.” The lyrics vary from region to region, but the original song, “Torioi Uta,” was sung as a prayer for an abundant harvest in hopes of warding off birds that damage crops.

In urban areas, unfortunately it’s hard to find the seven greens of spring for making nanakusagayu outside. However, they are sold as a set at produce markets, grocery stores and other shops. The seven greens of spring contain many nutrients the body needs; water dropworts contain iron, which increases blood production, turnips and radishes contain diastase, which helps digestion, and chickweed contains protein and vitamins. Won’t you take a cue from the customs of ancient Japan, prepare nanakusagayu and care for your body?

Text: Sonomi Shoji (writer)

2) Lifestyle Information

*First calligraphy of the year
  • First Calligraphy of the Year

Writing or painting with the calligraphy brush for the first time of the year is called “kakizome,” and it is generally done on the 2nd of January. The feelings associated with a year of efforts for learning are expressed in the calligraphy.

There are classes where students copy Japanese characters as handwriting (shosha) and penmanship (shūji) practice incorporated into the subject of Japanese in elementary and junior high school. Additionally, in high school and university, calligraphy (shodō), which expresses the beauty of Japanese characters by writing them on paper, is taught as a formative arts course. Kakizome is carried out at the beginning of the year as a part of these classes.

In modern times, it’s rare for kakizome to be done in regular households, but everyone has done it as children, so it’s still a familiar beginning-of-the-year custom.

Shodo (calligraphy)

The necessary items are a brush, ink, and paper. The ink is made by adding water to solid ink and rubbing it on an ink slab, but wet Indian ink is also commonly used. The special calligraphy paper is easily penetrated by the ink, and when the characters are written, the bleeding and blurring create a nice effect. Additionally, a soft felt sheet for placing under the paper and a paper weight to hold the paper down are needed.

Various words are written as the kakizome, such as four-character idioms with powerful messages, single characters with cheerful meanings, words representing springtime, and hopes, dreams, and wishes for the year.

The finished calligraphy is hung on the wall or another conspicuous place for a time to absorb the power it releases into the body and mind. Afterwards, it is burned at a sagicho (fire festival to send off gods welcomed for the New Year) held at a temple or shrine on January 15. It’s thought that the higher the flames go for this ceremony, people tell that your calligraphy become well.

Every year, starting on the 5th of January, kakizome from all over the country are placed on exhibit at Nippon Budokan in Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. On the 5th, more than 3,000 people who made it through the preliminaries held all over the country actually write calligraphy at Nippon Budokan. Several days later, these are judged together with calligraphy submitted by the public, and prizes are awarded, including the Prime Minister Prize.
Why don’t you take up kakizome and set your sights on the 2016 competition?

Text: Shoji Sonomi (writer)

7. JASSO News

Introducing JASSO Scholarship information, invitation program, Japan Education Fairs, the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)

3) Schedule, etc. for the FY2014 Japan Education Fairs

4) Information about the “Student Guide to Japan”

  • Information about the “Student Guide to Japan”
  • For all those considering studying in Japan, we recommend you read the “Student Guide to Japan” first.
    In addition to information on the Japanese education system, scholarships, and daily life in Japan, the guide also includes stories on experience of foreign students in Japan.
    You can read the guide on the JASSO website, so we encourage not only those persons considering studying abroad but also students already studying in Japan to take a look.
  • We updated the information for 11 languages in 2013, including Chinese (simplified and traditional characters), Korean, Bahasa Indonesia, Thai, Vietnamese, Arabic, Portuguese, and Mongolian, in addition to Japanese and English.

5) 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!

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

7) JASSO Scholarship programs

8) Notice from Osaka Japanese Language Education Center

  • Now accepting applications from Japanese undergraduate and graduate students for resident assistants of our international dormitory
  • (In Japanese Only)

9) Web Magazine “Ryugakukoryu”(In Japanese Only)

  • Web Magazine “Ryugakukoryu”
  • (In Japanese Only)
  • The January 2015 issue (Special feature: From this global human resource development.) will be published on January 13th.
    Please make sure to read it!

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

8. From the Reader

First of all I would like to thank you for sharing us information via email (JASSO newsletter)

Thank you for contacting. Your letter is important to me.
Yorqin Tuxtayev

Thanks you for the mail!

(Honorifics such as "Mr." and "Ms." have been omitted.)

[From the Editor]
Happy New Year! Did you have a good holiday? I made my first shrine visit of the New Year on January 1 to pray for health over the following year. However, I ate too much food including at the end of last year and osechi ryori (traditional New Year dishes). Watch out for overeating! We will work hard to bring you good information this year as well, so look forward to it!

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 February 10th. Don’t miss it!

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