The year abroad adventures of a Scottish otaku in the North of Japan

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Ok, so just a quick update, but the day all the UCLan students had been dreading arrived today. It was not only heralded by several thunderstorms and torrential rain, but also a flight delay. An omen? Of course not…..

Nah, I’m joking. Today we were visited by our lovely Japanese teacher from UCLan – Amano-sensei – who was class in the most fluorescent pink suit I have ever it. Although it did suit her….

The reason we were all bricking it was because she would be sitting in all our classes and then having a 20 minute interview (in Japanese). Luckily her flight was delayed so all we had was the 15minute interview this evening.

The horrendous thing? The minute I stepped into that room all the Japanese grammar I have ever learnt decided to go on holiday. Literally, I was stumbling out first year stuff and she was saying ‘I understand but could you say it again because the grammar was confusing’. This was a trait that all 5 of us seemed to carry….

Saying that, she spoke to us a little in English at the end – she even asked if I had lost weight which, judging by the amount of local food I’ve been sampling, is a resounding ‘no’! She also gave us each a hug at the end and a cheery smile. As much as I was worried because of the daunting task of using keigo (honorific language) with here, it was a nice visit, albeit a short one. Seeing Amano-sensei here was a nice little touch of the familiar in a place that is frankly very far away from home!

Well, for now folks, またね!


So this is going to be a little round up of my first week in Japan and I have one word for it – hectic! Basically it was Orientation Week which means we had countless lectures on student life, courses, sex ed (yeah, we got a lecture on that one – by a 60 year old male gynaecologist), harassment prevention, cell phones…oh and a Proficiency Test! Yeah….that one was nasty – the questions were supposed to get progressively harder, but they just jumped from easy (Q1,2,3) to stupid (Q4 onwards) in a matter of seconds….not nice! My score worked out alright, though! I got into a class higher than what I was aiming for, so I’m going to have to do a bit of self-study to catch up, but you know what? I’m just happy that I don’t have to repeat 2nd year….

I’m sharing with a Japanese roommate, called Chino (she’s a little reserved – like me on a normal day). The layout is a little weird – there are two cabin beds (with desk/shelves and hanging rail underneath), a small kitchen (with hotplate, sink and tiny fridge), a toilet and a bathroom (shower/bath). It’s definitely bigger than my room back at University….

Some of my ‘up there’ moments from this week:

– A rather poignant speech by one of the lecturers (Darren Ashmore – a brit and not-so-closet Otaku) about how he got into Japanese. His uncle was a PoW in the war and lost a lot (including a leg and an eye) under torture; his mother never forgave the Japanese for what they did to her brother. However, the uncle could see past the propaganda and to the boys guarding him, who were of a similar age to him and seemed to have no idea what they were supposed to be doing, or why. He went back to Japan after the war and got to know the real Japan, not the one from the posters. It was very touching.

– My favourite meal so far at AIU – curry rice (カレーライス). I have to say, after a day of lectures and little sleep, eating a bowl of curry rice really hit the spot. Nothing better (although I may stand corrected as this adventure carries on).P1050391

– There is an advantage to your body deciding to wake up at 5am every morning – I go for a morning bug hunt. So far I have been chasing the Cicadas who disguise themselves into the tree bark. Also managed to surprise a janitor this morning when he found me lying in the middle of the path, trying to photograph a caterpillar….The bugs here are pretty cool – I also managed to get some photographs of a huge green cricket just chillin’ in the middle of the road!


– The library. What can I say? It’s got a huge selection of English language research books and fiction books (I’m already on my second Stephen King in 3 days), Japanese DVDs (including Disney ones – so I can go on a Disney Binge). It’s a beautiful woodwork decorated library in a semi-circle shape, so you get a beautiful panoramic view of all the books. Plus – it’s SILENT (or at least until they let all the international students loose on it…) which is a plus, because the UCLan Library is….ridiculously loud. It’s not for studying so much as socialising!


– Callum’s hilarious fail at reading Kanji (sorry, Callum, this had to go on here!). The words “what’s はん まえ ちゅう (han mae chuu)” were uttered while staring bewildered at a text containing the kanji: 午前中(ごぜんちゅう – to be read gozenchuu)….Oh, Callum….well it certainly gave us reason to have a proper laugh this morning!

Some icky moments:

– For some reason, my body has decided to wake me up at 5am EVERY MORNING! Breakfast isn’t open at the canteen until 7am, so I have to amuse myself with bug hunts and morning exercises until then 😦

– As much as I love thunder storms, having them wake me up at 4am twice in one week wasn’t exactly not I wanted…there was some fantastic rain, though – it was so loud!


After the Matriculation Ceremony  today (in which we had lots of speeches and a beautiful performance of Saint-Saens by Keiko Watanabe – the violin teacher), I can now officially call myself a student of Akita International University. I hope that it will lay the path for a series of adventures and a genuinely wonderful experience here in Japan. Until then – またね!


(This is our ‘how white do we feel?’ photo with “Wan-chan the University Mascot)


So by now you’re probably wondering who on earth is this person? She (you presume I’m a she!) is just posting nonsense…. I wish I knew who I was reading about! This is presuming I’m not just talking to the ether…hello—hello—hello
See, I can hear the echoes!!

Well, in any case. My name is Lizzie Lawrence and I’m a 20 year old Scottish student studying in deepest England-shire (Preston to be exact). Although my homeland is the Highlands, I’ve left the bonnie countryside and am currently studying Asia Pacific studies at the University of Central Lancashire (hey! don’t knock it, we have the finest pigeons and drunken students in all of England!). At this point, most of you will have that ‘huh?’ face on, which I get every time I say I’m studying Asia Pacific Studies. Well, fear not, I SHALL EXPLAIN!! *cue the dramatic stance*
Basically, I study Japanese language and culture (because seriously, you can’t have one without the other), the economic/historic background of the Asia Pacific Region (with a subject head position nicknamed ‘Defence of the Dark Arts’, insert your own conclusions) and then it’s the choice of business/history/politics – I want to teach foreign business etiquette when I leave Uni, so this seemed appropriate! I also study a little German on the side (vielen dank, vielen dank!).

japan_map_akitaMy Japanese has, in the past, taken me to Osaka a few times however, this time I am venturing further afield – to the North (‘winter is comiiiiiiing!’). Akita is in the region near to where 2011’s huge earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit, so I expect to see some of the damage during my travels. On the bright side, the region Akita is in is know as the ‘Scotland of Japan’, so technically I’ll be right at home! I’ll be studying at Akita International University:

akita uni

Anyways, I’ll sign off before my cat decides to sit on the keyboard again (she has the whole garden and my laptop is where she wants to sit…..)

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