Japan/College of Arts and Sciences（PEAK)/Undergraduate Student/Hi, I’m Kotoe and my family is fully Japanese but I have spent half my life living abroad in China, South Korea and the UK, and the other half attending international schools in Japan. I’ve n
Hi, I’m Kotoe and my family is fully Japanese but I have spent half my life living abroad in China, South Korea and the UK, and the other half attending international schools in Japan. I’ve never been through the Japanese education system so I applied to UTokyo via PEAK.
Describe the adjustment to Japanese culture.
I’ve lived in Japan before and have visited Japan frequently so I didn’t have to go through massive adjustments to Japanese culture. However, one of my main reasons for coming to UTokyo was to find my identity as a Japanese so I’d like to write a bit about that.
During my high school years in the UK, people asked me about Japanese culture, society, and whether or not Japanese manga scenes were real, but I was often not able to answer these questions. When people jokingly said that I was not a “true Japanese,” I started to actually feel that I couldn’t claim that I was Japanese. I realized that it was necessary to learn more about my country in order to work as a representative to other countries and thus, I’m here now.
In my first year as a PEAK student, I learned so much about Japan and now I can confidently say that I am Japanese. Through the liberal arts program at UTokyo, I had the chance to learn about Japanese politics and Asian history despite being a science student. Although I still have a lot more to improve upon, thanks to the PEAK Intensive Japanese lessons, I have been able to practice presenting, speaking formally, and writing reports in Japanese.
As for extracurriculars, I joined a shamisen (Japanese guitar) / nagauta (long song) circle with another PEAK student. Through this I gained a bit of insight on what Japanese life was in the Edo period. Of course, living in Tokyo and experiencing the Japanese student life itself has also helped me to learn more about Japan.
What have been your best experiences at Komaba, UTokyo so far?
The first winter at Komaba. I ran a Christmas charity carol event with Todai Global Interaction Friends (TGIF). In the UK, we had charity events such as dress-up days and cake sales at least once a month, but I realized that I never saw charity events happening at Komaba. When I told this to my friends in PEAK, they also felt the same way and we thought of this event. Since this was a new initiative at Komaba, many students did not understand what the event was going to be like, and it was hard to get permission to run the event.
However, during the carol, I was so pleased not only to have collected donations for the Philippine Typhoon in 2013, but to have seen so many Japanese and international students gather and sing in unity with big smiles. I’m currently organizing the next carol.
Describe the friendships and connections you’ve made at Komaba, UTokyo.
In Komaba, there are so many opportunities to meet people. The first friends I made in Komaba were the members of TGIF. The club members helped the PEAK students find places to shop when we first moved into Komaba Lodge and they held parties and picnics that anyone could join and make new friends. Since I am an environmental science student, I joined an environmental circle at the university where I made connections with senior students who have environmental careers now. Although it was hard to get accustomed to the Japanese circle culture, some friends and I have set up an English division of the environmental club!
Whenever I have free periods, I go to the globalization office to do my homework or to eat my bento. There are usually GO tutors who are always willing to help with studies, give advice or are just there to chat. Most tutors have studied abroad and some are master’s students so it’s a good place to get to know students outside of class. In addition, UTokyo offers a variety of summer programs. This summer, I had an internship at the Akashi City Office, participated in a research program using AFMs for marine microbes, and attended the UTokyo Innovation Summer Program, where international students and UTokyo students get together to learn design and run a regional innovation workshop for high school students in Tono, Iwate Prefecture.
What’s your favorite thing about Shibuya and Tokyo?
My favourite thing to do in Shibuya is to enjoy art. I’ve watched a Broadway musical, gone to an illusion art exhibition, and even found a cozy little movie theater where they show minor movies. What I like about Tokyo is that there are endless amounts of things to experience and places to visit.