I knew my time in Japan would be great but I was skeptical about studying in a fairly small town, in the end, even a quiet valley town had it’s charms. Plus, the train lines are excellent. There were no limits.
I did my exchange in ICLA Kofu, Japan. I did a media and arts course and very much enjoyed it. The school was all in English. I got to do courses that were similar to, but not entirely available in TAMK so I very much benefited from this exchange. For example, I did a film and animation course. It was new though, so I got to do it alone with my friend Saga. We did a stop motion animation and had lots of fun setting up the sets and shopping for props. We utilized the very nice and spacious art room in the school. I also got to do a music course. I learned about synthesis and even got to make some tracks. There was also a directing course where I got to learn about stage directing methods, and even got to direct a short play segment. One of my favorite courses was the film course, which TAMK doesn’t offer. We learned about film throughout history, and had a lot of fun writing papers about films we saw in the course and I did one on a couple of my favorite films. Overall, the course selection was great and the teaching was excellent. The resources and facility was nice. I also enjoyed living in the school, because it was easy to get to classes and I never felt lonely. There were always people there to see and speak to living on site.
Since the teaching was in English and all teachers were native English speakers I felt very much at ease since it is my first language. I also did a Japanese course; Japanese 1. I haven’t learned a new language in a long time. It was tricky, but I did enjoy the course. I also got to utilize what I learned in class in my spare time in shops or with people I met in Japan. I had a very rich learning experience and will take back the many things I learned with me back to Finland.
Study culture; Finland VS Japan
Since it was an international university, the learning culture was very western. There wasn’t much difference in culture from within the learning environment. For example, teachers were not very rigid or formal like much of Japanese culture is. However, Japanese culture could be seen everywhere outside of the classrooms. For example, there was a lot of bureaucracy in administration. Within that office, you could see the rigid work customs and politeness. There was a lot of paperwork, and many things were resolved with signature and writing instead of email and spoken word. The online systems were also rather behind compared to Finnish schools. There were also a lot of rules in the school, as compared to the freedom there is in Finnish schools. For example, there was only one smoking area in the entire YGU campus that both YGU and ICLA students had to share. Such activities were frowned upon. There was also a sense of quiet, too much noise or “fun” was frowned upon. Partying in or near school was an absolute no, and eating on outside on campus grounds was frowned upon. Besides more rules and bureaucracy, the learning environment wasn’t much different from Finland. Perhaps if I went to a Japanese school, things would be different.
Kofu is a fairly small town, about the size of Tampere but with less happenings and night life. There were fun things to do during the day, such as go to the thrift stores and walk around the town. There was also a large mall that could be accessed with train and hidden areas to explore. The town was also nice to visit sometimes, and we visited the Tanabata festival in town. Eating out was also a lot of fun. The food in Japan is relatively cheaper than Finland, so we could go out for dinners on weekends without having to worry about cooking. Grocery store food was also fresh and enjoyable to eat during weekends. One of my favorite haunts in Kofu was the nearby strip mall area, a collection of a few stores, my favorite of which was Hobbyoff; A thrift store. There were lots of nice random objects, clothes and electronics to browse.
Tokyo was only a couple of hours away by train so I visited once or twice a month for weekends or long holidays. There were always things to do and places to see. The nightlife was very busy, and lots of places to shop. I enjoyed eating and seeing the sights, visiting random areas and bars. Growing up in a fairly large city I was somewhat prepared for it, but it was even larger to what I was used to. Public transport was great too. I enjoyed seeing good fashion and interesting culture. It was also fairly affordable to visit and stay in Tokyo, especially last minutes when there were events on to go to. There is also the option to eat and drink from great convenience stores; One of my favorite features about Japan.
A fun observation was that there was a lot of random Finnish paraphernalia and references. Lots of moomin and random brands and storefronts with Finnish writing. For example, a makeup brand called “söpö” and a store called Kiitos. There was also an iittala store and many Marimekko stores.
Overall, I very much enjoyed my stay in Japan and would love to return someday. Kofu was a lovely town, and even if it was small, it was nice to bike around the town and see things. I also chose this school because it was close to Tokyo, and I enjoyed visiting it whenever I could. The school was an excellent experience, and I very much enjoyed my studies. There were also cultural field trips in school, and I joined one (Where we visited a waterfall, shrine and museums). It was an excellent experience to see things around the Fuji/Kofu area.
I highly recommend ICLA for a great school experience, nice town and views of Mt. Fuji. During covid, dorms weren’t too packed and the class sizes were intimate and small. However, I’m sure normally it would be more packed. Either way, it’s a good time and a great experience.