Moshi Moshi, sim card desu.

“Thank the lord I have arrived at Beppu safe and sound. I would like to contact my family/friends/boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband to tell them I am all fine, but I am not near a wifi signal. I would like to contact my friends and family without being dependent on wifi only. How can I get a sim card in Japan?” If you are asking this question, then this guide is for you!

Too often do I hear from students that they have no clue where to start to find a mere sim card to contact their family and friends. Probably, in your home country getting a sim card is easy peasy. All you require is to pay some fee and show them your ID card and voilà, sim card in the pocket! Unfortunately, this is not the case in Japan. It requires some paperwork and patience.

This guide will assume you already have a smartphone prior to your arrival in Beppu. As such this guide will focus on getting a viable sim card, one that works and receives internet. If you do not have a mobile phone, I strongly recommend you to go to a shop to buy a mobile phone, for example, at AU or Docomo. The AU shop at Kyomachi (in front of AP House 4) has a clerk that speaks (proper) English who can help you find a mobile phone that suits your needs. Docomo does not have a clerk that is proficient in the English language, but if you are able to communicate well in the Japanese language, maybe it is a good thing to give it a try. From all the stories I heard so far, these companies have the best services. All other companies have a terrible reputation, and it is maybe better to avoid them.

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Do note that buying a mobile phone in Japan can be quite expensive. In 2017, an iPhone 7 with a 2-year contract, with internet and a phone number was about ¥8000 per month(!).

Furthermore, first and foremost, ask yourself the question: ‘’Is my mobile phone sim card locked now?” If the answer is yes, please contact your service provider in your home country to unlock your mobile phone. All you require is to give them your IMEI code, and they will unlock it for you. This IMEI code can be found in your settings. Google it if you cannot find the IMEI code of your phone.

Back to that juicy sim card. If your mobile phone is not sim card locked, we can then proceed to acquire a sim card. Several providers provide a cheap sim card in Japan which you probably cannot find by merely using Google. These sim cards providers are IIJmio, Rakuten Mobile, and Line Mobile. Their data plans are extremely cheap, and their services are great. This guide, however, cannot make a claim which is the best choice as it all really depends on your personal preferences.

Image result for sim card

To give you an example: Line Mobile provides a sim card with or without a phone number. A sim card without a phone number, only internet connection, is without a subscription. With a phone number, you will have a subscription for one year, and you pay slightly more. Line mobile furthermore, provides several types of data plans of 1GB, 3GB, 5GB, and 10GB. IIJmio has data plans ranging from 3GB, 6GB, and 10GB per month. Rakuten Mobile has data plans ranging from 3.1GB up to 30GB. It all depends on your budget and your internet behaviour. Please be realistic with your choice. You probably do not need 30GB to watch cat videos :p.

sim providers.png

The nice thing about these sim card providers is that you can always adjust your data plan either going up or down without paying any fee. You only pay the data plan for that month. I highly recommend you to take your time and read through the data plans at your own leisure. Do not make any hasty decisions just because you’re desperate to have internet. Patience is a virtue, and it pays off. You can read all about the cheap sim cards in here.

Language
Yes, everything is in Japanese, unfortunately. You might not have a Japanese friend just yet to help you translate everything, or your Kanji level is not that great just yet. Luckily, there is something beautiful out there to help you going. If you are not using Google Chrome as your internet browser, start using it! Google Chrome has an option to translate the webpage you are watching. All you have to do is go to a website and “right click” -> “Translate to English.” And it will translate everything from Japanese to English. The translation is not perfect, but it will help you a lot. Use this neat trick to wade yourself through.

What to prepare when ordering a sim card:
-Your Japanese Residence card
-Your name in Katakana
-Your address (preferably in Japanese)
-A credit card
-And….. a phone number…..

Yes, you will need to provide a phone number to apply for a sim card. And also, if you do not have a credit card and you would like to order a credit card in Japan; you will need a phone number too, but in order to have a phone number you will need a credit card…..

Chicken or egg

Yes, yes, I know it is problematic. The chicken and the egg situation. You will need a credit card. If you do not have one, you might want to apply for one at Co-Op, which is a store on the APU campus. In this situation, ask your senpai (senior student), your TA or your ‘buddy’ to use their phone number for the time being. You can change the phone number, later on, online through the service provider’s website to your new phone number.

When you have successfully applied for a sim card, it will be in no-time in your mailbox. Put the sim card in your phone and moshi moshi!

Masha’Allah

Halal food in Beppu, Japan

“These weird Muslims with their weird vocabulary and their weird spells. What do they mean with food needs to be halal? What the heck is halal? What is this odd-looking green logo with the Arabic thingy? Is it like a seal for ninjas and they will summon something? And where can these Muslims replenish their thirst for halal food? Can’t we try this magical food too?” (日本語で。 ハラールは説明した。 これをクリックしてください。)

Obviously, I am exaggerating the reactions and questions that I receive from my friends and acquaintances regarding halal food. But it is not far from the truth. Halal food sounds odd to the average person. I receive many questions from my Asian friends regarding halal food, what it is, what it means. I also receive many questions from prospective Muslim students who would like to know where they could buy halal food. At first, I wanted to cover these questions in my FAQ, but this topic is quite delicate and important to me so, therefore, I will spend a blog post on this. This blog is a two-parter; the first part discusses what halal means and the second part goes over the halal food in Beppu and in Japan.

Image result for halal food

What does halal mean?
Halal is an Arabic word which means allowed, permissible or legal. When we talk about halal food, we mean food that is permissible by the standard of the Islamic religion. Our religion puts hygiene standards very high. Hygiene means good physical health and good mental health which allows us to practice our religion. Without good health, we are not able to pray five times a day, and our primary objective in life is to pray to God. In order, to remain healthy, the religion dictates what is good for us and what is not.

In order to know what is good for us, which is quite an endless list, we need to know what is not good for us, this list is concise. In Islam, some food and drinks are forbidden to us. The opposite of halal is haram. This means forbidden, not permissible or illegal. The things that are absolutely haram (forbidden) are alcohol and pork. We, mankind, tend to try to find loopholes to justify certain things. For alcohol and pork, this is absolutely not possible. Anything that contains alcohol or pork is by default haram and cannot be consumed ever. In Arabic, we say: “Alcohol is the mother of all Fitna (chaos).” The real reason for alcohol being forbidden is health reasons. Alcohol is a poison, and it kills the body. Furthermore, as a Muslim, one needs to stay rational at all times. Alcohol does not allow this.

Pork is forbidden because pig and swine are filthy animals that would eat anything and everything and its conditions are filthy too. If one would give a dead human body to a pig, it will devour literally everything. Both alcohol and pork have been proven as harmful by today’s medical science.
So, the ones mentioned above are zettai dame (absolutely no-go). This is quite easy to understand and easy to live without. Now we enter the tricky part, which is food that is halal and can be simultaneously not halal.

Maybe halal, maybe haram.
All other meat, such as chicken, beef, sheep, horse, camel, and others, are halal to eat; however, it comes with a significant ruling. The animals just mentioned, can only be consumed if they are prepared halal. So the animals are halal, unlike the pig and swine, but the meat is not halal yet. What makes, e.g., chicken meat halal? The meat is only halal when a Muslim person, someone with good faith in Islam, does a small dua (prayer if you would like), cuts the throat of the said chicken with a sharp knife in a quick manner, the animal should not be stressed prior to the slaughter, and after the cut put upside down so it can bleed out. If all the requirements are fulfilled, then the meat is halal. Everyone, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, is allowed to eat halal food.

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Why is it done in this manner? In Islam, we believe that all the bad things are inside the blood. The veins in the neck gush out all the bad blood, which makes the meat of the animal not harmful for us. Yes, drinking or eating the blood of any animal is therefore also haram.

There is another ruling regarding other animals. Basically, the animals above are more or less farm animals, and they are halal. The animals that are forbidden for us to eat are animals with fangs and claws. Animals with fangs are, e.g., snakes, wolves, dogs, lions, and etc. Animals with claws are hawks, eagles, bears, squirrels, cats, lizards, and etc. These animals are carnivores, and their meat is also haram. Even if they were slaughtered in a halal way, their meat is not permissible either way.

Seafood
This is a Muslim’s best friend. In the Islamic ruling, all the fish that are from the sea are halal. So, when offered fish, a Muslim can always eat it. Of course, it cannot be cooked with alcohol or offered with haram food. If any halal food comes in contact with something haram, e.g. alcohol, it becomes haram to eat it. There are some Islamic schools of thought who are arguing that some seafood is not permissible such as sea urchins, or shrimps. But that is another topic. Basically, everything that comes from the sea is halal. When a Muslim is in doubt whether he can eat something or not, he/she can always resort to seafood. Safest choice.

Vegetables and fruits
All vegetables and fruit are halal. Of course, if it comes in contact with haram, the vegetables and fruits become haram too. A salad with chicken that is not halal makes the entire salad haram. Picking out the chicken does not make the salad halal. It came in touch with the haram, and therefore cannot be consumed.

Part two: Is Beppu a Muslim-friendly city?

First and foremost, Japan is not a Muslim country. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, and the Dutch people eat pork, but I have never seen so much pork in my life as in Japan. Not just pork, but any animal meat in particular. Meat is provided everywhere and with their written Japanese ‘alphabet’, it is challenging to eat halal food in Japan. I will admit, I had made lots of mistakes when I came to Japan, as I was not able to read all the kanji. Of course, in Islam, when one did not know if it was halal or haram, but did try to his best abilities to investigate, but eats something haram in the end, this person will not be held accountable. However, when the person understands all the kanji and knows something is haram, then the person is held accountable.
You are probably reading this and thinking: “Well, in that case, I never learn Japanese so I can eat anything ignorantly.” Nope, it is the task of the Muslim to expand his knowledge and to learn more about the things that could harm him. If one chooses to remain ignorant, that person will be held accountable.
Therefore, I take it up to me to educate you about the kanji and katakana that are haram for you:
Source: HIJ Blog

“No. = Japanese Reading = Meaning

  1. 豚肉 – ポーク = Butaniku – Pooku = Pork
  2. 牛肉 – ビーフ = Gyuuniku – Biifu = Beef
  3. 鶏肉 – チキン = Toriniku – Chikin = Chicken
  4. (No. 1~3) + エキス = (No. 1~3) + Ekisu = (No. 1~3) + Extract
  5. 豚脂 = Tonshi = Pork Fat
  6. ラード = Raado = Lard
  7. 牛脂 = Gyuushi = Beef Fat
  8. 動物性油脂 = Doubutsusei-yushi = Animal Fat
  9. 加工油脂 = Kakou-yushi = Processed Fat
  10. 混合油脂 = Kongou-yushi = Mixed Fat
  11. コンソメ = Konsome = Consommé (soup)
  12. コンソメパウダー = Konsome Paudaa = Consommé Powder
  13. ゼラチン = Zerachin = Gelatine
  14. アルコール = Arukooru = Alcohol
  15. 酒 = Sake = Sake (alcohol)
  16. 洋酒 = Youshu = Western Liquor
  17. 酒精 = Shusei = Ethyl Alcohol
  18. 味醂 / みりん = Mirin = Mirin (alcohol)
  19. ラム酒 = Ramu-shu = Rum
  20. ワイン = Wain = Wine
  21. ブランディ = Burandi = Brandy
  22. ウィスキー = Uisukii = Whiskey”

Source: Halal Guide

“Substances that may be Halal or Haram:
乳化 剤 – Emulsifier
シ ョ ー ト ニ ン グ – Shortening
マ ー ガ リ ン – Margarine
油脂 – Oil and Fats”

It is advisable to learn the kanji and katakana of these readings. It will make your life in Japan more comfortable. I wish I knew them before I came here… May God forgive me :p.

OMG, where CAN I buy halal food?
Don’t you worry. Alhamdulillah, Beppu, unlike many other cities in Japan, is quite Muslim friendly, and its friendliness is growing. APU has attracted many Muslims from all around the globe, and they are a big chunk of APU’s society. Beppu’s shops have identified this market and adjusted some of their items to sell halal certified food. It is still not much, but Alhamdulillah it is available nonetheless. I will not go too much in details on all the halal food they sell, but below the list of all the shops that sell halal food:

APU Cafeteria
APU Co-Op
Yusha (restaurant)
Purunima (restaurant)
A-Price (supermarket with items from all around the globe)
Itto-Ryu (Ramen)
The Mosque at Mochigahama
And since recently: Hirose (supermarket)

I advise you to download an app called ‘Halal Navi.‘ With this app, you can look up at the places that are halal near you. This app can be used anywhere! iPhone app and Android app. The shops above sell halal meat and whatnot. The halal items can all be identified with a certification logo which you can find below: Image result for halal navi

This app also helped me in finding halal food outside of Beppu. When I was traveling with my friends in Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, I used this app and was able to locate the halal food. We even found a 100% halal yakiniku (BBQ) place in Kyoto. I was relieved as I was finally able to eat yakiniku in Japan!

Image result for halal certified logo japan
These are the common certifications.

“But I need to survive.”
There is something that pains me a lot, and it is not limited to Beppu only, but this excuse can be found worldwide, especially in non-Muslim countries. It might feel like I am preaching here, but I need to get it off my chest, so please bear with me. Let me start with saying that I am not your father, brother, uncle, grandfather, neighbour, halal police, or whatever. I believe that everyone has a choice and you, and only you are responsible for what you do with your life. You cannot blame it anyone else but yourself. I cannot dictate you anything, but since I have been writing this blog post, it is my religious obligation to educate you. What you do with this information is between you and your Creator.

For those who do not know, there is an Islamic ruling that does allow a Muslim to eat a pig. “NANDAKORE?!? Didn’t you just say it is Zettai Dame?!” Yes, I did say that, and the rule remains unchanged. However, if someone is in a place where there is literally nothing to eat, and this person’s life is threatened by starvation, and the only thing this person can find is a swine or a pig, God makes it mandatory for you to kill the pig/swine and eat it. “How come God forces one to eat a pig?” God has given us the most priceless thing there is, and we should take the utmost care of it which is: Life. Our very existence is an act of mercy. When the person is almost dying, and the only thing that one can eat is haram food, that person is obligated to eat it to preserve life.

Now we come to the excuse that I hear most of the time. Lots of my Muslim friends, whether it is in Beppu or anywhere else, eat haram chicken, beef, and whatnot. Because halal food is quite limited in Japan, they go for stuff that is haram and use the excuse: “I need to survive.” Indeed, we all need to survive, but one’s life is not under threat in Japan. In fact, food is in abundance here in Japan, food is thrown out too often. Fruits and vegetables, fish, seafood, and anything else is available, and the only few things one can go without is meat, but yet some Muslim brothers and sisters resort to haram meat and rationalise their decision. Halal food is available, but limited and the shops are sometimes far away. But the meat is not expensive at all! It is merely uncooked, and far away, sometimes even cheaper than haram meat!

Image result for allah is with the patient

I would like to pose a question to my Muslim brothers and sisters whether they would dare to try to say to God on the day of resurrection that they needed the haram meat to “survive” in a country like Japan. It is an absolute insult to Him, as they have forgotten 1 of the 99 names God has which is Ar-Razzaq (The Sustainer). He is the sustainer of the heavens and the earth. He provides you with all the food that is permissible. The vast majority of the food is halal for us, and a few are haram. We say the sentence Ar-Rahman (The Most Gracious) and Ar-Raheem (The Most Merciful) five times a day. Someone who is neither gracious nor merciful would not sustain you. And yet here we are in the Land of the Rising Sun, with an abundance of food and you dare to say “I need to survive”? This sentence cannot stand ground, and I would beg my brothers and sisters to reconsider that excuse they have been using.

I hope my words are not too harsh, and I hope that my readers don’t take things too personally. I understand why some brothers and sisters eat the meat that is haram. Most of the Muslim students at APU are from Islamic countries, and the food provided there is always halal. You don’t need to read the ingredients or ask the seller if it is halal or not. Everything is halal, you buy it, and you eat it. But I have faith in my brothers and sisters all around the world. Insha’Allah (By God’s will) there will be only Khair (Great rewards). I know this is merely a chapter in our lives and we are all being tested. Sometimes we need someone who would wake us up so we can find our way back to Sirat-al-Mustaqim (the righteous path).

Image result for khair inshallah

I hope this blog post was insightful for those who are interested in the definition of halal, and insightful for those who want to know where all the halal food is available. As always, thank you for reading!

Masha’Allah

FAQ

Since the day I have been writing this blog about life in Beppu/APU/Japan, I have received a lot of questions from eager prospective students who would like to know more. I thought it would be a great thing to turn this blog post into a one-time-FAQ, and I might add more Q&A in this post. This post is not to fend eager people off, but rather to help more students read about the questions from others. If a question is not in here feel free to ask me. You can contact me through this blog, and I might add your question here too :).

APU

Q: What major or courses did you take in APU?

A: I am in GSA, and my major is Society & Culture. In my major, we have at least five courses that are compulsory. There are electives which you can choose from.

Q: Why did you choose Ritsumeikan APU?

A: I chose APU from an economic perspective. Beppu is a small town and life in Beppu is quite cheap compared to Tokyo and Osaka. I chose APU because I cannot afford Tokyo. Beppu is very calm, and it is not as crazy as Tokyo. It has its upsides and downsides. Sometimes Beppu is boring, but the air is clean, nature is beautiful, and again life is very cheap.

Q: How do you judge the competency of Asia Pacific Studies?

A: First and foremost, APU was built (as of writing) for only 19 years. It is a very young university. From my experience, it is not a top-notch university as it is still learning and growing. However, all Japanese universities are not top-notch in my opinion. It is difficult to get accepted by a Japanese university, but when you get in, things are quite simple. I read many comments from other people from other universities that complained about this too.

Q: What are the areas the faculty Society & Culture focuses on?

A: It really depends on the study courses you are interested in. However, you have to take a minimum of five out of seven majors in order to graduate. The majors in S&C are Cultural Change, Sociology of Everyday Life, Media & Communication, Institutions and Organisations, Society & Culture, Changing social landscape, and Migration and Trans-nationalism.

Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of their Society and Culture program?

A: Strengths are the professors. The professors know their stuff. The weakness is the Japanese way of teaching. Lots of unnecessary presentations. I do not enjoy this part as I want to learn more from the professors and not watch presentations of my fellow students all the time. You will be in a class with people from all around the globe. The presentations skills of many fellow students are below average. Most of the time you will be listening to people who read an entire paragraph from their PowerPoint. Watching more than 60 presentations in one quarter is very exhausting. 

Q: What is the balance of gaijin (foreigners)-local students in your class?

A: Well, what you need to know is that the Admission Office is the best performing office of APU. It is simultaneously the marketing office (IMHO). The balance statistically is correct. There is a 50/50 ratio at APU. But in your actual classroom, the balance is very much incorrect. In the undergrad’s classes, the international courses would be around 80/20 (foreign/Japanese), because the vast majority of Japanese students do not speak English. Yes, they come to an international school and quite some of them, even after 4 years still no Habla Inglés. They take the courses in Japanese which the balance would be 2/98 (foreign/Japanese). Some international courses are mandatory for the Japanese, but they postpone it as much as possible. For international students, the courses in Japanese are not mandatory.

For the master’s course…, well about that… Out of 100 master’s students, maybe, just MAYBE there is 1 Japanese student. I would say the ratio is basically 100/0, or if you are fortunate 99/1. Japanese students mostly go to work after obtaining their Bachelor degree. So, in class, it is primarily International students, which is still fun, though :), but it is a pity. 

Q: How frequent are the Master’s classes held in a week?

A: This is really all up to you. You choose your courses and thus its schedule. You could spread out the courses over 2 years or finish them all in 1 year. This is the link where you can find the courses. Depending on your Major and your electives you can select your courses.

FYI: I finished all my courses in one year. I wanted to finish in one year so I could focus on my thesis in my last year. 

Q: When will students know who their thesis supervisor is?

A: In the first quarter you will need to decide on a professor. You will need to consult all the relevant profs ASAP and decide. In some divisions, the professors will pick you (e.g., International Relations). But don’t feel intimidated, you can still choose a professor. It sometimes happens that the professor doesn’t want you because he/she thinks your topic is not in their field. Don’t worry, keep consulting others. 

Q: What’s the level of English used by fellow students?

A: For the students from Europe and the U.S. their English proficiency are quite high. They have no difficulties in communicating in English. No one is perfect, but there are no frustrations. Students from other regions, from my experience their level is either average or below average. The standard would be the Asian region. Verbal communication is sometimes okay. Except for some thick accents, you will be able to communicate with each other without many issues. Texting, however, is very horrible at times. A lot of miscommunications and it can cause some frustrations. 

Q: Are there courses where graduate students and undergraduate students are mixed?

A: No, there are no courses where they are mixed.

Q: Are Master’s students allowed to take undergraduate courses?

A: Yes, and no. Yes, you could attend the course only with the permission of the professor. However, you will not get any credits.

Q: Are undergraduates allowed to take graduate courses?

A: No. There are some exceptions, but these are only for outstanding students. 

Q: The Japanese Language Course for undergraduates are much more intensive and effective. Are graduate students allowed to take these courses?

A: No, graduates cannot take any undergraduate JLC. In all fairness, these JLC for undergrads is very intensive and time-consuming. Sometimes from early morning to evening. You will not have the time as you will have a high workload as a graduate already. 

Q: Is there a dress code at APU?

A: Nope.

Q: How did you manage to pray and in particular, go to the mosque for Friday prayer during classes? I mean will they understand?

A: You cannot skip class to go prayer. At APU there is a prayer room where most students go to pray. I believe they go to the prayer room and pray Duhr at 2 PM, even though Duhr starts at 11:59, because they have class. But this is not an Islamic country so do not expect the sensei to allow you to go all the way down town to the mosque for the Friday prayer. You could, but it is too far away from school. Takes more than 30 minutes to get the the mosque from school. When I am at APU I never go to the mosque downtown. I either go to the prayer room, but there are prayer mats in the Graduate room and I pray by myself. There are prayer mats in all of the graduate rooms provided by students for students.

Work

Q: Do students get help with employment?

A: If your Japanese level is not at least N2 level forget about finding a job in Japan. I had high hopes before I came here, but I have given up. The vast majority of Japanese do not speak English and finding a job in English is basically impossible. There are some jobs in English, which are teaching English (only native speakers, and with native, I mean looking like someone from Europe/USA. I know, it is racist, but it is, unfortunately, the truth), software engineer, technical engineering. None of these jobs are of interest to me. But at APU we have something that is called the Career Office. The office can help you find a job in Japan. Do note that finding a job in Japan is a living hell. See my previous blog.

Q: How many hours (in a week) is perfect for grad students to handle a part-time job during school days? 

A: No clue. This depends from person to person. Some will take 20 credits in a semester, and some would just take 8. It all depends on your planning and time management. You can finish all your courses in one year or in two years. Doing all the courses in one year, you will not be able to work on weekends, in my opinion. There are many assignments given by the professors you will be working on them almost every day. Spreading the courses over 2 years will provide you with more time to do part-time jobs, however, do note that you still need to write a thesis. I have seen people fail on their thesis because they kept focusing on arubaito (part-time job, sometimes referred to as baito). As a consequence, they will need to stay and pay for another semester. If you had received 60%, 85%, or 100% tuition reduction, you will lose it, and it will become 50% instead. Don’t risk it…

Q: Would it be possible to finish in 1 yr?

A: Finishing in one year is possible, but that means zero hours of social life. Zero hours of part-time job. Your tuition will be unchanged. Whether you stay one year, year and a half, or two years, the tuition remains the same. Either stretch it out in two years or go psycho mode in one year. But I do not think one year is that feasible. Not impossible, but you will burden yourself. But you know best.

Scholarships

Q: I want to know more about the JASSO Scholarship.

A: When Master students enrol to APU, APU will enrol admitted students automatically for JASSO. When you enter in April, you will receive JASSO for 1 year. JASSO is ¥48000 per month. If you come to APU at Fall, you will receive JASSO only for 6 months.

Q: I have been told by a Reddit user that everyone gets JASSO, is this true?

A: I have to say that there is a 99% chance you will get it. The 1% reason has to do with if you have been staying in Japan before for work or study. I had a fellow batch mate who worked a bit in Japan (or internship) and then started to study. She did not receive it. If you never worked in Japan, I could say almost sure you will get the scholarship.

Q: Do you apply for another scholarship while already enrolled at APU?

A: Scholarships at APU are a joke. Yes, there are many scholarships available, but 99% of them you will need to apply in Japanese. I am annoyed by it. Therefore, I never applied for any, because the 1% that is available in English, your chance of getting it is super low.

Q: In summary, would you say that it’s possible to cover the living cost as well as the rest of the tuition fee from JASSO and part-time jobs?

A: JASSO only covers a year if you enter in April. Furthermore, you can do part-time jobs, but you are only allowed to work 28 hours a week. Please read my other blog regarding work in Beppu! Do note that you will live in AP4 which costs ¥49000 a month and JASSO is ¥48000. I recommend leaving AP4 ASAP because you will not really enjoy your JASSO. And you have to sign for JASSO every month on campus at the Student Office. Missing a month of signing will mean losing your JASSO entirely. 

Q: When do the students usually start their part-time job? Let say for spring intake. 

A: They start their part-time job mainly after two months in Japan. You cannot begin your arubaito until you have your insurances, bank account, ‘My Number’ (social security number), and a permit to work in Japan (which APU’s Student Office will help you with).

Living costs

Q: How much do you spend in a month (in total, on average) for living in Beppu?

A: Good question. Well, it depends if you stay at AP4 or not. AP4 costs ¥49000 p/m including all utilities. Where I live I pay around ¥23000 for rent and utilities. But I share an apartment with a friend, and our rent is ¥36000 (excl. g/w/e). So the costs are quite low as you can see. Plus food etc… I would say ¥30000 for food and what not. But I love Japanese food so I would say around ¥50000 and ¥70000 a month. 

Q: I read somewhere that the busses in Beppu are very expensive. Could you tell me more about it?

A: Yes, they are bloody expensive. There are two bus companies in Beppu namely Oita Kotsu and Kamenoi. Oita Kotsu drives on roads that are more downhill and Kamenoi bus drives on roads that are more uphill. For APU students there is a red/pink triple ticket which costs ¥1000. Each ticket is one-way, so regardless of where you hop-in or out, the price will be ¥333. If you do not have this ticket you will be paying the amount from the location you hopped-in until your destination. This price can go up to ¥550 (one-way). Kamenoi bus has a double ticket which costs ¥600. Each ticket is ¥300 one-way. Kamenoi bus sounds cheaper, and therefore you would like to take this bus, but it all depends on the location where you will be living. Kamenoi bus routes do not cover everything in Beppu. 

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The tickets can be bought at APU Co-Op (on campus) and Kitahama station. There are probably more locations, but these are the main ones.

There is a year pass, however. But, if I am allowed to be blunt here, it is total BS. This pass can only be used at one bus company, and only in Beppu. That in itself is not the problem per se, but what is problematic is the price: ¥99999. Yes, that is almost an equivalent of $1000 for one year, one bus company, only in Beppu. The joke is that it is promoted on campus as “75% discount only for APU students.” This means that the price at 100% is ¥399996? Bollocks. I would not recommend anyone buying it. It is a lot of money, and you might buy it for Oita Kotsu bus, and if you move out to an area where Kamenoi busses drive, your one-year pass becomes useless. Yes, this happened to some people, and no, no refund. 

[5 March, 2019 EDIT] I just recently discovered that you could use the Blue ticket (Kamenoi bus) to go from Beppu to Yufuin. Yes, that means, as a student, your trip will only cost ¥300!!!!

Accommodation

Q: I wonder if you have any idea on where to find a room (other than APU house)?

A: My biggest advice is to come to APU, start the first two months in AP4, make friends, and talk to all your senpais. All the senpais are willing to help you and will help you find a place to live. Creotech (a company which aids you in finding an apartment/room, which is owned by APU) has high fees just like ‘Betsu Dai Kosa’ (another company, not from APU). They will ask for two months of rent in advance and a Japanese thing that is called “key money” which means you will have to give money to the landlord which will not be returned. Just free money for the landlord as in “thank you, landlord, for renting me this room.” And lastly, of course, the deposit. 

The best way to find a place is to talk to people. We have something that is called AP-Share and Minishare Facebook groups. These groups will only allow APU students. But when you are an APU student, the members will add you, and in these groups, you can look for rooms. Below this post, you will find all the FB groups. 

Q: Can we live off campus?

A: If you are a Master’s student you will not be living on campus, but you will start downtown in AP House 4 (simply AP4). If you are an undergraduate, you will have to start on Campus in AP1 and AP2. It all depends on the scholarship you have. Some scholarships allow you to live downtown, some scholarships force you to live on campus for 1 year. But eventually, most students just go downtown. 

For the master’s student, they pay two months in advance for AP4. After that, they are free to go. Curious about AP4? Watch this video which I have made for you!

Q: Is it difficult to find a new place within two months?

A: No, it is quite easy to find a new apartment within 2 months. APU has a big community; many people who can help you. However, I highly recommend you to stay at AP4 for the first 2 months. The reason for this is to get accustomed to the new life in Beppu, Japan. Furthermore, it is also an excellent opportunity to get to learn your batch mates and make new friends.

Facebook pages

All the FB pages below will only allow APU students. But non-APU students will not be allowed access. So, if you are not in Beppu yet, and not an APU student yet, just remain patient.

Furthermore, just a piece of advice from my side; when you have access to all the FB pages, make sure you adjust the notifications. Some FB pages have a lot of activity, and you will drive you nuts (I am looking at you Minishare).

APU Life Advice

Feeling lost? Not know what to do or where to go? This FB group is a good starter for you. Read all the post of your senpais, there is plenty of valuable information in here.

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Minishare

This is the page where people sell all their stuff in Beppu. The best place to buy second-hand equipment and whatnot.

 

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AP-Share

Same principal as Minishare. Not as much of activity in here, but sometimes can still be useful.

 

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APU Give Away

When no one wants to buy your second-hand stuff on Minishare, then this is the place where people give away things for free. 

 

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APU Apartments & Rooms

The place where you can look for an apartment. I have not seen much activity in here lately, but you should still keep an eye out here.

 

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APU Lost and Found

People are kind enough to bring lost items to either to the local police stations or to Lost and Found on campus. When they do, this is the place where they post the lost item. 

 

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APU Baito

Looking for a part-time job? Then this is the place to find one. 

 

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APU Downtown Residents (ADR)

 

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Communities

Indonesian APU Facebook Community

 

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Filipino APU Facebook Community

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Vietnamese APU Facebook Community

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Masha’Allah

Mind On My Okane and Okane On My Mind

Living in Japan can become costly. Depending on where you are from, Japan might be very expensive compared to the country where you were paying pennies for a dish outside on the streets now you have to pay some solid money on perhaps the same dish. All the students coming to APU had a budget check, so coming to APU it means you are able to survive in Beppu, but earning some extra money will be helpful and it will always come in handy. This blog post will look into the popular part-time jobs in Beppu.

Last month a blog post which I wrote got published on behalf of APU. Here I discussed what one can expect from APU regarding the academic life. If you haven’t read it: What can I expect from Graduate Courses as a Master’s Student? When I posted this on my Facebook I got a lot of interesting reactions. I am quite critical on the academic level of APU and I am quite vocal about it, but this post was quite mild and I wasn’t “bashing” APU for multiple reasons: 1) most obviously I cannot bash about APU when writing and post on APU’s website, 2) I do not think it is fair for those who willing to come to APU to not give them any information on the academic life, and 3) for many going from their home country to a Japanese university is an upgrade in life.

As this post came out I got called out in many funny ways by my peers and even two professors as a sell-out and they were wondering how much it would cost them if I would write a great blog post about them. They give me a good laugh as I can see why they would say it. However, I never did it for the money, as I get paid in peanuts (unlike those professors ;)). I wrote that blog on behalf of APU for the same reason I write my personal blogs namely to help prospective students. Heck, I get no pay on this one, but I still love to write about life here in the south of Japan. Even if I would write terrible things about APU every month, there will still new students be coming one way or another. And like I said in Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Student Life APU has some negative points, but I do not hate the university. There is much the university should improve on.

It took me quite a while to think about a topic for this month’s blog. So far I covered quite a lot of interesting topics. But recently the topic money crossed my path again as a few friends have given me the feeling that they do not have the financial freedom to travel or do whatever they would love to do in Japan. As such, I thought it would be a great idea to cover a few part-time jobs that are popular among the students at APU, and some tips on how to find these jobs.Okane shinda.png

Suginoi Hotel
Right off the bat, Suginoi Hotel. If you have just arrived at AP House 4 and you have the city side view without a doubt you will see Suginoi Hotel. Or perhaps you have heard of Suginoi Hotel. Suginoi Hotel is THE biggest hotel in Beppu and it is located on the mountain at Kankaiji area. At night you will see the big Suginoi name as it emits light in the night.

Suginoi Hotel is extremely huge. This hotel has 4 buildings and there are a lot of people who visit the hotel. As such, there is ALWAYS work at Suginoi Hotel. I am not even exaggerating. The reason why I put this first on my blog post is that regardless whether you speak Japanese or not, they will hire you to work at Suginoi to clean the rooms, change the bed sheets, and etc. There is no real job interview, all you need to do is tell them when you can work. If you are not able to work that day, even though you said you would, no problem it is cancelled without to give a valid reason.

If you live far away from the hotel, don’t worry. Suginoi Hotel will send a bus driver to pick you up and drop you off, free of charge. There are several jobs you could do at Suginoi Hotel for example; 1) cleaning rooms, 2) handing out towels at the Aqua Garden, 3) working at Aqua Garden as a guard to keep an eye on the swimmers, 4) working at the kitchen, 5) working at the bowling hall, and more. You could Google Translate the page and it will give you a good idea of the jobs they have: Suginoi Hotel part-time jobs page. The wages range from around ¥780 to ¥1000 per hour. For cleaning rooms, the Japanese language is not required, some other jobs basic Japanese is required.

杉乃井ホテル 本館

At the APU campus
Oh boy, this one might bite me in the butt (again). But truth to be told APU has a lot of part-time jobs on campus and a lot of students do their ‘arubaito’ アルバイト (or simply baito バイト which comes from the Dutch and German word arbeid/Arbeit which literally means work). At the campus there are several jobs you could do:

Coop; Coop (pronounced as Co-op) is the only store that is located on the campus (hooray to monopolies). The jobs that are available at the shop are operating the cash register/filling the shelves, and help to translate from Japanese into English. The staff are Japanese and are not fluent in the English language. At Coop, you can rent a car, book a plane ticket or ferry ticket, and more and the staff requires someone who could help them with translating into English as not all students speak Japanese. Hourly wage: ¥755

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Coop shop
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Inside Coop

Cafeteria; at the cafeteria, both the big cafeteria and the Asia Pacific Cafe, you put the food on the plates and in bowls. The students will order some food and you give them the dish. Furthermore, some cleaning and operating the cash register is part of the job too. Mostly this part-time job is after the main staff has gone home. Hourly wage: ¥750.

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Source: The Japan Times

Proctor; as a master student you can proctor the exams of the undergraduates. This means when they have their midterms or final exams you will be coordinating a room filled with students. You will show them how to sit in the exam room, write the info about the exam on the blackboard, and most importantly you are roaming that same room during the exam. You try to prevent students from cheating. There are a lot of cheaters, so your task is to not catch them cheating but preventing them from doing it. If you see someone is trying to cheat just make them sit somewhere else, mostly the cheaters are sitting in the back, make them sit all the way in the front. Hourly wage: ¥1000.

TA; TA stands for Teaching Assistant. As a Teaching Assistant, as the name suggests, you assist the professor in his/her class. Assisting the teacher, the most common things are to take the attendance from students, manage Manaba (a website where the study materials are), keeping the students quiet in class, hand the microphone to the students if they want to answer a question or ask something to the professor. But mostly you are the one where the undergraduates go to ask their questions. “When is the exam?”, “what do we need to study?”, “will there be a midterm exam?” these types of questions. Basically, you are the forefront for questions. If the professor is teaching an interesting course you get to learn more about the topic without the risks (getting a bad grade or not obtaining the credits).

TIP: When applying for a TA job the best way is to get acquainted with a professor and ask them if they would like to have you as their TA. This way the professor will apply to have a TA and will give your name to the Academic Office. This way you will definitely be their TA. If you do it the regular way, you apply for a TA job and you will never receive an e-mail if you did not get the TA job. Meaning you are kept hanging without a TA job. A TA job would mostly be one quarter (two months). You could be a TA for two professors in one quarter. This is what I did this quarter. This is only possible if you have the time. As I finished all my courses I was able to be TA for two professors. The hourly wage: ¥1000. If you are TA for two professors, and you do some extra stuff outside the class (such as checking the attendance sheets) your salary for that month could be up to ¥50.000 max.

There are some sporadic jobs now and again at APU, and they can all be found here (you can only access it with an APU student account): On-Campus Part-Time Jobs

Konbini
Konbini comes from the English word convenience, but as it is difficult to pronounce the Japanese made it shorter and made it into the word konbini as in convenience store. To work here, you are required to have at least N3/N2 level of Japanese as you are in direct contact with Japanese customers. Working at the konbini can be stressful and it is hard work. However, there is always work available for students. The work contains operating the cash register, filling the shelves, cleaning, and more. This sounds okay at first glance, but let me tell you that a konbini ALWAYS has customers on the floor. In Japan, konbinis are to Japanese as are supermarkets to us. Where we would go to the store for orange juice the Japanese would quickly buy it at the konbini.

Certainly, there are plenty of supermarkets in Japan and they are much cheaper than the konbini, but the supermarkets overall close around 8 to 9 pm. Konbini is 24/7, it never closes. And as the Japanese work late hours, a konbini is a good place to buy the required stuff to survive the day. As such, working at the konbini will never bore you. There is always a konbini close to your house and you could work any time of the day. Hourly wage ~¥780.

Image result for beppu station family mart
The most busiest konibini in Beppu: FamilyMart at the station

Finding a baito
To find a part-time job the best way is as always networking. Nothing beats networking. Make plenty of friends and at least one of them knows a guy who knows a guy where there is a job available (for all Breaking Bad fans out there, please do not cook meth, you will get deported). Other than that, there is a decent way of finding a baito in Beppu by using Facebook groups. Maybe a good way to start this part is to let you know that Facebook is, unfortunately, very important in Asia. Everything is being communicated through either FB or Messenger. If you are one of the people that does not have FB, I respect you and look up to you, however, it will make your life quite difficult.

That said, there are several Facebook groups where jobs are posted which you should keep an eye on. You can enter these groups only if you are an APU student. By far the #1 Facebook group in Beppu is called Minishare. Minishare is, in a nutshell, Craig’s list. This is THE place where students sell and buy all their second-hand shit. Everyone is selling or buying something here. It is very big and very popular. But Minishare is not only used for buying and selling stuff, but it is also used to look for people to do a certain job. Though it is not its main component to find people for a job, but occasionally I would see some jobs posted there.

The main place to find a job is called APU Baito. Here jobs are posted on the page by other APU students. I do have to say that the traffic on this page is not as much as Minishare, I would recommend you to subscribe to both pages. There is another FB group which is basically the same as Minishare, to be honest, I do not see the real point of its existence, but nonetheless, jobs are posted in here as well. This page is called AP-Share.

Like I said, these are just the popular ones that I could think of. There are many restaurants, izakayas, clothing stores, and whatnot that are looking for APU students. This is something you need to seek for yourself. But I do need to warn you about a couple of things:

  1. You will need a student working visa. This visa can easily be acquired when you have arrived in Japan. APU’s student office will fix that for you within 2 weeks.
  2. When you have your student working visa, you are only allowed to work 28 hours a week. This sounds sketchy when I say this, but if you still feel the need to work more than 28 hours, make sure that those extra hours are off the grid. If the authorities get a whiff of you working more than 28 hours on paper, you’re going to have a bad time.
  3. All the baitos that I mentioned above are all legal baitos. The ones we are not allowed to do are working in a Panchiko or Mahjong parlours (gambling halls), Hosts/Hostess which is a place where sad people go to have someone to talk to in a mildly sexual setting (no sex involved, basically blue balls bar), working at a bar, not as a cabaret, or washing dishes. The latter two….. uhmm…right……

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I hope you find this guide helpful. If you have any questions or comments please share. Furthermore, if you have any topics that I should cover, please let me know. I am starting to run out of ideas :p.

And as always, thank you for reading my blog! I love the reactions :).

 

Masha’Allah

Calamity Survival Guide

When you live safe all the time you tend to forget you are alive. Not in Japan! The thrill of life is always present in Japan. Typhoons, earthquakes, and the mountain on fire….

Lava mountain

When we (my classmates and I) came to Japan we were living on AP House 4. The building has two sides; the ocean view side and the mountain view side. I had the mountain view side. The view looked really nice. You could see the entire city and the mountains behind it.

But one night the mountain was on fire….. I freaked out…. because the fire flowed down from the left side of the mountain and the right side. “The mountain is a volcano!!!! It erupted and the lava is flowing down.” I immediately warned my friends. We were all stunned looking at the mountain that was on fire. We had no idea what to do. One of our friends was even thinking of evacuating.

The fire kept going down and down. We barely spoke Japanese at that time so we were not sure what to do. Then one of our friends Googled and found out that we should not worry. The mountain is intentionally set on fire to celebrate something…
Apparently, it is a matsuri aka a festival. It is called the Hatto Onsen Matsuri. On the first day of the festival, the Beppujin (Beppu townspeople) would set Mt. Ogi on fire to celebrate the start of the onsen festival.

Beppu is known for its onsen (hot springs). Beppu has so many onsens that it gushes out 130,000 tons of water every day! As the Beppujin are grateful for the onsen in Beppu they thank the onsen god by setting the mountain on fire. The fire is very controlled and every year the Beppujin do a different pattern for the fire to follow but on that day the fire looked like lava as flowed from both sides of the mountain. There is no risk of forest fire. In fact, this particular part of the mountain has no forestation at all due to this festival.

I was a bit disappointed though, lava mountain sounded so cool.

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source: https://taiken.co/single/beppu-hatto-onsen-matsuri

Earthquakes
According to livescience.com, there are approximately 1500 earthquakes a year in Japan. Of course, the vast majority of the quakes are minor ones that you probably never notice. Nonetheless, they are counted as an earthquake. The last major earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter’s scale was in 2011 with the nuclear reactor disaster in Fukushima.
On April 16, 2016, there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 in the Oita prefecture. I came to Beppu in 2017 so I did not experience an earthquake of this magnitude. Though so far I have experienced quite some earthquakes in my life, some in Morocco and one in Italy, but I already have experienced more quakes in Japan than anywhere else.

You could do three things during an earthquake in Japan. The first one is obviously mankind’s first reaction: panic. This will not help yourself or others.
When the 7.0 earthquake occurred one of my professors told us that many international students were so afraid of the earthquake they went back to their home country for a short period…. *facepalm*. There is no point going back as they have actually survived the earthquake, there will be only a few aftershocks but they are never stronger than the former earthquake. It is just a waste of time and money…

Two: Remain calm and hide your head under a table. Or three and be an idiot like me and laugh at the earthquake. There are so many earthquakes it doesn’t scare me at all. I actually slept through a couple of the quakes lol. It is so common in Japan I just shrug it off, and you should too.
Earthquake detection kit.

Typhoons
The summers in Japan can get extremely hot. The weather is very tropical. As it is a tropical climate, typhoons are a common thing in the summers. So far I have experienced four typhoons. The typhoons did not go through Beppu and did not cause a destruction on their path, but they were quite close. So close that you could see it changing the weather. The sky is dark grey and the wind is stronger. The wind is always strong in Beppu, but when the typhoon is close it feels as if someone is banging on my window for days.

Again, you could do three things. one: panic, two: just remain calm, or number three open all your windows and welcome the typhoon with open arms! Before I explain to you why let me tell you that the typhoons are not as dangerous as the earthquakes. When an earthquake happens, it is everywhere around you and you cannot escape it. However, a typhoon goes a certain path and you can anticipate it days prior to its arrival. Now let’s go to the next section: the summer….

Typhoon expat
This is me during a Typhoon. At least I am cooling off.

The summer
In Europe or more specifically in the Netherlands I would always prepare myself mentally for the winter. I hate the winter with a passion. Though the winters are less cold than in the past decades (thank you global warming), but still it can get very cold. I start to get worried about the winter somewhere in September/October. The nights start earlier and remain longer, people become sad/depressed, and the cold winds getting tougher. When spring starts it feels like an achievement.

But when the summer starts in Beppu it feels like I’m literally melting. I have experienced the hottest summer in Marrakech, Morocco, where the weather would go up as high as 45°C but at least the air is dry. In Beppu, as we are quite far south, the climate is extremely tropical and the humidity gets up to between 90% and 100%. When the humidity is low sweat will evaporate faster on your body but when the humidity is this high it does not evaporate at all and as a result, the weather feels way warmer than it actually is. August was by far the hottest month.

I could barely leave the house. I would go to a store that is a little bit downhill. It takes less than 5 minutes to get there. When I did arrive at the store the sweat would be running down my back. I would stay in the store to cool off as they have an AC. Now imagine me going back home up-hill in the extreme heat and high humidity.
When a typhoon passes our island, I embrace it and welcome it any day. During this time, we cool a bit off. I never turn off my fan as it is my best friend. Heck, get yourself two fans and never turn them off. Without a fan, you will literally melt. The warm summer days are unbelievable… What comes with the extreme heat is the bloody insects that I still do not know how to pronounce; cicadas. Is it pronounced sisadas or kikadas or sikadas or kisadas. Doesn’t matter, they make the sounds of 5 million rattlesnakes starting from 7 AM. I hate dem bugs and I hate the summers in Beppu.
Summer of 2018 is coming…… I’m afraid…. Tell my mom I love her…..
Winter is Coming - Brace Yourselves Summer in Japan is coming

I am being ludicrous about the weather and nature in Japan because there is nothing to worry about. My family would warn me to be careful because of the earthquakes, but the quakes are not that scary at all. It is the same nonsense when I am telling them that the Netherlands is 1 meters below sea level and they would be having a pool in their garden very soon. The earthquakes happen randomly over all of Japan and most of the time you would not even notice them. I laugh at those who panic and get scared of them. For me, it is a time that I realize that I am still mortal and I remember that I am still alive and kicking ;).

Image result for alive and kicking meme

Masha’Allah
References
Livescience. (2011, April 8). Japan’s Biggest Earthquakes. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com

Note: By no means is this an actual survival guide. Just a fool’s guide :p

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: One year in Beppu, Japan

A year has passed. My god, time flies and I wish I could slow it a bit down. I think it is nice to do a small review of my year in Beppu, Japan as a graduate student at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University and look back on this amazing year. Lots of things happened! Many great things, some bad things, and some ugly things.

Note: Last month’s blog was written on behalf of APU! I cannot post that blog here, but I can link you to it :): GETTING STARTED IN THE LAND OF THE RISING SUN

I arrived around mid-March 2017 and from there on it was an interesting ride. A new country, a new home, new people, new city, new school, new food, and so on. My eyes were wide open all the time. Actually, I arrived in Tokyo and on that day that I had my eyes wide open all the time. I was jet-lagged and tired of the long trip, but Tokyo was just amazing. There was much to see and to experience. The tall buildings, the streets, the stores, the sounds, the food, and the people. But this is not a post about Tokyo. That is something for you to experience ;).

The Good
After coming to Beppu I could easily tell that things were very different from Tokyo. Life in Tokyo is crowded and hectic. Tokyo is very gigantic and the people look stressed and busy. Here down south people are way more relaxed. You can see that on their expression on their face, the pace they walk, and are more easy going. Beppu is a big city, it almost has 123.000 people residing, and the streets do not feel crowded or chaotic. Overall, Beppu is a great city to live in.

The cost of living in Beppu is much cheaper than Tokyo. Food is cheap too. To give you an example; Ramen in Beppu is around ¥600 and in Tokyo, the price could go up to ¥1200. The rent in the city is more than decent. My pal and I are sharing an apartment with 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, and a dinner (also known as 3DK) for ¥36000 (ex-utility costs). With the utility costs included shared by 2 people, it never exceeded ¥25000 per person. I highly suggest you to find a friend and move into the city!

When I came to Beppu it all felt like I discovered new land and had to explore everything. Even though my Japanese was not optimal back then (still isn’t but much better though) I managed to hike through the city and discover the places that are important to know such as the train station, the mall, the stores for all your daily needs (Daiso, Hirose Homecenter, Yamada Denki etc.). The streets are just like in the anime, the electricity wires go above the poles, the streets are narrow, there are tiny restaurants in the middle of nowhere, the smell of delicious food can be smelled almost everywhere (more can be read about my favourite food here), the cars are like cardboard boxes on wheels, the cicadas are loud as F during summer days, vending machines everywhere, convenient stores everywhere, summarized: Japan as Japan could be. Actually, the anime Steins;Gate (by far one of my favourite anime) gave me a good idea how summer would look like in Japan.

Source: https://mangaguy12.deviantart.com/art/Steins-Gate-Future-Gadget-Lab-Exterior-389148685

Beppu city is a very clean and relaxing city. The healthcare system in Japan overall is very good and the doctors are well educated. As an APU student, you will get 70% discount on all the healthcare treatments. Not just at the hospital but also at the dentist. Make sure to make use of the 70% discount and let your teeth checked. At APU you have to do a health check-up every year. APU will provide a shuttle bus to the hospital and the hospital will guide you step-by-step for the check-up. This helps you to identify any health issues or advise you what to do. At the APU campus, we have a small clinic where you can go to if you have any health issues or just need to rest. There are rest places where you can sleep at the clinic. From time to time I have a headache I will just go to the clinic and ask for a painkiller. Overall, if you have any health issues you do not have to worry about Beppu or Japan they will take care of you.

I have met many kind Japanese people that would love to help you. At AP House 4 there is a person who has a calligraphy and Japanese course on Wednesdays and Sundays. These courses are for free and the volunteers that teach Japanese are very kind too. The person who started these courses his name is Kajiwara-sensei. He is the kindest person of Beppu. Every semester there are new people joining APU and he helps these students. Kajiwara-sensei also makes events for Japanese and international students to meet. The recent one was a hanami event at the Beppu park. Many Japanese and internationals joined. There was plenty of food, music, and whatnot. The people overall in Beppu are kind to foreign students. APU was established 18 years ago and the citizens of Beppu are used to foreign faces. They will always ask if you if you are an APU student and they are always curious from which country you are from :).

The diversity of students at APU is big. Many international students study at APU. The vast majority of foreign students are from Asia, more specifically China, Korea, Indonesia, and Vietnam. This makes things quite interesting at APU. You will meet many people from different cultures. This makes things very interesting and it will let you see things from different perspectives. Try all the food they offer as it is all a great experience to try food from other cultures. But more importantly, making friends! I thought I would make many Japanese friends at APU but instead made many friends from other cultures. In the end, we all share something in common, we are all graduate students who want to graduate and to enjoy our time in Japan!

To go a bit more into APU: APU has a lot of great utilities for the students. APU provides a great library system. For instance, if a certain book is not available at APU but it is available at another university they will send the book over to APU and you then can pick it up, for free.

Furthermore, the gym is a great place to do your exercises or join an indoor sports club. At APU there is also a big outdoors field where you could join a baseball team, rugby team, or even join a football group (soccer if you will). At APU we have a huge cafeteria where the cafeteria people cook food every day for the students. We also have something that is called the Asia Pacific Cafeteria. This is a more lounge-ish cafeteria where you can order a hamburger, ice-cream and whatnot and relax and enjoy your meal. I come here often to buy an espresso. The espresso here is of very good quality and extremely strong. And APU has, in my honest opinion, the best view ever: The view of the city. You can sit on the stairs and enjoy the beautiful view as shown below :). And lastly, the graduate students have a graduate room where undergraduates are not allowed to enter. I avoid the library because there are just tooooooooo many people in there. The graduate room allows us to study quietly and in peace (my God, I am getting old).

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The Bad
I will start off with my greatest frustration in the Japanese society. This frustration is so big that it might have changed my direction where I want to go. The frustrations come from the inability of Japan to adapt to the world. The Japanese society is very conservative. The world is changing and many countries in the world adapt and follow the money. In order to follow the money, one requires to communicate in a language that makes doing business more fluent which is mostly in English. I do believe that my grandchildren will speak English and Mandarin as the next world economic hegemony is shifting towards China, but for the time being it is English. In order to do business with other cultures, the English language is a bridge. Japanese companies come to APU to recruit international students, but they are required to write the application letter and the CV in Japanese, do the interview in Japanese, and they will tell you that you will need to speak Japanese in their company. What?! Why even bother hiring international students? Why not just hire a Japanese? And finding a job in Japan is a hell. But you can read more about it here.

To go further down the issues regarding the language barrier; At APU we have a lot of scholarships available for students that have been admitted to the university. With a lot, I mean a lot. The scholarships are always updated and every student can apply. I thought: “Great! I could use some financial aid.” So, I went to the website that can only be accessed with an APU student credential. I click scholarships, and then I click the link that literally says: “Scholarships for international students”. Grand! I am an international student! …..*sigh* why did I even….. Yup, everything is in Japanese.

The application form is in Japanese, all the provided information is in Japanese. There a few rare cases where you can apply in English but there is a section that you will need to thank the institution that gives you the grant in Japanese….. and you have to do it handwritten….. “What about the interview?” Don’t even ask…… This adds up to the frustration, believe me.

Rules, rules, rules, rules, and more rules. Don’t think that I am a riot and hate all the rules. Some rules are there for a good reason and I cheer for them. But the problem that comes with the excessive rules in Japan is the lack of flexibility that comes with it. In Europe, we have rules too but we can examine if the rules apply to a certain situation or not. If a force majeure happens to a person we might not apply the rules to the person as the person could not have done anything to prevent the unfortunate event. But in Japan, rules are rules and everyone needs to abide them as if it is the decree of God. I give you an example, one day I hopped on the bus and sat. After a while, the bus stopped at a bus stop and I could clearly see an old man trying his best to catch the bus. He was walking towards the bus from the front. I could see him, and everyone else too. The old man was more or less waggling trying to catch the bus and even waved meaning that he wanted to hop on too. But as rules are rules the old man was “too” late and the bus driver had to leave on time. This kind of broke my heart. The old man was trying his best to catch the bus and the sight of the old man was very sad. I cannot generalise all of Japan in the “abide-to-the-strict-rules” box, but this was one the things that was typical. I can understand the dura lex, sed lex mentality, but this is a private company and nothing is written in stone.

Speaking of the public transport, the public transport in Beppu is too damn expensive. It is ridiculous! Storytime: according to many professors, APU received the land for free from Beppu city. Initially, they wanted to build APU at Beppu park. The citizens of Beppu did not like this idea as they wanted to preserve their beautiful park (rightfully so, the park is indeed beautiful). Beppu then allocated APU to the top of the mountain for free, BUT there were some strings attached.

One of the strings was that Oita Kotsu (I hope the darn company burns down) was allowed to build the road from Beppu to APU and they are the only bus company that is allowed to use that road, and now we have a monopoly. There are tickets only for students which make the price more “digestible” but the tickets are sold in a bundle of 3. The 3-ticket’s price is ¥1000 ($9.31 or €7,53) to go to school, back home, and then back to school. Selling 3 tickets makes no sense. Sell them by 4 or 2, not 3…. Let’s assume you go to school 5 times a week, you will need to buy 4 bundles (12 tickets) which will cost you ¥4000 a week. Students are getting extorted because Beppu has no competition when it comes to public transport. There is another bus which is the Kamenoi bus (we call it the ‘blue’ bus), but this bus has a different area it covers but this bus is slightly cheaper than Oita Kotsu (we call it the ‘red’ bus). Oita Kotsu has never changed their price.

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Source: accidentally posted university memes

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The Ugly
Note: these are not bad things per se but just things that could have been better.
Japan is quite an advanced country when it comes to technology. When people think of Japan they immediately think of robots and things that make loud noises and things that can talk to you. As such, the idea suggests that Japan is far ahead with things. This is very true, but do not be fooled there are definitely some ugly things in Japan.

Let’s start with plastic bags. I was stunned by the number of bags that I started to accumulate in Japan. Wherever I went, whether it was for grocery shopping or buying some household stuff, I always received bags from the cashiers. They would give

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Yo dawg, I heard you like bags, so we put a bag in a bag so you can carry while you carry (these are actually my plastic bags)

me two big plastic bags. At some point, I was not sure what I needed to do with all these plastic bags. I would go to the supermarket and I would just buy e.g. tea in a bottle which I could just carry and walk to my dorm, but the cashier would give me a plastic bag anyway. I do understand it from a Japanese point of view. It is customer service. As a cashier, you do not want to see you customer walk off in an inconvenient way. You would like to make your customer’s life as easy as possible. I love this mentally of Japan, but I felt that I was not helping the environment by accepting all these bags. Therefore, I bought a durable shopping bag from Daiso which I would carry with me when I do my errands. And if you do not tell the cashier you already brought your own bag, they will give you one by default. If you tell them you brought yours, they will thank you for bringing your own bag.

You go down the streets and you see that there are construction workers working on the road. There are about 10 construction workers. 6 that are actually doing something and 4 that are just standing to overlook the street. Believe me when I say that you will need only 1 guy overlooking the street as it is a small street and not even an important street. Japanese are overall very afraid of uncertainties and responsibilities. As such you will have people that are overlooking the street and when a pedestrian is walking by they would spread their arms and legs as if they are protecting you from something but there is literally nothing. These things can also be linked back to the excessive number of rules. Japanese are afraid of taking risks so much so that they will go far beyond in order to avoid issues in such a manner it is just plain exaggeration and unnecessary.

Next, which was first: the chicken or the egg? You do not have to answer this question, but it is very annoying in Japan as an international student when you would like to buy a sim card. In order to buy a sim card, you will need a credit card. Most of the students do not have a credit card prior to their arrival in Japan so therefore they go to whatever institution that provides a credit card. They apply for a credit card but the credit card provider asks them for their phone number. Without a phone number, you cannot apply for a credit card but in order to have a phone number……*facepalm*


I hope the negative points of Japan have not demotivated you. I enjoy my life here but nothing is perfect. There are some stupid things in Japan that needed to be addressed. But the nice things outweigh the bad things!

As per usual thank you for reading my blog! I appreciate you guys taking the time to read my stories. If you have any suggestions on a certain topic or you have a question feel free to contact me or leave a comment below!

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Source: https://chillyfranco.deviantart.com/art/The-Good-The-Bad-and-The-Ugly-320626352

 

Masha’Allah

Beppu City Life

When you looked at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific Studies on the internet, you have probably asked yourself the question: “Where is this 大学 (University) located?” “Beppu!? Beppu nan desu ka?” (what is a Beppu?) Yes, I had the same question. I never heard of Beppu before. Truth be told, even Japanese people have a hard time finding this city. Until you tell them: ”It is located in Oita-ken.” “Ah, sou desu ka.” But what can one experience in such an unknown city?

An important question, of course. You would like to knfoneow more about this city and whether it is worth studying here. Let me state the obvious: Beppu is not Kyoto, Osaka, Yokohama, Nagoya, Tokyo, or any other of the big cities. Beppu is a relatively small city. It is a city, but not as crazy as the major cities.

Let’s start with some data on Beppu. Beppu is located on the Southern island Kyushu in the Oita prefecture. Beppu counts 119.105 residents. Interestingly enough, 64.410 are women, and 54.695 are men. Out of the total Beppu population, 4.168 are foreigners (2,154 women, 2.014 men). (Source: Beppu Municipal Administration, data of May 2017). So what can one do in Beppu?

Kyushu

Beppu Nightlife

Before I came to Beppu, I could not find much about the nightlife in Beppu. I will share with you the places that I have been and are popular among APU students. NOTE: This is a small list of the things that I know. Beppu City provides a lot more.

Pirates

By far, one of the popular places for a student. This bar has something that is called ‘のみほだい’ (nomihodai), in English ‘all you can drink.’ You will need to show your student ID, and you will receive a student discount. For guys, the price is ¥1500, and for ladies, it is ¥1000 (Yes, yes, price discrimination). You can stay for 2 hours and drink as much as you want. For those who do not drink alcohol, just like me, there is plenty of non-alcoholic drinks for you too :). You can play darts in this bar or just chill out and have a good time with your friends. The setting is nice as the bar gives you a Caribbean feeling. It only misses Captain Jack Sparrow, though… The bar also makes takoyaki (delicious ball of dough with a piece of shrimp inside). Takoyaki is quite cheap here: ¥500.

Pirates’ Facebook page

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WaiWai Karaoke

Don’t you dare not to go to a karaoke club/bar when you are in Japan. At WaiWai Karaoke, you can rent a large room that can fit up to 30 people. You are allowed to bring your own drinks and food to this karaoke place. At other karaoke bars, you are not allowed to bring your own drinks or food. The regular karaoke bars are making a living on selling their booze to you based on gold standards (so to speak). We went with a group between 25 to 30 people. We went to the konbini (convenient store) first, bought our stuff, and then went to WaiWai. We had a blast! We sang the craziest and cheesy songs. You do not have to be good at singing, as no one else is. I am a terrible singer, but we sang Bohemian Rhapsody with pride! Barbie Girl, Vengaboys, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and more. The most terrible songs you could imagine, but it did not matter. It was a great night! WaiWai karaoke is located near Pirates. 

WaiWai’s Facebook page

岐阜県大垣市のカラオケパーティールーム「カラオケwaiwai」

BSB

Personally, I never have set foot in here as I do not enjoy discos. It is one ofBeppu’s  most popular discotheques and is run by a Moroccan(!). SB stands for ‘Beppu Social Bar,’ and you can socialise with your friends as the name states. At BSB, there is a section where you can sit on sofas and chill out, and you have the dance floor. BSB is fun for those who do not like to dance or do like to dance. As a result, BSB is always crowded on weekends, and the vast majority are international students. 

BSB Facebook page

Izakaya

For those who do not know what an izakaya is: An izakaya is a form of a pub, but not a regular pub that you are used to. At an izakaya, you can go out for drinks and food. You might call it a tavern. I personally love izakayas as you can socialize and eat and drink at your own pace. The setting is cosy and very Japanese. Izakayas are very popular and rightfully so. You can try all kinds of dishes, and every izakaya has something delicious which you should try. In Beppu, there are plenty of izakayas you can go to. The majority of the Izakayas can be found at ‘Sol Paseo Ginza.’ 

All the izakayas in Beppu

Places of Interests

Besides the nightlife in Beppu there are also some places of interest you could visit and make those fancy selfies:

Onsen

Onsen, onsen everywhere. If Beppu is indeed known by the Japanese, it will be known for its onsens. Onsen is a hot spring where you can relax your body. In Beppu, there are almost 3000 onsen hot baths. Some onsen are for a mere ¥100! Just a few reminders; when going to an onsen, you have to go butt-naked. You are not allowed to wrap a towel around you when going into an onsen. There is just one exception where you can wear a swimming suit when going into an onsen. This one is located 20 meters from AP House 4: Kitahama Hotspring (Termas). Some might not like going butt-naked into an onsen or religious beliefs, this is the best alternative. There are a naked section and a swimming suits section. Furthermore, if you have a tattoo, make sure to cover it! In Japan, tattoos are a great taboo, as this reminds them of the Yakuza. Even if you have a small bunny or a butterfly tattoo on your wrist or ankle, make sure to cover as it is not tolerated.  

8 Hells of Beppu (Jigoku Onsen)

This is also an onsen, but not an onsen you would like to go in. Unless you would like to be boiled alive like a lobster. There are 8 spots where you can visit the hottest onsens. 6 of the onsens are located next to each other, the other 2 are elsewhere. The onsens are located on geothermal hotspots (literally), which makes the onsens blazing hot. They vary from 90 to 100 degrees Celsius. It is a beautiful sight and a must-see. 

You can read more about them here

Monkey Mountain (Takasakiyama)

MONKEY ******* MOUNTAIN!! Yes, we have a monkey mountain in Beppu. How cool is that!! There are approximately 1500 monkeys (Japanese macaques) that roam freely on the mountain. The monkeys are tame, and they will just ignore you when you are there, so you do not have to worry that they will jump on you looking for bananas. They are used to the visitors, and they are just minding their own (monkey) business. It is a fun sight to see hundreds of monkeys walking around. The ticket is a merely ¥510. You can reach the monkey mountain from Beppu station by bus.

Monkey Mountain (Takasakiyama)

Takasakiyama

 

Umitamago Aquarium

While you are at the monkey mountain, you just might as well go to the aquarium, too. The aquarium is on the opposite side of the monkey mountain. You can buy a ticket for ¥2450 covering the round trip bus ticket and the tickets of monkey mountain and the aquarium. Yes, very cheap! The ticket is sold at the Beppu tourist station office or Oita station office. At Umitamago, you can watch dolphins, and walrus shows. At some places, you can actually touch the sea creatures :D. You also have this ”glass box” where you are surrounded by sea creatures. The question is, who is really on the inside of a fish tank ಠ_ಠ?

Umitamago (Aquarium)

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African Safari Park

Just outside of Beppu, between Beppu and Yufuin, there is an African Safari park. The exotic animals roam freely, so you will be toured by a car. You will see the lions, giraffes, cheetahs, elephants, bears, bison, kangaroos, and much more from a seating position. The feeling is surreal because you will see real lions from up close. It is a great experience and cool to view the wildlife there.

African Safari Park

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Like mentioned before, Beppu is not a big city like Tokyo, but there is plenty to experience. In this blog post, I have only focused on Beppu. There is a city next to it called: Oita. Whatever you miss in Beppu can be found in Oita. For instance, cinema and big shopping mall can be found in Oita (Beppu also has a shopping mall but smaller). It only takes 10 minutes from Beppu station to Oita station by train, and it cost around ¥280 a one-way ticket. Overall, Beppu is a fine city, in my opinion. Growing up in a small town, Beppu seems big. There is plenty to explore, and I am sure you will enjoy your time here.

Masha’Allah