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. 

bus tickets.jpeg

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. 

 

Apu baito.jpg

APU Downtown Residents (ADR)

 

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Communities

Indonesian APU Facebook Community

 

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Filipino APU Facebook Community

Image result for filipino flag

 

Vietnamese APU Facebook Community

Image result for vietnam flag

Masha’Allah

The Culture Trap

You have spent most of your life in a country with people from your culture. You speak the same language, you love and eat the same food, celebrate the same happy moments, go to the same school, go to the same work, go to the same supermarkets. One day you decide to study in the land of the rising sun. Different culture, different customs, different language. What an exciting time! You meet people from all around the globe at APU. You will even meet people from countries you never heard before….., but you decided to hang out with the people from your country, speak the same language, and eat the same food. Nani?!

I remember well the first month I arrived in Japan, and my mom asked me if I had met some Moroccans or Dutchies. I replied to my mom: “Mom, if I wanted to meet Moroccans or Dutchies, I would have stayed home.” Of course, this is merely my opinion, but I do believe that the purpose of going abroad is to broaden your horizon. For this, you will meet people from other cultures from all over the globe. Only then one can say you have been abroad.

Unfortunately, I have observed an interesting behaviour at my university. It is not an uncommon behaviour per se, and I can understand why it happens, but it goes against my so-called ‘international beliefs.’ Why would one go abroad only to meet the same people one left in the first place? 

Pots patriotism.jpg

The things I have observed at the university is, especially a common behaviour I see among undergraduates, students stick with people from their own culture. The most prominent cultural groups are Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Indonesian. There are many more cultures, but these are the largest ones. What I see is that they tend to stay together during breaks, walk together going from classroom to classroom, have lunch together. I can safely assume they are also staying together inside the classroom. And this kind of saddens me.

There is a big opportunity to learn from other cultures. I have spent much time with people from many cultures, and I learned much about their countries, their customs, their cuisine, and their history. I spent most of my time with people from Vietnam, Tajikistan, Indonesia, and Japan. They are all great people, and I will miss them all when I return to Holland.

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Because I was open to their culture, they taught me a lot. I tasted their food, learned about their customs, about their history, about their country. When I was still in Europe I would learn a lot about Western countries, but not so much about Asia. I am very grateful that I have been given an opportunity to study in Japan, and meet all these fascinating people.

Truth to be told, there are not many Westerners or North-Africans at APU. There are a few Dutchies, and there were some Moroccans. I did hang out with them once in a long time, but not on a regular basis. They are not bad people, but I prefer to hang out with other cultures. I did not travel 10000KM to meet my people again. It might sound pessimistic, but I see problems of hanging with people from the same culture for too long.

International arrivals.jpg

Language

Dutch and Moroccan-Arabic are my mother tongue. I do not put this attest as these are the first languages I grew up with. If I keep speaking these two languages, which are burned in my mind, so to speak, I will be neglecting my other languages. I want to improve my Japanese and keep my English up-to-date. English because it is the most critical language in the world for intercultural communication, and Japanese because I want to be able to communicate with the locals. 

In my observation, I noticed that some students have barely improved their English because they kept hanging out with people from their culture. I sometimes have difficulties understanding some students even though they have been here for three to four years. Verbal communication is somewhat okay, but their writing skills are a mess. This caused a lot of miss-communication. It doesn’t need to be top-notch, but at least to a level to have ‘oke’ communications. 

Tolerance

Learning about other cultures increases your better understanding of their life. Humanity fears what we do not understand. If one is not open to different cultures, one will remain fearful of the other. I sincerely believe that xenophobia can be fought by education and tolerance. The challenge is to take the first step and open your arms for their culture. It all starts with you. You are not required to be an expert in intercultural communication, but with you will get a long way with tolerance. Accept to be accepted. 

Experience

In our contemporary world, everything will be globalised. Your fellow students from other cultures will be your colleagues one day. Learning about their culture now will make your life much more comfortable in the future. As you are still young and still a student you will make many mistakes with people from other cultures, and so will they with your cultural background. Learning from these mistakes will prepare you for your future job. Your supervisors will see you as an asset as you have the experience on how to work with people from many cultures.

In my opinion, there are only benefits from intercultural understanding. Of course, I am aware of my generalisation. You will be dealing with an individual from a specific culture, this does not mean they will act exactly like all the others from that particular culture. Even though the individual is unique, the person still carries some cultural aspects of his/her home country. And you can prepare yourself by hanging out with as many people from other cultures as you can. 

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Cultural Week

APU has an excellent event which I believe is trying to bridge the cultural threshold. At APU we have something that is called ‘Culture Week.’ It is a week full events by a specific country which is prepared by the students (mostly undergraduates). In this week, there will be dances every day at the fountain, there will dishes from that culture at the cafeteria, there will be a stand where you can dress their cultural clothes and make pictures, and on Friday evening there is a grand show at the Millennium Hall (everything is held on campus). We have Indonesian Week, Korean Week, Thai Week, Chinese Week, Japanese Week, Vietnamese Week, Philippine Week, Taiwan Week, Sri Lankan Week, Nepali Week, African Week, and lastly Oceania Week. Unfortunately, Western countries are not represented this due to the lack of people from the West at APU.

All these weeks are mostly represented by the students from that culture, and their friends from other cultures also participate and help them. In that regard, APU did a great thing to introduce these events and let students become creative and share their culture with others. However, I noticed that its purpose has been lost throughout the years. These weeks have become a competition. Some healthy competition is always good, of course, one wants to do his best to show off about one’s culture. However, this has gone overdrive. The students have found ways to contact big companies in their home country to sponsor these events. 

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Indonesian Week is by far the biggest week at APU. Indonesian students practice every day, three months prior to this single week. In 2017, the students were sponsored by Indonesia Air (!), with the sponsored money they were able to make a grand show out of proportions. In all other weeks you are not required to get a ticket to get into the Millennium hall, but for Indonesia Week tickets are sold and the line to get in is long. Sharing the culture with people from other cultures is no longer the objective. It has become more than a competition; it leans towards nationalistic behaviour. 

And let’s not forget about their study performances. Many professors complain a lot about these weeks because they can see that the student’s performance drop as all their focus goes on the culture weeks. The students do not get any study points from the culture weeks. It is all voluntarily, but as it is one’s culture that is on the line, the APU students try their utmost best to try to outperform the others. I hope APU doesn’t kill off the Culture Weeks, but it needs to return back to its roots namely: Sharing and experiencing cultural differences and similarities with others. 

As I said at the start of this blog, I do understand the behaviour of hanging out with people from the same culture. It is comfortable, it is easy to communicate, you understand each other, you do not need to explain about the inside jokes and etc. But I believe this comfort zone does not have a place on an international level. When you learn more about other cultures, you are not only learning about their customs, but you are also increasing your knowledge and awareness about the world around you. Broaden your horizon, because one day you will Shape Your World.

cultural difference dogs
Source: https://www.pinterest.com/silvialily/

 

Masha’Allah

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

Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Student Life

Two and a half months flew by. Before I came to Beppu, I wished time would go faster. Now we just have finished our first quarter, and I wish time would go slower. There is much to experience and much to see at APU. I will share some of my experiences here at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University with you.

Initially, I wanted to postpone sharing my experiences with you until I have finished my first semester. By then, I would have sufficient stories and experiences to share. But a classmate, who read my previous blog, told me that before he came to APU, he wanted to read more about life at APU and Beppu, but there was not much info to read about. I had the same problem before I came here. I also wanted to know more about life at APU. So this post is for those who are coming to APU or thinking about coming to APU. It is also for those who want an insight into how Japanese graduate student life looks like.

Arrival at Beppu/AP House

Asia Pacific University (APU) is a fascinating place to study. You will experience the APU magic from the moment you land at Oita airport (or Fukuoka airport). There will be people of the University waiting for you either at Oita Airport or Fukuoka Airport. They will assist you in getting on the right bus towards Beppu. Never heard about a university that would await its students at the airport and assist them.

The people who joined APU in the spring semester 2017 were allocated to AP House 4: The location of AP House 4. AP House 4 has nine floors in total and is filled with mostly exchange students. The graduate students were allocated to floor eight and nine. In your room, you will have a refrigerator, a desk with a chair, a balcony with a beautiful view either to the seaside or the city side, bed, bathtub, toilet, and the room has an air conditioner. To give you a better idea of how AP House 4 room looks, please look at the video I made.

Before you start your classes, APU will invite you a couple of times to the campus to help you with open a bank account, set up your health and house insurance, the create a ”My Number” (social security number), and your student card. The process is handled smoothly. You will know in advance which classroom you need to be and what you will need to bring. Many students that have been hired by the university to assist you through the process. They can help you translate Japanese if necessary.

The university has its opening ceremony on the 1st of April each year. If you have the chance to go there, please do. It is quite a spectacular show. You will feel the Japanese culture all around you. All the students from all over the globe come in their traditional clothes from their respective cultures. The Japanese ladies come in their kimonos (the men are in uniform), the Indonesians come in their Kebaya, the Indians come in their Salwar Kameez, and much more. It is a beautiful sight. 

At the opening ceremony, there will be many performances being held by many international students. They have been practising for weeks. My personal favourite was the performance done by Indonesians. Their dance was amazing to watch.

Studying at APU

I can only speak for myself regarding studying at APU. I am doing a master’s course at APU. But hopefully, this will give you an idea.

The university is located on top of a mountain in Beppu. You will need to take the bus to get there. It takes approximately 30 minutes from AP House 4 to the campus. Oita Kotsu bus is, unfortunately, very expensive. A triple ticket (3-way ticket; away, back, and away) costs ¥1000. When you arrive at the university, you will notice how big this place is. Do not worry, you will get lost a couple times. It happened to us too. At the university, you will notice the iconic ”twin towers” and the fountain. The fountain is a good place to rendezvous with your friends. The mountains around the school are beautiful, and the view of Beppu’s entire city is magnificent.

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Before you actually start your courses, you are required to register for your classes. Make sure you read about all your classes in advance in order to make the right decision about what you want to study at APU. You will have your major courses and electives. A piece of advice from my side, take all your majors first so you can take those of your back. Make sure you select your courses fast during the course registration. Some courses have limited seats. Especially Japanese course is very popular among international students.

After surviving ”click wars,” you will finally take your courses. The professors who teach graduates are kind, and their English skill is excellent. No worries at all in understanding them. However, I heard many undergraduates complain about some of their professors being (very) bad in the English language. The graduate professors are quite strict in their teachings. Do not dare to miss your deadlines and make sure you fulfil all the minimal requirements to finish the course. The courses I have taken so far require presentations, a final report, in-class participation, attendance, and a midterm exam. In contrary to Holland, they love presentations in Japan. Give me as many individual reports as you’d like, but do not make me do any presentations. I hate presentations! The vast majority of the courses at APU have a presentation as a requirement. I guess I just have to bite the bullet in this regard.

In my opinion, the courses are doable. However, lots of reading is involved. Many professors will give you readings for the next class. You are required to read all of them. These readings will be used for class discussions. If you have not read them, you have nothing to discuss, and the professor will know. And make sure you do your homework. Some professors will check it, especially the Japanese language teacher.

And make sure you take the Japanese language course! The reason I am saying this is because you really need to speak the language. In Beppu, or anywhere in Japan, for that matter, the local people tend to lack a sufficiency in the English language, unfortunately. I highly recommend you to learn Hiragana and Katakana before you come to Japan. This will give you a head start in surviving in Japan.

Life at APU

At APU, you will not get bored. There is plenty to do and to experience. The university counts many of something that is called circles and clubs. You can join a club/circle that fits your interest, such as, soccer, aikido, volleyball, dance groups, and a lot more. You can read all about them here: APU Clubs & Circles

At the university, you have a large cafeteria. The cafeteria provides enough variations of food for an affordable price. However, they do not change the dishes in the long term, and it might become boring after a while. Nonetheless, the food is delicious, and the price they are offering is worth it. And if you are a Muslim, like me, they provide Halal food for you.

The school has a large library where you can borrow books or perhaps study. Personally, I avoid this place, because it is too crowded and you are not allowed to drink and eat there. As a graduate student, there are rooms just for us. A place for master students and Ph.D. students. Undergraduates are not allowed to enter these rooms.

The university has a great Student Office. I respect the people who work there. They have to deal with students every day. Whatever your concerns are, whether finance, housing, life in Beppu, or anything, in general, the Student Office is there to support you. The academic office will also help you with your classes, grades, or other concerns.

IMG_20170505_135953.jpgOverall you are in good hands at APU. You will have a great time being a student at APU. Of course, there are negative things at APU, like any other university around the world. It is never perfect. But the positives outweigh the negatives. At APU, you will shape your world.

If you have any questions regarding life at APU, please feel free to contact me :).

 My next blog post will be all about life in Beppu!

Masha’Allah