Kobe University

One month left

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

With a little less than a month left in Kobe, I’ve decided to think back at what I have conquered during my experience in Japan. One of the greatest highlights of my time in Japan in actually being able to work part-time at a Japanese style izakaya, which are drinking/dining establishments typical in Japan. I have worked at restaurants as a server in Seattle, but I was shocked to experience that working in Japan is completely different. First of all, there are the numerous routine greetings that each worker must memorize, and must use when encountering customers. Starting from the normal “welcome”, irrashaimase, to “thank you”, arigatou gozaimasu, there are numerous others such as restaurant specific “one moment please”, “I will be there shortly”, and so on. In America, I am used to my own serving style, sometimes even casually communicating with customers, so getting used to the Japanese system was shocking at first.

Another different aspect of Japanese dining institutions is that servers must go outside of the restaurant, literally outside into the city, to promote the restaurant and try to get customers to come in. Being a short-term worker, I had to go outside to promote the restaurant numerous times, and this was sometimes easier than actually serving inside, but right now it is the middle of winter and standing outside for 3-4 hours is physically difficult. Nevertheless, the experience was new to me, and I tried to enjoy every aspect of it by actively communicating with customers. One last thing that surprised me is that since the izakaya that I worked at is owned by a larger corporation that manages various other establishments, servers are forced to rotate around and help other locations, even if the other establishments serve a different menu. This may be easier in Japan, since the cities are so close to each other and these establishments are located fairly close. However, first I was super confused at this system, and had a hard time getting used to it. Everything is different, except for the greetings of course, so we have to adapt to the place right away and just try our best I guess. Very unique system, but I guess it is better for flexibly acquiring workers at any time.

I am glad that I was actually able to find a part-time job during my stay in Japan, because you would be surprised how money flies during your time here. The room and board is fairly cheap since we are all staying at the university’s international residence, but everything else costs A LOT of money. Starting from commuting expenses, food costs, super high cell-phone bills, insurance, and of course eating out and shopping, my bank balance is constantly at the limit until payday. But I guess managing daily life is one of the highlights of my experience in Japan also.

It is sad that I have to leave Kobe now that I have actually got used to life here, but I’ve been a little homesick recently, so I can’t wait to go back to Seattle and get to share my experiences with my friends and family once I return home.

My Experience in Japan so Far

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Hi, my name is Evan Eng and I am a senior majoring in marketing and CISB.   Through the business school exchange between UW and Kobe University, I will be studying abroad in Japan for one semester.  Kobe University is located in Kobe, Japan which is in the Kansai region of Japan.  Born and raised in Seattle, the first time I saw Kobe it actually reminded me of Seattle.  The central area of Kobe, called Sannomiya, is a lot like downtown Seattle and is the place that you will be very familiar with if you come to Kobe.  Kobe is also a major port city and plays a vital part in Japan’s trade, much like Seattle.  One thing about Kobe that has not been like Seattle so far is the weather.  Almost every day here has been nice and despite it being Autumn, it has still been pretty warm.

When I first got here I was pretty intimidated since this was all so new to me.  With the help of my tutor and my advisors from the Business School, they showed me what I had to do and helped me tremendously in adjusting to life in Kobe.  The Japanese school system is really different from the American system.  First off, registering was done by hand and we actually had about 2 weeks of classes where we got a chance to “get a feel” for them and see if we actually wanted to take them.  Secondly, every class meets only once a week.  Third, the credit system is a bit different.  Classes here are normally around 2 credits while a normal class at UW is about 4-5 credits.  So here at Kobe University, you can take a lot of different classes in one semester.

The only problem I’ve faced so far was the lack of internet.  Coming to Japan, internet was probably one of the last things I thought that I would have to worry about. Apparently LAN cables are the way to go in Japan and wireless internet is extremely rare.  For the first 2-3 weeks, most of the students living in the dorms that I am staying in were without internet, and we all felt the same way.  The way things are done over here is you have to contact an internet company and sign an agreement.  Once you do that, it takes about 2 weeks for the company to come in and install it in your room.  There is a second option too.  You could also ask people near your room if they already have internet, and if you are one of the lucky ones and your neighbor does have internet already, you can ask if you can share the internet with them and connect a long LAN cable from their router to your room.  This problem isn’t just in the dorms either.  The campus also does not have wireless.  So you can either find a LAN cable connection somewhere on campus or you can use the school computers.  However, it takes about 2 weeks to get your username and password from your advisor, which you need to log onto the school’s computers.  For me and most of the other students living in the dorms, the internet problem is your last real worry and afterwards you can finally focus on enjoying Japan.

Despite the minor internet problem my experience (more…)

My First Month at Kobe

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

My name is Satomi Yokota, and I am a senior at the Foster School of Business, majoring in Finance and CISB.  I am currently studying abroad through the exchange program at the Kobe School of Business in Kobe, Japan.Upon arriving to Japan, the university was very welcoming by providing each of us with a mentor who is a graduate student at the business school. My mentor helped me with every detail required for starting my experience in Japan, from registering at the city office to buying a futon and sheets for my new residence.  I would have been completely lost without his help, so I thought that the exchange student mentor program was very helpful and thoughtful for us students who felt uncertain about everything upon arriving.Where I am currently staying at is the international student residence.  We are provided with one room for ourselves, and then the kitchen, shower, and bathrooms are shared within the floor, which are all separated by gender.  Upon arriving, all of the students looked a little worried about the appearance, however as we got used to the place and bought new furniture and bedding, the place is not bad at all, especially for just $60 a month. Also, you get to talk with others in the housing who are all having a similar experience, so it is an encouraging and comforting environment.

Finally the classes. A lot of the subjects offered are similar to the business school requirements that we have at UW, so I felt difficulty choosing classes, especially because I had most of the upper division courses covered. I ended up choosing one class that I could possibly cover for my major, and then (more…)

Kobe University, the campus

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

About 70% to 80% of Japan is forested and mountainous which is probably why the architects decided to stick a University on the side of a mountain, literally. The city of Kobe lies to the north of Osaka bay and is a main port town, and just to the north of Kobe are the Rokko mountains. It is these mountains which I climb every day to go to school. I have been here for about 2 months already, and as I look back upon my days at the UW I long for the wonderful flatness of the campus and its ease on the legs. However walking is not one’s only option, there is a bus that travels up the mountain for a fixed price of 200 yen, but since I’m somewhat of a “kechi” or stingy person, I enjoy the hike up as long as I save my 200 yen everyday. There is one positive aspect of the University’s location, once you reach the top the view of Kobe is magnificent, and there are many locations on campus where you can sit down to eat lunch while soaking in the vast landscape.

As long as I’m talking about money-saving, I will delve further into this topic which is of great interest to many foreigners living in country with quite a high standard of living. Especially now with the appreciation of the dollar to the yen, I am literally losing money just by letting my U.S. sit in a bank in the U.S. But current exchange rates are besides the point, what I’m basically trying to say is that Japan is really really expensive in my opinion (yes the two “really’s” are really necessary). Some examples:

-Train ticket everyday= 140 yen x 2 ways = 280 yen = $2.50

-Bus ride= 200 yen x 2 ways = 400 yen = $3.58

-Lunch= about 500 yen = $4.47

-TOTAL: $10.55

So that comes to… (more…)

Traditional Kyoto

Monday, November 19th, 2007

Recently I had the opportunity to visit Kyoto, well-known in Japan to have many traditional and historic sites. It is not uncommon to see women walking the streets dressed entirely in kimonos, and there are an abundant number of temples and shrines in the midst of the bustling city life. This clash of traditional Japan and gate1.jpgmodern Western lifestyle is something very unique to Japan in my opinion. Among the many temples we visited some of the more famous ones were Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion), the bamboo forests and moss gardens of Arashiyama, and Fushimi Inari Taisha (tunnel-like red gates).

The interesting thing about Kinkaku-ji is that it is literally a golden temple, the outer surface is real gold. Resting alongside a large pond filled with carp and surrounded by Japanese-style gardens, this area felt very tranquil and peaceful. (more…)

America-mura and more

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I visited Osaka which is the second largest city in Japan, Tokyo being the first. And after walking around downtown and various other shopping areas, I stumbled upon a very fascinating place. Just near the popular shopping district called Shinsaibashi, there is section called “America-mura” or America town. I found it quite interesting that much like the common “China towns” that can be seen all over the U.S., Osaka has an America town. The entrance to America-mura, or Uncle SameAme-mura as the locals call it for short, is over hanged by a large plastic clown head wearing an Uncle Sam type hat. America-mura consists of many shops selling American brands that are hard to come by in Japan such as Abercrombie or Hollister. Since they are quite rare the prices can get pretty ridiculous, I found a Red Sox hooded sweatshirt selling for ¥9,800 equivalent to about $83 U.S. dollars. But aside from the merchandise there’s nothing really American about the place.

(more…)

Ricky Arrives in Kobe, Japan

Friday, October 12th, 2007

First of all I don’t have internet in my room so I have to use the computer lab [link] at the school, which I am only able to utilize because my tutor was so kind as to provide me with his login and password, but I should have my internet up and running sometime this week. It’s a little inconvenient to make a 50 minute trip from my room to the school just to check emails and stuff, but on the other hand I enjoy riding the train as a Seattlite who has little train riding experience, and I get my fair share of “people-watching” which is always fun.

So for the first couple of weeks in Kobe I have been doing some sightseeing with some new friends from France and Germany. So far we checked out Sannomiya (sort of like “Downtown” if you will), the Rokko mountains, and a nice zoo. (more…)