This summer I was accepted on to a one month Summer Intensive Course in Japanese at the Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language. Being an intensive language course, my initial worries about my very basic knowledge of Japanese quickly subsided and I was soon able to ask for a plastic bag at the supermarket in no time: ‘袋をいただきますかでお願いします？’
Like Edinburgh, the school fosters a strong international community, and with the classes being so small, I soon found myself exploring Kyoto and practicing Japanese with a great group of friends. We found that we all shared a similar interest in Japanese culture and the mindset to work hard and make the most of this opportunity to study Japanese in Kyoto.
In the afternoon we had the opportunity to partake in cultural activities and excursions organised by the school, including Yuzen dyeing (a traditional dyeing technique of Kimono), Japanese dancing and sight seeing. Kyoto, being the old capital of Japan, plays host to a multitude of ancient temples and shrines set against a ring of mountains and is an absolute wonder to walk around. Aside from these more traditional cultural activities, as a class we also enjoyed plenty of ‘studying’ while at coffee shops, restaurants, shopping and of course karaoke. Yet as the end of the course approached, it was back to the university’s library to prepare for the final examinations.
Although I had initially been worried about the culture shock of Japan, the biggest culture shock had to be on returning to the UK and encountering the serious lack of vending machines and of course the toilets (why are they not all electric?).
I am so grateful for having this opportunity to travel to a country whose culture and way of life has interested me for so long. This experience has been truly wonderful for me, and has motivated me to seriously carry on studying Japanese, with the hope that it will bring more opportunities to visit and even work in Japan in the future. Living and studying in Kyoto for a month has allowed me a unique snapshot into daily life there, as well as total immersion in the language. I have come to appreciate the value of language skills; that making the slightest effort to speak the language, and to do so slowly and respectfully, people will invariably respond with kindness and true appreciation.