Paul reports the life in Tokyo for the first-half of his stay.
I am Kani Bahoya Paul, a congolese by Nationality. I am a 3rd year Student pursuing Peace and Conflict Studies at Protestant Institute of Arts and Social Sciences (PIASS/Rwanda). Currently, I am an exchange student at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. I am a painter and filmmaker.
My impression about Japan
It has been 6 month since I left Rwanda to Tokyo; my stay was not entirely enjoyable during the first few months due to challenges such as weather, adjusting to a new community with different cultural patterns than mine, and worse the language. Getting lost was quite common in the first month; getting stuck in train stations or missing my way back home. However, after the first month, the adventure began, and my stay in Japan is seemingly exceeding my expectations.
Favorite Japanese Spots
In my spare time on weekends, I like to visit Tokyo. So far, my favorite places are Shibuya and Asakusa. Shibuya, in my opinion, is "a place within Japan with a mentality outside of Japan." Shibuya has a higher proportion of young people compared to the rest of Tokyo, making it more welcoming to foreign visitors.
During the summer break, I went in Hamamatsu and visit a memorial museum as well as the Music instrument museum. Interestingly, I went to a concert in Kiyosato one week later and experienced a musical performance of those instrument along with Koudan (a traditional Japanese storytelling performance)
I was able to actively participate in the "Feel Africa" exhibition at Tufs and express the African continent's peace and conflict situation through my arts. In Shibuya, I also run the same exhibition in a coffee shop and later in a bar. I joined Tufs-Create, a university filmmaking group; given that many of their members are still new to filmmaking, I enjoy sharing my experience with them, and we have wrote and shoot a film that we produced in the summer. It has been long I have not acted as I am always a director but after joining the drama club at Tufs, I am given a role in the theater that the story was inspired from ancient Tanzanian kingdom. It will be my first time back on the stage in 7 years.
Lifestyle and cultural challenges
I've eaten a variety of Japanese food, but my favorites are ramen and okonomiyaki. Japan is hotter than Africa, and I'm having trouble adjusting to the weather. I climbed Mount Takao to the summit; However, nothing was such good experience than climbing mount fuji the whole night until I saw the sunrise at the pick. I also explored ceramics art with former exchange students at PIASS and created my own cup.
Foreigners struggled to adapt in a homogeneous society like Japan. In my first week, I was arrested on my bicycle by police amid a crowd, and he began questioning me despite the fact that my bike was registered. I feel I would have enjoyed more if I could speak well Japanese language, reason why I am putting personal effort in learning Japanese language.
However, few people can speak English and are willing to help. I have gotten lost several times in the train station and have always found someone to direct me despite the language challenge; I must say that google translator also help me find my way out in communicating for basic things.
Tufs classes have been enjoyable for me. During the spring semester, I took eight classes, three of which were online, other three in person, and two were hybrids; one of them was Japanese language. My favorites classes were career design, Japanese film analysis, and English for entrepreneurship. At the end of the Japanese film analysis course, we created a short-films, and the lecturer played the piano and sang for us after watching our short films. In English class, I created my brand as well as an advertising strategy for it. I liked career design because I talked with the lecturer about my future plans, and he gave me professional advice on how to get there. I participated in an exchange with Ikubunkan Global high school students in August, and we discussed the similarities and differences between Japanese and African cultures.
Culturally speaking, Japanese people are very polite to everyone. I should point out that no one offended me during my cultural shock; I am solely responsible for my feelings. The cop was simply doing his job when he politely requested the document from me. Else, Japanese students are more dedicated to working in clubs than students at my university. Short, the take-home here is politeness and club's commitment.