We love getting news from our students overseas! Here are two letters from current students in Japan


Kaelin, Japan
Life in Tokyo is fast, everyone has a place to go. I train through Shinjuku station to get to school. It holds the Guinness world  record for the busiest station in the world with an average of 3.5 million people going through it every day. There are moments when hundreds of people are walking around me. Blundering past, clothing becomes a blur, just a sea of motion. But unexpectedly it has an element of serene, somehow it’s quiet, just the rustling of bags. No yelling, other than the radio announcer presenting the next train, not that much talking. Chaotic harmony. You will always make it to where you need to go. No one will block your path if you stay in your line, no pushing or shoving. That is, until you actually get to certain trains, then you just have to go for it, step onto the train and keep walking as far as you can so you don’t fall out. This is never seen as rude or impolite, it’s just the way it is. Shinjuku is a huge scale example of social order.

I think the whole environment of Japan is so extremely interesting. Even though I take the same trains, in the same station, and walk the same roads, I still haven’t seen the same person twice. Except for the lady who works at Lawson (the closest convenience store to my house) she knows me. She’s the first person I bought something off, speaking Japanese and even though there are thousands of people visiting her shop, she always takes the time to smile and try to understand me. We now laugh when we see each other, asking about how our days have been. She teaches me what each item I’m buying is, for example, dango. A Japanese dumpling made from rice flour. Super delicious.

In just a few weeks I’ve tried Japanese floral art, tea ceremony, visited many shrines, gone to 15 story shops, had a massive sports day at school, seen the cherry blossoms, walked past untold amounts of vending machines and eaten some of the yummiest and also the weirdest tasting food in my life.

Imogen, Japan
The major difference I’ve found is the work ethic, so I had to alter my perspective a bit regarding it. In Japan, it’s more of a live to work mindset, rather than New Zealand’s work to live. In Japan, you spend your younger years getting the best education you can so you can get into the best school, so you can get into the best university, so you can get the best job. They value the time spent being productive, rather than the rest time outside of it.

Before coming to Japan, I thought living to work would be awful and make your life miserable, but now I’ve found that actually it can feel more rewarding than always counting down the days until weekends, which always pass too quickly. My views around a lot of things have changed now (even though the quote “it’s not wrong, it’s different” doesn’t really work in Japanese, because ‘wrong’ and ‘different’ are the same word).

In school, I’ve joined the English, art and Japanese archery clubs, and stay at school from 8:15am to 6pm most days. I’ve also visited the tea ceremony club. The sports festival, which was always a day of dread in New Zealand, was super fun and I enjoyed seeing all the funny events. My favorite event was one where the contestants were spun in circles and then ran a race, resulting in them falling on their faces or running in the complete opposite direction. There was also a big dance, which was super fun practicing for.


Could you see yourself in Japan? Find out more about exchanges to Japan here!