I’ve noticed among my friends that in addition to Spanish, French, and German, Japanese is a popular language to study at the University of Minnesota.  My good friend Dane Christensen, a double major in Asian Languages and Literature with a focus on Japanese and Political International Economics with a focus on Southeast Asia, studied the Japanese language for 3 years before he studied abroad in Tokyo for about a year.  He plans to live abroad for several years after graduating college.  I wanted to get a feel for what living in Japan would be like compared to Minnesota, so I asked him about his experience.

Desiree:  Did you have a lot of free time?  Was it just like being at school at the U?

Dane:  The school I went to was the 4th most prestigious school in Japan for private universities.  The classes I took were harder than classes at the U.  School took up a lot of my time, but I also worked a lot as an English language tutor.  Japan is an expensive place to live, so I had to work since I was broke a lot.

Desiree: Where were your favorite hangouts during your free time?

Dane: I would spend time in Kabukicho, which was an area near a very popular place called Shinjuku at the center of Tokyo.  I would spend time there because my friend lived there.  I would also frequently visit Yokohama where my then girlfriend was living.  We knew the cheap bars, the fun bars, and so whatever we felt like doing in the evening we knew a place we could get to by subway.

Desiree:  Besides bars, where else did you go?

Dane:  That was just the nightlife, but we would also go out to arcades sometimes, which are still popular things in Japan.  With my friends, I’d go out to dinner.  There are a lot of different districts in Japan.  Tokyo is sectored off into categories based on things you can buy.  The technology district was pretty cool, but there was also a different section you could go to just for clothing, etc.  During the day, there are also a lot of beautiful parks to go to.

Desiree:  You mostly hung out off campus then?

Dane:  My university that I attended was a place I also hung out at because I was in activity clubs at the school.  In Japan, these clubs function the same way intramural sports leagues do at the U of M.

Desiree:  What kinds of activity clubs were you a part of?

Dane:  I was a part of basketball, hiphop dance, and capoiera (a Brazilian traditional dance).

Desiree:  What made you join these clubs—besides the fact that you are always a part of some club?

Dane:  Well of course I joined the clubs because I was interested in them, but then when you join these clubs you become friends with the people in them.  These friends are your social crowd.  That is the social norm in Japan to hang out with the people that you do things with at school.  It becomes sort of like an obligation because the clubs would set up social gatherings in addition to practice and meetings, etc.  It’s a good way to meet people though.

It seems as if Japan is one of the easiest places to assimilate into.  After hearing about Dane’s experience, I would love the chance to check it out!