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Hello, and welcome to my site once again. Thanks to a foolish mistake of mine, the whole site disappeared without any warning. So I have to reintroduce myself again.

My name is Stephan Jonkers, I’m 17 years old and I live in the Netherlands. My hobbies are gaming, watching Japanese animation series, and bowling. 6 years ago, I didn’t know anything of Japan yet. Until my brother started to watch something on his PC, called Azumanga Daioh. I thought it was hilarious, and the language amazed me as well. Never heard serious Japanese back then. So every time he went to watch something, I joined him. Not too long afterwards I was watching videos online, searching for new series as it really grabbed my attention. In the current time I call it the anime mood.

First I was watching series on YouTube, for example Fullmetal Alchemist, Love Hina and some other ‘classic’ series. However I’m a guy who seeks perfections in things he likes to do, so I searched for higher quality. I downloaded high quality episodes via torrent, get to know the best fansubbers. Before I know it, I got addicted to the Japanese anime and manga culture.

But as I grow older, I noticed that my spare time is running out. I am starting to watch less and less anime. I changed into the gaming mood. I realized I have these mood switches every now and then, depending on what is happening. As of late, I’m reading more manga than I am watching anime. Not that I find it a bad thing though, but my vocabulary won’t grow with that. Indeed, I’m being aware that I’m become able to speak the Japanese language itself, without all too much practice. At least, that is what I thought myself. Unconsciously, I’m trying to speak Japanese in the fiction stories I think of inside my head. When I fail, I switched back to English(not to Dutch!) .

So yeah. I have come this far as to focus my future on Japanese. I’ve learnt Japanese grammar in my spare time, and I even gave Japanese lessons as some kind of project on school. See http://www.mandoran.com/japanologica/. This blog should’ve been two years old by now, but I crashed it by accident. Because it’s all about this.

I went to Japan for 5 weeks last year. It was meant as some kind of exchange program, but no Japanese guy went to the Netherlands. I applied for this program at the Youth for Understanding Exchange Organization. It was in the middle of the summer. I loved my stay in Osaka. Most of the people were very nice to me. A few of my summaries I gave to others when they got interested in this trip as well:

Hi Kim,

I can see that it’s going to be all right when I look at your enthusiasm. I do not know what your current view of Japanese culture is, but it will always have some discrepancies with the reality. I have also just gone for the summer, and I had the time of my life. I myself was already pretty good at speaking Japanese so I could easily talk to the people there, so I do not know what it is that five weeks to survive without communication. Another YFU-student was one city away from me although he did go to the same school. He knew nothing of the Japanese language, so it was somewhat difficult for him. The Japanese can generally talk little English but it’s still fun to just try and communicate with them even if you do not understand so well. So when it comes to language, it would perhaps be easier if you already know something about it. I think that you will experience a little more.

Anyway. So eventually I came to the airport in Osaka, where my host mother was waiting with a sign with your name on it. (There was also another host mother at that time, but she was from that other YFU-student.) With all the hospitality she took me to the house where I would stay 5 weeks. I think in most cases it will be like this. Before going to Japan, it is of course advised to contact your host family beforehand. That’s what YFU will say. It was easy for me because my host parents were on FaceBook, but others had to send a good old-fashioned letter. You can write it in English, but keep it simple!

What YFU does not and cannot say is how long you have school. It said two weeks in my form. The other YFU-students who also went to Japan for the summer had sometimes only 1 week or only a couple of days. Afterwards it becomes a matter of planning. You really have to create the day in my opinion. If else, you should have enough money to do sightseeing when you have nothing to do. Activities really depend on where you are placed. The countryside is of course very different from the middle of a metropolis.

That’s why school was the best time for me. Even if you understand less than 10% of the classes, you have much contact with the youth of your age. You will definitely make friends (but I think this is again depending on which region). In Osaka, they are very friendly to foreigners, but in Tokyo they’re very isolated. It just shows how Japan is so very rich in culture. So I had 2 weeks school and the school also had some events at that time. Especially the school festival was one of the best periods.

In short, it’s fun, and just long enough to get close to get to know the real Japan. Personally, I found it a bit short, but I wanted to go home after a while. I do want to stay a year in Japan once though. Hopefully I have enough information here. Remember, have a lot of money with you! Souvenirs, events, attractions, everything is pretty expensive in Japan so get yourself some money or find an international ATM as soon as possible! Hahaha. ^ ^

Heya Rosanne,

Sorry for the little late reply, lately I am busy with school so I couldn’t help it. Congratulations on your acceptance! But yes, this summer I have been to Japan for 5 weeks. Out of these weeks I had two weeks of school and then there were summer holidays as well. In total, these 5 weeks might have been the best weeks of my life. I am obviously fond of Japan and its culture.

I assume you still need to wait a long time before you finally know where you are located and with what family. A few weeks before my exchange, I received a letter of YFU stating that I would be staying in Neyagawa-shi, Osaka with a family consisting of a mother, father and two sons of my age. For me, it was still quite an effort to prepare for Japan, as my test week was just in the same week as the start of the trip so I had to make those tests earlier. Anyway, after packing my suitcase quickly, – watch the weight! -, we flew with a group of YFU students by aircraft directly from Amsterdam to Tokyo. 11.5 hours flying causes quite some jet lag by the way. If this is your first time in Japan, I will definitely say you will not keep all what is happening right now in mind. After flying once again, to Osaka, I finally ended at my host mother who was waiting for me. You know, with a sign up and stuff.

Since then, I realized that I really was in the dreamland where I wanted to be. The exchange program here for me. I could already speak Japanese pretty well so I got used to it really quickly, but from what I heard from other YFU students: it may still be difficult to communicate with the Japanese because they are very little experienced in English. Also, I had heard the Japanese from Osaka are more hospitable than the other areas, but I think it will be fine.

Upon arrival you will learn to know a lot of course, but after a good night’s rest you will gradually fall into the rhythm of the Japanese. After two days the moment had already arrived that I would be on a specific school for 2 weeks. These two weeks were really the best week of the trip. You learn to know the culture by contact with the youth. Others had maybe less or more school, it depends on the school. I did all kinds of things at school, but I’d rather leave that to your imagination, then the tension is still there!

The remaining 3 weeks there was no school, so there are hardly any activities. One tip is to make many friends and many activities to do with them, do club activities or go into town. Plenty of choices, but make sure you have enough money with you when you go shopping, it can still be expensive time! (Fortunately I had found an international ATM). YFU provides an event once or twice, and there is chance that a YFU student may live in the neighborhood. Then you can go along with them, etc. Do whatever you can’t do later, so plan carefully! Have fun in Japan!