Whether it is eating amazing food, shopping for the trendiest clothes, spending a peaceful day at a temple, or going all-out on anime and manga merchandise, Tokyo has it all. The city is known for its unique culture that can be found nowhere else in the world. Being a full-time undergraduate student of Sophia University, one of Japan’s premier private colleges located in the heart of Tokyo, I seek to experience everything the bustling metropolis has to offer in my four years as a student here.
A year has passed since I moved to Tokyo. Since I have been raised my whole life in a small town, I experienced quite the culture shock, which started immediately after I came. I remember arriving in Shinjuku Station with my suitcase beside me, walking through tunnels and following complicated directions to find the next train line I’m supposed to take. The station was packed with people, all who seem to know where they are going, unlike myself who felt like I got stuck in a labyrinth. At that moment, I realised that I’ll have to get used to Tokyo’s complex train system, as it is essential for transportation (taxis are very expensive!).
My university life turned to be very exciting. Enrolled in Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts, the oldest international program in Japan, all my classes are taught entirely in English. The interdisciplinary program covers a variety of majors from business to art history. However, I’m also taking Japanese as a foreign language course alongside my other courses. I also joined several student organizations, called circles (saakuru), where I found myself to be quite active in. There are hundreds of campus circles for diverse activities such as sports, art, and volunteering. Circles are different from clubs (bukatsu), which are official sports teams of the university, in that it has a less rigorous meeting schedule and an overall more relaxed atmosphere. Circles and clubs also typically host events such as dinners and hangouts outside of regular activities, which are an amazing opportunity to meet new people from various backgrounds. Taking part in circle activities really helped me in making many new friends and getting to know Japanese university culture.
When I’m not writing away essays or reading class handouts in my room, weekends are the perfect time for me to go out and explore the city. Tokyo is full of interesting places to see, from the colorful Takeshita Street in Harajuku to the ancient Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa. There’s also lots of picturesque scenes to snap a couple pictures and share them on social media. One of my favorite places in the city would be the vibrant and hip neighborhood Shimo-Kitazawa, located in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward. It has plenty of second-hand clothing stores that sell the coolest vintage outfits and also a good deal of cafes that serve delicious coffee and desserts. Being a fan of vintage clothing and sweet desserts, the area is perfect for me! Places like this are all accessible by train, so once I got used to the train system and lines, it is very easy to get around.
Cherishing all the experiences that Tokyo has given me so far, I look forward to what the next years will bring. I’m very glad that I chose to come to Japan, and I highly recommend Japan and Tokyo as a college destination for students from around the world. Not only will you learn valuable lessons from inside the classroom, but also outside the classroom living everyday life in the city. I hope more and more people will be able to experience Tokyo.