5 “Side Effects” I Have As A Study-Abroad Student In Japan

I’ve been staying in Kyoto since July 2015. I started out with studying Japanese in a Japanese language school, called ARC Academy. After about 1 year 9 months, I graduated from the language school and got accepted into Ritsumeikan University, majoring in Global Studies.

And since today is the 22nd of December 2017, it’s been roughly around 2.5 years of living in Kyoto. My family, relatives and friends sometimes wonder if I’m a changed man whenever I return to Singapore during my vacation breaks. They kept on thinking and assuming that due to the fact that I’ve been living in Japan for quite some time, I’ve somehow “become” Japanese.

Well, it’s definitely not true that I’ve completely changed and become a Japanese man. However, it is certainly true that I’ve changed some of my habits and mannerisms, kinda in a way that it has adjusted to the Japanese culture.

I have listed down below, the 5 “side effects” that I have after staying in Japan long-term.


1. I Bow…All The Time

When I say thanks, I bow. When I apologise, I bow. When I give way to oncoming vehicles or pedestrians, I bow. I bow all the time. I got so used to it that I even bow while having phone conversations! Bowing is a like a daily routine for Japanese people. One does not live in Japan and not bow at least once a day. History has it that bowing started off as a reflection of social status, but as times changed, bowing now serves for many different purposes, including greetings and even when you are asking someone for a favour.


2. My English Speaking Ability Got Worse

“Hey, it’s so warm today. Let’s go get aisu kurimu!” Yes, that means ‘ice cream’. For those who have learnt the basics of Japanese, you should know how Katakana works. Katakana borrows words from the English language, change its pronunciation and then add it to its dictionary. There are literally thousands of Katakana words, such as doa (door), so-se-ji (sausage), be-kudochi-zuke-ki (baked cheesecake), etc. As an English speaker, I chuckled when I was learning all these words. However, as karma would have it, I end up speaking English like any other Japanese would.


3. I Go To The Convenience Store Almost Every Day

Convenience stores (also known as konbini in Japanese) such as 7-Eleven and Family Mart being convenient are totally an understatement. They offer way more services than any other convenience stores around the world could. Other than buying late night snacks (really wide selection of foodstuff you can find there), I find myself paying electricity/gas bills, photocopying and scanning documents, printing photos and even using the Wi-Fi, all in these really handy stores. I can even pay for movie or concert tickets, or even night bus tickets there.


4. I Don’t Jaywalk Even If There Are No Cars

‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Unfortunately, Japanese people adhere to the traffic rules very strictly. Even if it’s a very narrow road, the kind of road where you can walk across in less than 3 seconds, the locals here will never jaywalk. I remember the first time I tried to jaywalk when I was in Kyoto. I regretted my action after that. It was embarrassing as I received stares from the locals. I used to always jaywalk back in my home country, but over here in Japan, no.


5. I Leave My Valuables Everywhere

Laptop, iPhone, wallet, bicycle, you name it. Japan is such a safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world. Well, of course, ‘low crime’ does not mean ‘no crime’. However, here in Japan, the chances of you having your stuff stolen are so minute. I have left my stuff, especially my wallet and phone, in public places such as schools, restaurants, toilets and cafes and have yet to get it stolen. I am not trying to say that I am just waiting for it to happen, but it’s just that, everyone does it, especially the locals.


How I Started Photography as a Hobby

That’s me trying to look for the best angle
That’s me smiling after I had found the best angle 😀

“It’s a long story, bro”

Usually, when I meet new people in school or at work, most of them will ask me the same, exact question: “So Asyraf, how did you start photography as a hobby?”

And every single time that question is asked, I give the same answer with a wide grin, “It’s a long story, bro”.

So yes, I’m going to tell you exactly how I started taking up photography as a hobby.

Started in the Year 2011

It was 6 years ago. I think it was in January, I guess? By then, I was already a Year 1 Ngee Ann Polytechnic student (in Singapore) who was about to complete my 2nd semester. At that point of time, I knew that my cumulative GPA for that year would be considered ‘really good’ (not trying to brag here, but that’s not the point), and hence, I thought that I should join one of the many interesting clubs/societies that the school has. I remember looking through the long lists of clubs and societies, and I was super excited. There were just too many that I was spoilt for choice. If I remember correctly, I think that I singled out 3 different clubs: Bowling, floorball and photography club.

Bowling: Went for their training for a few weeks and then quit due to some reasons with the coach.

Floorball: Went for the trials and I was like “Ohh, this is gonna tire me out after just a few weeks in”. Their training was really intense. And I know, that deep down inside, my lack in stamina was just gonna hit me real hard if I were to train with them every week.

Photography Club: Looked great. Seemed fun and enjoyable. More importantly, I could actually earn some money from some of their photography projects. What’s there to lose?

I discussed my choices with my secondary school buddy who also got into the same polytechnic as me and we decided to join the photography club. But before we joined, we thought that it would be best to purchase our very own DSLR. I remember asking my parents to buy one for me. I told them that I was planning to join the photography club in school with my friend and promised them that I would not quit the club after joining it.

Nikon D90 – My 1st DSLR

I was so overjoyed when they gave me the green light. On that very day, my parents and I went to Courts to get myself a camera. I realised that I didn’t know much about cameras, so one of the staff recommended me the Nikon D90, which became my first ever DSLR, and I’m still using the D90 till today!

However, my friend and I never did attend any of the club meetings or anything. We never did join the club at all. We planned to go for one of the meetings but it just never happened. After we gave up trying to join or even participate in any of the club activities, I find myself not using my D90 at all, until…

Japan Trip 2011

The 1st time that I could test the camera out (especially outdoors) turned out to be the most vital part of my journey as a beginner in photography. And that 1st time happened during my 1st ever visit to Japan in 2011. Yes, it’s the same one that I mentioned in my previous post.

I had a really amazing time, testing out all the camera modes and settings. Ohh let me tell you this, especially if you (yes, you!) are an amateur photographer, the early stages of learning photography involves A LOT OF TRIAL AND ERROR. It’s normal. The more you do it, the better. I’m pretty sure you know the phrase “Learning through mistakes”, right? Yeah, well this phrase applies 100% to photography. It’s only through mistakes that you know how to change which settings to get the best shot. That’s how it is, and there’s no other better alternative to mastering photography.

Anyway, it was also from that trip to Japan that I realised just how much I love nature and landscape photography. Mountains in the backdrop, cherry blossoms with pink bokeh background, city skyline at nighttime…

…it’s all so BEAUTIFUL.

I was so fascinated by nature and landscape photography, and I still am now. So yes, maybe this will explain why you’ll see a lot more of these kinds of photos in this blog 😉

Land of the Rising Sun

Sunrise shot from my first ever trip to Japan in 2011

Oh Japan, Japan…

Such a beautiful country rich in history and culture, with its sophisticated yet elegant-sounding language, and with its modern cities being like salad bowls, where bits of futuristic gadgets and highly advanced technologies being side to side with thousand-year-old temples and shrines; all mixed-up but somehow, they co-exist well together.

That’s Japan for you. 

Many people love Japan for various reasons: Anime, manga, pop culture, Harajuku fashion, Japanese language, etc. But as for me, I started to fall in love with the Land of the Rising Sun when I first started learning the language. That was way back in 2010.


Just for the “Diploma Plus” Certificate

As someone who somehow got interested in foreign languages, I began learning Korean first, after a sudden wave of K-Pop boy bands and girl groups started to attract the international audience. I stopped my Korean language private class after 3 months, due to the start of my 3-year polytechnic course. I told myself that perhaps I could continue learning Korean by taking up Korean classes in polytechnic. But unfortunately, there were already no more slots for students. I looked for Japanese classes, but those too, were not available for registration. In the end, I chose French since I was so keen in taking up foreign language classes. However, after just 1 semester, I chose to not continue going for the next level of French classes. I decided I wanted to go for Japanese classes, since I could attain a “Diploma Plus” certificate upon graduation if I manage to complete all the courses (6 courses in total); something which you don’t benefit from, from other foreign language classes.


Japanese Cultural Immersion

Fast forward to 2013, I did manage to complete all 6 Japanese courses, all the way from Basic Japanese 101 to Intermediate Japanese 202. The entire experience was really amazing. I got to meet Japanese high school students from Shizuoka and Tokyo as well as Japanese interns from Osaka. I even brought some of them around Singapore as part of the program. I attended Japanese festivals for the first time too! All of these enriching experiences made me like Japan more and more.


1st Trip to Japan

Apart from all these experiences I enjoyed in Singapore, I also got to visit Japan for the first time! That was in February / March 2011, and oh yes, I loved that trip! Gosh, talking about this, my mind is suddenly flooded with memories from that trip. Perhaps I should write a separate post just for that trip?




But anyway…yes. This was exactly how I started learning Japanese and their culture, which had ultimately lead me to a slot in a university in Kyoto right now (:

A Year of Absence

Hello everyone!

It has been a really tough 1 year for me, and hence, the long absence after just my first post on this blog. After much thought, I realised that I could have maybe posted 1 post each month for the past year and this, I think, would be good enough for a start.

But I guess, I should probably “start” this blog (again) afresh.

So, to continue from what happened in my previous post, I have been admitted to Ritsumeikan University, and yes, I am already in my 2nd semester here. It has been a rather difficult journey for me, since I was a Engineering / Natural Science student but here I am, as a Liberal Arts / Social Science student. To be honest, I was a bit lost, and I still kinda am. The change was rather huge for me, so I’m still trying to find my way through all these stuff. Sometimes I question myself, “Why am I here?” or maybe “Why did I even choose this major in the first place?”. I could have been in another major in another school doing scientific lab experiments or conducting tests for solar panels or wind turbines.

However, having to go through such a difficult selection process (as well as enrollment process due to its high tuition fees), I am determined to see this through. I already know that my 1st semester was really poor, and so will my 2nd semester. But come on, Asyraf! You can do this! I know you can…

Yes, I know I can…



EJU & Global 30

EJU stands for Examination (for) Japanese University (Admission). So naturally, international students who desire to study in a Japanese university had to take this standardised exam. They can either choose to take it in Japan or in their own respective countries. However, not all universities in Japan require prospective students to take the EJU. Universities which have the Global 30 program can also enter without taking EJU.

As for me, I plan to go for Ritsumeikan’s Global Studies Major, which falls under the Global 30 program. To enter, I need to pass 2 stages of selection processes. I have already passed the first one, which is just document screening. The second stage is the interview. I will have to go through a 20-minute interview at Ritsumeikan University next weekend. I have high hopes and feel confident that I can get accepted into this institution.

I have always wanted to join this Global 30 program, but my language school teachers insisted that I take this examination just so that I have more choices. Although I was reluctant to take this examination, in the end I still decided to apply for it due to the fact that I don’t want to let my teachers down. So here I am, mugging for tomorrow’s papers.