Everyone likely has their own idea of how college life looks, whether that be through personal experience or movies. However, college life can vary greatly compared to your own experiences with it in different cultures. Today, we’ll be exploring what the daily life of a Japanese university student looks like. While I’m sure you’ll find some similarities, be prepared to also come across some differences.
Starting The Day
The day of a Japanese University starts as early as 7am. While this may sound like a very early time to be waking up, it is later than many manga artists get up and right around the time many High School/College Students in the United States wake up. Many Universities do offer dorms to their students (called Ryo), but due to the limited amount available students are left having to either rent an apartment near campus or continue living with their parents. Students that live with their parents while they attend college and tend to continue doing so even into their adult working life. While this may sound strange, it’s expected of children to begin caring for their parents once they have a full time job. As long as they’re able to help pay for food and utilities, living at home is not considered a bad thing.
Depending on where you’re from, you likely wash in the morning before you start your day. Japan, for the most part, does the opposite and washes in the evening. This means that they’re both going to bed clean and washing away their daily stress with a relaxing bath. Depending on time, the student may or may not have breakfast and in general they’re out of their house by 8am. If they happen to be living close enough to their school, they may choose to walk but if they don’t then the train is their next best option. To help save money, students tend to purchase a pass called the “Teikiken” that allows them unlimited rides for a set route. As an example, they could travel to and from school all for “free” since they already paid for the “unlimited pass”. Taking the bus is also another viable option as well as driving, but very few students choose to drive.
The Campus and Classes
Some public facilities follow the same home etiquette that involves taking off your outdoor shoes before stepping into the facility. While it may seem strange to those not familiar with the culture, it is definitely a genius way of keeping both public and private buildings as clean as possible. If you’re looking to go to the gym, many campuses do offer it but it won’t always be free. Depending on the campus they’re attending, students may have to pay for gym access which is a little strange (you’d think the standard would be the same across all campuses).
Classrooms are generally rather large (auditorium size) to accommodate a large number of students. While taking notes the traditional way is fine, many students now use laptops. The move to technology has also affected how students learn, as many Professors now opt to using a projector to show the notes that need to be taken rather than hand writing them all down. They do further expand upon what is shown to the students, but using a projector is definitely the best method to ensure that even the students at the very back of the auditorium can still read the notes.
A students final semester grade is based on assignments, presentations, group projects, and one final exam at the end of the semester. While that all seems rather straightforward, many Professors in Japanese Universities don’t tell students how much each category is weighted so that students can’t calculate what they need to score on their final exam to earn a specific grade for their course. Surprisingly enough, some classes do allow students to have up to three missed days (which many students take advantage of) while others (such as ones based around law or medicine) have much stricter rules about missing class.
At lunchtime, students often meet in the “Gakushoku” (school cafeteria) to both grab a bite to eat and socialize. Meals are very decently priced with the vast majority being under five USD (524 Yen), which means that just about anyone can afford to eat at the cafeteria. The best part though is that some cafeterias have free tea for their students! What more could you possibly want? Another popular choice if students tire of their cafeteria is a local 7-11, which is generally pricier but they offer pre-made bento boxes.
Many campuses also have their own convenience store that offers not only basic school supplies and textbooks, but also food, books, and hygiene products. This makes it very convenient for students as they can purchase everything they need right on campus without ever having to leave it.
Students in Japan generally have very busy schedules that leave them without much time for personal activities. Heavy class loads, work, and extracurricular activities siphon away all their waking hours. Life does get a little easier in a students fourth year, however. If their future job has already been decided (as in they were accepted for a position), students may opt for a lighter workload to allow them more free time outside of class. It’s typical for University students to start their job hunting process in the Winter of their third year and by the summer of their fourth year, many will have a guaranteed job out of college. This means that unlike the 15-23 credit hours that year one to three students have, year four students can expect as little as 9 credit hours!
With the little free time they do have to themselves, students gather with friends to socialize and eat together. Cooking at home is the most popular option because it’s more relaxing than going out and drinking alcoholic beverages is common amongst university students.
While being a student in Japan can be more strenuous than in other cultures, students find ways to balance both their school/work life and their personal life. The amenities that Universities offer students are fantastic and goes to show that these schools really care about the well-being of their students. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Japan, stopping by a local campus and observing the differences on your own would certainly make for an amazing experience.