Another Chapter of My Life – From “駐車禁止” to “No Parking”

So now I try to write this post in English because this post is dedicated to all my Japanese teacher and Japanese classmates. And because my Japanese writing skill is still not good enough, so instead of writing this in Japanese, I prefer to write this in English. Enjoy reading! 😀

Actually before coming to Japan, I was aiming to post at least 3 posts a month. I really wanted to share all episodes I experienced here because I’m sure there will be many interesting story to tell about. But apparently, I was so busy doing many things so even if I had free time, I’d rather sleep or going somewhere interesting than posting something on my blog. But now, I have to write this thought as long as it’s still in my mind. Or else I will forget again >_<

Important Japanese

Like written on my previous posts (but it’s written in Indonesian language so never mind), in this past 4 months I was studying Japanese in Intensive Course. So because it was ‘intensive’, everyday we studied from 8.40 am until 3.00 pm, from Monday to Friday, for 15 weeks. It was like a our major is Japanese. Because after class we still have a lot of homework and tasks, so we often studied together outside class.

You know many people says that you can’t live in Japan without having Japanese skill because people here rarely speak English. But at first I didn’t think it’s true. Two years ago I came here for short conference and trip, and at that time, I didn’t have Japanese skill at all, and Alhamdulillah I managed to go to many places just by following the instruction from map I took at the station (and with the help from my friend who was good in reading map actually 😀 ). So in my opinion you still can go everywhere in Japan even if you can’t speak Japanese.

And I was right. You CAN GO everywhere in Japan without having Japanese skill, but you CAN’T LIVE in Japan without having Japanese skill. (Nandanari, 2013) <- quotation みたい:P It’s just my opinion by the way, or at least it’s my experience.

When you live here, you will do everything that is related to Japanese. When you go shopping, sometimes you have to communicate with the people at the market to ask something. When you read an announcement in public places, it might be an important announcement so you have to understand the meaning. And you may face problem here, like sickness, problem related to money so you have to go to the bank, or post office, and many many public places don’t have English translation nor people who can’t speak English to explain everything to you.

Before I came to Japan, actually I have studied Japanese for a year, so I thought I will have enough skill to begin my life in Japan. But I was wrong. The first time I got here, I couldn’t understand when Japanese people talk in Japanese, at all. They talked so fast and sometimes omit the particles or syllables, and they didn’t use ‘masu’ form like I studied in Indonesia. It was even worse when they tried to talk in Keigo because at that time I didn’t know Keigo at all.

Then I did Japanese placement test to be able to enter Japanese class, and I was placed in this Intensive Course.

In this Intensive Course, we studied all of basic grammar in Japanese and all of our Senseis always explain everything in easy Japanese (they rarely used English). The grammar and vocabulary they used will increase along with the grammar and vocabulary we studied at class, so after we studied the theory, we can directly used it in daily life, so that grammar or vocab will stay in our mind. Moreover, if there’s a vocab we didn’t know, they always rephrase it with other easier vocab in Japanese also.

Besides that, we were also taught very useful expressions that we can use in daily life, like my previous story. We were taught how to ask direction in a proper way, how to go to a hospital, and many more. And there was one episode of my life here that I experienced exactly the same episode I studied at class (from that link also), so I was so excited >_<

So by hearing Japanese everyday and using it in daily life, gradually my Japanese skill is increasing. And I can use that expressions in my daily life here. So I found that the curriculum they made is very good and useful. They taught us many important Japanese we can use. And maybe if I weren’t placed in this Intensive Course, I couldn’t increase my Japanese skill this much. I mean,  now I’m still not fluent in Japanese of course. Because there’s to much grammar I studied in this past 4 months, I sometimes get confuse which grammar should I use when I want to say something. There’s still so many things I have to learn. But the difference between the first time I got here and now is so far. That’s the thing I most thankful about.

Japan’s Culture

In this intensive course we didn’t only study grammar and vocab, of course, because it would be so boring if it was so. Senseis also provide us other special program which was about Japan’s culture. This period maybe one of our favorite time because we can refresh a bit after having attacked by a bunch of grammar and kanji everyday 😛

Japan’s manner. Actually Indonesia and Japan has many similar manner so it’s not so new for me. But for my friend from western country it was really new. They aren’t used to take off their shoes when entering house, they aren’t used to sit on the floor with Japanese style, they aren’t used to traffic in Japan because here cars going in left side of the street (so lucky Indonesia has the same system too!), and many more. But some manners also new for me, such as you can’t share food from one chopstick to another chopstick (because it’s a custom while attending funeral), for woman it’s not good to sit cross-legged, when you enter the house you can’t take off your shoes while facing your back to the host, and so on.

Karuta. I never knew this kind of game before. We played with two sets of card. On the first set of card, one hiragana is written as well as a drawing of some situation. On the second set of the card, there’s one sentence that start with one hiragana. So these cards are pairs. There will be one person reading the card that full of sentence, and the other set was spread over the floor, and some other people sitting around these cards. When you hear a sentence that start with one hiragana, you have to look for the card with that hiragana and take it as fast as you can. You win if you take the most cards. This game is so fun and refreshing. But unfortunately I completely forgot to take a picture when we played this game. Maybe I’ll ask Sensei some pictures. (unimportant fact: I won when we played this game 🙂 )

Rakugoka. One day we had a chance to meet Rakugoka. Rakugoka is one kind of comedian in Japan. This comedian will tell us funny conversations and play role as some people at the same time, so they have ability to speak in many different accents, such as old man, old woman, kids, adult man, adult woman, etc. The special things are they just sit on a pillow while tell us the funny conversations, and their equipment only one hand-fan. So with those equipments and their facial expressions, they can make us imagine what kind of situation is happening now. The day before we met the Rakugoka, me and my classmates submit one funny conversation in Japanese. And this rakugoka chose my story to be presented in front of the audience! So I tried to become funny while using Japanese. Only some people laughed though 😛 I don’t know why, it’s either they didn’t understand my Japanese, or I wasn’t funny at all 😛 But it was an amazing experience 🙂

Rakugoka and classmates
Rakugoka and classmates

Shodou. Shodou is Japan’s calligraphy. On our kanji class, we sometimes learn how to write kanji  in calligraphy style. It wasn’t easy at all! >_< But is was so fun. We keep asking Sensei to do calligraphy instead of studying kanji only 😛 Because our kanji Sensei is very nice, she always granted our wishes. Sensei, thank you very much for making kanji class so fun! ^_^

Our works

Fun Trip

As a part of Intensive Course, we had one day trip to interesting place in Japan for free 😀 Alhamdulillah. So when Sensei asked us months ago about where do we want to go if we had trip, I suggest Nikko because I always wanted to go to Nikko since two years ago when I came to Japan, but I still didn’t have time. Fortunately, Sensei accepted my suggestion!! Sensei said that usually from year to year, students from Intensive Course only went to Tsukuba-san (Mount Tsukuba) which is near university. So we were very lucky! ^_^

June 28th, 2013. This was a one-day trip. We went to Nikko early in the morning (not so early for Indonesian actually) by bus. The bus was very nice. There were two columns and two seats on each column, but the bus was very big so everybody didn’t have to share seats. We could have two seats for us and our belongings.


On the bus there was also a guide-lady like I saw on dorama! That guide wore a uniform and talked in the bus using microphone. The guide gave us many information about the way we took to go there and also about what we would see there.


When we arrived at Nikko, we have to walk a bit from the parking lot to Toshogu area. The guide-lady walked while holding a flag. Really looked like in dorama 😀


In Toshogu area, there was another guide-lady who guide us inside Toshogu. This guide explained everything about Toshogu history, and the good thing was she explained it in English so we can understand easily.


After going around Toshogu, we had lunch in the restaurant near the parking lot. In this restaurant most of us ordered Yuba Set, which is famous product in Nikko. Yuba is made of tofu, and on this Yuba Set, all was made of tofu and vegetable 🙂


After eating, we had a very little time of buying souvenir >_< And because I didn’t know what to buy, I only bought castella, which is another famous product from Nikko.

photo (1)

The next stop was Mashiko Yaki. This was a place for making yakimono or pottery. We were taught by a trainer how to make a pottery. Actually it was so easy and just like when we were kids playing plasticine. I made a bowl that looked like a hat, one of my friend said >_<

photo (3)

This bowl still haven’t finished yet. After the shape was complete, we left them all there to be burn and dried by the worker in that place. Around one month after that (Sensei said it will be around August 12th), they will send all of our works to International Student Center so that we can take them. Looking forward! 🙂

photo (4)
All of our works

This trip was so special, because, if I go there by myself, I won’t have enough money to pay a high-class bus, a guide, and a trainer to teach me how to make pottery. I feel so lucky to be given this experience 🙂

New Skill

On this past 4 months, I feel that I gain so many skills and experiences that probably I wouldn’t be able to gain if I was not in Intensive Course.

Shodou. We had so many chances to write calligraphy again and again. Our kanji Sensei is very nice. When we wanted to write a complicated kanji, She always taught us how to write it properly by holding our brush together. She also taught us how to make our own ink from water! 😀

Going to a doctor. Yes, it is also not an easy skill for me because no one speak English at the clinic. How to register at the receptionist, how to tell the doctor our problem, how to understand doctor’s explanation, and finally how to understand pharmacist explanation about medicine we must take. All this skill I learnt at class and surprisingly I experience a same episode as on the video we watched at class 🙂

Yakimono. It was a really nice experience. Just a few days before our trip to Nikko, I watched a korean variety show where the actor and actress made a yakimono, and I said (to myself) that I wanted to make a yakimono also. And my wish became true unintentionally. And the step by step of making yakimono taught by the trainer was exactly the same as the one that I watched on the variety show! >_<

Rakugo. While ‘Rakugoka’ is the person/comedian, ‘Rakugo’ is the type of comedy itself. As I said before, my ‘funny’ story was chosen by the Rakugoka to be presented in front of audience. So yeah, I tried my best to become funny 😛 And know I became know how to do it 😀

Presentation. And yeah, last but not least, I gain presentation skill conducted in Japanese! Around June, our class had finished studying all of basic grammar, so Sensei decided to give us more challenge for the next one month. The next thing we must study is writing grammar. In Japanese, speaking grammar is different from writing grammar. Sensei thought that maybe after this we will have to read some articles, thesis, or papers written in Japanese, so studying writing grammar is also important.

Besides writing grammar, Sensei also taught us more complicated vocabulary related to our major. Sensei looked for our supervisor’s paper that is written in Japanese and told us some important words that might we use or hear a lot in the future. At first this was so hard because we jumped from basic level to upper-intermediate level. Me and my classmates often felt tired because of too much thinking at the class instead of doing interesting things like when we were studying basic grammar. But now I can see the benefit.

On the last day of our class, we were given a challenge to present our research theme, in Japanese, by using all vocab and grammar we learnt so far. At first I was so shocked, what will I say, and how can I say it in Japanese. But Sensei said, there’s no way you can’t do it. So I became motivated by hearing that.

The last three days of class, I didn’t sleep that much (and I’m sure my classmates too). We prepared for the presentation and a present for each of our Senseis.  We made very big posters from powerpoint that we print. This is my poster

photo (5)

漢字いっぱいですよ! Even I didn’t realize now I know some kanji and vocab related to my major. And I can’t believe that in the end, I passed this challenge. I can present my research in front of people. Maybe it wasn’t perfect, still did many mistakes, but people understand what I said and I could answer their questions, is already a big achievement for myself 🙂

Interesting Facts

I’m sorry this post become this long because I want to summarize all I got on these past 4 months in one post (my mistake to not write regularly >_< ).

Inside and outside class we often talked about many things with our Senseis. And I found some interesting facts that I want to share to you who read this until this part 😛

Live overseas. So from chatting with some Senseis (almost all I think), I came to know that almost of our Senseis have ever lived abroad. So that’s why our Senseis are different from normal Japanese. Lol 😀 What so different?

First, our Senseis can speak English even though they didn’t use it that much while talking with us. Sometimes when we wanted to ask something and didn’t know how to ask in Japanese, we asked them in English and they understood and answered it in Japanese, which is good for us to train our listening skill.

Second, our Senseis are very open-minded. I think Senseis can deal with different kinds of student. It’s not just about how different character of one student to another student but because we came from different countries, we also have many different customs. Since I come from eastern country, I rarely have difficulty to adapt with Japan’s custom. But many of my friends come from western countries and they have many different custom too. Sometimes I saw them doing something that I think they shouldn’t do in front of Senseis, but Senseis never angry or offended.

Third, our Senseis are very patient. Even some of us sometimes came late to class or not doing homework (which I know it’s not Japanese’s character), Senseis just gave us reminder without making us feel uncomfortable. If I were a Sensei, maybe I couldn’t become as patient as this >_<

Fourth, Senseis have so wide knowledge in many different areas. One of my Sensei even remind me about Ramadan one week before it started >_< I wonder how he found out that Ramadan was about to start. Another Sensei has interests in Latin’s culture so she can talk about many things with my friends from Latin America. Another Sensei knows many things about Indonesia! So I can see that Senseis who teach us have interests in many different countries or culture. Maybe that’s why they are assigned to teach foreigner 😀

Japanese Japanese. It’s hard to translate that sentence. In Japanese I mean “nihonjin no nihongo” 😛 I heard from one of our Sensei, normal Japanese didn’t study Japanese grammar at school. So they don’t know such things as ‘te-form’, ‘ta-form’, ‘dictionary-form’, ‘i-adjective’, ‘na-adjective’, and all that we learnt at class. Now I know why long long time ago, when I was still in Indonesia, I have a friend who had live in Japan for 5 years when she was a kid. I asked her about verb in group 2, and she didn’t know what group 1, 2 and 3 are! She said that she never heard such thing. And I was surprise (shock maybe) at that time, and now it all makes sense 😀

Still about ‘nihonjin no nihongo’, I can see that there aren’t so many Japanese who can communicate well with foreigners who are new in studying Japanese. As a beginner, our vocab is still limited, there are some words that have many translation in Japanese, and maybe we only know one word, but not the other word. So Japanese who can communicate with foreigner, they can rephrase difficult word with easier one, or they can explain that word with an easy explanation in Japanese. But for Japanese who don’t have this skill, they can’t rephrase it and become confuse how to explain that word. The other thing is, there are too many slang words in Japanese (same as Indonesian actually 😛 ). So normal Japanese often speak using that slang words, that are difficult to understand by beginners >_<


Now without realizing, this amazing experience has come to an end. It’s like once again, another chapter of my life is closed, and all I can do is just look back and feel the benefits from what I got so far.

On the farewell party, one Sensei told me a story. Years ago, she also taught in one Japanese Class. One day, one of her student called her after a long time no seeing each other. On that call, the student told Sensei that her dream came true. She was graduated and was about to come home to her country. Sensei said that it was one of the best time of her life, knowing her student reached her succeed. And Sensei also told me, “Nadine-san, before I get old, reach your goals as fast as you can, and please call me when your dreams come true.”

Another Sensei also told me, “Now you get scholarship to study in Japan. Here, there are so many chances you can get. You can study your major, and you can also study Japanese. Make sure to catch all of those chances and use them well in your future.”

Another advice from another Sensei, “Here you might be facing many hardships. But it’s life. The longer you live, the more challenges you will faces. But don’t worry, after you passed one step, it means you deserve to be on the next step, on the higher step.”

(Ok, now my eyes watery) T_T

To all of our Senseis, I can’t express how thankful I am to teach us so many things in a very short time. Thank you for all stories and advice you gave us. Thank you for choosing me as one of Intensive Class’s members, because I know, if I weren’t on this class, I wouldn’t get the same experience.

at Nikko
(not all ) Senseis and our presents
(not all) Senseis and our presents

One thought on “Another Chapter of My Life – From “駐車禁止” to “No Parking”

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