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Immersion in Kyoto??

久利寿

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Hello everyone!

I created an account here to ask everyone about the MEXT university-recommended scholarship, and had some more questions.

I previously studied at Tokyo Gakugei University for a year as a self-funded student and speak N3-N2 level Japanese, as a disclaimer, so I have previous experience living and studying in Japan.In order to improve my language skills beyond their current level, I am going for a second year in Japan. This time, I have chosen to study at Doshisha University in Kyoto. I was recommended to apply for the MEXT Japanese Studies by the study abroad office so I went ahead and applied to the university's MEXT Japanese Studies program (大学推薦)

So, to the point of the post, I am looking for a very immersive, heavy-Japanese, no-or-little-as-possible English experience. However, as I am going to Kyoto, I am worried that it is too foreign-friendly. That might sound weird, but should I be concerned about that when I study there?

When I lived in Tokyo, I took a side-trip to Kyoto to visit a friend and have her show me around and I had to basically fight with the service staff to use my Japanese (replying three, four, or more times in Japanese until they got I could understand, etc.)

Thanks everyone!
 

Majestic

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So, to the point of the post, I am looking for a very immersive, heavy-Japanese, no-or-little-as-possible English experience. However, as I am going to Kyoto
Yes, as you surmised, this is the fundamental problem. If you are looking for a place that affords a zero-English experience (or close to it), you are going to the wrong place. You need to look deeper into Japan.

Just as a side note, I wouldn't get frustrated at the staff who speak in English - your expectations of how they should speak to you are clashing with their expectations how they should speak to you. It could be a classic case of where they thought their English was better than your Japanese, and that they were doing you a kindness by speaking in English. Also, they may not have realized you wanted the Japanese-speaking practice. If you are going to Kyoto, I would imagine this will be a persistent situation until your Japanese improves to the level where they realize you can communicate "stress-free".
 

WonkoTheSane

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I found similar things in Kyoto as well as other tourist heavy places such as Hiroshima.

I've found that a simple 日本語でお願いします。勉強するだから。 Which is probably poor grammar but said politely goes a long way towards getting around it. I'm sure you'll be able to say something more appropriate.

They generally sincerely want to give you a good experience. You just need to let them know what that is for you.
 

久利寿

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Yes, as you surmised, this is the fundamental problem. If you are looking for a place that affords a zero-English experience (or close to it), you are going to the wrong place. You need to look deeper into Japan.

Just as a side note, I wouldn't get frustrated at the staff who speak in English - your expectations of how they should speak to you are clashing with their expectations how they should speak to you. It could be a classic case of where they thought their English was better than your Japanese, and that they were doing you a kindness by speaking in English. Also, they may not have realized you wanted the Japanese-speaking practice. If you are going to Kyoto, I would imagine this will be a persistent situation until your Japanese improves to the level where they realize you can communicate "stress-free".
Doshisha is a well-known, prestigious school in Japan, and I wanted the bigger city but different than Tokyo vibe. I guess I will just have to suck it up and find places to go to and explore that are not 四条通り or 祇園:p

When dealing with simple things at restaurants, buying tickets at museums (whether you want to see the 特別展示 or not), I can do it stress-free, but they still did that... Not even in Shibuya or Shinjuku did I have to fight to speak Japanese
 

madphysicist

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Doshisha is a well-known, prestigious school in Japan, and I wanted the bigger city but different than Tokyo vibe. I guess I will just have to suck it up and find places to go to and explore that are not 四条通り or 祇園:p

When dealing with simple things at restaurants, buying tickets at museums (whether you want to see the 特別展示 or not), I can do it stress-free, but they still did that... Not even in Shibuya or Shinjuku did I have to fight to speak Japanese
I had the opposite experience - I found that serving staff and random people in Kyoto were more willing to speak Japanese to me, whereas in Tokyo they usually started out in English. Nara was where they actually insisted on speaking English. I was only in Kansai less than a week though.

I'd suggest if you have your heart set on immersion in Kyoto, you avoid spending too much time near heavy tourist areas. You might say all of Kyoto is a tourist area but I mean specifically areas near the most famous temples. Living somewhere a bit outside the centre would also help although gives you less "big city vibe".

When sitting down at a restaurant you can pointedly pick up the Japanese menu and start reading, that seems to work.
 

久利寿

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I had the opposite experience - I found that serving staff and random people in Kyoto were more willing to speak Japanese to me, whereas in Tokyo they usually started out in English. Nara was where they actually insisted on speaking English. I was only in Kansai less than a week though.

I'd suggest if you have your heart set on immersion in Kyoto, you avoid spending too much time near heavy tourist areas. You might say all of Kyoto is a tourist area but I mean specifically areas near the most famous temples. Living somewhere a bit outside the centre would also help although gives you less "big city vibe".

When sitting down at a restaurant you can pointedly pick up the Japanese menu and start reading, that seems to work.
Well I will be going to school in Imadegawa, but if you could recommend some non-tourist areas in Kyoto I could go to that would be fantastic! :D
 

cocoichi

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Hi "Kanji name which I cannot read",

Rest assured, it is very easy to live in Kyoto and get the full Japan experience that you desire. I have studied in Kyoto at Ryukoku Daigaku for a semester, and that university has 3 campuses. One has a lot of foreigners (Fukakusa campus), but Omiya and Seta campus (at least in 2011) had virtually none. I remember that I was in a group of 5 exchange students at Seta campus and we took some classes together with the Japanese students. There was a guy from Belgium who studied a full degree there, but I think he was the only one and he spoke fluent Japanese. If I did not decide to live in the Kyoto city center dormitory, I would never have seen any of the other foreign students.

So if you want a foreigner free (or as close to it as possible) Kyoto experience:
- choose a university with only a few foreign partners.
- rent your own apartment or look for a dormitory where only a few foreigners can be expected.
- you don't have to ignore anyone, but you are of course free to choose your own friends or whom to spend your free time with.
 

madphysicist

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Well I will be going to school in Imadegawa, but if you could recommend some non-tourist areas in Kyoto I could go to that would be fantastic! :D
Sorry, I only spent 2-3 days in Kyoto and most of that doing tourist stuff. My favourite place was Arashiyama (near the river there are lots of beautiful spots) but that's still popular with tourists.

I have been thinking about this issue a bit recently because I'm struggling to decide if I'd rather study in Tokyo or Kyoto (not studying Japanese but physics). But really I think the key is confidence - start the interaction confidently in Japanese, even if it's not 100% grammatically correct, and people will see you are not just struggling with Japanese for the sake of politeness.

Also as @cocoichi said where you are staying is a big factor, and it is not all that difficult to find people to socialise with who speak little or no English.
 

cocoichi

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Well I will be going to school in Imadegawa, but if you could recommend some non-tourist areas in Kyoto I could go to that would be fantastic! :D
Imadegawa is already quite a good place for an authentic experience. On nice days I used to take my bicycle and ride up to Kita-oji area. Once you are on the north side of the Tozai subway line (above karasumaoike and sanjo) you'll notice that it becomes more and more "local". For the type of experience that you are looking for, I would definitely recommend living in the Demachiyanagi area. It will be easy to go to university from there, plus easy access to Kamogawa and a direct train line to Osaka (Keihan line).

However even in places like Omiya, south of Kyoto station, etc you can feel immersed. Most tourists tend to go to Arashiyama, the castles/temples, gion and sanjo area. You do not have to go out of your way to avoid them though. You just don't have to talk to them if you don't want.

Enjoy your time in my favorite Japanese city :)
 

久利寿

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Imadegawa is already quite a good place for an authentic experience. On nice days I used to take my bicycle and ride up to Kita-oji area. Once you are on the north side of the Tozai subway line (above karasumaoike and sanjo) you'll notice that it becomes more and more "local". For the type of experience that you are looking for, I would definitely recommend living in the Demachiyanagi area. It will be easy to go to university from there, plus easy access to Kamogawa and a direct train line to Osaka (Keihan line).

However even in places like Omiya, south of Kyoto station, etc you can feel immersed. Most tourists tend to go to Arashiyama, the castles/temples, gion and sanjo area. You do not have to go out of your way to avoid them though. You just don't have to talk to them if you don't want.

Enjoy your time in my favorite Japanese city :)
Okay, awesome, thanks for the advice! :D When I was in Tokyo with my German friends we were able to convince people we didn't speak any English, that was loads of fun. Glad I won't have to resort to any of that! :p

I also went for 3-4 days. I would have enjoyed it better but it was 41C the day I arrived. :p I love Kyoto!
 

mdchachi

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Okay, awesome, thanks for the advice! :D When I was in Tokyo with my German friends we were able to convince people we didn't speak any English, that was loads of fun. Glad I won't have to resort to any of that! :p

I also went for 3-4 days. I would have enjoyed it better but it was 41C the day I arrived. :p I love Kyoto!
That was going to be my next suggestion. Try saying something like 申し訳ございませんが英語が不得意です and pretend you don't understand them. 😁
 

久利寿

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That was going to be my next suggestion. Try saying something like 申し訳ございませんが英語が不得意です and pretend you don't understand them. 😁
It was pretty funny, because I am not German but I have heavy German ancestry but speak no German so I am amazed that it worked. :p

I am glad that I am able to have the immersive experience in Kyoto. That was the one thing that was swaying my decision to go to another place to study...
I'll try just saying 日本語でお願いします or something to that effect if they get too heavy with the English then, though eventually I hope I won't have to do that constantly...
 

cocoichi

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It was pretty funny, because I am not German but I have heavy German ancestry but speak no German so I am amazed that it worked. :p

I am glad that I am able to have the immersive experience in Kyoto. That was the one thing that was swaying my decision to go to another place to study...
I'll try just saying 日本語でお願いします or something to that effect if they get too heavy with the English then, though eventually I hope I won't have to do that constantly...
One nice thing about Kyoto (to me at least), is that is has over a million people in population, but it does not feel that way. There are no skyscrapers (I think most buildings are the equivalent of a 5 or 6 storey building), there are many residential type streets downtown, and the best thing of all: if you stand on a wide enough street and you are facing north or south, you can see mountains/hills both on your left and on your right.

See here for example: Google Maps
 
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