New Year Shrine Visit in Kyoto

On Saturday, the 20th of January, 2018, the MSA Kansai team organized a visit to two important landmarks in Kyoto; the Seimei Shrine and the Imperial Palace. 8 people attended the event despite the frigid winter. Gu, a Master student in Kyoto University, from China and Marcela, a Master student in Doshisha University from Chile were two new comers.

The first stop was Seimei Jinja, a shrine constructed in the memory of a prominent Diviner, Abe no Seimei. Upon arriving at the shrine, committee member Jyven took on the role of the guide. She, aided by Chong and Fabian (both MSA Kansai team members), explained the special features and translated many stories related to the shrine. For example, a statue of a peach which is supposed to be able to ward off back luck, a 300-year-old tree that energizes followers who embrace it, a series of drawings, which chronicled defining moments in the Diviner’s history and so forth.

The statue of Peach, which guards off bad luck, Seimei Jinja, Kyoto

The group also learnt how the Chinese five elements influenced the positioning of Kyoto’s famous landmarks and that public buses and trains were furnished with Omamori from the shrine. Some also tried their hands at the Omikuji (fortune-telling sticks).

After Seimei Jinja, the local burger joint Grand Burger was the choice for lunch.

Lunch at Grand Burger, Kyoto

After lunch, the group set off to their second destination, the Kyoto Imperial Palace, just in time for the 2 PM guided English tour. The group was greeted by a local guide, Ms. Hanasaka, who enthusiastically explained the history and significance of the palace compound and its present-day connection to the royal family. The event successfully concluded at 4pm.

At the Imperial Palace, Kyoto

We hope that everyone enjoyed themselves and look forward to seeing you at our next event!

End of Year Party in Kanto

On the 16th of December, the Kanto Regional Committee organized a year-end party for MEXT scholars and alumni at a pizza parlor in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo. The party had a total attendance of 28 people, of which 5 were alumni. The majority of attendees were newcomers to Japan, who had heard about the year-end party at a previous welcome event that was co-organized with MEXT. It was a great chance for fellow scholars to swap stories about starting life in Japan, and alumni to share tales about corporate Japan.

The pizza parlor was the same restaurant at which MSA had its first year-end party in 2016. Drink and laughter flowed freely in the casual atmosphere, and the chefs were kind enough to cater to the varied dietary restrictions of an international crowd.

Winter had just arrived, and the offbeat streets of Shimokitazawa glowed in the warmth of Christmas lights and tipsy crowds. For some, 2017 was the exciting start of a new journey in a foreign land; for others, it was a year of discovery, and yet others, a year of uncertainty. Bidding farewell under the festive streetlamps, everyone each went their separate ways, looking forward to what the new year would bring.

We hope you had a great start into 2018 and look forward to seeing you at our next event!

Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival Outing

On the 9th of December, MSA organized the Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival Outing. Over 40 people, led by Kansai committee members, Chika and Daniel, first went over to the famous Togetsu bridge to see the mesmerizing, hand-made laterns. Along the way, everyone got to know each other, learning about each other’s schools, studies, and respective countries. The journey continued onward towards the main attraction of the day: the bamboo forest, which had beautiful lights to highlight its subtle beauty.

The Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

The entire road was a little crowded, being one of the most popular spots in Kyoto, yet everyone still managed to take amazing pictures of the illuminated forest. The group then continued to the villa, where group photos were taken. After which they explored the maze-like temple and finished the day’s  trip at the pond that had beautiful mirror like reflections of the surrounding forest and temple. The trip finally ended close to the starting point, so as to make it easy for everyone to go back home.
The trip was a success, having brought MEXT and other government scholars from the Kansai area (and beyond!) closer together and everyone looks forward to the next trip!

Upcoming: Kyoto Arashiyama Hanatouro Festival Outing

While almost everyone knows about the beauty of Kyoto’s Arashiyama during the day, have you ever wondered what it looks like illuminated at night?

MSA’s next event in Kansai will be an outing to Arashiyama’s Hanatouro Festival, where beautiful open air lanterns, bright lights, and ikebana flower arrangements can be viewed along famous spots such as the Bamboo Forest and the Togetsukyō Bridge.

We’ll be gathering on Saturday afternoon, the 9th of December, so if you’re an interested MEXT scholar, do check out our Facebook event page for more information!

We’re looking forward to an amazing outing with all of you!

Picture taken from jpninfo.com (2017/12/01)

Reception for MEXT Scholar in Tokyo on the 18th of November

On the 18th of November, MEXT and JASSO co-organized a reception for new MEXT scholars in Tokyo. At the reception, the scholars were enlightebed by the speeches given by representatives from MEXT, JASSO and MSA. They could experience the Japanese culture through events like the demonstration of  Japanese tea ceremony. They could also get to know fellow MEXT scholars from a range of universities in the Kanto area.

MSA was not only present at its own booth, answering questions, handing out flyers in both English and Japanese and helping new MEXT scholars in becoming members of the association; MSA also held seminars about the job hunting process and the daily life of international students in Japan. Furthermore, ice-breaking session was also organized during the networking party in the last leg of the event, consisting of a ラジオ体操 (radio exercise) and a quiz on fun facts about Japan.

Greetings from Mr. Kiyoshi Saito at the Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Tokyo

One of the committee members of MSA gave an encouraging speech as a representative of successfully integrated alumni.

Greetings from Mr. Royce Lee at the Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Tokyo

This was the first reception, where MSA played a significant role in organizing and making sure that everything ran smoothly. Hoping this event paves way for many more such events for the MSA in the future.

The MSA committee at the Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Tokyo

We hope, that each and every one of the near 500 attendees had a great time, got to know fellow MEXT scholars and got a better idea of what is going to await them in the near future in Japan. No matter what, don’t forget that MSA is always there for you during your journey as a MEXT scholar or alumni in Japan!

Autumn Outing To Kyoto’s Mt.Hiei

On Sunday, 12th of November, the MSA Kansai team organised an outing to enjoy the autumn colours of Kyoto. The chosen location was Mt. Hiei, a popular destination to enjoy the changing colours.

In the afternoon, 20 scholars assembled at Demachiyanagi station in Kyoto. It was a good mix of scholars from Osaka and Kyoto. The journey started with a train ride to Yase-Hiezanguchi station. Right outside the station, the welcome colours of red and yellow could already be seen.  

At Demachiyanagi station, Kyoto

The next step of the journey involved using the Eizan Cable Car and ropeway all the way to the top of Mt. Hiei. The view on the way was simply mesmerising.

Mt. Hiei, Kyoto

Once the top of the mountain was reached, it was time for a small hike to the temple complex. The main attraction in Mt. Hiei is Enryaku-ji, one of the most important monasteries in Japanese history and headquarters of the Tendai sect of Japanese Buddhism. On the way, there were many viewing spots. It was a beautiful day with clear view of the valley.

Hike to Enryaku-ji, Mt. Hiei, Kyoto
Near Enryaku-ji, Mt. Hiei, Kyoto

When the group reached the entrance of the Enryaku-ji temple, it was already close to closing time and so they were actually allowed to go in without paying any entry fees. The short time was utilized by trying to bask in the serene atmosphere. Many photos of the beautiful temple complexes were. However, the main temple was actually inaccessible due to repair works.

On the way back, it was quite chilly and started to get dark. However, some illuminations could be seen on the way back, that somehow compensated the struggle against the cold weather. The outing ended with a lovely middle-eastern dinner and smiles on peoples’ faces.

Photographs by Fabian Hia and Anirban Chakraborty

Fall Intake Kohai Meetup Schedule Out!

With a new year comes a new batch of MEXT scholars. And we want to welcome them as warmly as we can!

Because of this MSA will be holding a whole string of welcome meetups for scholars throughout Japan. The details of which are below.

Please note that these meetups are open to ANY MEXT scholar, whether new, current or graduated! Also, the list below lists suggested universities but feel free to participate in the one that is the most convenient for you.

If you are interested please signup on the form here.
We really need to estimate the number of people attending so we appreciate your cooperation! Also, we will only be sending out the contacts to people who have signed up.

— List of events below —

KANTO

Primary Contact: info@mextsa.org

Shinjuku / 15th Oct

Meeting place: Shinjuku station JR East Exit
Event Date and Time: 15 October, 5pm
Recommended for: Waseda (all campuses), Saitama U., Meiji U. (Izumi), Sophia U. and other universities towards Saitama
Activities: Introduction of all MEXT scholars, dinner at izakaya, karaoke.

Hongo / 14th Oct

Meeting place: Hongo 3-chome Marunouchi station
Event Date and Time: 14 October, 5pm
Recommended for: U. of Tokyo (Hongo), Keio (Mita), Meiji (Surugadai), Chiba U. and all other universities in east of Tokyo and Chiba.
Activities: Introduction of senpais and kohais, walking around campus, dinner together.

Kunitachi / 14th Oct

Meeting place: Kunitachi station
Event day and time: 14 October, 12pm
Recommended for: Hitotsubashi U., Chuo U. (Tama), Tokyo Metropolitan U. and other universities near to Hachioji
Activities: Lunch at famous 海鮮丼 (Kaisen-don) restaurant, then strolling around Kunitachi

Shibuya / 14th Oct

Meeting place: Shibuya station, Hachiko statue
Event Date and Time: 14 Oct, 6pm
Recommended for: Tokyo Inst. of Tech, U. of Tokyo (Komaba), Keio (Hiyoshi) and all others within the Shibuya / Setagaya area
Activities: Introducing senpais, a light dinner and karaoke.

Yokohama / 21st Oct

Meeting place: Sakuragicho Station
Event Date and Time: 21 October, 4pm
Recommended for: Yokohama National U. and all others within the Kawasaki / Yokohama area.
Activities: Sight-seeing of Port of Yokohama, Chinatown then afterwards karaoke with dinner.

Tsukuba / 29th Oct

Meeting place: Tsukuba University, In front of Central Library
Event Date and Time: 29th October, 12noon
Recommended for: Tsukuba U. and all others within Ibaraki prefecture or within parts of Chiba nearby.
Activities: Interaction with Senpais, Lunch.

KANSAI

Primary Contact: kansai@mextsa.org

Kyoto / 14th Oct

Meeting place : Clock-Tower, Yoshida Campus, Kyoto University
Event Date and Time : Saturday, 14th October,2017 | Time: 5:00 PM
Recommended for: Kyoto University and all other universities within Kyoto
Activities: Introducing with Senpai(s), Stroll around Kyoto, Dinner.

Kobe / 22nd Oct

Meeting place : Sannomiya Station, Kobe
Event Date and Time : Sunday, 22nd October,2017 | Time: 3:00 PM
Recommended for: Kobe University and all other universities within Kobe / Hyogo.
Activities: Introducing with Senpai(s), Stroll around Harbour land, Dinner.

Osaka / 13th Oct

Meeting place : Central Terrace Cafe , Suita Campus, Osaka University
Event Date and Time : Friday, 13th October,2017 | Time: 4:30 PM
Recommended for: Osaka University and all other universities within Osaka.
Activities: Introducing Senpai(s), Dinner.

TOHOKU

Primary Contact: tohoku@mextsa.org

Sendai / 27th Oct

Meeting Place: International Interaction Building (国際交流棟), Kawauchi campus
Event Date and Time: 27th October, 2017 | Time: 5.00 pm onwards
Recommended for: Tohoku University
Activities: Introducing senpais, interaction.

KYUSHU

Primary Contact: kyushu@mextsa.org

Fukuoka / 21th Oct

Meeting place: Tenjin Subway Station, Kuko line central gate (underground).
Event Date and Time: Saturday 21th October ,5 pm
Recommended for: Kyushu University, Kyushu Institute of Technology
Activities: Introduction of all MEXT scholars, light dinner / karaoke.

Don’t forget that the sign-up link is here.
Looking forward to see you!

Kobe Port Fireworks Festival Event

On Saturday, 5th August the Kansai Team of MSA organized an evening hang-out to enjoy the brilliant display of fireworks in Kobe Port area. Every year on the first Saturday of August around 10,000 fireworks are blasted into the sky and they flower into a dazzling spectacle of colors. This year was special, as it is the 150th anniversary of the Port of Kobe and the quantity of fireworks had been increased, making it the biggest fireworks display in Kansai area.

Near Port of Kobe, Kobe

The planning and preparations started weeks before the event day. On Saturday, the MSA volunteers reached the venue quite early to make arrangements for everyone’s accommodation and reserve a good viewing spot till the evening. The MSA, especially, appreciates their Japanese friends who came out to help out with the preparation. Slowly, people started to gather and the seemingly empty space was filled with chattering and excitement. By 5:30 pm, most of members had arrived and the wait for the fireworks continued. At that time, 23 people from all over Kansai area joined the event and MSA was very happy to see many known faces from the last event in Kyoto.

Kobe Port area city-scape, Kobe

The Kobe Port area view is amazingly beautiful even without any fireworks. As wait continued, the group witnessed a beautiful sunset-show with the Port Tower area in the background. Then they were greeted by an amazing transition of the Kobe City-scape into a brilliantly lit nightscape. The view is considered one of the best in Japan.

Kobe Port area nightscape, Kobe

At 7:30 pm, it was finally the time for the fireworks to start and the next one hour was dominated by the thundering display of colorful lights in the sky. It was simply awe-inspiring. The fireworks finished at 8:30 pm but as crowded as it was expected to be most of them made it to the station just in time to catch the last train back to home. It was a beautiful evening and the enthusiasm of the participants made worth all the effort that was put in. The MSA also wants to thank our friends from other scholarship organizations who decided to join us and make the time spent more beautiful.

Gion Matsuri!

On Sunday, 16th July, 2017 the Kansai division of MSA organized an evening walk to the Gion-festival in Kyoto. Despite the bad-weather with occasional heavy downpour, 33 people joined the event. It is important to note that this was one of the first MSA events in Kansai and so, the support shown by the fellow MEXT scholars was a great source of motivation for the organizers. People came not only from all parts of Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe) but also, there were 2 participants from Okayama and Kagoshima.

The evening started with a visit to the Yasaka Shrine, which is the shrine for the Gion-festival. As it was the day of Yoi-Yama, the day before the procession of floats, there were many special events in and around Yasaka Shrine. One of those was the performance of Iwami-Kagura, an ancient Japanese dance form usually performed in shrines to please the deities. Iwami-Kagura is from the Western part of Shimane-Prefecture and depicts a fight-scene of Susanoo, the Kami of Storm with an eight-headed serpentine monster. The participants tried to blend-in with the crowd despite the hot-weather and became a part of the festive-mood.

During the Gion-Matsuri, Kyoto

After the performance, the group walked towards the Shijo-Karasuma area. The next stop was the floats (or the Yama-bokos) which are the prime symbols of Gion-Matsuri. The crowded street was filled with people in yukatas and it was a beautiful sight. The Yama-bokos were all beautifully decorated and stationed elegantly as if all of them were looking forward to the procession on the next day. The evening ended with the enjoyment of the local street-foods which were in plenty and also another attraction of the festival.

In a short span of a few hours, many of the participants became friends with each-other. Most of the participants were happy as this was their first official outing with other MEXT scholars. The breaking of ice was the primary objective of organizing this event. The plan is to work towards building a very strong family of MEXT scholars in Kansai area and beyond. The wheel has been set into motion and the Kansai team is now already discussing about their next event.

 

 

 

 

Reception for MEXT scholars in Kobe on the 24th of June

On the 24th of June, MEXT and JASSO co-organized a reception for MEXT scholars in Kobe filled with speeches by MSA and MEXT representatives, cultural programs and opportunities for networking for MEXT scholars in the Kansai area. Of course, MSA was also present with its very own booth; answering questions, spreading the word and encouraging new scholars to sign up on the spot and become a member of MSA! Furthermore, MSA also arranged a number of seminars to help new scholars getting started in Japan. Two of the committee members even traveled all the way from Tokyo to guide new scholars through the event in English as well as Japanese and to personally invite them to join the growing community!

Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Kyoto
MSA desk at The Reception of MEXT scholars, Kyoto

The regional head for the Kansai region and graduate student at Kyoto University gave a warm welcome speech to all new scholars at the event.

Welcome speech by Regional head of MSA, The Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Kyoto

We would like to thank Mr. Hiroki Matsuo, Deputy Director-General of the Higher Education Bureau, MEXT, and Mr. Hideki Yonekawa, Vice President of JASSO for their words of support and for giving us the opportunity to connect with you through events like the reception for MEXT scholars in Kobe. We also greatly appreciate everyone who visited our booth and took part in our seminars and were simply overwhelmed by the great number of students taking interest in MSA. Thanks to every single one of you, our community is growing bigger and our bonds are getting stronger every day! With a bigger and stronger community, we can have a greater impact and it will be easier to give back to Japanese society!

The MSA, The Reception of MEXT scholars 2017, Kyoto