Welcome to Higashi Osaka – The City of Premier Craftsmanship

With over 6,000 factories located in Higashi Osaka, this city contributes to highly competitive edge of Japan’s manufacturing. On the 3rd of February, we had the honor and privilege of attending a tour of 6 different factories. Everyone we met were all highly skilled specialists in their various fields.

Our first stop was a Kyokushin Gas Equipment Plant, Ltd. They make made to order specialty takoyaki pans, ikayaki, taiyaki, castella pans to the many different restaurants and food stands. They taught us about the different use of materials such as copper (it can last for decades!), tephlon, aluminum, etc. They let us participate in some of their welding and even let us hammer in our initials on a personal copper name plate!

Next, we visited the Matsuyoshi-Doll Co where 15 specialists build 4,000 hand-made Japanese dolls a year. They manufacture dolls such as the Hina doll used in the girls’ festival to modern dolls. Everything from the hands, face, body, and clothing are produced by a different specialist. They let us observe their work space and even let us participate in a workshop to make our own magnets using the kimono fabric they use for their dolls. They taught us about the many seasonal festivals that exist in Japan.

Third, we visited a wire factory (Nihon Kasen Co, Ltd.) that manufactures the wire used in different productions such as construction, electric facilities, etc. They supply wire from Hokkaido all the way to Okinawa. In addition, they also manufacture original craft color wire and hold a 95% share of Japanese hobby wire craft market with their brand: Jiyu-Jizai. They not only supply the industrial market but also the artisan markets and let us make our own pen holder with their craft wire. We were getting overwhelmed with all of their kind presents.

Fourth, we saw the epitome of what a clean, organized, and efficient workplace can look like and be. Fuji Sesakusho Co., Ltd. manufactures thousands of different kinds of nuts and bolts. The are promoters of the 5S system: sort, straighten, shine, standardize, and sustain. With the support of the Japanese government, they support the preservation of highly skilled workers and in turn this company continues to produce high precision and high quality products.

Fifth, Sunrise Iron Co. Ltd. went all out in their hospitality as they showed us their highly respected and rare flash-butt welding- they produce the rod that controls the handle steering of almost all cars in Japan (Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, etc.).  They let all of us all weld together our own stainless steel pen stand and even sent us home with delicious udon we ate on the bus. You could tell that everyone here were highly skilled and passionate about their work.

Finally, we visited Nakatsuji Kanagata Kougyou Co. Ltd., which is a design company that produces different specialized components for cars and consumer electronics using molds that they create. This company is currently producing the panel parts that will go into the new train line they are building in Kyushu next year. They also are tapping into the artisan market and developing one of a kind coasters to appeal to more household consumers. We got to make our own tin badges to take home.

While there were many spots on this tour, our group was very excited and inspired by the pride we felt from the many Higashi Osaka craftspeople we visited and I know many of us had newfound appreciation for many products we buy in Japan because we saw firsthand the labor and hard work that goes into the things we use everyday. It’s nice to know that not everything should be outsourced and produced by robots. Hopefully these companies will continue to succeed as they were so open to having more tourists come to look into their craftsmanship.

Thank you to the organizers of the tour, our translator, and the many hands that went into making the tour a success!

By Chika Kondo. Photo credit: Fatemi Nawrose

New Year Shrine Visit in Kyoto

On Saturday, the 20th of January, 2018, our 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 joiners this time.

Our first stop was Seimei Jinja, a shrine constructed in the memory of a prominent Diviner, Abe no Seimei. Upon arriving at the shrine, our 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 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 of us also tried their hands at the Omikuji (fortune-telling sticks).

After Seimei Jinja, we had a group lunch at the local burger joint Grand Burger.

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

We hope that everyone enjoyed themselves 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 the famous Togetsu bridge to see the mesmerizing, hand-made laterns on the other side of the river. Along the way, everyone got to know each other better, 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 road to and the destination itself were a little crowded, being the other famous and popular spot in Kyoto, yet everyone still managed to take amazing pictures of the illuminated forest. Our group then continued to the villa, where we took another group photo. We explored the seemingly maze-like temple and finished our trip at the pond that had beautiful mirror like reflections of the surrounding forest and temple. Last but not least, the trip ended close to the starting point, 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)

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 location we chose was Mt. Hiei, a popular destination to enjoy the changing colours.

In the afternoon, 20 people assembled at Demachiyanagi station in Kyoto. It was a good mix of scholars from Osaka and Kyoto. We started our journey with a train ride to Yase-Hiezanguchi station. Right outside the station, we could already see the red and yellow colours welcoming us.  

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.

Once we reached the top, it was now 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. We were lucky to witness a clear view of the beautiful valley. We did stop for a group photo.

When we reached the entrance of the Enryaku-ji temple, it was already close to closing time and so we were actually allowed to go in without paying any entry fees. We utilised the short time we had and tried to absorb the atmosphere as much as we can. We took many photos of the beautiful temple complexes. However, the main temple was actually inaccessible due to ongoing repair works.

On the way back, it was quite chilly and started to get dark. However, we did see some illumination that made us feel happy and somehow compensated our struggle with the chilly weather. The outing ended with a lovely middle-eastern dinner and smiles on our faces with a hope to meet again soon.

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 10000 fireworks are shot at 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 fireworks was increased making it the biggest in Kansai area.

Our 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 our Japanese friends who came out to help us with the preparation. Slowly people started to come and the seemingly empty space was filled with chattering and excitement. By 5:30 pm, most of our friends joined us and the wait for the fireworks continued. This time 23 people from all over Kansai area joined the event and we were very happy to see many known faces from the last event in Kyoto.

The Kobe Port area view is amazingly beautiful even without any fireworks. As we waited, we first witnessed an amazingly beautiful sunset-show with the Port Tower area in the background. Then we 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.

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 us 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 there were 2 participants from Okayama and Kagoshima too.

Our evening started with a visit to the Yasaka Shrine which is the shrine of 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 become a part of the festive-mood.

After the performance, we started to walk towards Shijo-Karasuma area. Our 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. Our evening ended with enjoying the local street-foods which were in plenty and also another attraction of the festival.

In a short time of a few hours, many of us 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. Before we left, we made a promise to meet again soon. 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 program points 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 our 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 our growing community!

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

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!

Upcoming: MSA Gion-Matsuri in Kansai!

Photo by Stefan

MSA will be having our first event out of Tokyo this coming July! We will be gathering in Kyoto for the Gion-Matsuri – one of the 3 big festivals of Japan.

We want to let festival to be an opportunity for scholars to get to know each other and experience Japanese culture. We also plan for this grand festival, with the yamahokos in the Kyoto streets to mark the start of our activities outside Kanto.

We’re gathering on the evening of Sunday, the 16th of July so if you’re an interested MEXT scholar, do check out the links below for more information!

Sign-ups here!

Also check out the Facebook event page!