Final impressions

Jonas Roelder, MIRAI program participant from College of Europe in Brugge, Belgium shares with us some of his 58 impressions from the MIRAI program. Starting with his journey from Belgium to Japan, following his experience in Tokyo and home stay in Saga, we get to see the experience through his eyes. Maybe you share some of the same impressions?


Jonas lists his impressions:

1) The sun sets in Helsinki already before 4PM.

2) If a fellow participant’s birthday is coming up and she is sleeping on the plane with earplugs, you might as well plan her birthday surprises in her presence.

3) In Japan you drive on the left-hand side. The same applies on escalators and subway walkways.

4) Pages are read from right to left and also reversely turned.

5) From the Mori Building observatory one has a great view over Tokyo. For the red-white tower there is even an emoji. 🗼

6) My loving host grandma is as eager to make sure I eat enough as my German grandma.

7) Quote from the guide through the Saga Samurai Palace: “In the 17th century this prefecture was as bankrupt as Greece.”

8) There are Marie Antoinette-themed slot machines in the casino.

9) A healthy breakfast dish consists of yeast, soy beans, rice and algea.

10) Apparently I have not used chopsticks correctly until this day.

11) These are the few japanese words that I have learned so far: kon-nichiwa (hello), sayounara (bye) arigato (thanks) and kyojin (giant).

12) There is a lot of skyscrapers in Tokyo.

13) Some gas stations have their pumps hanging down from the roof.

14) Japanese try to protect themselves and others from diseases by wearing masks. They also can cover up little flaws on the cheek.

15) Policemen in the metro wear headsets and speakers to amplify their commands (about the correct side to walk).

16) In the metro you can see a lot of sleeping people.

17) The average commute of workers in Tokyo is 90 minutes.


Photo: AFS Japan

18) There are anime-themed photo booths that optimize your skin, make your legs skinnier and enlarge your eyes.

19) JICA (Japanese International Cooperation Agency) tries to save Pacific islanders by stimulating the growth of coral sand, i.e. to outgrow the rising sea level.

20) There are diaper changing tables in men’s restrooms in the prestigious Keio University.

21) Helmut Schmidt enjoys great respect from our Japanese economics lecturer.

22) „There are two chickens in the garden.“ translates to “Niwa niwa niwa niwa torigairu.”

23) Chocolate and KitKat may have green tea in it.

24) „Security“ is the Japanese word of the year.

25) On inner-Japanese flights you are encouraged to put liquids in the carry-on instead of the checked baggage to avoid leakage.

26) The governor of the Saga Prefecture on the south-western island of Japan has a confusing amount of phones, with all of which he takes pictures with the exchange students.

27) Arita, the porcelain capital of Japan (or even east Asia) is the sister city of Meißen, the german (or even European) capital of porcelain. In comparison to their German counterpart, the Japanese porcelain artists are not afraid to develop new patterns and products.

28) When drinking out of a €400+ cup, you think only about not breaking it and certainly not about the tea.

29) Instead of saying “bon appetite“, you thank for your food. That includes saying thanks to the individual cow that ended up on your plate.
IMG_001730) In one may slurp Japanese pasta, including the nudels that I made under professional supervision at a fraction of the working speed that is local standard.

31) A 1,95m, curly European is likely to be looked at by everybody in the waiting area.

32) Painting porcelain with cobalt paint is difficult. After firing, this brown color turns royal blue.

33) Taking shoes off to wear slippers is required indoors, a sake (rice wine) brewery is no exception to that.

34) Apparently the Japanese do not mind the machines around them beeping and talking. This goes for ATMs, slot casinos, ordering systems in restaurants,…

35) Technology is used everywhere where it may facilitate work or life: a pan, inspired by a washing machine, fries and turns rice autonomously. Instead of counting plates, you scan the stack as a whole. In a running sushi place, a digital board alerts you if your order is passing by. A TV in the sauna keeps you up to date.

36) There are no public trash bins. Still, there is no littering.

37) Anime theme songs are popular at karaoke parties.

38) You do not count starting with a fist and subsequently stretching out fingers. Instead you depart from an open hand and draw in fingers.

39) Sitting on the floor for a full-sized dinner is challenging. However, a dish called syabusyabu, which I would describe as Japanese fondue, rewards you for it.

40) If I were to learn Japanese, I could read the business card a member of the national parliament gave me, and accept his invitation to return to Japan for Saga’s Balloon Festival.

41) Traditional baths, called onsen, are gender-specific (green may replace blue as the male color). You shower while sitting, Sitting in an incredibly relaxing hot pools, you wear your towel as a hat and have electromagnetic fields tickle your skin. There is also an emoji for it.

42) Cabin attendants wear Santa Clause hats in their company’s color at the check-in counter.

43) The ground personnel at the airport bows to planes passing by them.

44) To play koto, a Japanese instrument resembling a harp, one straps on a kind of artificial fingernails.

45) Creative wifi-names include „Samuraiwifi“ and „wwwifi“.

46) I slept better on a futon than the nights before in the western-styled Tokyo hotel.

47) While shopping you listen to western Christmas melodies performed with traditional Japanese instruments.

48) You control the character of a video game on the screen above the urinal in a mall by hitting the spot with your water that minimizes splash back.

49) In Bulgaria shaking your head shows approval, nodding indicates rejection.

50) Popular offerings to the MEJI – TINKO shrine are rice wine and red wine. As the number 8 has a positive connotation, pathways to the shrine take 88 degree turns.

51) The vice minister of foreign affairs could hardly escape from an extensive photo session with the students.

52) Japan is very committed to global nuclear disarmament.

53) Even if you know beforehand that you are going to be called on the stage to receive a certificate on everybody’s behalf, you may be spontaneously requested to deliver a speech.

54) A Karaoke flatrate at a bar may include a beer flatrate.

55) Toyota is also a city.

56) As it is the Japanese emperor’s birthday, there is no school on 23th of December.

57) The delegation of the College of Europe (see picture below) learned a lot about Japan and is eager to come back.

58) The #MIRAI15 program should be renamed to #AMAZING15 tour, the M may still stand for mirai (= future).

Photo: Jonas Roelder.





%d bloggers like this: