Crank Out the Confetti: You’re Going to Japan!

Photos by Margaret Harris, (University of Southern California) Student Correspondent CET Intensive Japanese Language & Culture Studies in Osaka, Summer 2016

Okay, but confession time: I’ve been in Japan for several months now. Since January.

Nagoya TV Tower

Nagoya TV Tower

Don’t call me sempai. I’m anything but! Like everyone else, I’m going to Osaka to learn. Like everyone else, I will also be in a new city experiencing new sights and sounds. Nagoya and Osaka are two different cities, so I won’t be much help in terms of navigating Osakan culture. However, I do know this: It’s going to be a crazy ride, so strap in! (But a few tips: Be prepared to be out of your element. Be prepared to pack deodorant. Be prepared to have things talk to you. Everywhere. An especially popular phrase among automated voices: ご注意下さい.)

Before leaving for Japan, it’s a good idea to reflect on exactly why you decided to study abroad in the first place. Write it down, type it out—make it easily accessible! It’ll help keep you focused and grounded, and also serve as a great reminder whenever you’re in a funk. And there will be plenty of those.

So, why did I decide on CET? I’m the first person in my bachelor’s program to discover the CET Osaka program. Discovered it on a whim, actually, hunting through countless Google pages and applying for any Japanese program that seemed to fit my interests. Most importantly, the program had to be intensive. Swinging from one intensive program in the spring to another at the start of summer is definitely a challenge, but the opportunity for immense improvement in my Japanese has me hungry for yet another challenge. The intensive classes I’m used to involved, literally, hours of Japanese everyday. Three, at least. And while some days I struggled to get to class (mentally and physically—the hill I had to climb everyday on the way to campus was not for the faint of heart), that the entire experience was supremely awarding. I look forward to the intensive program CET has to offer! Not only for the rich knowledge I will receive from my teachers, classmates, friends, and roommate, but for my future career path.

Pokemon Center in Nagoya_MargaretHarris

The Pokemon Center in Nagoya

Ever since first grade, when I eagerly traded a Hello Kitty purse for a Pokémon VHS tape with a fellow classmate, I’ve been in love with Japanese culture, specifically Japanese visual media. This love has only flourished since arriving in Japan, as I have made frequent trips to popular pop culture sites in a mixture of work, study, and play, and I hope to carry this same spirit into a new city.

I want to make a career out of this interest of mine, especially in the current climate where Japanese visual media is thriving more than ever. With steaming powerhouses Amazon and Netflix are looking to produce their own Japanese animations, the rising popularity of anime can’t be denied. Crowds by the thousands flock to gaming industry events, with the Electronics Entertainment Expo (E3) being the most renowned. Where I belong in all of this beautiful chaos may entail working for developing, publishing, and licensing companies based in the United States. Companies that specialize in Japanese media, companies such as Square-Enix, Viz Media and Yen Press. To be responsible for introducing more anime, manga, and video games to Western audiences through working with partners in Japan to make such deals possible would have my inner first grader giddy with glee! On the other hand, I’ve always loved the prickly, sometimes controversial, but nonetheless influential art of translation. An American voice actor I highly admire once said that there is absolutely no one-to-one ration when it comes to translating Japanese to English. Bridging this linguistic gap through editorial work for companies that license and publish manga into a format digestible to Western audiences sounds like an awesome career. Thus, aside from developing a more confidence in my speaking ability, I want to make the most of my two months in Osaka through cultivating a more profound understanding of Japanese visual media culture.

So, there it is. That’s me. How about You?

Why am I here? What lessons do I want to take back with me? It might be a good idea to keep these questions in mind while studying in Osaka. These will serve as important reminders when the road ahead gets tough. And it will. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll get burned out. You may even want to quit. Don’t! Keep moving! 頑張って!