Japanese Exchange Students Share Impressions of Russia

ITMO University was visited by 18 students from 10 Japanese universities as part of a Japanese-Russian youth exchange program. The program was initiated by Junior Chamber International Japan, which also invited ITMO University to participate in the program for the 8th time. Earlier, a group of 18 Russian students, including students from ITMO University, had gone on a similar trip to Japan. During their visit to Russia, the guests from the Land of the Rising Sun were given a tour of ITMO University and went sightseeing in St. Petersburg. They also spent five days in Moscow where they learned about the Russian higher education system. Speaking to ITMO.NEWS, they shared their impressions from their first-ever visit to Russia.

Yuki Kubo, University of Tokyo

My university offered a Russian language course. I was interested in it, as it is very different from other languages in how it is spelled, the way the letters look, the grammar, and so I continued to study it. I want to learn a unique language. When I found out about the student exchange program, I saw it as an opportunity to learn about Russia not from books or the internet, but with my own eyes.

Yuki Kubo

The first thing that surprised me is the difference in architecture. In Japan, we mostly have modern houses, all quite generic. Here, the buildings are very varied, from different eras, which is very beautiful. In St. Petersburg, we had a tour of the city, went to the Hermitage, and then saw a ballet performance at the theater, as well as watched the drawbridges rise. I learned that there are many beautiful and interesting places in Russia that one should definitely see as a tourist.

As for cultural or lifestyle differences – I noticed that taxis in Russia are very cheap, especially Uber. In Japan, it is quite an expensive service, not something you can afford to use every day. As I live with the family of a local ITMO student, I’ve noticed that here, people tend to only have showers. Back home, we’re used to taking a shower first, and then taking a bath. Other than that, there are few differences in household habits between our nations – I never felt any discomfort, and the Russian family welcomed me warmly and was always ready to help me out or give advice.

I learned here that many stereotypes about Russia are not true – including the most common one about how everyone here loves vodka and drinks it all the time. We discussed various cultural matters with other Russian and international students during a meeting at ITMO University – including the question about what should be done to combat unwarranted stereotypes about Russia and Japan and form a proper understanding of the two countries’ cultural sensitivities among Russians and the Japanese. We also discussed these same issues during a meeting at the Moscow State University. One of the solutions we came up with was making videos on YouTube in which students would talk about their experience of visiting a country and show viewers how things really are. At MSU, we also visited departments where students are taught journalism, psychology, political science, as well as the Institute of Asian and African Countries, where we spoke about international relations and other political subjects.

Reiki Takenaka, Kyoto University

I found out about the student exchange program at my university and decided to take part in it. I’m interested in various interactive programs where you can learn about the cultures and unique features of different countries. I’d never been to Russia and I don’t know anyone here – I wanted to change that and find some friends. I hope that after the program ends, I’ll keep in touch with the Russian students I met here. I’m even thinking about starting to learn Russian.

Reiki Takenaka

But before I came to Russia, I was somewhat worried about my safety. My Japanese acquaintances who have been here before, told me that there was a lot of crime here. But that’s not how it turned out to be. I feel comfortable on the streets here, and there is no aggression; quite the opposite, actually, as people are very kind towards us and are eager to help.

We spend quite a lot of time in Moscow and came to St. Petersburg for only three days. Still, I felt that Moscow is a more international city, where there are a lot of people from other countries living there. There are a lot of non-locals here, too, but from other regions of Russia. In Moscow, we spent a lot of time at universities. We didn’t spend as much time in St. Petersburg, but I was impressed by ITMO University: the building is modern, yet it is in the historic part of the city. In Japan, all university buildings are old and quite small.

Akihisa Kimura, Kyushu University

I’m an engineering student; I took part in several events organized by Gazprom and have been thinking about, maybe, working on some of that company’s projects; although I’m not fully sure if that would happen. For this reason, I was very interested in coming to Russia to learn about its culture and traditions. I’ll agree with Yuki and Reiki’s words about how we need to fight unsubstantiated stereotypes about Russia. I, too, was a bit scared of coming here. I thought that Russian youths are always fighting each other over every small thing. That thought made me uncomfortable, as in Japan students are very calm. But it turns out that it’s the same in Russia and no one is getting into fights for no reason.

Akihisa Kimura

I’d also like to add that I was very impressed by the subway in Moscow and St. Petersburg. In Japan, all subway stations look the same, but here, every station is unique in its architecture and style. As an engineer, I was very glad to have seen them.

During the meeting at ITMO University, we were told about the summer and winter schools for international students, the semester exchange programs, internships and other opportunities for international students. I’m thinking about taking part in one of those programs sometime in the future. At the end of the meeting, we were given ITMO souvenirs as a sign of our friendship.

In the course of the negotiations with the administration of Junior Chamber International Japan, an agreement was made for ITMO University to take part in the Russian-Japanese youth exchange program in 2018.

Archive by year: