Message from foreign students studying at Gakushuin

Study in Japan
Francesca Marocchino, Graduate School of Humanities

I am an Italian overseas student who came to Japan in January last year, and I have been studying History of Japanese Art at Gakushuin University since then. I have a particular interest in paintings and picture scrolls.

I entered the graduate school in April and have carried on specializing in picture scrolls of the Kamakura Period. I think that Japan, especially Tokyo, is an ideal place to conduct research. There is an abundance of galleries and libraries, fascinating exhibitions and events, enabling students to study and enjoy themselves at the same time.

Although I have been in Japan for one year now, the time really flew by. Since it was my first time in Japan, I was both happy and at the same time apprehensive at the outset; what would living in Japan be like? But I now feel that living in Japan is a pleasant and interesting experience.

I would like to bring your attention to the fact that Japan is a very long way from Italy, there are vast cultural differences, and the Japanese language is not easy. So getting used to studying and living here was initially quite an effort. I had no choice but to draw upon all my resources. After a month or so, I started to enjoy life in Japan.

I think Japanese and foreigners enjoy a good relationship, and my studies and daily life were greatly helped from the outset by all the friends I made. There was no danger of me feeling lonely or isolated, and I think this was really important.

In the past year I have been constantly amazed by the atmosphere, traditions, customs and lifestyle of Japan. First of all, the seasons and the huge changes they render to natural world, changes which were a constant source of pleasure to me. In autumn, the flaming autumnal hues of the trees are to be seen everywhere: a dazzling blend of red, yellow and orange creating a spectacular landscape. As winter sets in, becoming chillier each day, the leaves are scattered by the cold wind and the landscape is changed once more. March brings warmer weather, and beautiful views filled with plum and cherry blossom. Students at Gakushuin University flock together to enjoy the blossoms under the many cherry trees in the grounds. Finally, the end of May ushers in days of vivid summer greenery.

I think that the seasons are not merely a natural phenomena but a vital part of the Japanese sensibility. I was amazed at the deep feeling that the Japanese have for the seasons, a wonderful sentiment which my own countrymen are increasingly losing. Seasonal motifs have long appeared in art and literature. They also exert a great influence on the lives of the Japanese, with many seasonal dishes still enjoyed such as sweets wrapped in leaves. And in their letter writing, too, the Japanese start with a seasonal greeting, surely a custom unique to this country.

Even now I am still surprised when I think back, and there are so many other things that amazed me that I cannot write them all. Other special memories include fireworks, sumo and bunraku, the Japanese puppet theatre, none of which I will ever forget.

There are still many things that I would like to do, so I will carry on studying and enjoying life in Japan. Though it is difficult to explain Japan in words, there is one thing that I would like to say to all students considering studying here: I am convinced that my own year studying in Japan has been a wonderful experience. Please come and see Japan for yourselves.