[From March Issue 2015]
“We like Japanese comics and anime. We particularly like ‘One Piece.’ The passionate friendships between characters made a big impression on us,” say HU Shuhao and YU Zhihang from China. The two are currently studying at JCLI Language School in Shinjuku City, Tokyo Prefecture. “One of the good things about this school is that you can make friends with people from a variety of different countries. I became especially close friends with Yu-san because we have a similar liking for comics and anime,” says Hu. “Hu-san is like an older brother to me,” smiles Yu.
Hu began studying Japanese during his third year of university in China. “It was because I was interested in Japanese society and culture. However, since my studies in China put an emphasis on grammar, I came to Japan because I wanted to study speaking,” says Hu. Yu says, “After graduating high school in China, I came to Japan because I wanted to go to a Japanese university. Since I had hardly studied any Japanese before coming here, it was very difficult in the beginning,” he says with a smile.
There are approximately 700 students at JCLI Language School, and there are four semesters each year. “I entered the Beginner II class in April, 2014, and am now in the advanced class. I sometimes teach classmates struggling with kanji how to write the characters and the difference between “網” (ami: net) and “綱” (tsuna: rope),” says Hu. Yu says, “I entered the Beginner I class in April, 2014, and am now in the Intermediate class. I enjoy the lessons in which each student introduces their own country’s customs and culture.”
The downside of living in Japan is that it costs a lot of money. About six months into his stay in Japan, Hu started looking for a part-time job. “I handed in my resume after seeing a poster in Uniqlo advertising for staff. I was overjoyed when I got the call telling me I was hired,” says Hu. Yu reflects, “About three months after arriving in Japan, I began searching for part-time work. I visited several convenience stores and left resumes. It took about one week to land a job.”
They struggled numerous times during work hours because they didn’t understand the Japanese spoken by the customers. Hu says, “I did not understand the meaning of zaiko (stock), nor could I pronounce the name of our recommended product. It is challenging because particular terms are used for serving customers, and the products often have long katakana names.” Yu says with a smile, “I still wind up calling the manager when I cannot catch what the customer is saying.”
They have recently become more comfortable with speaking Japanese. “Transactions that were once difficult at the bank and at government offices are now easier because I can understand Japanese. My part-time job is fulfilling not only because my Japanese has improved, but also because my knowledge of the products has deepened; I can now recommend products to customers and show workers with less experience than me where a certain product is located,” says Hu. Yu laughs, “When I understand the dialogue in anime, I am happy that my Japanese has improved.”
Hu wants to “study sociology in a Japanese graduate school.” Yu says, “All I can think about at this point is trying my best to improve my Japanese.” They both enjoy spending their spare time with classmates. “We go out to drink or play games together. But we’re a little lonely as there aren’t any goukon (mixed-sex dating parties),” jokes Hu. Yu says, “I go sightseeing around Tokyo with my buddies. I adore Akihabara. Tokyo Tower and Rainbow Bridge are great, too.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo