Aika jälleen herättää "AJT travel news" -lista eloon. Tällä kertaa olen hypännyt uusiin maisemiin Japanin länsirannikolle. Vietän vuoden vaihto-opiskelijana Kanazawan yliopistossa, osallistuen tutkimukseen paikallisessa kuvankäsittelyn laboratoriossa.
Alkuun pieni tekninen huomio: Koska haluan saada samaan tekstiin sekä suomalaisia ääkkösiä että japanilaisia merkkejä, käytän viesteissä sekä niihin liittyvillä www-sivuilla utf-8 -merkistöä. Jos osa merkeistä näkyy väärin, voit yrittää katsoa sähköpostiohjelman tai selaimen asetuksista jos sieltä saisi "utf-8" -merkistön (character set) päälle.
Minua oli jo pitkään kiinnostanut käydä Japanissa, ja noin vuosi sitten päätin tehdä asialle jotain. Opinnot olivat vähitellen lähestymässä loppuaan, joten diplomityöpaikan hakeminen sieltä tuntui hyvältä idealta. Erinäisten vaiheiden jälkeen sain TKK:n vaihto-ohjelman kautta paikan Kanazawan yliopistosta kuvankäsittelyn laboratoriosta, professori Muramoton tutkimusryhmästä. Laboratoriot eivät Japanissa maksa opiskelijoille palkkaa, mutta sain AIEJ:n (Association of International Education in Japan) stipendin, 80000 jeniä (n. 700 euroa) kuussa + matkat.
Kanazawa on japanilaisittain keskikokoinen, noin 450 000 asukkaan kaupunki Japanin länsirannikolla. Asun täällä yliopiston erityisesti vaihto-opiskelijoille tarkoitetussa asuntolassa, joka on varsin viihtyisä. Kullakin asukkaalla on oma 14 m^2 huone, johon sisältyy oma pieni wc/suihkuhuone ja keittiö. Lisäksi käytettävissä on kaikkien asukkaiden yhteinen oleskelutila, jossa on tv, lukemista ja Internet-yhteys.
Ensimmäiset pari viikkoa ovat kuluneet nopeasti erilaisten käytännön asioiden parissa. Yliopiston vaihto-opiskelijoista vastaava toimisto on järjestänyt viralliset kuviot hyvin, mutta sen lisäksi on tietysti mennyt aikaa hankkiessa huoneeseen astioita ja muita tarvikkeita ja tutustuessa kaupunkiin. Minulla on jo pankkitili, uusi kännykkä (GSM ei toimi Japanissa) ja myös polkupyörä, jolla pääsee täällä liikkumaan varsin hyvin.
Sähköpostilla saa kiinni edelleen vanhasta tutusta osoitteesta firstname.lastname@example.org, ja lisäksi kännykkään voi lähettää lyhyitä viestejä (enintään n. 1000 merkkiä) osoitteeseen arto at ezweb.ne.jp. Puhelinnumero on +81-90-20984853 ja postiosoite alla.
Kanazawa University International House, room 507
Tanobu 1-1, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa-city
Www-sivuilla on kuvia ja lisää tekstiä (englanniksi) osoitteessa
Hyvää syksyn jatkoa,
After a long break, here's a new issue of "AJT travel news". This time I've jumped to a new location on the west coast of Japan. I will be spending a year in Kanazawa University, working as a research student in Image Information Science laboratory.
First a short technical note: I want to be able to write both Finnish, English and Japanese, so the mails and related web pages will be encoded using the UTF-8 character set. Don't worry if you don't know what it means, just if you don't see the text properly you can try to find "utf-8" somewhere in the mailer/browser settings. Fortunately the standard (English) alphabetic characters should be the readable with almost any settings.
Japan had been one of the top countries in my travel wishlist already for quite a while. A year ago I started planning to make it happen. A holiday trip would have been both expensive and short - why not do it for real and try living there for a while?
Trying to find a job in a company would have been one possibility, but I came to the conclusion I would probably be happier in the academic world. Equipped with some helpful hints from friends I started browsing the web to find a suitable laboratory in one of the universities which had an exchange agreement with Helsinki University of Technology. Three of them were in Tokyo, one in a smaller city (about 450 000 inhabitants) called Kanazawa at the west coast of Japan.
I will skip the details of the application process here and just say that starting well in advance is a good idea. :-) However, after some initial misunderstandings all went well, many thanks to all the people who helped me. In mid July 2002 I finally got the confirmation that I had been accepted in Kanazawa University as a research student, with an AIEJ scholarship of 80 000 yen (about 700 euros) per month plus travel expenses.
Last days in Finland were rather hectic but by the departure on October 2 I had finished all projects at work, emptied my apartment and carefully packed one suitcase and backpack for the trip. My father gave me a ride to the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.
Having 1.2 kg of overweight in the suitcase (the limit was 20 kilos) didn't cause any problems, but this time they wanted to weigh the cabin luggage too and 10.8 kilos was apparently a bit too much (limit 8 kg). I argued back that many people buy more stuff from tax-free stores after checking in and I wasn't going to buy any. Then taking one pair of shoes and two books out of the backpack and putting them in a separate plastic bag made the person at check-in happy. After saying goodbye to my parents I was ready to board a flight towards Copenhagen, to continue from there first to Tokyo and finally to Komatsu airport near Kanazawa.
The flights went without problems and the suitcase arrived promptly both in Tokyo and later in Komatsu. During the Copenhagen - Tokyo stretch I even got a chance to practise my Japanese with a friendly Yamaha motorbike representant coming back from her trip to Russia and Finland. Having studied the language for two years I can understand and say some basic things, but it's still a lot of work before I'll be able to communicate easily, let alone read and write.
After about 20 hours of travel I was saying hello to Komura (小村), a Ph.D. student who had come to pick me up at the airport, accompanied with Ebisu (a M.Sc. student) from the same lab. We packed my suitcase and backpack to Komura's Mazda and headed towards the city, chatting about common topics such as "Is it cold in Finland". In Kanazawa it was a nice and sunny day, about 25 degrees. Most of the time we were crossing a residential area with small individual houses next to each other - there seems to be only a small area in the center which has buildings more than a couple of stories high.
We went first to Kodatsuno campus to do a quick visit at the Image Information Science lab (http://wis02.ec.t.kanazawa-u.ac.jp), led by professor Muramoto (村本). I had been in contact with him by email several times during my application and it was very nice to meet him. I will be writing my master's thesis under Muramoto's supervision during my year here, more information about that later.
After the tour in the lab Komura took me to Kakuma campus where a dormitory room had been reserved for me. One of the assistants walked me personally to the room and explained how to use the available facilities. With my poor Japanese I missed about half of it but didn't worry - I would have enough time to figure out the rest later. I had arrived safe and sound and got the keys so it was enough for the moment.
I had planned to go to bed early but still on the same night there was a welcoming evening of Kanazawa International Student Station (K.I.S.S.). I decided to go there to meet other exchange students and Japanese people. The two biggest groups of foreigners were from South Korea and Thailand  so someone being from Finland was quite exotic for most of them. I'm not alone here though, Juha Kajava is from Jyväskylä so that makes two Finns - certainly more than the number of Swedes, Norwegians and Danish people which is apparently zero, at least among the short term exchange students. United States, Australia, Germany and Great Britain are represented by a few people each and about a dozen people come from various other countries. About two thirds of them are girls.
The welcoming evening lasted about two hours and after that people were heading for dinner. I had only eaten a bowl of noodles at noon in Tokyo so I joined them. I actually thought most people were going but finally I was the only "gaijin" (外人, foreigner in Japanese) accompanied with nine locals. Well, not quite, Darren was originally from the States but had been living in Japan already for several years. We went to a popular-looking local place and ordered about 15 small dishes to share. That's probably the best way to eat in Japanese, or in any Asian restaurant. At the end Darren insisted to pay for the whole thing - a nice welcome present. Got a ride back to campus and crashed in bed.
The first two weeks have mainly been settling down, filling some official papers, getting started in the lab and walking around the city during weekends. All the official stuff has been remarkably well organized by the International Student Center. I was expecting to run from one office to another carrying a dictionary and filling various forms in Japanese, but almost everything had been prepared in advance. Now I already have the obligatory "Alien Registration" and university registration done, I've got a bank account, national health insurance, mobile phone and the room equipped with necessary stuff for daily life, including a radio/cassette/cd player which had the most decent sound under 200 euros. And I already bought a bike too. :-)
The rest of the story is on the web, please point your browsers to
Email is currently the best way to contact me, use either this address or send short messages (up to 1000 characters) to my mobile phone at arto at ezweb.ne.jp. Of course it works as a phone too, +81-90-2098-4853. The snail mail address is below and also available on my home page at http://www.iki.fi/ajt/.
Kanazawa University International House, room 507
Tanobu 1-1, Kakuma-machi, Kanazawa-city
It's actually shorter in Japanese...
That's all for now, I'll try to write the next letter in a few weeks.
Arto Teräs --- See http://www.iki.fi/ajt/ for contact info
 (Added 22.10.2002) Sorry, I forgot to mention Chinese people in my original mail, there are quite a few of them here too.
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