A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

An Alternative to Tokyo: Studying in Southern Japan

Why do people who want to experience student life in Japan often choose Tokyo? Did they consider a less mainstream route in other areas? As a bachelor’s student in Tokyo I met foreigners who adored the city. Conversely, some study in Tokyo, return to their country, graduate and move to rural areas in Japan. Living in Tokyo can be a singular experience but isn’t for everyone. On a recent trip to visit relatives and friends I returned to Japan and went to Nagasaki for the first time. I contacted Nagasaki University and spoke with the Public Relations Office as well as the Global Humanities and Social Sciences Department’s Dean. Conversing with the university staff as well as experiencing the local culture showed me the benefits of studying abroad at Nagasaki University.


Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro writes his novels in English (he was raised in Britain) but was born in Nagasaki, a prefecture in southern Japan and lived there for several years. His first novel A Pale View of Hills is set in his hometown. In a letter addressed to Nagasaki’s mayor Ishiguro writes “[w]hen I go to Stockholm next month, and deliver my official Nobel Lecture at the Swedish Academy a few days before I receive the prize, I plan to talk in some detail about how Nagasaki, and my memories of Nagasaki, were the foundations of my writing career… I still feel a special emotion just to hear the word ‘Nagasaki'”.


One thing the Netherlands is known for is the country’s flatness. As such Nagasaki’s mountainous terrain acts as a reminder that you’re far from home. In contradistinction, the presence of water in the prefecture is hard to ignore and echoes Leiden’s canal network. Look no further than the cover of Ishiguro’s aforementioned novel.

Compared to its more populous counterparts Nagasaki is affordable and much more relaxed. Tokyo is often said to be expensive and fast-paced. I grew up on an island far from mainland Japan and was accustomed to what is referred to as Okinawan time. If a friend invites you to a social gathering which starts at a certain time, you can arrive 2 hours later. Japan is well-known for its social etiquette (language used in the workplace is different from jargon used between friends).

While catthat professional culture exists throughout the country it seems that in more informal settings Okinawa and Nagasaki have a similar fluidity.

In terms of student life, as an exchange student you are entitled to a dorm space with three Japanese roommates. Incoming students fluent in Japanese are eligible for Japanese-taught courses and students with beginner’s level Japanese can participate in introductory culture and language lectures as well as English-taught courses.

Cover (Amazon Japan)

Letter (Asahi Shimbun)

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This entry was posted on April 25, 2018 by in Uncategorized.

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