Preeya’s Twenty Years with Nihongo

Japan

The article in this post was published 1989 in The Nihongo Journal.  Anyone who is interested about Japanese language and Japanese culture are welcome.

My First Encounter with Japan
The student with the best grades can to Japan. Thanks to these words of encouragement from our professors at Thammasat University (Bangkok, Thailand). I was able to receive a scholarship and visit Japan as a third-year college student.

    I was to take part in the International Conference, a one-month program for instructors and students of Japanese from around the world. On this first visit to Japan, I studied Japanese daily with students from a multitude of countries.

I soon learned that the number of kanji I had studied and memorized in Thailand was small, and scarcely comparable with that of students kanji-based countries like Singapore Hong Kong and Korea. Yet I realized that   my conversational skills and grammar were definitely up to par. That put me at ease to an extent.

After actually interacting with Japanese, I became aware of how often they use honorific language and social expressions. For instance, customers are always greeted with a loud “irasshai mase”, no matter how small the shop is.

I was uneasy with the way the tour guide sightseeing bus stood outside of the door and said “otsukare sama deshita” to each passenger after arriving at destination.

   I was uncertain as to whether I should respond in the same way as the guide, or use a different expression altogether. As for the outcome of not knowing how to respond, I failed I to find an opportunity to convey my gratitude, and felt frustrated up to the very end.
   Although the program was officially one month in duration. I had to return home after two weeks to take my university finals. After experiencing Japan, I was actually conscious of the deficiencies in my Japanese skills. What’s more, since I didn’t go anywhere apart from Tokyo, I wasn’t able to observe with my own eyes the actual state of affairs in Japan. Feeling a tremendous sense of disappointment, I committed myself to returning to Japan yet again.

  Taking the Exams for Government- Funded Students from Abroad

After returning to Bangkok, I put a lot of work into studying English as well as Japanese, the reason being that, in order to receive the Japanese Government (Monbusho) Scholarship, I had to take an English exam. The problem was that I was at a loss as to what kind of prepa­rations were needed for the exam. I had heard that many test candidates studied books with problems from the TOEFL exam, but the test I had to take emphasized reading comprehension and essays.

  After passing the written examination, candidates had to take an oral exam. The oral exam reduced the candidates, originally 200 in number, by more than half. Besides two representa­tives from the Monbusho, officials from the Thai Ministries of Education and Foreign Affairs also served on the selec­tion committee, making for a total of nine supervisors for the oral exam. Thai committee members asked questions in English; committee members from Japan asked questions in Japanese.

   At that time Japan was in the midst of the regime of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka, and Thais were fervently boy­cotting Japanese goods. As a student at Thammasat, a focal point for anti-Japa­nese demonstrations, I was questioned in detail about student activities. I said that if I could study in Japan I could see the country with my own eyes, and make a confident, accurate assessment at that time. While still in Thailand, I said, it was hard for me to clearly pin­point the problem areas in relations be­tween Japan and Thailand.
   If you aspire to study in Japan, merely learning the language is probably not enough. Without a doubt making a daily commitment to having knowledge about the general state of politics, eco­nomics and education—or to having individual opinions about the world- will be of immeasurable value to study­ing here.
  Thanks to the results of my study— or to sheer luck—my dream of studying in Japan was finally fulfilled. On April 26,1974, just after the blossoms had fal­len from the cherry trees, I disem­barked at Tokyo International Airport, a Monbushoo research student at last.
(the end)

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