Message to the Students of University of Manchester
･What To Experience In Tsukuba
The University of Manchester(September, 2003-June, 2004)
To all of the prospective exchange students at the University of Manchester, the University of Tsukuba awaits you. Assuming that you are all students of the Biological Sciences, you have probably already been made aware of the university system in Japan and of the type of program Tsukuba has to offer you. But to give you a quick recap and also an insider view of how to spend your time “productively” in Japan, I would like to give you some tips on what you can do to make your stay something more memorable and unique.
To be honest, Tsukuba is not the most fashionable or cultural city
to live in. It’s known as a “science city”, and is centrally located
among several national institutes and laboratories. So I wouldn’t recommend
that you come expecting a big university city like what you have here in
Manchester. The location of the university is meritorious to those hard-core
studiers looking to immerse themselves in a full-fledged, rigid, 4 year
education, but in reality, being geographically isolated can make things
a bit monotonous at times. Of course I’m exaggerating just a bit, because
Tsukuba is only an hour away by bus from central Tokyo. What I would like
to accentuate, though, is that you don’t necessarily have to be in a big
city to have a good time. There are just as many things you can do on campus
and off, to add some flavor to your everyday experiences.
The University of Tsukuba is known as a school that offers an extensive range of studies. The only thing missing that comes to mind at the moment is a music school, unfortunately. The Sports Department is probably one of the best in the country with state of the art facilities, which can be used by all members of staff and students, as long as you don’t get in the way of the aspiring athletes of course. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of the open pool days and the workout rooms, of which in one you will find a trampoline for a little bouncy fun. And be sure to check out all of the clubs and societies. They will be more than happy to welcome you and will provide you with the sometimes very badly needed exercise. For those who aren’t athletically gifted or just aren’t interested in moving about, there are many cultural societies so be sure to look into those as well. Alongside the Sports Department, there is an Art Department that also has much to offer. A mini art gallery run by the students for the students, provides an opportunity for the artists-to-be to display their work, and for us, an aesthetic enlightenment free of charge. Because the university campus is so big, you could spend a good couple of days wandering around, discovering new sites you never knew existed. There happens to be things like a traditional tea house, which even many current students, I believe, are unaware of, and little ponds and fields excellent for picnics and tea on warm, sunny days.
Off campus, with only a bicycle and a friend or two, you can bike
25 kilometers to Mount Tsukuba (which is realistically more a hill than
a mountain), hike to the top, and enjoy a scenic view of the greater Tsukuba
area. Since Tsukuba is a very flat region and Mount Tsukuba is the only
protrusion for miles, on a clear day you will see all of Tsukuba and more.
Be sure to take some money with you for a snack at the top, and a personal
favorite, look for the truck selling bakudan-yaki on your trip back to
share with your friends. I won’t disclose what this is, but will only
guarantee that you’ll love it. For a scenic view that doesn’t require
quite so much physical effort, a couple of coins will allow you to climb
the tower monument in Matsumi Park. It’s virtually located on campus,
and I’ve heard that you can see Mt. Fuji afar when the weather is nice.
If you’re interested in learning about the culture through your
stomach, you can find a diverse selection of restaurants and diners around
campus. Many of them are a bit out dated, but are usually student friendly
in terms of service and prices, and the food is almost always better than
satisfactory. Of course, there are just as many izakayas (Japanese pub
equivalents) serving Japanese beer for you to survey. And for those of
you with sweet tooths, you will find, interestingly enough, many cake shops
and bakeries. What I did with some friends a while back is sample cheesecakes
from several stores. You wouldn’t believe how versatile cheesecake can
On a more serious note, if you’re interested in experiencing lectures
in Japanese, I’m sure you can come to an agreement with your professors
about attending lectures on a non-assessed basis, or assessed if you prefer.
And this shouldn’t limit you only to the lectures offered by the Biology
Department. The University of Tsukuba has a unique open learning policy,
where students of any course can take lectures from other courses, as long
as there aren’t any restrictions on the number of students per class,
or prerequisites. The International Relations course has many lectures
held in English, which may also be of interest to you, taught by professors
from all over the world, for a true international experience.
There are several festive events, like the annual culture festival
and Sports Day throughout the year, which I strongly recommend you involve
yourself in. They will all give you an overview of typical student life
in Japan as well as a chance to meet new people.
At any university, it is important to make a conscious effort to
stay involved with your surroundings. Why not take advantage of everything
Tsukuba has to offer and really commit to a once in a lifetime experience
(Received on January 15, 2004 from Manchester)