Japan | My Favorite Things About Japan

1. Kawaii Culture

Kawaii is the culture of general cuteness that exists in Japan that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world. From adorable mascots for historical locations and buildings, to Hello Kitty themed shinkansens, cuteness is everywhere. While cute culture in Japan can actually be traced back to the Edo period, it’s become incredibly popular since the 1970s. Of course, the obsession with cuteness at this time began with teenage girls, but since has grown to be appreciated by people of all ages. In my opinion, the presence of cuteness in everyday life simply improves the quality of life. Passing by guardrails shaped like little frogs, or getting a napkin with designs at lunch, can make you smile just a little bit more than you would on any other normal day.

2. Train Stations

In the United States, train stations are exactly what they sound like: a place where you get the train. But in Japan, they are so much more. Train stations have entire malls, restaurants, and rest spaces attached, making them a genuinely enjoyable place to be. This is extremely convenient for when you are hungry after a long journey, since you don’t even have to leave the station to enjoy a quality meal– one of my favorite pizza restaurants in Japan is actually located in the station itself. Similarly, it is really nice to be able to run an errand, like grocery shopping, without having to even leave the station to get what you need. Like with kawaii culture, the fact that train (and subway) stations are comfortable, clean, and well-designed makes your day just that much better than it otherwise might be.

3. Sento and Onsen

Taking baths at home always seem like a “treat yourself” kind of activity, but I always end up uncomfortable, unable to adjust the water to quite the right temperature. Sento and onsen, however, are extremely relaxing because everything is done for you! It’s like going in a hot tub, except there are five or more different hot tubs to choose from and you can stay for an unlimited about of time. Sento is more of a bathhouse, with many different tubs to choose from, while onsen are specifically sourced from fresh mountain spring water. I’ll admit that bathhouses aren’t for everyone, but there are also many locations that offer private booking so you don’t have to be there with anyone else.

4. Conveyer Belt Sushi

Conveyer belt sushi is admittedly probably the worst sushi you’ll get in Japan. But this is Japan: the worst sushi is just as delicious as good-quality sushi at home. And the best part? It’s often only $1.50 or less per plate! Whenever I eat at conveyer belt sushi restaurants, I can have a filling meal of tons of different kinds of sushi for only $7 or $8. Because this type of restaurant is a novelty in the United States, it often ends up costing the same or more than traditional sushi restaurants. While you’re in Japan, definitely make use of the amazing conveyer belt restaurants to get your fill of Japan’s most famous dish!

5. Nature and Seasonality

My absolute favorite part about living in Japan is the abundance of greenery and the appreciation of the changing seasons. Because Japan experiences all four seasons very strongly, many traditions are rooted in these changes. So, as the seasons change, there is always something exciting to look forward to, like a special seasonal food or activity. Similarly, there is always a great appreciation for the flowers that bloom every season. I spend much of my time at different gardens and temples, appreciating the flowers in bloom. I love seeing Japanese teenagers taking photoshoots with all the different flowers, old people in large groups birdwatching with extensive camera gear, and families with babies enjoying all the colors.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | “Why Japan?”


When I first told people I was going to study abroad in Japan, their immediate response was a look of surprise, and then, “Why do you want to go to Japan?”. It’s fair to say that Japan isn’t the most popular study abroad destination for UC students, but there are a lot of reasons why someone would want to study in Japan. I decided to ask a few of my fellow UCEAP students why they chose Japan, and what their favorite thing about Japan has been over the past few months:  

Mika Post
UC Berkeley 
“I came to Japan because I’ve always wanted to go to school in Japan. I love Japanese food and Japanese stationary, and I love the language too. It’s important to me to be here because I’m half Japanese, but my mom has never been here and doesn’t speak Japanese at all. My favorite place in Japan is Fushimi Inari, since it’s peaceful and tucked away in the woods.” 

Stephen Shelnutt 
UC Berkeley 
“Initially I was interested in Japanese because I watched a lot of anime, but I think these days I’m more interested in the culture and people. Unlike newer countries like America, Japan has had thousands of years to develop its culture, and even in the modern age Japan is very “Japan”. The people are also very polite, and society is so well put together that I wanted to experience living here for awhile.” 

Jonathan Phenix 
UC Irvine 
“I came [to Japan] for the art and older towns with rich history. Seeing the Standing Namabutsu Taishi and the Sakyamuni Bronze donated by Tokugawa Ieyasu 4th have been a couple highlights in art. City wise, I really enjoyed my time in Nachikatsuura and Shingū. Getting to see Porter Robinson at a basement venue in Kyoto was also quite the experience.” 

Mackie Lorkis (aka the author of this blog) 
“I’ve always been interested in Japanese culture, and I wanted to challenge myself by studying in a country where I didn’t necessarily know the language and nobody else I know had been before. My favorite part of Japan is the appreciation for nature and the changing seasons. Seasonality is a really important part of Japanese culture, and is one of the biggest inspirations for architecture, art, food, fashion, and more. I’ve always lived in Southern California, so it’s been really exciting to be somewhere where the seasons are not only noticeable, but an important part of both art and everyday life”. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | 4 Coolest Temples and Shrines in Kyoto


Kyoto is known around Japan, and around the world, for having some of the oldest and most beautiful shrines and temples in the country. While I didn’t keep track of all the temples and shrines I went to in Kyoto alone, it undoubtedly is around twenty or thirty at least. Even though they’re all beautiful in their own way, these are my four favorite shrines and temples in Kyoto: 

Otagi Nenbetsu 

Otagi Nenbetsu, near Arashiyama, is one of the most unique temples I’ve seen in Japan. As soon as you walk in, you can see dozens of adorable Jizu Buddhas everywhere you look. But when you look closer, these aren’t any normal Jizu Buddhas! Many of the adorable statues were added to the temple in the late 1980s and 90s, so a few have some funny modern twists. For example, there are Buddhas with tennis racquets, holding up peace signs, and wearing sunglasses. What I loved about this temple is that it reminded me that religion is very much alive, and not all temples are as ancient as they may seem. 


While this temple may not be on the top of any tourist list, that is exactly why I love it so much. Visitors get the chance to look at the gorgeous screen art up close, and walk around the grounds much more freely than any other temples I’ve been to. Aside from the multiple gardens inside, the temple is on a large property with other beautiful buildings that visitors can look at for free. While I didn’t get to see it, they have late blooming sakura that make it an excellent temple to visit late into the season (around late April). 


While certainly out of the way (and up a steep hill), Genko-an is certainly worth a visit. In the main hall, there are two large windows: a circle and a square. The square window represents confusion, while the round window represents enlightenment. The view from both these windows are different. However, the window isn’t the only thing that makes Genkoan unique. The ceiling of the main building is made out of recycled wood from Fushimi Castle, which was attacked hundreds of years ago. If you look hard enough, you can still see bloody hand and footprints on the ceiling. While this does lend a somewhat creepy atmosphere to the temple, using the battle-stained floorboards was intended to soothe the souls of the departed warriors and allow them an eternity of rest. 


I waited several months into my stay in Japan to finally make it to Kiyomizu-dera because I was worried about the crowds. However, once I realized that there will literally never be a time that Kiyomizu-dera isn’t crowded, I just went for it. It was totally worth it. The way up to the temple is long, but it’s lined with adorable and scenic omiyage and snack shops. Everywhere you look are visitors sporting beautiful kimono and taking in the atmosphere. Once you finally reach the temple, the uphill climb is made completely worth it because the mountain view is incredible. The temple complex itself is large, with some interactive aspects like drinking from the fountain water and practicing a Japanese superstition. The atmosphere, size, and all around fun that can be had at Kiyomizu-dera make facing the crowds almost unnoticeable 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Gion Masuri


This week was one of the biggest festivals in Japan: Gion Matsuri! Gion Matsuri began in 869 AD, making it almost 1,150 years old. Originally, the festival began as a way to purify the Kyoto populace from plague. Since then, it’s become less about worship and more of a fun way to celebrate Japanese culture. The main event of the matsuri is always on July 17th, though it is preceded by three nights of festive street fairs called yoi-yama. In addition, there are smaller events throughout the entire month of July.

The biggest part of the festival officially began on Saturday (yoi-yoi-yoi-yama), but unfortunately I couldn’t go. On Sunday (yoi-yoi-yama), my friends and I walked around the smaller area of the festival closer to Yasaka Shrine and Gion. Considering the weather was SO hot this year, it was so nice to be able to be in a less crowded part of Kyoto. We walked around the streets, taking in the festive atmosphere, and came across a huge area on the street where you could meet maiko (training geisha)! For a very small fee, we got to meet and take photos with maiko- considering they are generally extremely elusive, this was an incredible opportunity.

The next day, we enjoyed the main part of the party happening in the Shijo area. There were hundreds of street food stalls, and although we couldn’t try everything, we made a valiant effort. From traditional ikayaki to juice served in baby bottles and light bulbs, you can really see the extent of Japanese street food culture. For children, there were tons of games like darts and goldfish catching that bring to mind street fairs from many American childhoods.

Aside from the delicious food, there’s so much more to see at the yoi-yama. Most young women and children dress up in traditional yukata for the festival, showing off colorful and unique patterns. Aside from floral patterns, we saw some goldfish, rainbow, and even Disney yukata! The floats used in the parade are also displayed around the streets at night; with their lanterns lit up, they are even more beautiful than during the day. A few of the floats can be explored and boarded; for a top view of the streets, my friend and I decided to go in. And, just as we did, so did all the musicians!

After all the fun, there was still more to the festival! On July 17th, my class went together with our sensei and some Japanese students to watch the procession. There are two kinds of floats: yama and hoko. Yama style floats are much larger, and are topped by long poles increasing their heights even more. Hoko floats, though less grand, are just as beautiful, often topped with scenes from famous Noh plays. Many of the floats are decorated with gorgeous Turkish rugs from the Kyotobased Nishijin textile company. In total, the parade runs from around 9am-3pm; we arrived at its midway point, and it took around an hour and a half to see all of the floats.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Kanazawa


One of my favorite weekends here in Japan was spent visiting Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go with two of my classmates. We left shortly after school on a Friday, and took a pleasant bus ride up to Kanazawa. Once we got there, we ate dinner and relaxed, because we knew we had a busy weekend ahead of us.

We woke up early on Saturday morning ready for a fun day! Our hostel provided bikes for us to explore with, which made the weekend all the more fun. First, we went to the historic samurai district called Nagamachi to see some traditional homes. This was especially exciting because most of the historic sites in Kyoto are from hundreds, if not a thousand, years ago. So, it was really cool to see so much history from a period we rarely get to explore in Kyoto!

After that, we made our way to Myoryu-ji, otherwise known as Ninja-dera. The temple is called that because it contains many secret passageways and hidden doors to prepare for an attack from the local lord’s enemies. We couldn’t take any photos, but it was unlike anything I’d ever seen in Japan.

Then, we went to the D.T. Suzuki Museum, which is centered around a famous Zen Buddhist writer and philosopher. What makes this temple unique is that rather than just educate visitors about its subject, it attempts to fully integrate his teachings into the museum experience. It was so serene and the architecture was absolutely beautiful.

We hadn’t had enough of museums, so we made our way to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. This place was so cool! It is mainly known for the swimming pool exhibit, where you can take photos that make it look like you’re underwater. Perfect for the #gram. There was also a lot of interesting art that invites you to explore the museum in a unique and fullyengaged way, and art pieces surrounding the outside grounds of the museum that are free to the public. F

or lunch, we stopped at the Omicho Market, which is known for its fresh seafood. We splurged on donbori and ice cream with real gold leaf. There was so much more food to try- the market is two stories (!!)- but sadly we didn’t have time. We were really eager to see Oyama Shrine, especially since my friends collect shrine and temple calligraphy/stamps called goshuiin.

We ended our afternoon with a visit to the biggest historical entertainment district in Kanazawa, Higashiyama Higashi Chaya District. The buildings were so atmospheric, and although it was a perfect day, there weren’t too many people, which made it even better. We decided to visit a tea house that had been turned into a museum, where we could see Edo-period Geisha entertainment rooms and living quarters. There was even a museum guide who allows you to play the shamisen, and demonstrates playing other instruments as well.

To end our day, we went to Kanazawa Castle Park and watched a beautiful light show accompanied by lovely traditional music. Although it sounds like a lot, we didn’t feel rushed at all. Everything was so much fun, and we had just enough time to experience it all!

We woke up very early Sunday morning and went to Kenroku-en, one of the largest and most famous gardens in Japan. Before 7 am, entrance is free, so we decided to take advantage of the deal and make the most of our time here. After a few hours of exploring, we left for Shirakawa-go, a famous area in central Japan known for their thatched style homes.

We spent the day enjoying the gorgeous rural atmosphere, toured one of the buildings, and went to an open air museum located just a few minutes away from the central area. I highly recommend it because, although the area is intended to look rural, there are still modern amenities like omiyage shops and convenience stores that take away from the atmosphere just slightly. And the museum has an incredible soba shop and zipline, so it’s totally worth it.

We took the shinkansen home and made it back by late evening, so there was enough time to rest up for school the next day. Spending the weekend in Kanazawa and Shirakawa-go was one of my favorite memories in Japan. If you can, this is definitely a trip that everyone should take.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | A Day in the Life of a Nichibun Student


Now that Ive been in class for seven (!!) weeks, Ive gotten more used to the daily schedule of my life in Japan. On the days that I have a lot of class, like today, I usually relax and get work done. On the days I have less class, I usually do a bit of sightseeing after class before going home in the evening. Even though every day is different, heres an example of a typical day as a Nichibun student: 

7:45 am 

Good morning! I wake up and get ready, and then go downstairs to make myself breakfast. My dorm, Casa Kitayama, has a shared kitchen, so I can cook for myself. Because I dont have a lot of time in the morning, I usually make rice at the beginning of the week and heat it up in the morning with a raw egg. This is called tamago gohan and is a traditional Japanese breakfast. After I eat, I put my shoes on and bike to school. 

9 am 

Now its time for Japanese class! Im a Level 1A student, and I have class every morning. Typically, the lowest level (aka my level) has very few students, which is quite nice because we can get more individual interaction with our senseis. There are 5 students in my class, including myself, and we are all UC students. Usually, we go over our workbook homework from the night before at the beginning of class, then spend time learning new vocabulary, grammar, and kanji. 


12:15 pm 

Now that class is over, its time for lunch. Most students eat in the cafeteria, or daigaku shokudou, because its generally really cheap; I usually spend $4 or so per meal. Menu options usually include fried chicken and other meat dishes, rice bowls, curry, noodles, a salad bar, and a variety of small side dishes. However, the exact options change weekly. If the weathers nice, students often buy bento boxes and sit outside- clubs and circles sometimes will perform! Today, the cheerleading squad performed in the main quad. 

1:10 pm 

If you have third period, its time for class again. I dont have third period today, so I relax in the grass for awhile until my next class at 2:55. I walk over to Karasuma Campus, which is about 10 minutes away, for my Institute of Liberal Arts class. Its taught in English, and is a lot more similar to the classes Im used to from the UC. 

4:30 pm 

Now that class is over, I run some errands before heading home. While there are convenience stores everywhere, its a lot cheaper to shop at supermarkets. 

6:00 pm 

After going home and putting away my groceries, my friends and I decide to walk by Kamogawa, which is the river that runs through Kyoto, and have some snacks. The river is my favorite place to relax, and we like to have picnics and go on walks in the nice weather. 

8:30 pm 

Since we have class every day, we also have homework every day. Usually it takes me around 30-45 minutes to complete, depending on how well I know the lesson, how much is assigned, and most importantly, how often I get distracted. 

9:30 pm 

I usually start getting ready for bed around this time, and give myself a lot of time to relax, clean my room before bed, and talk to my friends and family if theyre awake. I usually spend time at night researching and making plans for future trips as well. 

12:00 am 

The day is already over! I try to go to bed around midnight so I can wake up and be energized to learn more Japanese in the morning. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Obubu Tea Farm


Jessica, one of the other UCEAP students at Doshisha, interned at a tea farm in the remote village of Wazuka for three months before our program began. I was lucky enough to travel back to the farm with her on one of the first days we got here and learn all about Japanese tea farming!

From Imadegawa Station, where Doshisha is, we traveled to Kyoto Station and got a train towards Nara. After about an hour of travel, we boarded a small bus and drove another half hour to Wazuka. The drive was absolutely gorgeous, with abundant tea fields, flowing rivers, and blossoming sakura everywhere we looked.

First, Jessica showed us some of Obubu’s tea fields right outside of their house. She explained that tea must be picked with the pads of your fingers, rather than the nails, because ripping the leaves risks oxidizing them. This is super important because the variation in teas is actually due to oxidation! Green tea is oxidized the least, and black tea the most, but they actually all come from the same leaf.

After looking around the fields Jessica took us to the processing area and explained how the tea is processed. It goes through several machines that ultimately work to dry the leaves at a very high temperature without drying them out. Tea must be kept at a very specific moisture level (about 5%) and it is very important to keep the leaves from becoming too wet or too dry.

Once it got dark, Hiro-san, one of the owners of Obubu, drove us in the back of his truck back to the house. Jessica brewed us a few types of tea to sample. First, we tried sencha, the most premium type of tea in Japan. The leaves are prepared by hand in a grueling six-hour long process. You can watch a video (here) of farmers in Wazuka preparing sencha. The leaves are rolled into a needle shape, which is specific to Japan. Originally, this was useful in carrying tea from Kyoto, where it was farmed, to Tokyo, which was the capital during the Edo period. If you put sencha on your tongue, you can feel it unfurl- it fees like a pop rock! This kind of tea is highly prized due to the artisan labor involved in its creation.

We also tried XX, which is tea mixed with roasted rice. This was originally viewed as a people’s tea because the rice made it cheaper, and it has a lovely nutty taste. Next, we tried XX, a rare Japanese black tea. When Japan opened to England, they wanted to export a tea that would appeal to Western consumers more, but green tea was actually more popular anyway. This was my favorite tea because its naturally sweet and super delicious. It actually is more red than black, even though it has the same flavor profile as a black tea, because of the water. Water in Asia is softer than in Europe, meaning it has less minerals; when mixed with the tea leaves, it results in a red-colored tea rather than black.

Finally, we each had a chance to brew matcha. Though we didn’t practice a formal tea ceremony, the way in which matcha is brewed is extremely important. We each got a bowl, which is handmade in Kyoto with gorgeous designs, and a bamboo brush called a XX. First, you soften the bristles in water so they don’t bend. Then, you use a traditional spoon called a XX to take about a teaspoon of matcha powder and put it into your bowl. Then, we poured a little water into the bowl and mixed it with the matcha in order to create a paste. When we finished, we poured more hot water and quickly used the brush to make the tea frothy. The more umami flavor present in a Japanese tea, the more prized it is. Umami is a flavor that is a mix between savory and sweet, and has been compared to seaweed or sea creature.

I have a newfound respect for tea and all the work that goes into its creation thanks to this incredible experience. Tea farming is both a science and an art, and thankfully, a delicious one!

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Day Trips


One of the best things about Kyoto is that its right in the middle of the Kansai region, with easy access to many of Japans most notable landmarks. While there are countless things to do in Kyoto, its exciting to explore the different cities of Japan. Here are a few of my favorite day trips that Ive taken so far: 

  1. Osaka 

Only 45 minutes away from central Kyoto by train, Osaka is a huge city with countless things to do. Immediately upon my arrival in Osaka, all I could think of is New York City. There are stores everywhere you look, incredible street food, and neon lights on every sign. Additionally, Osaka has loads of fun activities, including the Kaiyukan aquarium, which is one of the best in the world, its own baseball team, and Osaka Castle! Osaka is also widely known for its food scene, and I can confirm, its worth trying. Osaka okonomiyaki changed my life, but that may just be because I waited over an hour in line to get it. 

  1. Kobe 

While Kobe, which is about an hour and a half away from Kyoto, is most famous for its wagyu beef, theres plenty of other things to do in the big city. As Kobe is a port town, many foreign merchants set up their homes throughout Kobe. From Chinatown to Kitano-cho, which is known for its American and European-style homes, you can travel all over the world without even leaving Kansai. My favorite Kobe activity is the Kobe Animal Center, which has tons of animals you can get up close to, and sometimes even pet and feed! Finally, you cant leave Kobe without trying the famous beef. If you go at lunchtime, you can get a nice set meal for a very affordable price: between 1000 and 2500 yen. Trust me, its worth it. 

  1. Hikone and Nagahama 

Also an hour and a half away, Hikone Castle is one of the few original castles remaining in Japan and definitely worth seeing. Included in the admittance ticket is the Hikone Castle Museum, which was surprisingly incredible. The museum included a recreation of the lords living quarters, as well as housing numerous Edo period artifacts. As silly as it sounds, the museum really brought the castle alive and made me wonder about what the castle must have been like during the Edo period as I walked through its corridors.

Only twenty minutes away, Nagahama is a charming town with lovely architecture. If you plan on visiting this area, try to make it for the incredible hikiyama festival of childrens kabuki. Boys ages 5-13 are treated like celebrities for the weekend, performing professional-level kabuki plays atop marvelous floats. 

  1. Nara 

Before arriving in Japan, visiting Nara was at the top of my to-do list. In fact, I gathered a group together and went the very first weekend! And let me tell you, it totally lived up to the hype. There were adorable deer wandering around everywhere, and theyve even learned to bow and beg for food. Aside from the deer, though, Nara is home to some of Japans most incredible shrines and temples. The Daibatsu Buddha at Tōdai-ji literally took my breath away, and there are gorgeous sakura trees in and around Nara Park if you visit during the spring. As you walk around town, make sure not to miss the fresh mochi shop! You can watch mochi being pounded on the spot, and eat it while its still warm and fresh. Only 45 minutes away from Kyoto, Nara is well worth the short journey. 

  1. Uji 

Technically part of Kyoto, Uji is under thirty minutes away from Kyoto Station by train, making it a very easy day trip. Uji is known for its green tea: everywhere you look, there are tea shops, matcha ice cream, matcha noodles, and even matcha gyoza. Aside from matcha, Uji is also famous for being the home of Byodoin, or Phoenix Hall, as well as being the setting for the last 10 chapters of The Tale of Genji. For literature nerds like me, the Tale of Genji museum is a must-visit. In addition to full-scale representations of scenes from Genji, I really enjoyed being able to get a closer look at the dramatic plot of the story and seeing some of the settings for myself. 

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Classes at Doshisha University


Class registration is very different at Doshisha University than the UC system, and can be very confusing. Let’s start with the basic setup of the Doshisha class schedule. There are 6 potential periods in a day, spanning from 9am to 8am (excluding a lunch break). Each period is 1.5 hours long, so all classes are the same amount of time no matter what you take.

As a UC student, you will mainly part of the Language and Culture program, usually called Nichibun. So, your focus will be on classes relating to these topic; your language classes alone will be 15 UC quarter units, leaving you with There are several types of courses you can take:

  1. Center for Japanese Language and Culture (CJLC): As Nichi-bun, you will mainly be taking CJLC classes. These classes are taught exclusively in Japanese, but vary in difficult depending on your Japanese level. Every Nichi-bun student takes Japanese classes for their first two periods every day, from 9am-12:15pm. CJLC also offers language seminars and Japanese culture classes that are optional, and vary by level.
  2. Center for Global Education (CGE): Another program Doshisha offers for exchange students is CGE, which is focused on studying Japan’s place in the world as a whole. These courses are taught in English to a class of mixed Japanese and exchange students in order to encourage a multicultural perspective on global topics. These classes are competitive, and UC students can only take them if they are chosen in a lottery system which I will explain below.
  3. Institute for the Liberal Arts (ILA): Finally, UC students are allowed to take special ILA classes. Not all Nichi-bun students are allowed to take these, so it’s a huge privilege that we can! ILA is taught in English and is open to all international students at Doshisha, not just exchange students. These courses are focused on Japanese culture as well, but have more expansive topics than the previous two course types.

Now that you know what kinds of classes you can take, I’ll explain how registration works. On the first day of orientation at Doshisha, you’ll take a written placement test, followed by an oral interview the next day. This will place you at a certain Japanese level, ranging from 1a (no Japanese experience) to 9 (essentially fluent). From level 5 and beyond, you can take courses in Japanese, so many students who have previous Japanese experience study hard to test into this level.

Registration begins with Advanced Registration, where you can enroll for the CGE class lottery. Advanced registration doesn’t ensure your spot, but allows you to enter the lottery. After two days, that closes and general registration opens. You’ll automatically be signed up for your CJLC classes, so you don’t have to worry about that. The Doshisha staff will also be readily available to help you with this part of the process.

For ILA, you have to go to the office and get a form signed on one of two designated days. Then, when you go to the first day of class, the teacher will sign off on it, and you turn it back in to the office. Then you’ll be registered and ready to learn!

Essentially, the main difference between UC registration and Doshisha registration is that registration goes on right before (and during) the start of the school year. You can continue to add and drop classes for the first month or so of school, but be careful: if you don’t go to class, the professor may assume you just dropped it. While this is fine in the Japanese school system, it looks like an ‘F’ on the UC transcript!

The Doshisha registration system may seem a little complicated, but as long as you pay attention to deadlines, it’ll be easy!

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018

Japan | Getting Around Japan


Before coming to Japan, I was really worried about how I would get around. Coming from the Los Angeles area, I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve taken public transportation. Not being used to riding the subway, plus potentially not being able to read any of the stops, made me pretty nervous. However, while it may seem intimidating at first, it’s actually pretty easy to get around in Kyoto.

1. Bicycle

Kyoto is one of the most bike-friendly cities in all of Asia. Almost everyone here rides a bike; you can often see parents with two or three small children strapped into the same bike, somehow balancing perfectly while riding down the street. Many Doshisha students who live in Kyoto bike to campus, so the university has gone to great lengths to make bicycle parking as easy and well-maintained as possible. All you have to do is get a free parking sticker from Doshisha, and you are able to park in any lot on campus.

You can buy a used bike for around ¥5,000-¥8,000, but after that initial cost, parking is usually free or very cheap. Personally, I think biking is the best way to get around Kyoto because it’s cheap, convenient, good exercise, and a fun way to see the city. I was lucky enough to receive my bike from a Japanese friend who was about to throw it away anyway, so you may not even have to buy a bike at all.

2. Subway

The other most common way to get around Kyoto is buy subway. The Kyoto subway system is actually very easy to navigate, especially compared to larger metropolitan areas such as Tokyo. There are only two lines, the Karasuma Line and the Tozai Line, so you rarely will have to transfer. While the subway is more convenient that Tokyo’s, it is more expensive. Fares start at ¥210 and go up every few stops. However, you can buy a day pass for ¥600, which pays for itself in only 2 rides.

For students who want to commute to campus using the subway, a discounted commuter pass is available. The stops covered by the pass, and the cost of the pass, vary by dorm location and how many stops are necessary.

3. Walking

Kyoto is a very walkable city. There are few hills, and it is relaxing to walk around the suburban areas, and exciting to stroll by crowded shopping and tourist areas. Furthermore, Kyoto is extremely safe, so there’s no feeling like you constantly need to be looking over your shoulder as you walk. I enjoy walking because, even though it is slower, it allows you to explore a little bit and see more of Kyoto than you would by subway or bicycle.

From my dorm, Casa Kitayama, Doshisha University is about 40 minutes away on foot. From the boys’ only dorm, Kamogawa, it is about a 15 minute walk. Almost all of the students at Dorm Kamogawa walk to campus. Finally, the furthest (and only co-ed) dorm, Maison Iwakuni, is about an hour on foot.

4. Buses

Finally, Kyoto also has a bus system, but I tend to avoid it because it’s a little more confusing than the subway system. Normally, I will take the Karasuma Line and walk to wherever I need to go. However, I know many other students who use buses and have no problem with them. They usually have a flat rate of ¥230 and will take you to locations not accessible by subway, like Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), or Kurama, a mountain area located about 40 minutes from central Kyoto. I don’t recommend using the bus to get to Doshisha, but there is a stop near campus if necessary.

Mackenzie Lorkis studied in Kyoto, Japan in the Language & Culture, Doshisha Univ. Program – Spring 2018