Alumni Spotlight: Justin Tanaka

Justin Tanaka spent the Academic Year 2012-2013 (Fall 2012 and Spring 2013) in Machida, Japan. He graduated from University of Hawai’i at Mānoa with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese  in May 2014, and is currently pursuing a Masters in Japanese.

Justin posing with friends in front of a temple and cherry blossom trees.

Why did you choose Machida for your study abroad location? 

After looking at all the information regarding the choices (Kōbe and Machida) I decided that Machida sounded like a better option for various reasons. Kōbe is in the Kansai region and likely to have a lot of speakers that won’t use standard dialect which I was focused on learning at the time. Also my fellow study abroad friends had already decided to go to Machida so I wanted to join them.

What was your goal/objective for studying abroad?

I was a Japanese major so my focus was on trying to further my Japanese language skills. Other than that I wanted to make a lot of Japanese friends and thankfully I was able to do that.

Did you experience culture shock? 

Actually I did not experience any culture shock. I found Japan to be a great place, surpassing Hawaii in almost every facet of everyday life. That being said, I actually experienced reverse-culture shock when I came back to Hawaii.

What was the most memorable experience you had?

It would be difficult to pinpoint just one memory, but if I had to I would say cooking at dorm for one of the major events that we held. I was able to interact with the international students as well as the Japanese students and it was a great time.

What did you appreciate most about this study abroad experience? 

Honestly, the thing I appreciated the most was being able to make as many friends as I did. I kind of became some kind of icon there which was a little scary but it was a fun experience having everyone say “Hi” to me.

Name your top 5 favorite foods.

RICE, yakiniku, yakiniku, yakiniku, and of course, yakiniku.

Name your top 5 favorite sights to see/things to do in Machida. 

Eat yakiniku with friends, going to a matsuri (festival), hanabitaikai (fireworks festival), shopping for everything, going to the mega Don Quixote.

What did you learn about yourself from this experience?  

I learned that I can be independent when the situation calls for it, which is something that I was not used to before living in Japan.

How has this semester abroad changed you, your career choice, etc? 

I think that studying abroad has really broadened my horizons and deepened my interest in both Japanese language and Japanese culture.

What advice would you give to prospective students interested in studying abroad in Machida?

Be courteous and be a good representative of Hawaii, which by the way is more or less separate from the rest of the U.S., and in terms of Japan is really a good thing.