top of page

JAPAN: A LOVESTORY



"Why Japan? " This is usually the initial question when telling people I live and work here. My answer is usually: "It's a long story." Because it is.

I was already fascinated by the Japanese language during my A-levels. Melodic, soft, and with an elegance that is second to none. So, it was only natural that I took a year abroad in Japan after graduating from high school and traveled through the country with WWOOF Japan. During this time, I learned to love the language, the life here, the people, the nature, the climate, and, of course, the food. From 2016 to 2019, I studied Japanese Studies and Media Studies at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg and deepened my knowledge of Japan's history, politics, and language skills. But many language learners will agree with me that it is challenging to learn a foreign language in your native country. It is almost impossible without the necessary discipline. My motivation also waned, and I lost my enjoyment of the language, leading me to take a break from learning and engaging with the country. After starting my Master's degree in Project Management at Merseburg University of Applied Sciences, my focus was mainly on my studies. Thoughts of a semester abroad or traveling - no chance. And then, at the beginning of 2020, the pandemic came around the corner, leaving me alone in my 20-square-meter apartment and with online classes.


WHEN THE WORLD AROUND US BECOMES TOO SMALL, LET'S DREAM BIG


However, it was this being alone with myself that got my otherwise creative head spinning again. The desire to travel came back, and with it, the deep longing for Japan - the warm climate, the colorful alleys, the contrasts between new and old, and the warm people I had fallen in love with in 2015. This time, in the fall of 2020, the entrepreneurship course started in my degree program. Together with three fellow students, it was time to develop a unique business idea and write a seminar paper as a business plan. This gave birth to the idea of setting up a ryokan, a traditional Japanese hotel with an onsen, a hot spring, in Germany. I want to bring a little piece of Japan to Germany. Not just a Japanese garden, of which there are already a few in Germany, no. I will bring Japanese hospitality, food, and the atmosphere with all its smells, colors, and authenticity to Germany. At that moment, not only was a challenging business idea born, but the fire that drove me to learn Japanese eight years ago was rekindled. I wanted to return to the country where I felt so at home. But how could I do that when life was not only restricted in Germany due to the pandemic, but Japan had even closed its borders?


GOOD THINGS TAKE TIME


I hearted these words on New Year's Eve 2020/2021. I planned my internship, which I needed as a prerequisite for writing my Master's thesis, and combined it with a semester abroad in Japan. But that was easier said than done. I planned to take a semester off from the winter semester of 2021 / 2022 to polish up my Japanese at the Kudan Institute of Japanese Language and Culture in Tokyo. The course I had chosen lasted one year and three months and would allow me to work part-time in a Japanese ryokan in Tokyo or the surrounding area. The application for the language school was in the bag, the visa was in my pocket, and the semester off had also been approved. All that remained was for Japan to reopen its borders to students. But the country took its time. Complex regulations and time-consuming document checks meant I spent the semester off in Germany with online lessons. I lived according to Japanese time and attended Japanese lessons from 01:00 to 04:00.


LIGHT AT THE END OF THE PANDEMIC TUNNEL


In February 2022, the time I had finally come. Japan opened its borders to students, and I could enter the country. After a week of quarantine in a hotel in Tokyo, my life in Japan could begin. I lived with a host family organized by the language school, and after just three months, I found an internship at the tourist information office in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. Now, some of you will ask yourself: What tourist information center? Didn't she want to work in a ryokan? Yes, I wanted to. Only because of the situation in Japan at the time - no tourists were allowed to enter until fall 2022 - many Ryokans had to close or lay off staff. Furthermore, the principle of internships is not widespread here in Japan.


Some European companies continue the internship principle here in Japan, but traditionally, Japanese hotels do not know this principle.

Therefore, the next thing that came close to my internship wish was the part-time job in the tourist information office. Here, I got to know the famous Japanese service culture. Always with a smile on their face, politely distanced, and with a warmth that you would sometimes wish for in Germany.



I was responsible for giving directions in Japanese, English, and German, giving tours of Nihonbashi to foreign guests, and providing information about the area. I also helped organize and run events and posted photos and videos on the Instagram profile. By using the language daily, my Japanese has improved enormously over the last year and a half, so after finishing language school, I quickly found a full-time job at a Ryokan near Tokyo, where I am currently working. The detour via the internship at the tourist information center has strengthened my plans to open a ryokan in Germany. I feel we could do with a little more warmth and hospitality in Germany without the service staff having to make themselves look small in front of the guests because that's precisely what I'm experiencing, learning, and practicing here in Japan.


However, I would like to stay in Japan for the next year and a half. As I handed in my Master's thesis in October and now "only" have to defend it, I will have all the more time to immerse myself in Japanese life and push ahead with my plans for a ryokan in Germany.

I want to encourage everyone to think outside the box and follow their dreams. My expectations for my time here have been far exceeded, and I am more than happy and grateful to have taken this seemingly big step from the outside. Anyone who wants more details about current plans and past trips is welcome to subscribe to my blog.

13 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page