Nihon Keizai Daigaku, or Japan University of Economics, is situated in Futsukaichi, a southern suburb of the conurbation around Fukuoka. It is this university that I am now a member of and where I learn Japanese with the nine others on the scholarship. It is owned by the Tsuzuki Education Corporation, who own and run about forty private education institutions in Japan, from nurseries to graduate schools.
The university where I am currently learning Japanese for fifteen hours every week, exists on the Fukuoka Dazaifu campus about a 20 minute bus ride away from Cambridge House. I am taught by both a native Japanese speaker and a British Cambridge graduate in the language who, like nearly all western men we've met so far here, has married a Japanese woman and settled here. There are several large teaching buildings and plenty of sports facilities. We've been told we can use most of them which include a gym and above that a hall used for kendo. It's a bit unnerving walking past the latter when most of the university is quiet then hearing loud screams followed by some kind of heavy audible contact. In a throw back to first year at St Anne's there is free printing if you supply your own paper and an "English Garden" with a little lake, though there probably wouldn't be such a loud buzzing sound from various Japanese bugs in an actual English Garden.
At the end of our first week in Japan we took part in the official opening ceremony of the programme with various important members of the university. We donned our suits or equivalent smart clothes that took up all that space in our luggage. We were shown to a room with a desk in front of a traditional screen which was flanked by a Japanese flag on one side and a British one on the other. We had a few introductions and a very short, five minute speech by one of the senior members of staff whilst someone less senior announced when we had to bow in response.
During our second week we suddenly had a call to say that the head of the university, the chancellor, wanted to greet us. Japan seems to be very hierarchical, so bosses can call on you with a few hours notice for a meeting, and so we dressed up again and were taken to a room where a woman, daughter of Kimiko Tsuzuki who runs the whole group, greeted each one of us in Western style and then promptly left. One might wonder why we are given such a generous scholarship, and there is no doubt about it that the university is very keen to promote their links with their overseas partners. The whole of page 8 of the prospectus is about St Anne's College in Oxford. All of what I have written about above was funded privately and the link appears in many ways as much good business for both parties involved as it is a fabulous opportunity for the scholarship holders.