Global Studies

Semester abroad in Kyoto

By Jonas Hoffensitz Jespersen


My name is Jonas, I study Japan Studies and I am spending 5 months in Japan during my 4th semester.

I was fortunate enough to be admitted as a student at Doshisha University in Kyoto. Kyoto is one of Japan’s old capitals and as such bears much history. One of the amazing things about the city is its uncanny ability to conjure a temple or shrine around almost every corner you turn. These shrines and temples are always filled to the brim with incredible architecture and beautiful gardens.

When travelling to campus I always walk through a large temple ground called Shokokuji, it’s a beautiful place with amazing structures unlike anything I have ever seen in Denmark. I live nearby a river called Kamogawa, it has a large green area stretching up and down the river, and it serves as a great place to hang out and relax whilst being able to enjoy the flow of the river, the animals living in and around it, and the occasional trumpeteers arduously practicing under the bridges.

Japan is a very busy and tightly packed place and Kyoto is not an exception. I dislike being surrounded by large crowds, and unfortunately it isn’t something I can avoid easily in Kyoto. The area around the university is always busy, especially around lunchtime when thousands of hungry students venture out to enjoy Japans exquisite cuisine. Kyoto is also a popular tourist destionation, and as such the more famous temples and shrines tend to be very crowded as well, though travelling to the smaller lesser known temples is definitely worth it for the additional peace.

When I want to get a break from the crowds, Kyoto is fortunately surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests only a short bus or train ride away. I’ve spent so many hours in this amazing nature which is incomparable to that of Denmark (not that Danish nature isn’t beautiful, Japan is just something else), I know it will be the one thing I’m going to miss more than anything when returning to Denmark.

At university I’ve joined an oddly specific club which just happens to cater to one of my personal interests. It’s called Hocus Pocus and it’s a magic and juggling club. It’s a fun club in which I am able to enjoy the spectacle of the veteran jugglers, be fooled by the skilled magicians and come to practice my own crafts surrounded by likeminded nerds.

I was invited to an event with the club in which we would go to a crowded market street and perform magic for passerbys. We would take 100 yen, and in return I and the other magicians would perform a short 10-minute magic show for up to 6 people at a time. Accepting the invitation really took me through a rollercoaster of emotions. At first I accepted happily thinking about all the amazing magic I would be able to enjoy during such an occasion. Then I realized that I would of course have to present my magic in Japanese… overwhelming fear of my lackluster Japanese presenting abilities set in.

Some of the club members helped me to some phrases and words that would be necessary in order to present. I began to relax, until I was standing with the other members on the street being asked to be the one to perform for the first 5 customers. I was more than a little nervous, and things certainly didn’t match my usual talkative standard. However, after doing a few tables I slowly became more comfortable and in the end it was a great experience.

I look forward to returning to Denmark again, but I also look forward to returning to Japan again as my interest in its architecture, traditional gardens and nature is stronger than ever.

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