Dear reader,

annsofievanenisThank you for visiting my blog! I am a 24-year-old Belgian student at the Catholic University of Leuven. I launched Nippaku when I was a Japanese Studies freshman, already five years ago. Now, I am in the process of graduating from an advanced master program in cultural anthropology and development studies, while working in sustainability at my university. With Nippaku (日 ni for Japan, 白 haku for Belgium), I want to share my thoughts about Japanese culture,  literature, food. About its people, its politics, its traditions. About the things that make me wonder. And mix that very uniqueness with the world I know. In short, my view on Japan, a country I  am eager to discover in all its facets. I studied in Japan for one year at Kobe University and recently went back for a two-month internship on Kyushu. You will notice that, besides the more academic research posts, I also like to share my personal experiences in Japan with you from time to time. Please enjoy my writing and do not hesitate to comment!





30 thoughts on “About

    • I’ve always been fascinated by history and cultures around the world, but Japan attracts me the most. I guess it’s the fact that Japanese have adopted a highly modern lifestyle but at the same time seem to cherish their traditions a lot more than we do. I find that mix very interesting, and up till now, Japan has never disappointed or bored me. As for the language, I like the fluent sounds, and the way you can express so much respect towards the other. What do you like about Japan?

      • I like how different Japan is. I have come into contact with many foreign cultures, but none that was quite so different as Japan. I find it extremely fascinating. I am also a big fan of Japanese aesthetics. And I like the fact that perfectionism is so highly valued in Japan.

        Actually I wrote a blog post trying to explain why I like Japan so much. But of course the list of reasons is a lot longer than the ones summed up in the post. You can read it here: http://thejapans.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/what-is-so-special-about-japan-anyway/

  1. Today I’ve read your blog. It’s a pleasure to see how much you enjoy writing about Japan. I’m looking forward to your next interesting ‘stories’.

    • Thank you for your kind comment, Kang Ju won-ssi. This year, I will be studying the Korean language, so I hope it will broaden my insight in South Korean topics as well. I will do my best to publish Nikkan posts now and then!

    • Dear Luc, thank you so much for your comment. Your Tokaido series is wonderful and one of the best things about Japan that appeared on Belgian television. Please keep up the good work! Kind regards, Ann-Sofie

  2. (I guess I’ll just write in English since everyone else does)
    Hi! I’m thinking about studying Japanese Studies at Leuven but I can’t decide between the two minors. So, I was wondering if you could tell which minor you’ve chosen and why?

    • Hallo Isabelle, fijn dat je mijn blog gelezen hebt! Algemene info kan je in deze post terugvinden: https://nippaku.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/japanologie-aan-de-ku-leuven-wat-houdt-dat-nu-precies-in/

      Ikzelf doe cultuur-historische minor omdat mij dat het beste ligt, aangezien ik een zeer grote interesse in cultuur, kunst en literatuur heb. De economische minor heeft een paar van die algemeen culturele vakken niet (zoals Europese literatuur, antropologie en Koreaans), maar dat wordt ruimschoots gecompenseerd met vakken zoals boekhouden, marketing en algemene economie, vakken die ook door economiestudenten gevolgd worden. Over die vakken kan ik helaas geen uitleg geven, maar wel wordt er aangeraden om voldoende wiskunde (meer dan 4 uur) te hebben gevolgd in het middelbaar. Indien niet zal je een tandje moeten bijsteken, maar het is vooral belangrijk dat je alles goed bijhoudt en regelmatig oefeningen maakt. Uit interesse nam ik algemene economie en economische ontwikkeling van Japan als keuzevakken op. Ik ben zelf nogal zwak in wiskunde, maar deze vakken zijn heel interessant en met een beetje inspanning even doenbaar als de culturele. Voor de cultuur-historische minor zijn er geen begintermen.

      De verhouding in Japanologie is meestal als volgt: 3/4e cultuur-historische minor en 1/4e economische minor. Met beide minores kan je vele kanten uit. Het pluspunt bij een economische minor is dat je met een dergelijk diploma gemakkelijker in een bedrijf tewerkgesteld kunt worden. Je hebt namelijk een economische basis en daarbovenop kennis van een vreemde taal. Het pluspunt van de cultuur-historische minor is uiteraard de bredere culturele kennis die je opbouwt. Ook leer je (nu nog verplicht) een nieuwe taal, het Koreaans.

      Om de knoop door te hakken, raad ik je aan om even na te denken waarom Japan je boeit. Ligt je interesse vooral in de cultuur van het land? Dan ga je best 100% voor de cultuur-historische minor. Of ben je eerder geïnteresseerd in het Japanse bedrijfsleven, met oog op de toekomst? Dan kan het geen kwaad om voor de economische minor te gaan. Je keuze is trouwens niet definitief, als de minor je niet ligt, kan je gedurende het eerste jaar nog altijd veranderen. In ieder geval telt voor beide minores, en voor elke studie eigenlijk, dat je genoeg gemotiveerd bent. Ik ken mensen die tegen hun zin economische minor doen omdat het moet van de ouders. Economie is bepaald geen makkie, en als je daar nu al tegenop ziet, zou ik je dat afraden. Kies dus op basis van je interesses! (PS: bij andere vragen mag je me gerust contacteren!)

      Groetjes, Ann-Sofie

  3. I got invited to join the Writing Process Blog Tour, and I’d like to feature your blog on it! ^_^ According to the instructions, I would need a 90 word bio/blog intro by June 1, and then you’d need to answer four questions about your writing process on a June 9 post. You can email me for details (I think you get my e-mail adress through this comment, right?).

  4. Hello! I have just discovered your blog and I’m fond of the way you write your entries and which topics you address.

    I will graduate next year and I’ve been thinking of studying Japanese studies as well but I’m not quite sure if it’s the right thing for me. The universities mostly recommend studying Japanese studies together with e.g. economics so that you can work in a company that has business relations with Japan later on, but I’m not really interested in economics or something similar.
    That’s why I wondered whether you know or have an idea what kind of job you want to have after studying or what possibilities there are.

    I hope you can answer my question! Thanks in advance~


    • Dear Elisa, thank you so much! I am glad you enjoy reading my blog 🙂

      I like to study about the Japanese economy, but like you, I am not really interested in a job in the economic or financial sector. Because I am mainly specialized in the culture, society and history of Japan, and because research is truly my passion, I would love to pursue an academic career. At this moment, I am considering another master’s program, or, if I’m lucky to receive such an opportunity, enrolling in a PhD program. I think it would also be fun to work for an international organization or to have a job in diplomacy.

      In general, there are lots of possibilities after graduation. As for our university, 50% of students finds a job after graduation that has no connection with Japan whatsoever: they work in education, the private sector, tourism, the health and welfare industry, media, the socio-cultural sector or for the government. It is my opinion that studying Japanology helps you to acquire a thorough insight in another country and culture, which will certainly benefit your outlook on the world. My study program also includes general courses that do not solely focus on Japan, so I have a basic knowledge of many topics dealt with in humanities and other fields. I personally would like to do something with Japan in the future, but as I said before, you are certainly not limited in your choice of career!

      I hope this helps? Please ask if you have any more questions 🙂

      Greetings, Ann-Sofie

  5. I found your blog by chance.
    I was moved by your research on Japanese psychiatry, espcially on Iwakura and Gheel, which I have also studied for years.
    I am waiting for your next blog on this subject.
    Last but not least, thank you for your referring to my articles!

    A. H.

    • Dear Professor Hashimoto

      I am deeply honored to have you visit my blog.
      Your research has been very inspiring and of great value to me throughout the last two years of my study on the subject of mental health care in Japan.
      I will try to post parts of my master’s thesis on the stigmatization of people with a mental disorder in premodern Japan (in which I often refer to your work) as soon as possible, and I look very much forward to hearing from you again.



  6. Hello 🙂 ,

    I’ve written to you before, asking questions about Japanologie because i’ve been thinking about studying it for 2 years already. I really enjoy looking at your blog posts as it makes me even more sure of my choice. I just wanted to have some reassurance about the university itself and the kind of people who also study Japanologie. Could you tell me a little about what kind of people you had in your class? I’m kind of a shy person, scared to talk to people so at the moment i’m freaking out. I actually signed up at the university already last week. I will probably do the cultural minor which interesses me more than the economic minor even though the economics one seems like a more sure future. I’m not so great in math (only did 3 hours in highschool). Je mag in Nederlands antwoorden als je wilt :p
    Also, how did you find the transition from high school to university?

    Thankyouuuuu ^^

    • Hoi Samantha,
      Ik antwoord even in het Nederlands aangezien het de opleiding betreft. Allereerst, proficiat met je inschrijving! Het is nogal moeilijk om op je vraag te antwoorden, mensen verschillen en je kan nu eenmaal geen etiket plakken op een hele groep studenten. Ik kan wel zeggen dat het voor jou misschien gemakkelijker zal zijn om contact te zoeken met klasgenoten aangezien jullie dezelfde interesse in Japan delen. Vele mensen houden zich in hun vrije tijd ook bezig met Japan en praten er graag over, dus geen tekort aan mogelijke gespreksonderwerpen, lijkt me. Er is ook de mogelijkheid om met ouderejaars te praten en je kan altijd terecht bij studentenkring Eoos met vragen of om nieuwe vrienden te maken. Aan het begin van het schooljaar worden er kennismakingsmomenten georganiseerd, ik raad je zeker aan om daarnaartoe te gaan! Ik ben ook nog in Leuven volgend jaar, dus misschien ontmoeten we elkaar daar wel. Over de transitie middelbaar – universiteit: persoonlijk had ik weinig problemen maar er zijn wel meerdere studenten die moeite hebben om zich aan te passen, wat heel normaal is. Het monitoraat begeleidt de eerstejaars heel intensief en organiseert ook workshops daarrond. Je wordt dus zeker niet aan je lot overgelaten 😉 Succes alvast!

  7. Hello!
    First of all, I have to say your blog is amazing. It is really interesting and your penmanship is on point, so thanks for writing!
    This year I will start in university and I was thinking about Japanese studies (However, I probably will do it in Ghent as it is closer for me). I have been studying Japanese for a year now, so I hope it will give me a head start in September.
    I was just wondering how your experienes are in your study. What can I expect from this study, what kind of things do you learn and is it interesting? And what jobs perspectives are there afterwards?
    I look forward to your answer.

    • Hi Yahyaa, thanks for your kind words! I apologize for the late reply, I was traveling during the Easter break. About Japanese Studies at the university level: a while back I wrote this blog post on Japanese Studies at the KU Leuven. https://nippaku.wordpress.com/2014/03/17/japanologie-aan-de-ku-leuven-wat-houdt-dat-nu-precies-in/ Since I am not familiar with Japanese Studies at Ghent University I cannot provide you with more information about their curriculum. There are definitely some differences between the two universities, but maybe this blog post can give you an answer to some of your questions. There is also additional information in the comment section. Just like you, I studied Japanese for one year at an evening school before starting uni. This certainly gave me a head start, so I would recommend it to everyone! Let me know if you have any more questions 😉 Greetings, Ann-Sofie

  8. Pingback: Hundred Posts on Nippaku: Time for Celebration! | nippaku

  9. Dear Ann-Sofie,
    great to see that you have the same passion, fascination and love for Japan as I do! A country with such a multi-faceted and rich culture and landscape, with all its contradictory aspects, is definitely unique on this planet. Thanks for your inspirational blog.
    All the best,


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