Dear reader,

foto AnnSofie Van EnisThank you for visiting my blog! I am Ann-Sofie, a 25-year-old Belgian who majored in Japanese Studies, cultural anthropology and development studies. Currently, I am working in sustainability, another passion of me.

I launched Nippaku when I was a freshman in college, already 6 years ago and never stopped writing about the country that fascinates me. 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 and its traditions. About the things that make me wonder. And mix that very uniqueness with the Western world I am familiar with. In short, my view on Japan, a country I  am eager to continue discovering in all its facets!

I studied in Japan for one year at Kobe University and went back for a two-month internship on Kyushu in 2017. 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!




35 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,


  10. Hello Ann-Sofie,
    I am glad to hear of your work in attempting to discover the meaning of what is available to understand Japanese cultural approaches to dealing with mental illness.

    I see that one of the posts examines leprosy in Japan and wonder if the examination of mental illness could solely be compared to physical illnesses, or if its study requires the contextural understanding of mystical, religious, and other intangible topics in Japanese culture or, first, simply knowledge of physical sciences like biology, physiology, anatomy, etc.

    Nowadays, we recognize mental health is integral to understanding a civilization, as well as prevalence of mental illness. In American society, individual mental unwellness is on the order of 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 adults.

    Somehow, I am of the opinion, that all of Japanese culture from the beginning of time was pretty intellectual and knowledgeable about what was going on in the world, and therefore, acceptable of all elements of society just as a matter of course. Occasionally, I hear about societies that banished their elderly infirm to an ice floe and pushed off to perish alone on an ocean journey, and I don’t think of that as a widespread practice, but as an account of an individual practice, much on the same level as considering the aberrant behavior of the Salem witch trials, as a ‘fad’ or ‘trend’ but not the attitude of an entire civilization.

    Maybe, I’m off on a ledge. I’ve not studied mental illness in the Japanese, but what do you think?

    • Dear Mrs. Nakajima,
      thank you for reading Nippaku and for your comment!
      I am also not an expert, but I strongly believe that knowing the cultural context in which a certain physical or mental disease occur, is helpful – and even required – to understand how this disease is experienced by the patient and society. The perception of how mental health issues are expressed is different from culture to culture, and the practices that were implemented as a result are also varying in time and place. Most of these practices around the world are seen as cruel and discriminatory by today’s standards. The reason why I am personally interested in health care practices in pre-modern Japan is because it’s necessary to look at the whole picture and understand in what context these took place. I am much aware that what I read in historical sources is not always a good representation of reality, and as you say, extreme expressions of stigma such as the Salem witch trials do not define all people then, just as not every Japanese person with a mental disorder was locked up in a cage in the Edo period. The interesting part is researching why that practice occurred there at that particular time. So you might say that these “individual” cases give us a rare insight of society at that time. They are not representative of the entire culture, but it can be explained how they emerged in a particular context / society. I hope my point of view here provides more or less an answer on your question, it sure is an interesting discussion!

      • Thank you for your reply! I think it was most enlightening for my understanding in explaining that incidental description of particular practices is very helpful to understand how they emerged in a particular context of what was going on. I am thinking of how usefl this is to the microbiological concept of emergence of resistance by microorganisms by certain types of antibiotics! Thanks, again, for taking the time to explain, and your reply.

  11. Hallo Nippaku,

    Heb over de afgelopen weken veel van je blog gelezen en vond het echt geweldig om te lezen waar je allemaal over geschreven had. Nu wou ik je zelf graag eens iets vragen. Mijn naam is Tomas Haeck en ik ben 22 jaar. Ik heb in het verleden 2 jaar gestudeerd in Gent maar mijn studies niet afgewerkt door een gebrek aan interesse en motivatie. Ik ben hierna dan 2,5 jaar gaan werken om wat levenservaring op te doen en zelf ook voor mij uit te zoeken waar mijn interesses lagen om zo een eventuele nieuwe studie te kiezen. In de afgelopen 2 jaar heb ik een hele grote passie en voorliefde gekregen voor Japan. Ik ben in maart ook een maand door Japan gaan reizen. Dat was voor mij persoonlijk de allermooiste reis die ik ooit gemaakt en ik heb hierdoor echt al wat meer inzicht gekregen van hoe het land algemeen in elkaar zit. Na deze reis was ik teruggekomen met een frisse, gemotiveerde en positieve mindset. Zelf heb ik ook al wat woordenschat verworven en praten op een basis level conversatie lukt ook al. Ik heb ook al volledig hiragana en katakana onder de knie en kan al een 50 tal kanji. Toen ik dan zag dat KuLeuven de kans geeft om japanologie te studeren was ik toch grotendeels overtuigd om terug te beginnen studeren. Het enigste dat me wat tegenhoud is en wat ik je wou vragen was of iedereen mag starten aan het academiejaar voor Japanologie. Helaas zijn er geen infomomenten meer maar ik heb me al voldoende geinformeerd over alles wat de studie inhoud en ben er heel zeker van die dit iets is waar ik me 100% voor kan inzetten vanwege de enorme interesse en voorliefde voor Japan.

    Bedankt en met vriendelijke groeten,

    Tomas Haeck

    • Dag Thomas,
      bedankt voor je berichtje! Blij om te lezen over je nieuwe interesse en je mooie reis in Japan.
      Bedoel je of er ingangsvoorwaarden zijn? Want die zijn er niet, iedereen in bezit van een middelbare schooldiploma kan Japanologie starten.
      Ik weet dat er in mijn jaar ook enkelen waren die ervoor iets anders hadden gestudeerd en/of al enkele jaren werkervaring erop hadden zitten.
      Het feit dat je al wat voorkennis hebt, zal ook een voordeel zin in het begin, dan kan je wat rustiger starten.
      Zeker doen, zou ik zeggen!

      Groetjes en succes ermee,

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