International student spotlight: Takenori Torii
Takenori Torii sits under a tree on a warm summer day in Red Square. He has been at Western for a few months now, studying English, and has grown to appreciate the beauty of Bellingham. It has been nice, going from life under the city lights of Tokyo to green trees and blue skies.
Torii is a part of the Intensive English Program at Western that aims to teach both conversational and academic English as well as prepare international students for regular university courses.
He’s from a city in Japan called Toyokawa in the Aichi prefecture, which is a way the Japanese government separates different areas in the country. There are 47 prefectures total. Torii attends Daito Bunka University in Tokyo, where he is a junior and studies business administration.
He came to Western at the end of March to improve his English skills and has found that he enjoys life here because of the relaxed atmosphere and proximity to nature.
It has been a fairly smooth transition.
Torii said he has settled in well to international student life. He likes Bellingham and the IEP program. He has enjoyed getting to know Western students.
“I feel that Western students are very active and positive compared to Japanese university students, but that might be culture,” he said.
He said students in Japan can be shy at times, but at Western the students are more outgoing. He noted that is not true of all Japanese students, just it’s something that has stood out to him as a cultural difference.
He has noticed a change in himself too.
“I have become more friendly than before,” Torii said.
But, there have been some things that have been tough to adapt to.
He said the hardest things to get used to have been not being able to take a warm bath at the end of the day to relax, like most people in Japan do. And he has noticed people here do not take their shoes off when they enter a home or a dorm room, which is customary in Japanese culture.
He also mentioned his longing for ramen, which is cheap and easy to find in Japan.
Living in America
When Torii first went to the dining hall, his first instinct was to take his bag with him when he went to get food. But he noticed other students were not doing that. So, he decided to take a chance and leave the bag at a table. When he came back it was still there and he’s been leaving it ever since.
He’s been surprised at how safe he feels in Bellingham and is curious to learn more about other places in the United States. Torii said he heard America was dangerous compared to Japan. He heard before moving that there was a lot of theft and gun violence, so he was nervous.
Torii said he hasn’t felt much stress since arriving. He enjoys all the activities in Bellingham and the support he gets from the Intensive English Program staff. Whenever he has a problem or a question, staff members in the office help him work through it.
The Intensive English Program staff plans activities for the students, which he said makes things easier because he doesn’t have to worry about finding things to do. He said planned activities give him the opportunity to experience things he might not have done on his own, like frisbee golf at Cornwall Park on a sunny summer afternoon.
“It was so enjoyable,” Torii said as he gushed with excitement about trying something new – in a new place.
Torii said he misses Japan but wants to continue to improve his English skills. He’s happy to be continuing his studies at Western until February 2019.
Get to Know Japan
(All information comes from the CIA World Factbook)
Japan is slightly smaller than California, according to CIA World Factbook. The terrain is mostly mountainous and rugged and the climate ranges from hot and humid on Okinawa Island – to cool with snow-capped mountains in Nagano Prefecture, home to the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Japan has the 10th-largest population in the world, with 91.6 percent of its population living in urban areas. Tokyo is home to the largest portion of the country’s population at 37.4 million.
Currently, 77.5 percent of the population in Japan is over the age of 24 – with an average life expectancy of 85 years old.
Torii noted that culture and religion are often intertwined in Japan because much of the country practices both Shintoism and Buddhism.
The country is almost completely homogenous with 98.5 percent of the total population being Japanese. The remainder of the population is Korean, Chinese or other.
The country has the fifth largest GDP in the world at $5.4 trillion.
Torii had a few things to add about Japan too, that people may not know.
He said Japan has many festivals. There is a festival in his city called the Toyokawa Tezutsu Festival. Each district in the city comes together to represent their shrine and the different techniques used to create firework cannons, which Torii has lit for his district. Four hundred cannons are lit during the festival.
Torii said the festival has been going on for 100 years.
He talked about Nattō, a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans. Many people in Japan eat it, but most foreigners don’t like it, Torii said
Japan has a total of 16,970 miles of railway. Torii talked about Japan’s transportation system and how different it is from Bellingham. He said the railway system in Japan is noisy, but convenient.
As he walked past the library towards the Viking Union he checked the bus schedule, “Eight minutes until the next one,” he said.