Why Study in Rural Japan?
Ritsumeikan APU is located in southern Japan on the Island of Kyushu in a lovely bayside city named Beppu. Although it may not be Tokyo, there is a lot to be found in rural areas of Japan. Unique customs, local festivals, and communities like no other!
BEPPU CITY, OITA
Beppu City has an abundance of over 2,000 hot springs baths which makes it a popular destination for both Japanese and international tourists. The amount of hot spring water in our little city is number one in Japan and number two in the world just behind Yellowstone National Park in the United States, but in Beppu you can have the chance to experience the water yourself. Our hot springs also have variety consisting of 7 of the 10 verified types of spring qualities. You can find a whole break down of Beppu and our hot springs on websites like Enjoy Onsen!
Beppu is even a safe and low cost of living city compared to other popular destinations like Tokyo, but still with all the history and culture to be found. Local festivals and events can be found around every corner and not just in Beppu city, but throughout Oita Prefecture. Students here have great opportunities to participate alongside our welcoming community!
Tradition and Culture:
Although you won’t find samurai and ninja around today, many aspects of traditional Japanese culture are still relevant in modern society. During your time here, you will be able to visit famous temples like Futagoji in Kunisaki City on the edge of the peninsula and shrines like Usa Shrine in Usa City. Not only can you see people dressed in yukatas for summer festivals, but you yourself can also try them with rental shops across famous castle towns, or jouka-machi (城下町・じょうかまち), like Kitsuki City.
Participating in a Japanese tea ceremony where you are served matcha green tea in a tatami room is another experience not to be missed either on campus with cultural exchange events or in local cities with long histories dating back to the samurai era. Spring and summer are the prime seasons to see local Japanese festivals like Oita’s various Gion and bamboo lanterns festivals as well as Tanabata, also famously known as the Star Festival, which includes Oita’s large scale Funai Pacchin festival. Other events such as the cherry blossom viewing parties known as hanami (花見・はなみ) remain a yearly occurrence on castle grounds or in local parks like Beppu Park just downtown!
Sushi and tempura may be some of the most well-known Japanese food but others such as tofu, ramen, soba and udon, are quickly gaining popularity internationally. Here, you will find some of the most fresh and delicious food anywhere in the world. Japan’s healthy cuisine may be one of the secrets to why it has one of the longest average life expectancies in the world.
As for locals here in Beppu and the rest of Oita Prefecture, we enjoy our own special cuisines like chicken tempura named toriten and friend chicken called karaage. Not to mention our famous fish seki-aji and seki-saba which are amazing both raw and cooked, and on top of that we have our lovely Bungo Beef! However, one locally found food that everyone in Beppu enjoys is known as jigoku-mushi (地獄蒸し・じごくむし) or hell steamed food which comes from our famous hell hot springs tour with a total of 7 hot springs, including the blood hell! Hell steamed food is not only nutritious but delicious, and you get to help steam the food yourself after choosing what you want to eat!
Japan has been a world leader in the latest technology for decades with innovations from shinkansen (新幹線・しんかんせん) or bullet trains, which carry thousands of travelers quickly and quietly across Japan every day, to electric rice cookers and LED lights used in homes across the world. Major automobile manufacturers like Toyota and Honda were born in Japan and are now global household names. This is also true for Sony and Panasonic-multinational corporations making high quality audio devices and other electronics.
Speaking of bullet trains, Oita Prefecture has access to other parts of Kyushu such as neighboring prefecture Fukuoka, known for its shopping malls, and Kumamoto Prefecture, found just below Oita with the Kumamoto Castle and the growing One Piece character statues!
One of Japan’s most famous exports is pop culture, from anime and manga to video games, music and movies. Japanese pop stars such as Perfume, AKB48, and Baby Metal are famous not only in Japan but have a broad international fan base as well. Under the vision of Hayao Miyazaki, Studio Ghibli has created wildly popular and internationally-acclaimed animated movies such as Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Anime television series such as Demon Slayer and Jujutsu Kaisen are popular as they have been translated and broadcast across the world in many different languages while Japanese video game companies such as Nintendo have been providing countless hours of entertainment for decades.
From Oita, one famous star is Rino Sashihara who started out as a member of popular girl group AKB48. As for famous manga and anime, Attack on Titan aka Shingeki no Kyojin’s creator Hajime Isayama is originally from the area of Hita, which now has a permanent Attack on Titan Museum attached to one of the roadside stations.
While majestic Mt. Fuji is one of the quintessential symbols of Japan, here in Beppu we are actually surrounded by mountains, sandwiched perfectly between a mountain range and the ocean. You can enjoy mountain climbing with ikki-touzan (一気登山・いっきとざん), meaning “in one go”, where challengers start at the base of the city next to the ocean and climb all the way to the top in one day, in one go! For those used to hiking it may take around 4-5 hours one way and for those who may be new to hiking mountains, there are other starting points as well as a rope way to take you back down.
Japan also has four distinct seasons, meaning that you can enjoy the continuously changing landscapes throughout the year, such as the beautiful red foliage during autumn or the snowy mountaintops. There’s also the ever-famous cherry blossoms and Japanese apricot blossoms that paint the trees white and pink followed by the beautiful summer adventures in our local parks and beaches for some green scenery. Check out a student’s perspective about Winter in Beppu!
Another great thing about Ritsumeikan APU is that, with our campus being up in the sky, we are just on the edge of the Aso-Kuju National Park which is home to the Nakadake Central Crater, said to have been the point of creation for the island of Kyushu! Even from campus you can see all the beautiful nature surrounding us; the calming sky above, the green park behind us, and the blue expanding ocean in front. We can enjoy it all.
Health and Safety:
Living in Japan means you are residing in one of the safest countries in the world. Highly advanced yet affordable healthcare is available to all residents along with national health insurance. Even in major cities, most streets are quite clean thanks to strict trash sorting and recycling rules, and tap water is safe to drink. The crime rate is extremely low, even in the large metropolis of Tokyo, which was recently ranked fifth in the world by The Economist’s Safe Cities Index.
You can hear more about Japan’s safety from our students in their blog called How to Lose Something (and get it back) in Japan.