Japan Part 2 - Fukuoka and Kyushu University
Meanwhile in a city far, far away……
Two and a half months have passed since I arrived in Japan after having spent the summer in Europe, to begin my second semester of studies. This time in a whole different location, I relocated from the Greater Tokyo area to the city of Fukuoka with the purpose of doing a 6 months Game Research pre-Master as a so called kenkyusei (research student), combined with the continuation of my Japanese language studies at Kyushu University. Followed by a 2 year Master program.
At least, that was the plan.
Things changed, or as I like to call it “shit has hit the fan”.
The reason for my absence on this blog, that displays my daily life in a somewhat collective fashion, has to do with me cleaning up the mess that was caused by the event mentioned in bold. The mess had proportions that required all my attention.
Most of you in close contact with me already know this, but for all of you at a more casual distance it may come as a surprise:
To be honest, I am doing both extremely bad and quite well at the same time.
Will start with the latter.
Fukuoka is great, it is such a lovely city. Its a metropolitan city with about 1,5 million people. But it is much more calm than Tokyo. If you want, you can find the crazy Tokyo vibe, especially in areas like Tenjin, but there is much more tranquility outside of that area. The nature on Kyushu, this part of Japan, is unbelievably beautiful, get out of the cities and you will know.
The climate is the warmest in Japan and socially, it is a blast. I am meeting so many new people, out of which a couple might become true friends. Many internationals, out of which a Russian industrial designer and a Colombian product designer are now my closest friends. My Japanese is going well, my time in Tokyo has brought it to a level where daily conversations are going smoothly. The food is awesome.. in short; life is really good here!
Now for the bad part.
I’m doing bad because of my academical state; remember my plan. 1 year language + 2 years Masters. Kinda got messed up. I moved to Fukuoka to do the 2nd half of my language year, and to do my masters subsequently. Well, due to 2 reasons I am getting out of here again, by the end of March/Early April.
I cannot quite put into words my anger about this unfortunate course of event. Let me clarify;
Reason number 1- I am unable to find the right Sensei, someone who is sufficiently engaged in academic research in Games.
I was informed by the University that there are multiple professors in this field. Finding one should only be a matter of meeting them and finding out which one would be the best supervisor for my research subject.
Well let me make it absolutely clear: Kyushu University has no Professors active in the area of Game Research on an academic standard. The professors are basically managing a lab with students, networking with companies and government departments and getting funds for projects, they are not doing any other substantial work. There is no clear vision for the research, no academic aims. Besides, the projects they are doing are mostly of a commercial kind (making a game for Toyota for example). What the University DOES have, are staff members and professors who believe they are doing academic research. In their own way they are, but the level is simply not up to academic standard. Not by far. I don’t think it is appropriate to go into this fact about Kyushu University on this blog in more detail, but let me know privately if you want some more insight.
I do want to highlight some general things though, which might help other students who have the same plan/ambitions as I had.
I have been involved in the field of game research in Japan since my arrival here in March. I attended several game research conferences, I have spoken to and visited a multitude of universities who are involved in Game Research; Kanagawa Institute of Technology, KEIO University, Tokyo University, Tokyo University of the Arts (Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku), Waseda University, IAMAS and Kyushu University. I would say they are running behind on the west with about 10 years.
I have come to understand that academic research on games is highly underdeveloped in Japan. Northern Europe, Western Europe and North America are way ahead of the Japanese. This is both shocking as disturbing given the heritage of Japanese games and the important role Japan (Sony, Nintendo) still has on the global game market. You could say; well Thomas I guess you haven’t done your homework. Truth is, I believed in finding it underneath the rock called ‘Nihongo’, aka the Japanese language barrier. The academic works that are written in Japanese are so little in numbers and are merely about new technology (better graphics, input devices) rather than focusing on what to actually create with this technology, the content.
Then on to reason number two for my departure next spring.
2- My current temporary sensei screwed up big time (pardon my language, there is no better way of putting it).
He forgot to sign me up for the Masters before the supposedly early deadline (actually, he forgot to inform me that I even HAD to). Also, the website about this was unfortunately outdated, it displayed two deadlines, the second one is no longer in effect unfortunately. I got a nice “Ah thank you for pointing out this mistake on our website”.
The deadline for the Master program was on a Friday, the following Monday my sensei called me to his office and explained, apologized, and telling me I cannot start my masters until April 2012. Rules are rules in Japan, no compassion for teachers screw ups or students coming from across the ocean. (3 other internationals are having the same problem btw in this University).
Now because of this I have to wait another year, which I am not going to.
These drawbacks have hit me pretty hard in the face. Been down by them. I want to start working on my game projects and doing research really badly. Wonderful Life was a great experiment, but its time for a lot more. And now I have to focus on actually being able to do so, creating the circumstances ,instead of creating the games and doing the research. Its damn frustrating. But hey, I didn’t pick the path of least resistance, so I should cope with it.
Really trying to make the most out of my time here, enjoying more of Japan, deepening my knowledge of Haiku poetry and using the facilities the University has to offer. Meaning that besides finding a graduate school, I have started a new game project, with a deadline at the end of February. A super tight development schedule, a part time, 2 man project. It will be a short artistic 3D game for Mac and PC about leaving.
So no long blog updates, maybe some photos here and there, I am totally focusing on applying to other Universities now and my current project. University wise I am looking outside of Japan. No matter how much I love this country, my passion for the evolution of games will send me, at least at this moment in my life, to yet another place on earth.