Student Voice

2018.01.29Student Voice

A Singaporean Abroad: Melvin Ho Zhen Xiang, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Akita International University Kanto Team Melvin Ho Nanyang Technological University

Melvin, left, with the Kanto team o-hayashi musicians.

I have always wanted to come to Japan for my student exchange, even though my level of Japanese was extremely basic. Incidentally, what propelled me to put AIU as my first choice was the fact that one did not need a certification of Japanese proficiency to come here as compared to other universities.

Looking back, I am grateful, as coming to AIU and experiencing the kaleidoscope of wonders it has to offer has been one of the best decisions of my university life.

To be honest, I initially expected a relatively quiet campus life, but there have been so many highlights and novel experiences. The two that particularly stood out for me was my time with the Kanto club and helping out at an apple farm in Yokote.

AIU Kanto Team

One of my motivating factors in joining Kanto, specifically the O-hayashi section, was because I play the Chinese Flute (笛子), so I thought trying the Japanese equivalent, the fue, would be an interesting cross-cultural challenge.

Melvin Ho Akita International University Kanto Team O-hayashi

Performing at the AIU Homecoming

Committing a significant amount of time, effort and resources to Kanto brought me back to the days when I was in my school’s Chinese Orchestra, and performing at AIU Festival and Homecoming made me realise how much I missed performing and developing the kind of bond with your friends that can only be forged through endeavouring tirelessly in pursuit of a greater goal.

I am inclined to believe that Kanto is one of the most serious and intense clubs in AIU (with no small cost with regards to expenses, and practice 3 times a week), but like my old club in Singapore, I find a brilliant, close knitted, community, fervently passionate about their craft and willing to devote themselves to an art, carrying the torch beyond AIU as well as passing it down to future generations.

I am honoured to have been a part of this hallowed Akita tradition, and I treasure the bonds of friendship that were forged in such a short time. Hopefully there will be a time when we share the stage again. (Kanto Festival next year maybe?)

Yokote Farm Stay

Yokote Apple Orchard Farm Stay Akita International University international students

Among the apple trees during a farm stay in Yokote

Another highlight was helping out at apple farms run by two young but passionate farmers: Kazuya-san and Obara-san.

We spent a weekend at Yokote, staying at a traditional yet modern, cosy hostel called Kamisoba. In the mornings, the farmers would pick us up from the hostel and we would spend the day working at their respective farms, picking up and folding the reflective sheets from the ground that were used to help the apples grow better.

Yokote farm stay apple orchard apple juice

Obara-san with apple juice made from his produce, along with his very own manga caricature on the bottle

The second day at Obara-san’s farm was particularly memorable for me, as the skies opened up and it rained very heavily. The farmers provided us with some heavy-duty rain gear and we continued working. It was hard and cold work but extremely fun and fulfilling as the lunch bentos tasted so much better! And the apples: I can honestly say they were the best I have ever had in my life.

What struck me the most was the passion, sincerity and hospitality of the farmers and people at Kamisoba. I will always remember the taste of the stew Kazuya-san’s mother made on the first day, and the conversations and bonding with the farmers sitting over lunch or at work, as well the passion and pride the apple farmers had about their profession.

Coming from Singapore, where life is fast and materialistic; and where interactions and relationships are short and sometimes superficial, this experience has profoundly touched and humbled me.

As the cliché goes, it is the simple things that matter the most. Something as simple as coming together, laughing and bonding over a hot meal after hard, cold laborious work.


I have been here but for a few short months, but already, I have seen and experienced so much, and there is yet so much more to explore. I have met so many friends and learnt so much. Slowly but surely, I have come to fall in love with this place.

In Akita, I saw Japan; in AIU, I saw the world.

Thanks for the memories!