Student Voice

2018.03.05Student Voice

Discovering Rural Japan: Madeleine Tobin, University of Malta

Shirakami-sanci akita international univeristy world heritage site

Fall foliage at Shirakami-Sanchi

My experience living on campus has been great. Through my themed house, I met people from all over the world with the same interests as me. We organised many activities and trips together.

Shirakami-Sanchi UNESCO World Heritage Site

Akita International University themed house Shirakami-sanchi hike

Members of the Japan Arts & Nature Themed House hiking at Shirakami-Sanchi.

During the Fall semester, as part of the Japanese Nature and Culture House, I traveled to Shirakami-Sanchi. Shirakami-Sanchi is a forest located in between Aomori and Akita prefecture. This forest is known for its natural beauty, and was used as inspiration in Studio Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke.

At the time we visited, the leaves had already begun changing colour, we were surrounded by mountains that looked like Monet paintings, covered in reds, golds, and yellows. Leaf viewing is a popular activity in Japan, there were many people there who had come to view the changing leaves. During my time at AIU I have travelled to lots of different places in Japan, but Shirakami-Sanchi remains my favourite.


This was followed by a homestay in Fujisato town. It was the first time I had ever done anything like this, I was shocked by how welcoming my host family was. My host mother treated us like her own family and even tried to teach us Akita-ben (Akita dialect). They showed us how to make kiritanpo from scratch, and prepared an enormous buffet for us. I really enjoyed learning about life in the town and helping them to come up with ways to increase tourism in the area.

Community Outreach Activities

A highlight of my time in here is being able to participate in the many RCOS activities on offer. I was able to travel around Akita to different schools to take part in their English program, it has been an extremely rewarding experience.

RCOS also organises many activities with the local community, through events such as rice harvesting I was given the opportunity to communicate with the wider community and learn more about life in Akita.