Life in Japan

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日本語

Useful Japanese words for researchers


Whether you are going to Japan on a fellowship or collaborate with Japanese people, it may come in handy to know a few Japanese words. Check this list for some expressions that are common in academic life!
Japanese titles 先生 sensei and さん san
In Japan, you rarely address someone without a title, or honorific suffix, that is attached to the end of their name. It may feel intimidating, but in a university context you really only need to remember these two:

"Sensei" (literally "born before") may bring to mind a karate master, but is more commonly used to address teachers, medical doctors and those with a doctoral degree.

"San" can be translated to mr/ms and is the standard polite way to address anyone else, be it students and pre-doctoral researchers, administrative staff, or acquaintances outside of work.

As a general rule you use these titles with the person's last name. You can also expect people to addess you with these titles (here people may be unsure of whether to use your first or last name, so let them know which you prefer!)
The Japanese fiscal year, 年度 nendo
Unlike in many countries, the fiscal year, "FY" (accounting period) of the Japanese government does not correspond to the calendar year, but runs from April 1st to March 31st. This is also practiced by many companies.

The academic year is also aligned to this period, with schools and universities starting in April and ending in March. That the Japanese pay close attention to the shifting seasons, with spring representing new growth and fresh starts, likely has something to do with this.

So, when you hear someone talking about 2021 nendo for example, keep in mind that they are talking about the period from April 2021 to March 2022.

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