japan studies, Students

My Experiences on NHK Cool Japan

NHK Cool Japan is one of the most widely watched programs in English worldwide, broadcast not only in Japan but by satellite to 108 countries, and viewable on YouTube. In late 2017, they did a special on Yamanashi featuring iCLA students doing amazing things in the prefecture. They also filmed almost 50 students in the iCLA Lecture Theater, and invited eight students to NHK headquarters. That program was aired nationally in Japan on the evening of January 1, 2018 in Prime Time, with much of the nation watching!

Jules Brunet, a student at the IESEG School of Management (Paris) on a one-year exchange at iCLA, reminisces about his unique, life-changing appearance on Cool Japan: 

“Reed-Sensei, we loved filming students on the iCLA campus, this was amazing. We’re gonna have eight of them coming to our New Year Special edition in December.”

One month later, we met in Shibuya station.

As soon as we arrived in the NHK Studios HQ, we were welcomed by the Cool Japan crew, who directed us to the rest of the group, composed of young adults from all over the world.


The requisite selfie. 

Most of them were used to the show and had participated several times, which made us a little nervous as it was a first for us. We all gathered around snacks and talked with complete strangers, who felt like long-time friends by the end of the day.

Showtime was at 3 PM. We sat down. We were about 40 people. After receiving instructions, the filming started.

But first: what is Cool Japan

It’s a TV show based on a quite original idea: to display videos shot in Japan which amaze people all over the world.

The international audience must express how they feel while watching the videos : “Why is it cool? Why not? What surprised you so much?”  It ends up being a discussion amongst all cultures about how Japan is like none of them.

I remember videos showing dodgeball games, children catching cicadas, monkey waiters, cosplayers, ASMR Shots, takoyaki cooks, real-life ninjas, anime choreography, high school customs…

I remember the Americans being shocked, the English agreeing, the Russians laughing, the Germans stating they were better; the Australian claiming that they were cooler; the Chinese disliking; the Korean stating “We have the same”; the Brazilian asking “What is this?”; the Indonesian saying “This is not possible in my country”; the Dutch saying “I don’t care”; the Kenyan saying “Calm down”…and me, the French, just saying “Man, that is amazing. But definitely not happening outside of Japan.”

Each of us being the opposite of the rest, yet everyone feeling like a brotherhood, faced to something as different as Japanese culture.


The iCLA contingent on the Cool Japan set. 

We all got to participate actively, and were not aware that five hours had passed,  as we were entranced by the atmosphere.

At the end, we took pictures together: film crew, moderators, and participants.
We promised to keep in touch, after all these amazing encounters with Japanese culture, and each other.

So, if one day you check out an NHK program called Cool Japan, try to find two girls from the Philippines and England, and five guys from Norway, France, Burundi, Uzbekistan and Cameroon (respectively)—that’s us! For the moment, try to find us in this photo:


— Jules Brunet

japan studies, Students, Workshop

Bendik and Stephen: experiences in Japan

Former iCLA exchange students Bendik Aarsæther and Stephen Kissick have produced a series of videos sharing their experiences of their year abroad in Japan.

Let’s take a look at Stephen experiencing Shugendo (修験道), a highly syncretic religion that originated in Heian Japan:


A time-lapse video of Bendik’s showing the beauty of Japan (including stellar shots of Kofu & iCLA):


Created by: Bendik Aarsæther: www.fokusmedier.no & bendik@fokusmedier.no
Presented by: Stephen Kissick: https://lifesofar.org

For more of their videos, please visit: BA Productions

Arts, japan studies, Students

Donna: The Art of a Cineaste

by Chloe Ramirez



Semesters later, students and professors alike still bring to light the amazing work done by Donna Rey, a Visual Communication student from the University of the Philippines, Diliman. On her semester abroad at iCLA, she was able to come up with a beautiful collection of videos and photos for the world to see, and they do not disappoint.

Donna took the time to meet with the students of iCLA in order to take their photos and videos. She admits that she started the whole project in order to pass the time.

I was always in my room for the first few weeks. But since I already love taking photos and videos, I said, why not start with my classmates? But the ultimate goal of my project was to get to know more people. I wanted to reach out to others. I am an only child, I keep to a close set of friends, and it was my first time in a foreign country. Meeting people through my passion was amazing.”

It was all very natural, the whole process. Donna wanted to exhibit authenticity and truth, and she in turn admits that much was learned from the whole project. The experiences were so unique because they were all such different people. Different personalities and attitudes sprout from each photoshoot, proving the diversity in and liberal air of iCLA.

Of course, just as in many projects, hardships occur.

There was a time in November when I’d conduct three photoshoots in a day, before, in between, and after class. It was difficult to shoot, but these were all minor setbacks. The feeling is really different when you know you can make someone happy with what you can do, and so I don’t mind the setbacks at all. It’s very fulfilling as a photographer, if I can call myself that.”

All in all, she admits that her little stint in iCLA was life-changing in a way, because she grew not just as a person, but also as an artist.

I used to be so dependent on friends, but here in iCLA, and after conducting the shoot, I was able to become more independent, mature, and responsible. Plus, I gained so many friends in the process.”

You can check out her videos here:

To see more of Donna’s work, check out her Facebook page: