Bento Bureau

We always wanted to make a podcast and where we can take advantage of the international environment of our university.We wanted to create a platform for people to come together and talk about Japan from an international perspective. That’s basically what we want Bento Bureau to be. Everything is done by students who are passionate to bring our perspective about Japanese social and political issues. (Buzz)

We try to inform people about different issues. A lot of people have this dreamy idea about Japan, we just want to inform people that Japan is a normal country, and like any other country it has its own issues. Not necessarily in a negative way, we want to encourage people to learn more on their own as well. (Bastian)

For the first five episodes we were just speaking amongst ourselves. But for the next episodes we have invited half-Japanese classmates, and professors from various schools in Tokyo. Recently we have been trying to reach out to other ordinary residents of Japan as well. (Long)

From left to right: Hazel, Buzz, Bastian, and Long

「僕らはずっとポッドキャストを作ってみたいと思っていたし、これが僕たちの大学の国際的な環境を活かせるところだと思ったんだ。皆で集まり、国際的な視点から日本について語り合えるようなプラットフォームを創り出したかった。僕らのポッドキャスト、Bento Bureau(ベントー・ビューロー)がそういった場になればと思う。運営も全て、日本の社会問題や政治問題に対する自分たちの意見を知ってもらいたいという熱意を持った学生たちによるものだ」

「あらゆる問題を取り上げていきたいと思っている。日本という国に夢見がちな人が多いけれど、日本も普通の国なんだということを知ってもらいたいんだ。そして他の国々と同じように、この国にはこの国の問題があるということも。マイナス面も知ることで、自らもっと学ぼうとする姿勢を持ってもらえたらと思う」 ─バスチャン




“I have always been interested in Japan. Of course the typical answer is that you become interested in Japan first through anime and games, which was somewhat true for me. But Japan’s nature is what drew me here, more than anything. Nature in Japan is something quite mystical in my eyes. I would always see Mt. Fuji in the movies, like in Kurosawa films, it was always somewhere I wanted to visit. I think the first time I actually saw Fuji I became quite emotional. My favorite place now is Nikko–the momiji trees are so calming and so tranquil.

“I was born in the UK but my family is all from Palestine. Both my dad and mom’s family decided to go to London. I lived there for the first 12 years of my life. My parents split and I ended up going to live in Qatar, because I also had other relatives living there. It was a big change to say the least, but you might be surprised that it is quite an international place, and I was able to meet people from all over.”




“Instead of going directly to college, I decided after high school to take some time off. I did a working holiday in Japan for ten months. Going to language school, working in a Chinese restaurant, and also doing a part time job at an English speaking cafe kept me busy.The language school I attended was in Fukuoka. I love that place. It still has a city atmosphere but you can walk to everything, it feels warm and cozy in a way. Essentially it has everything that Tokyo has, and the food is also great.

“Studying for my undergraduate degree in Japan, I originally assumed that my classmates would be from only wealthy families and maybe be arrogant in a way. But this was not the case at all. Everyone was very kind, and it felt like a small family. We were only the second semester after a program that had just started. Everyone kind of knows each other.”




“I am from a small city in Southern Vietnam. You feel like you know half the city. It is a coastal city with a port so it is important for the economy for transport, and because there are oil reserves. My mom and dad are both from the North, but I was born and raised in the South. I use southern vocabulary with a northern accent which is funny.

“I am actually not particularly interested in Japan, I love it now, but I was never super into it. My parents didn’t really have the resources to send me further than Asia. I visited Singapore but it seemed a bit small. My city specifically has a lot of Japanese companies investing in it, and it seemed reasonable that if I learned Japanese I may be able to one day work for a company back in my hometown.

“My family is very traditional and they wanted me to go into the natural sciences. I struggled pretty bad as I am just not good with numbers. Since I realized that I wasn’t so strong I decided to try hard at English. My mom put me into a language center and I started really enjoying studying, and it just grew from there. I think the people in my city are very international, a lot of people go abroad. Many people from the south of Vietnam have their relatives outside of the country, and the economy is pretty strong, so a lot of people think to send their children abroad.”





“I was born in Vietnam but when I was 16 I got on an airplane to attend two years of high school in rural Massachusetts. After that I went to art school in Pennsylvania. Soon I started to question whether this school was for me. There was a gap between how much l loved the field of art and how much work is needed to succeed in it. I consulted with my mom and she encouraged me to come back to Vietnam.

“I had a feeling of regret that I had missed out during my high school days, and going back home was a chance for me to see what I had maybe missed. While working part time jobs I went to my old high school and middle school to participate in some activities. I felt that I needed to finish something that I had started. There is something about Asia that I had missed, and I wanted to stay closer to Vietnam, so I decided to apply for universities in Japan. I feel like the USA doesn’t fit me, people are very extroverted whereas I am more laid back.”



【翻訳:Loving Life in Tokyo & Junko Kato Asaumi
【写真/Photos by: Tim Franklin Photography

Teach Them Well

“I took this Nepalese girl’s picture while she was breaking those stones (pictured below). Every day her mother wakes up early in the morning to collect stones from river banks. The little girl’s job is to break them down so they can be used for construction of buildings in cities. The boys in the picture work at brick factories outside the city. They’re from a remote village and come work there for six months with their parents (who are told they can earn more if the whole family works). This makes it impossible for them to attend school even if they wanted to because they also have to stay at the factory the whole time, which breaks my heart because I love children. I’m from Nepal and I believe the only way you can bring change to society is by helping children, and you have to start from education. This is the best way to stamp out child labor, which is so pervasive in Nepal. Now the problem is not that we lack resources to help. The problem is that sometimes it’s hard to identify child labor in progress. When it’s visible, it’s easy to get support from the government. Like when children are made to work at hotels or as bus conductors. But when children are made to do household work, in the privacy of other people’s homes, then it’s difficult to know if they’re working under harsh conditions. What’s worse, because Nepalese society puts their community first, neighbors won’t report child labor violations for fear of damaging their relationship with one another. Some don’t even think it’s bad. That’s why our hope of stopping child labor is through education. I came to Japan to study and I have been fortunate enough to be given a scholarship. I’ve been involved in volunteer work ever since, doing research and field work whenever I’m back in Nepal on an assignment, like when I took the photos for this flier. Today, as part of UNICEF in Japan, I try to raise awareness and tell people what’s going on. People have the impression that we’re just all about donations. But there’s actually more to it than that. Someday I’ll go back home to Nepal for good and hopefully change the system through education.”

Click here for more info on UNICEF’s activities and how you can help


Working out of UNICEF‘s office in Kanagawa, Japan



Challenging Myself

“When I was 12 I moved to Canada from Korea where I was born. I went there with my mom and my brother. At first, my father was a goose father. We have this term in Korea, it’s a father who lives in Korea and supports his family in a foreign country. After two years of studying my father was of course lonely, and my mother was suffering as well because she had few friends in Canada. We had a compact with my dad to just go study for two years, but my mother actually applied for permanent residency without telling my brother or I. She thought the Canadian environment would be better than Korea, because Korean society can be very competitive for youngsters. My dad didn’t want to be apart from us either, so after going back to Korea for one year, we as a family immigrated to Canada.

“I think I am more Korean than Canadian. My parents always say don’t forget your roots, ‘Wherever you go you are Korean, think of yourself as an ambassador and act like it’. But I don’t feel that Korea is my only homeland because I don’t have a family there, but it is not a foreign country to me either.


“Speaking Korean in Canada or Vancouver is not a very strong point but going back to Korea and speaking fluent English is advantageous. I decided to go return to Korea and I was accepted to Seoul National University. Originally I wanted to do a double degree with China because I studied abroad there during undergraduate, but my school only had a double degree with Tokyo. I didn’t really have that much intrigue for Tokyo before, but since coming I have learned so much about Japan. When you go around everything is clean, no one throws trash on the ground, people are also polite and don’t want to be `meiwaku’ (annoying) to each other.

“In the future I want to explore more, because I lived in Asia for almost three years now, I want to try different continents. Maybe work for an international organization in Europe or the United States. I’m not ready for settlement I want to challenge myself more and widen my perspective.”