12 Things I love about ICU (International Christian University)

A while ago, I wrote a post that was kind of harsh towards ICU. I didn’t mean it to be. But I still feel bad, so I thought I should write a post about the redeeming qualities of ICU.

1. There is a bus stop ON CAMPUS that runs regular busses to both Musashisakai station and Mitaka station for only 210 yen. On average, busses leave every 10 minutes (from 8am – 8pm), but less often in the awkward hours (6am – 8am, 8pm – 10pm).

The first (or last) stop for each bus is ICU. I never have to worry about sleeping through my stop.


2. ICU has a really convenient location. It takes about 35 minute by bus and train to get to Shinjuku – the largest train station in Tokyo. However, we’re still in the country-side enough so that I can get really cheap rent for my apartment.

3. Classes never fill up. If I sign up for a class on registration day, I will get it. They determine the classroom based on the number of students that sign up for the class (ie, if only 5 students sign up, we get a tiny classroom. If 120 students sign up, we get a really large classroom). There are some exceptions (classes that fill up), but those classes are under a different header.

As an exchange student, this is wonderful. I need to fulfill my major requirements – I have friends studying at different universities who can’t get into classes that they NEED to take. At ICU, I never have to worry about that problem. It is wonderful.

4. The security guards are incredibly friendly. I got out the high school exit every day; the guards know my name and ask me about my day / comment on my outfit / chat about the weather.

I think they are wonderful.

ICU Campus

ICU Campus

5. The way the Japanese program (JLP) is set up, you WILL learn Japanese. JLP has something 8 (?) levels; at the end of JLP, you will be able to speak the language. I’ve learned more from three semesters of JLP than I learned from three years of Japanese classes at my home University (not to hate on my home University, it’s just that their classes are much easier).

That being said, I’m not taking JLP next semester. I can’t do 2.5 hours of Japanese a day. It is WAY too much work.

6. The classes aren’t difficult (excluding JLP). At all – or at least by “Western” standards. Every once and a while you might get stuck with a really awful class taught by a guest lecturer with uncomfortable grading policies, however, for the most part, classes are not difficult.

My (future) father-in-law and I, on the move-in day at ICU

My (future) father-in-law and I, on the move-in day at ICU

7. Classes don’t have “Busy-work.”

Classes (even JLP) take the majority of the grade for one exam, paper, or presentation. I’ve had classes where 80% of my grade comes from one, arbitrary 7-page paper, and the other 20% comes from attendance. I’ve had others where the final is 50%, the midterm is 40%, and classroom participation is 10%. Aside from my Japanese class, I’ve never had homework.

At ICU, the student is responsible for learning the material.

8. There are cats everywhere. I’m not joking, even in the winter, there are cats everywhere. They sometimes even let you pet them. I’ve almost hit them several times on my bike, though….

Count the cats in this picture. Try. Seriously.

Count the cats in this picture. Try. Seriously.

9. The cafeteria is delicious and the menu changes daily. It’s not that expensive either; a complete meal ranges from 300yen – 550yen (about 4-7 dollars), depending on if you want meat/vegetables.

I don’t eat at the cafeteria that often; twice a month at most.

Other good points:

  • The cafeteria has a take-out option if you have class or a club meeting.
  • It’s normal to pack your own lunch and bring it. I always make my own bento and go with friends after Japanese class.
  • They serve green tea and water for anyone to drink, even if you’re only studying and not ordering food.
  • It’s a great place to meet up with friends and do group projects
  • They also sell snacks, fresh pastries, onigiri, and have a sort of coffee shop by the register where you can order drinks.
  • You can pay either before or after you eat. When you pay, you can either swipe a pre-paid card or pay in cash at the register.

10. (Unless you’re taking JLP), it’s really easy make a schedule where you only have classes about 3 times a week. I think this is because about 85% of the students at ICU commute. A lot of my friends don’t even come into campus on Tuesdays or Fridays. That’s just how ICU works. As a result, I get a lot of free time. I’m able to get a part-time job/internship because I can schedule my classes into one or two painful days.

However, if you’re taking JLP (the Japanese Language classes), you’re screwed. You have about 2.5 hours of class a day, and that isn’t even talking about the intensive classes.

10. The campus is gorgeous. They have a long tunnel of cherry blossom trees along the entrance that is supposed to look gorgeous in the spring. I can’t wait.

If this is what it looks like in the Fall, I can't wait for the Spring when the flowers bloom!

If this is what it looks like in the Fall, I can’t wait for the Spring when the flowers bloom!

The campus is enormous. They have a tea house, faculty housing, a high school, and an entire forest devoted to some sort of research.

11. I have absolute freedom. I’m supposed to have an advisor – but I’ve only seen him twice (both times for course registration). I don’t think ICU knows where I live. My professors do not have my email. I am treated like an adult.

If I don’t show up to work, if I’m failing a class, or if I don’t turn in a final report, that is my responsibility. I love it.

The seasons of the entrance of ICU

The seasons of the entrance of ICU

Final note: ICU is great for students who are self-motivated and like freedom. If you’re a little bit unsure – or you like to be told what to do/which classes to take/what you should major in/what internships you should apply for, ICU might not be for you. I don’t know.

I love ICU because of the freedom.

Add me on Google Plus: +Grace Buchele

About Grace Buchele Mineta

I got into the writing business by accident. Now I live in the countryside near Tokyo with my husband, Ryosuke, where I draw comics, blog, and make videos about our daily life. Contact: Website | More Posts

19 Comments on 12 Things I love about ICU (International Christian University)

  1. Hello Grace! I am very interested in going to this school in fall of 2016. If you don’t mind, could you tell me how it works with paying for the school? Were you able to obtain any loans for going to the school? I live in the United States as well. Thank you! :)

  2. Hello Grace! If I’m remembering correctly, I believe that you once mentioned your husband went to Akita International University? At least I hope I remembered correctly. Anyway, at my college they only offer a couple of study abroad program and one was to this college in Akita. I haven’t been able to find much information about personal experiences there, so I was wondering if you remember anything your husband said about his experience? Any bit of information would greatly help me, thank you so much! <3

    • Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the message. I actually have a friend working on a guide for AIU (questions, facts, etc) who studied abroad there. I should post it in the next couple weeks (when she finishes).

  3. Are all their classes offered in english? I’m a biology major so science classes are what I’m asking about specifically.

    • About half their classes are in enflish and the other half is Japanese. I guess it depends. I necer took any bio classes so im not sure, sorry

      • Thanks and if I have to take a class in Japanese but am not fluent in Japanese should I take the class and study the topic at home or should I just look for a different university?

        • I think it’s difficult to find Universities in Japan that teach classes in ONLY English (basically the only one I can think of is Akita International University in Akita). You might be fine…?
          And if you enter as a regular student, you’re required to take language classes until you are fluent.

        • I hope you still watch this comment board and I’m sorry for interrupting you two.

          I am an ICU 13 (ichi-san, meaning 2013) April graduate and majored in a scientific major.
          (So I guess the author of this blog’s stay at ICU shared 2 terms of my final year with me,)
          I think I may be able to assist you a little bit.

          First, you can find course descriptions and the language of instruction in the following website.

          Please note that non-Biology majors like Chemistry, Environmental study and even General Education offer Biology-like courses.
          My personal recommendation is History of Science(Spring) and Philosophy of Science(Winter.)

          Information on possible curriculum and in-coming students’ fluency of Japanese language is given in:

          I think most of ICU professors of science majors are supportive to September or OYR (One Year Regular) students.
          Although ICU is originally a small university, scientific majors are even smaller parts amongst ICU, and so the professors will take good care of you.

          Thank you for reading.

          • Hi,

            Thanks for sharing!
            Since I was only at ICU for three semesters (and lived off-campus), I don’t know as much as the regular students. I probably saw you on campus a couple of times…?

            But thanks for popping in and sharing. That’s really helpful.

  4. Your from Texas though so your opinion doesn’t really count for much

  5. Anonymous // 17 May, 2013 at 7:53 am //

    thankks for the information. i really wanted to go to ICU, and after reading this i want to go even more :)

    • Yay, I’m so glad. I think ICU is a lot of fun (for some people)~

      • Anonymous // 22 October, 2013 at 3:12 am //

        Loved reading about your experiences – thanks for pics. I was there 1962-3 loved the Jomon digs w/ Dr Kidder. Soak up every second – will stay with you forever

        • Sadly, I just finished my time abroad at ICU. I loved it so much. I know it will stick with me forever (and am terribly glad that I took so many pictures)

  6. I have been reading out some of your stories and it’s pretty good stuff. I will surely bookmark your blog.

  7. How many cats are there in that picture. I count 12.
    (and if you’ve almost hit a couple on accident, how many have you hit on purpose?)

  8. Saya Deung // 4 March, 2013 at 2:09 am //

    Ur introduction is so good that I very wanna go there !
    Ha ha ,there are a lot of animals there(( ̄ー ̄) is that an advantage . 爆笑.

    • There are SO MANY cats! It is really surprising. Even in the winter, cats are everywhere… sometimes they even let you pet them.

      Sometimes I get annoyed at the cats, though. When I’m biking, they just sit there in the middle of the road and never move. I’ve almost hit a couple of them with my bike on accident…

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