JOHOR BARU: A group of Japanese university students from Tokyo is in awe of how the National Month is celebrated by Malaysians.

Speaking in Bahasa Malaysia, Reon Shimizu, a Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) student who is in Malaysia on a study trip, said he was impressed by the locals’ display of national pride, especially when singing patriotic songs such as Jalur Gemilang.

“The lively celebrations and display of flags along the roads and buildings here are quite different compared to our National Foundation Day back home, which is much more muted.

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“It is exciting and interesting to see how the historical occasions of National Day and Malaysia Day are celebrated by the locals, including having parades and carnivals.

This has left a strong impression on me,” said 20-year-old Shimizu when met during the National Month celebration at Kolej Pengajian Islam Johor here.

The Japanese delegates, consisting of 13 TUFS students and a lecturer, joined in the celebration by putting on traditional baju melayu and baju kurung outfits. They also gave public speaking and singing performances.

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Another student, Wakana Kato, 20, said she pursued a course in Bahasa Malaysia due to her curiosity about the language and her desire to work in South-East Asia in the future.

“I have always known about the advantages of learning a foreign language, and since Bahasa Malaysia is widely used by a few countries in this region, I wanted to learn the language.

“Through the learning of a foreign language, we get to learn about the country’s culture, history and practices,” she added.

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Her classmate Ichika Hiramatsu, who sang a heart-warming rendition of Malaysian singer Fauziah Ahmad Daud’s Pesanan Ibu, said she took a month to prepare for her performance.

The 20-year-old said it was a challenge to grasp the pronunciations correctly and it took a lot of practice for her to memorise the lyrics.

“The most memorable part of our 18-day visit to various locations in the country, including Sarawak, Perak, Putrajaya, Melaka and Johor, is the different types of food.

“My favourite so far is nasi lemak, which my Malaysian friends told me is the national dish,” she said, adding that she plans to visit the country again with her family soon.

The college’s rector, Dr Hussin Salamon, said the cultural exchange programme, organised by the Johor Islamic Religious Department, was to open the eyes of students from both countries to the different cultures and language usage.

“Aside from showcasing the country’s National Month celebrations and traditional practices, we also offered five places at our college for TUFS students who are interested in pursuing their studies in Malaysia,” he said.