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Kyoto Uses Its Many Charms to Attract Foreign Students

Growing up in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, Leonnie Lim was obsessed by Japanese pop culture. She did not know why but she knew she wanted to live and study one day in Japan.

“At the age of seven, I requested my father to buy me a Japanese dictionary,” she said. “I self-learned Japanese, watching anime and manga.”

By the time she was ready for university, she had developed a comprehensive interest in Japanese history, culture and art. She chose to go to Doshisha University in Kyoto, where she is majoring in Japanese studies and global culture.

“This is where I feel close to the cultural and historical heart of Japan,” said Ms. Lim, now 20.

Her choice resonates with a growing number of international students who are opting to study in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, surrounded by historic temples and shrines, traditional art and crafts industries, and an abundance of nature. The number of foreign students in the city rose to 7,017 last year from 5,157 in 2009, according to an interuniversity body in Kyoto that compiles statistics. The figure of foreign students in Kyoto rose even as the number for Japan as a whole slipped to 135,000, from a peak of 141,000 in 2010.

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