Nine Griffith University language students are looking forward to being greeted by the cherry blossoms when they arrive in Japan in time for the new university year from April 1.

The Gold Coast campus students, who will study at five different universities in a year-long exchange, are part of the largest group to go to Japan in a single year.

Lecturer Dr Leigh Kirwan said the study of Japanese was an important part of the university’s academic curriculum and international network, with 24 sister universities in Japan.

“Griffith has taught Japanese for more than 17 years at the Gold Coast and hosted more than 200 Japanese exchange students over the years,’’ Dr Kirwan said.

“Almost 200 students study the language each year at the Gold Coast campus.

“Students are encouraged to study Japanese culture courses as well as the language, but living in Japan enhances cultural knowledge and provides students with a wider global view.”

He said the employment rate of returning students was high with many of the 180 students who completed a Japanese exchange finding employment with companies in Australia, Japan and Singapore.

“Japan’s recession is officially over so employment is expected to rise in proportion.”

More than 450,000 Japanese tourists visited Queensland in 2005, the largest group from any country. This number is expected to increase with the end of the recession.

“Griffith University will be poised to meet the demand for Japanese speakers in the future,’’ Dr Kirwan said.