DESPITE being deprived of many privileges enjoyed by their counterparts in other countries, Japanese women are both clever and tough, according to two exchange students from Hong Kong. 'They are smart and efficient. There is no policy of labour importation in their country and Japanese women do everything themselves - at home and even at their work place,' said Lorinda Lam Ling, a research assistant in psychology at the University of Hong Kong. Lorinda was one of the four students who won the JAL scholarship and spent five weeks in Japan last summer, attending lectures and forums and getting a taste of Japanese life and culture through home stays and field trips. 'Japanese women have to take care of the needs of every family member and they also have to work,' Lorinda said. Serena Cheung Siu-han, a final year business student of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said she was 'lucky to be living in Hong Kong'. Siu-han attended a forum on the life of Asian working women at Sophia University in Tokyo. 'We talked to Japanese students and learnt that women in their country were deprived of the many privileges enjoyed by men,' she said. 'The chances of getting into a good company are low for women, even for those who have graduated from top universities, and promotion is rare. 'They do not have many of the benefits their male counterparts enjoy. They even have to prepare tea for their male colleagues.' The two students said the problem of discrimination could not be solved in the short run, but there was still hope. 'The situation is slowly improving, but the Japanese society is still dominated by traditional values. It will be a while before equality of the sexes can be achieved,' Serena said. Lorina added that women always played a subordinate role in a family-oriented society. 'Japanese women are left to shoulder all the work. They are deprived of many privileges and benefits enjoyed by women in other countries such as paid maternity leave,' she said. The students also had a chance to study the country's rich culture and other educational issues. 'The Japanese economy is developing at a fast speed, but people still maintain their traditional values and culture. Hong Kong is way behind in terms of preserving our cultural heritage,' Lorina said. The students also gained an insight into how the Japanese looked at World War II after attending a forum. 'Unlike the older and more stubborn people in Japan, the younger generation has an open and positive attitude towards the issue. They are willing to listen to other people's views.' This year, the scholarship will take 43 young scholars from 12 countries, including China, Vietnam, New Zealand and Australia, and three from Hong Kong, to Japan. The programme will include a four-week summer session of Asian studies at Sophia University, a symposium session in Kanazawa City, home stays, excursions, visits and other cultural exchange activities. Third and fourth year university students are required to write an essay on 'Transnational Popular Culture: the Interculturalisation of Music' in English. Essays should be submitted to the Japan Airlines office by April 16.