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Tips on Studying Abroad in Japan

Updated on February 29, 2016
Kiyomizudera Temple
Kiyomizudera Temple

Coming to Japan twice to study before eventually finding a job, I have come across some things that one should not do when staying here. Before going to any country, it is important to have the right mindset, and for Japan, this is especially true. So here are 5 things not to do when coming to Japan to study.

1. Stay inside

The most single important thing that you should not do is just stay inside. This sounds obvious, but it is easy to fall into this habit, especially when the adventure of being in a new place dies down or you are feeling blue.

When I studied here, there would always be a good portion of students who would stay in there room, play games or study, or just simply sit there like a hermit doing nothing. But we did not come halfway around the world to do something we can do at home!

At first, it might be challenging, you might be an extreme introvert, or you might find it hard meeting new people. The greatest thing about coming to Japan, however, is interacting with a new culture and being immersed in the language. This is something that is not accessible as easily where you originally came from.

I fall into this from time to time, but quickly bring myself back to reality when thinking about what I am missing out on by not going out, which leads to my next point.

2. Don’t take the safe route.

Japan is great in that there is so much history here. Taking a right instead of a left can make all the difference when it comes to exploring in Japan. I have found many temples, shrines, gardens, hole-in-the-wall bars, and just enjoyable encounters this way.

The Japanese rail and bus system is great in that it is reliable, and gets you from point A to point B. But what you miss out on is everything in between. My most enjoyable encounters have been walking down the same road with friends, but instead suggesting we walk down a random road, or take a different route to where we are going.

We have found great scenic routes and interesting shops this way. Mix up your daily routine and do something different. Your adventure does not stop when you land in Japan, but just begins. Find a place and make it your own. Find a bar or small restaurant and get to know the people there.

What I do when I move to a new city is find a bar, any bar, and become the regular. Not only because drinking is fun, but because you can have a place that is free from your regular life, and have a closer relationship with the workers and regulars.

It is not often that a bar with only five seats on the fourth floor of a random building on a sketchy street gets a foreigner to stop by. So take advantage of that and really try to meet new people. This can lead to many new experiences.

3. Do not only talk to English speakers (or people that speak your native language)

Sometimes it is good stress relief to talk to people who understand you, your jokes, or just your thought process. While it is good to do this from time to time, do not make this a habit.

You can do this in your own city back home. It is easy to tell the difference between those who are good at Japanese, and those that are not. The more you use your Japanese, the better you will get. You can expand your friends and try new things.

Meeting friends initially might be a little hard, but there are many easy ways to do this, and it is always enjoyable to have people show you Japan in a way you could not with the typical crowd of foreigners.

Fukusai-Ji Temple Nagasaki, Japan
Fukusai-Ji Temple Nagasaki, Japan

4. Do not come here with any expectations

Often, what people think Japan is, is nothing close to the reality of everyday life. Many people come here with certain expectations, and once arriving, they feel let down. They feel like Japan owed them something, and did not produce.

Japan is in many ways, the same as any other country. People work hard, have families, kids, and the occasional hobby. The real cities in Japan are like this. What coming here with expectations will do is only lead to disappointment.

A lot of people who talk about how bad their experience was in Japan was because of this thought process. People come to Japan expecting a high-technology country with anime at every turn. The real Japan is not like that at all. Sure, you can try and see only that side of Japan, but is that all there really is?

Coming to Japan without any expectations will make everything you do something new and exciting. You and only you can make an experience enjoyable, or bad. But coming in with certain expectations is only allowing you to be let down in the end.

This transitions into…

5. Don’t be selective

Don’t know what that green slimy food is? Try it. If you don’t like it it’s okay. What this does show is you are interested. You are interested in trying to conform to a Japanese lifestyle one way or another.

There is not one food I have not tried while being here. If I am offered food, I will try it. Try everything at least once. No one ever gets insulted if you try something and don’t like it, but not trying something at all can make them question if you are trying your best to be a part of everyday Japanese life.

There is a lot of food that I would have preferred not to eat, but after trying it, am glad that I did.

This goes for any experience, not just food too. Wake up at 5AM and go fishing with your crazy ojiisan, catch fish together, and have the freshest sashimi you have had in your life. Go out drinking with coworkers, miss the last bus, and sleep in a McDonalds until the buses start again at 5AM.

And a bonus tip:

Don’t go anywhere without an umbrella. Just trust me on this one, you will thank me later.

Fit everything you need and travel knowing your luggage is safe


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    • Yaser Amri profile image

      Yaser Amri 2 months ago from Langsa, Aceh, Indonesia

      Hi pal, can we study in Japan without knowing Kanji and Japanese language?