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Living in Tokyo as an Exchange Student

Updated on November 1, 2019

Beautiful Tokyo

What is it like living in Tokyo as a foreign Exchange Student ? First Experiences

I have been living in Tokyo for almost 2 months now. I've had no language skills in Japanese before arriving and I felt anxious about having to live here, because it is said, that Japanese people are not able to speak English or just barely. That might be true for some parts in Japan, but it is quite different in Tokyo. Especially since Tokyo will host the Olympics in 2020, people are more motivated and encouraged to learn English than ever before. There are also signs, menus, maps, etc almost everywhere in both Japanese and English. Also most people here, especially the younger ones, are able to speak English, but Japanese people tend to be shy. They vocabulary is actually quite good, but they lack grammar skills, because the Japanese and English grammar is completely different. So if you have to ask someone for directions or anything in English, don't use full sentences. If you want to ask where you can find a specific restaurant or something, don't say it like : 'Sorry, do you know where X is?' . Simply say: ' Sorry, where X?'. It is way easier for Japanese people then to understand you then and they will help you out for sure.

And that is another thing, Japanese people are probably the nicest people on earth. If you need help from someone and ask someone, they will do their very best to help you and sometimes even do more. Like for me, being here in my first week and just experiencing how kind Japanese people are, was amazing. Even with like small things, I remember this one time, where one of my friends accidently dropped a pack of spaghetti at a supermarket after buying it. It completely exploded, there were spaghettis all over the floor and one of the cashiers immediatly came over, took a look at the package, went into the store, brought her a new one and told her to not pick the spilled spaghetti from the floor, because he will do it. He was smiling the whole time and he was genuinenly nice, you could just feel it. That was just one of many pleasent experiences so far.

I go to Sophia University in Tokyo, it's one of the most popular international Universities in Japan and the people at Sophia are amazing. All across the board, from University staff, cleaning ladies, cafeteria workers, teachers to students. It is also really good for international students, because the university takes care of every single one of the students. They even have staff there, who are fluent in almost any language.

I take Japanese 111 at Sophia, which I have every day and our sensei is the best language teacher I've had in any language class. Even after only having Japanese for 5 weeks now, I am able to read all Katakana, Hiragana, some Kanji and am basically able to speak in the most basic way. I can confidently order food in restaurants, ask easily for directions, talk to the workes in supermarkets, introduce myself and a lot more. Even though Japanese is a really hard language to accquire, they do a amazing job at teaching and making you understand, how Japanese works.

Accomendation, Food, Places to visit


Most of the Universities offer dorms for their students, it is especially easy to get into them as a foreign exchange student. In my case, I live in Sophia Soshigaya International House in Setagaya City, which is one of the biggest residential areas in Tokyo. Rent prices differ from dorm to dorm, but SSIH is quite cheap and actually amazing for the price. Staff here works all around the clock and they will help you out with anything you need. The rooms are also really nice and actually really big (15 square metres). Train stations, bus stations and anything you need, is really easy to get to and also the area outisde is nice.

Depending on your financial situation, you can choose whereever you want to live and there is a place for everyone. Don't think about not being able to live in Tokyo, because of your financial situation. Universities offer a lot of things for students and it's possible for almost anyone, to live in Tokyo as a student.


There is not much to say about the food in Tokyo. If you are not vegan, you are going to love the food. There is a huge variety of food and the standard is simply amazing. Go anywhere, try anything and you most likely you will be amazed.


I've been to Shinjuku a lot, because I have to pass the station every day on my way to Uni, but I feel like, I could spend my whole 6 months in Shinjuku and still find something new to explore on a weekly basis. Tokyo offers a lot of possibilites for anything you want to do and it is just fun. Night life is amazing, sight seeing is fascinating and even relaxing in the parks is refreshing.


I'll keep this post updated over the months. I'm going to add a lot of things to this post and maybe think about some things, which could help you in your future stay in Tokyo.


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