Whether it’s Studio Ghibli’s enthralling anime flicks, a Hokusai woodblock print exhibition, or your neighborhood (all-you-can-eat ) sushi buffet, there’s something alluring about Japanese culture that makes it a dream study abroad destination for many students. Did I mention? Even if you do not speak Japanese, you could study in the Land of the Rising Sun entirely in English. Here’s how!
The best thing about Japan is that most locals don’t expect you to speak the language. (Honestly!) I bet that at least one person will commend you on your Japanese if you managed to squeeze out a few phrases before the conclusion of your study abroad. Despite the language barrier, most Japanese people are luckily quite nice and accommodating, and will offer to help you if you’re lost or having trouble buying milk. All you need is a sense of adventure, a capacity to try, and Google Translate to get started.
Based on a few experiences from people, here’s a guide to help you fulfill your dreams of studying abroad in Japan, in English.
Find Study Abroad Programs in English
Don’t know how to communicate in Japanese? Don’t be concerned. The great thing about Japan’s new-meets-old culture is that English is widely spoken throughout the country. They want to educate you about Japanese culture if you are open to learning!
Not only can you complete your entire undergraduate degrees in English in Japan, but there are also a variety of alternative options to study in English in Japan, such as through a university exchange or an English-language summer camp for teens in Tokyo. If you’re curious, the cost of studying abroad in Japan in English is equivalent to the cost of studying in Western Europe. Scholarships are available for several academic programs to make them more financially feasible.
Institution-led programs, direct enrollment through a Japanese university, and third-party study abroad programs are the three most common ways to study abroad in Japan in English.
University-Led Programs & Exchanges
The study abroad office at your college can provide a lot of information. The first thing you should do is meet with your adviser to determine if there are any study abroad options in Japan. Most colleges that offer study abroad programs and exchanges with partner schools allow students to get valuable international experience while earning credits that may be used to their degrees. Whether you’re going via your university, it’s always worth checking to see if a scholarship for your study abroad program is available. It’s best to check as soon as possible! Also, you would have the opportunity to attend the local festivals together with your Japanese classmates, and generally, just enjoy and make lifelong friends. Check with your university’s study abroad office to find what adventures await you.
Direct Enrollment through a University in Japan
Consider registering in a program offered by a university in Japan if you’re not satisfied with your school’s official study abroad program choices. Isn’t it better to go straight to the source? A variety of undergraduate and graduate programs at Tokyo University ‘Todai’ are offered in English. This is the real-life school that so many fictional anime and manga characters aspire to attend.
Third-party Study Abroad provider programs
Consider traveling abroad with a study abroad provider if you want assistance, security, and a lot of extras. Many reliable, highly-rated companies are ready to guide you through every aspect of your study abroad experience. The extra assistance these firms provide in English might give you a lot of confidence that they will be able to manage any difficulties that may occur in Japan as a result of the language barrier.
Third-party study abroad providers offer the advantage of having frequent cultural trips such as Japanese tea ceremonies, cuisine discoveries, and other guided activities.
Scholarships and grants are occasionally available to assist cover costs, although these choices are typically more expensive than a university-led exchange. They do, however, have the most programs and the flexibility to be custom-tailored to your specific needs, such as if you only want to study abroad for four weeks rather than a whole semester.
Choose your location wisely
It is possible to get by in Japan without speaking English, but it will be a lot simpler if you live in a major city. There is a lot more infrastructure for navigating day-to-day life in English in locations like Tokyo and Kyoto, which see a lot more tourists. Cities also tend to have larger expat populations, making it much simpler to socialize with other English speakers in a location like Tokyo.
That being said, Tokyo can also be overwhelming. Tokyo’s metropolitan area is more than 800 square miles and is home to more than 10 million people. Because there are more expats here, it can also be easy to case yourself off in a little English bubble instead of getting to know the new Japanese people around you.
Smaller cities like Fukuoka and Yamaguchi are also great places to learn about Japanese culture, but you’ll find fewer English signage and may have to rely on hand signals and translation apps in the supermarket. Yeah, learning to play charades is a fantastic talent to have!
However, because it is a tiny nation, nothing is too far away, especially with the help of bullet trains and short domestic flights if you wish to spend your weekends seeing another part of the country.
Even though Japan is a tiny country, each region has its own distinct characteristics. Wazuka, Japan’s tea heaven, is a great place to come if you want to experience a typical Japanese agricultural village. The southern islands are the place to go if you want to learn karate. Do you have an interest in political history? Visit Hagi, the hometown of many of Japan’s statesmen and officials. Alternatively, go to Hiroshima, where the magnificent and spooky Atomic Bomb Dome and Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and Park will make you reflect on the past while also inspiring you to hope for the future.
Do Some (Food) Research Beforehand
While most of Japan’s cuisine is wonderful, there are a few items on the menu that may not agree with your stomach on the first try. You might not like their mucilaginous fermented soybeans (nattou) or the idea of eating raw fish makes your stomach churn.
When your class or host family goes out to eat, a little study on some of the country’s classic dish titles may spare you a lot of stress. It’s also a good idea to look up the names of any items to which you’re allergic and have them somewhere reachable. Even if it’s only a note on your phone, it’s better than nothing. Even better, have someone who speaks Japanese write it down for you on an index card so you can present it to your restaurant’s waiter. No matter where you study or travel in Japan, you must taste the egg salad sandwich, which no other country can match.
Find Your English Advocates
Depending on your study abroad path, you may have access to a wealth of resources in the shape of English-speaking classmates, professors, mentors, or host families. Having individuals like that on your side who can assist you is priceless. It’s worth asking your program coordinator before you go if there will be someone like that on the ground who can help you and is accessible on a day-to-day basis if you need something.
Take Japanese 101
Even if you’ll be enrolling in an English study abroad program, there’s no denying that even a basic understanding of the language will make the entire experience seem less overwhelming. Let’s face it: learning Japanese is difficult. It doesn’t utilize the Roman alphabet, has a completely distinct grammatical structure, and maybe frightening even if you’re a linguist with a number of languages under your belt. If enrolling in a university, be sure to ask if there’s a basic Japanese course you can take.
Find a Japanese Language Partner
Another option is to look for a language partner! Language partners are a fantastic opportunity to meet new people while also practicing cultural exchange. It usually goes like this:
You’re attempting to learn Japanese as an English speaker. Your Japanese-speaking companion is attempting to learn English. You’ll meet once a week for an hour or so in a coffee shop, restaurant, bookstore, or other meeting location, and have a 30-minute chat in English, followed by 30-minutes in Japanese, or vice versa. It’s essentially a low-stakes conversation where you may practice speaking in your target language. This is a fantastic way to learn some conversational Japanese if you don’t want to enroll in a formal course or can’t for some reason.
Studying in English in Japan is an excellent opportunity to get a taste of Asia. You’ll be able to stay up with your studies, participate in cultural immersion, and travel around one of the most active nations on the planet.
If you can imagine yourself walking through ancient temples, enjoying the art of ‘forest bathing,’ reviewing Japanese culture notes with new classmates, and celebrating the end of exams with a trip to a tabehodai (all-you-can-eat) restaurant, then you should definitely include Japan in your academic plans, whether you are Japanese-speaking or not. If you’ve ever fantasized about studying in Japan, there’s little doubt you should do so.