With COVID restrictions in place in Japan preventing international travel and exchange opportunities for almost two years, there have been glimmers of hope for change. For those of you who anticipate an exchange in Japan, you may have considered undertaking a semester or two at Japan’s more reputable universities.
Tokyo isn’t everything, as our Japan Correspondent Yasmin McGarva highlighted in one of her articles. However, here are some reasons to go even further and consider undertaking studies in rural Japan and travel off the beaten path.
1. University Specialisation
An aspect unique to studying at a rural university is the ability to study specialised courses, not offered at other universities.
The University of Ryukyus (Ryudai), a Japanese national university located in Nishihara, Okinawa, specialises in: island and marine environmental studies, health and longevity studies and Ryukyuan/Okinawan cultural studies. Based on an island inhabited by a population with the world’s longest life expectancy, Ryudai becomes a fitting academic base to study areas of health and longevity studies. With an advantage over other universities, Ryudai has easy access to the Okinawan history and culture known to contribute to the population’s long life expectancy. These areas of study are exclusively available at Ryudai, where the faculty is able to take advantage of Okinawa’s unique regional characteristics.
Similarly, Kochi University’s faculty of agriculture and marine sciences takes advantage of Kochi prefecture’s natural environment for a hands-on study experience.
Many rural universities in Japan, due to their location, facilitate unique areas of studies that can not otherwise be undertaken in the city. This becomes especially advantageous for those wanting to study specialised sciences.
2. Low Living Costs
Japan’s high habitation costs are often a deterrent for foreigners to move to Japan. However, this rule of thumb generally does not apply to rural living in Japan.
Where the average monthly rent for an apartment is ¥73,520 ($884 AUD) in Tokyo, living in the countryside is comparably cheaper. Depending on the prefecture, the average monthly rent can range from ¥43,000 to ¥56,920 across rural Japan. With the countryside’s housing prices more affordable, living in a larger living space becomes a more viable option.
Not only is rent and housing in Japan’s countryside comparatively cheaper, but food and transport also become more affordable. However, it is important to note that jobs will typically pay a little bit less due to this.
Living in a close-knit community in the rural Japanese countryside will mean essential locations, such as university and groceries, are often a short distance away. While they won’t be as close as the city, you can just as easily hop on a bike and get whatever you need. With everything you need by your doorstep, the decrease in public transport costs is also an added benefit.
Living rurally additionally has the benefit of having food often sourced locally by the countryside. Where local produce may need to travel from the countryside to the city, eliminating the need to transport the produce means food comes fresher and cheaper!
3. Social Life
It is often said that urban life tends to be an isolating experience, especially in a foreign country. But with the close-knit community of rural culture, living in Japan’s countryside can be a welcoming experience. A smaller population, quieter and slower-paced environment, all facilities for a strong sense of community in the countryside. A smaller population will mean you’ll familiarise yourself with many of the local faces and come into contact with friends everywhere.
Despite Japan’s urbanised city life being at the forefront of Japan’s image, Japanese country life has its own charm. Whether you’re wanting to study a specialised university course, live on a budget or live as part of a community, consider studying in rural Japan!