Choosing where to study in Japan can certainly be a daunting task. When most people think of Japan, they imagine neon lights, robots, high-tech toilets and karaoke bars. While this is true to some extent, outside of the bustling city life of Tokyo there are 46 other prefectures with even more to offer. Japan has many beautiful regions full of nature, delicious food, exciting festivals and wonderful people.
So, here are some of the top reasons to consider choosing the countryside over the city:
You can experience the life of a local
As a general rule, the smaller the population, the more likely people will know each other. Then, in turn, the friendlier people tend to be. From sharing food to offering gifts, people in smaller towns tend to be more willing and happy to help. If you are one of the few English speakers in the area, people will try to make you feel welcome and included. You will probably be invited to a number of community events, and supported in a number of ways. Don’t be scared of practicing your Japanese with the people you meet. As it can be a great way to learn and improve your language skills. For more ideas, Tofugu has a great article about this. It’s called, how to improve your Japanese and make friends during your time abroad.
Your Japanese will improve faster!
Living in an area with few international students or foreign residents essentially forces you to improve your language skills in order to survive. Plus, immersion is one of the most effective strategies out there to study a language. I especially recommend joining a university club, volunteering or participating in local events as a way to improve your language skills without needing to pay for extra lessons. You can also make lots of new friends this way so it is a great method to make the most out of your time abroad. If you stay there long enough, you might even be able to pick up the local dialect! For more information about ways to improve your Japanese skills, look at this article about learning Japanese and this one about how to prepare for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).
It is much cheaper – so you have more money to travel!
Something that isn’t discussed enough is the costs of living in Japan. Especially the cost of living in Tokyo compared to other prefectures. Not only is rent expensive in Tokyo, food and transport are also considerably more expensive than in other places. I recommend doing some research and checking the average price of rent and groceries in each prefecture. This will then give you a better idea of where you would like to go. Although it may seem minor, these costs definitely add up the longer you stay in Japan. So it’s worth considering how the prefecture you decide on will impact your budget. For a thorough breakdown of daily living costs per prefecture, check out these charts compiled by Expatisan.
Of course, it is possible to live in a big city like Tokyo and join the local community, make friends and save money. However, it is much easier to do so if you are in a smaller town. There are also many unique local experiences you might miss out on if you stay in the city!
The cost of rent and food is a lot cheaper in Hokkaido compared to Tokyo. Plus the nature is really beautiful (including these cherry blossoms!).
So, Why Should You Study Outside of Tokyo Then?
Studying abroad in Japan can take a number of forms, such as exchange, language study, summer school and more. For information about formal avenues of going on exchange, have a look at the Japan Study Support website. If you are already studying, ask your university about what options are available. Scholarships are also a great way to fund your experience in Japan, so have a look at the Asia Options page about scholarships for study in Japan. For more information about studying in other cities, check out Seb’s article about studying in Osaka. Or, check out this article about opportunities for studying in Kyoto.
Ultimately, the most important thing when preparing to live or study abroad is keeping an open mind and coming with the right attitude. Living abroad is a wonderful opportunity. You can learn new things about the culture, the people of the place you move to, and even yourself. So keep that in mind and good luck with your future plans!
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