If you have decided you would like to learn Japanese by living in Japan you should decide on the best path forward. You could transfer to a university in Japan if you’re a student, such as participating in a study abroad program, or go there to work.
Both of these options are better than attending a strictly language education school. By being a student or worker in Japan you will become fully immersed in the culture and community. You will be using your blossoming Japanese language skills in a real-world setting versus one that is purely academic. It’s a huge commitment moving to Japan so you will want to take full advantage of this opportunity.
Of course, not everyone can go to Japan for six months, a year, or more. If you want to be in Japan for a shorter period of time there are Japanese language schools and academies located across the nation. This guide will look at these options available to you when deciding the best path forward.
Studying Abroad in Japan
If you really want to go to Japan as part of a study abroad program you should just go ahead and do it. When you’re younger, without children and a mortgage, it’s a great time to go on this adventure. Studying abroad is one of the best way to learn Japanese in Japan. If you spend a year studying in Japan your fluency in their language will be leagues beyond where it was before you embarked on this journey.
You should find a program that is closely aligned with a Japanese university and that gives you ample opportunities to be with Japanese students. By making friends with native speakers you will be motivated to quickly learning the language. Here are a few great study abroad opportunities.
Temple University, Japan Campus
You can spend a semester or school year in Japan under this program. The campus is in the central part of Tokyo which is one of the most interesting cities in the world. They offer a huge catalog of courses and Temple University supports you outside the class by helping you get to know Japanese students.
Keio University’s Japanese language Program
This university accepts people who have graduated from college. They offer courses that are much like regular classes including homework and attendance requirements. They also help you meet Japanese students and be part of the community. As the courses are flexible in their times you can also work while attending this school.
This program is partnered with the Kanda University of International Studies. Even before you arrive they will set you up to be e-pals with Japanese students so that when you arrive you are already familiar with some people. They also offer a flexible class schedule and, in addition to language classes, also offer classes on the culture of Japan.
Working in Japan
One of the best way to learn Japanese in Japan is through work. You will not only be immersed in the language and culture but you will be earning money to help pay off student loan debt. You will also learn a plethora of job skills which will help out in the future.
This is a common job for foreign people in Japan. One option is joining the JET Program which teaches Japanese people how to speak English. The pay is decent as are the benefits. While still in your own country you can take part in free online language courses through this program as well as those on Japanese culture.
If you want to live in Japan but not teach English this program also offers a position called Coordinator for International Relations. This job requires that you are already an advanced Japanese speaker, though. It also pays well and gives you plenty of opportunities to interact with your Japanese peers.
Other Thoughts for Jobs in Japan
Many companies in the United States have offices in Japan. You might be able to put in for a transfer, especially if you have some skill in the language. If you’re already established in your career this can be a great way to expand your future opportunities by becoming fluent in Japanese and learning a lot of soft skills.
Another option is working for a Japanese company. You can do job searches for what is available in Japan online and conduct phone interviews. This would be harder than transferring from where you work to Japan but it is still and option.
Things to do Once You are Living in Japan
Living in Japan should be more about school and work. There are many things you can do in Japan beyond seeing the sights.
Find a Hobby
A great way to find Japanese friends is by starting a hobby where you will find like-minded people. This can include cooking, judo, basketball, or anything else you find of interest. Try to engage in this hobby with others at least once a week. You will also want to only speak Japanese while doing this hobby with others so that you really come to understand the language. You will want to get outside the boundary of being a student or worker in Japan and have a social life.
Buy Japanese Books and Other Reading Material
Books are pretty inexpensive in Japan. This is especially true if you buy used books which almost always look the same as new ones. One great option is getting into manga which is very popular among all age groups in Japan. You can read manga anywhere, including at manga cafes, and reading this genre is a great conversation starter.
It’s OK to Stay Home as Well Sometimes
It’s alright to stay home and watch TV shows and movies. You will learn a lot from Japanese media, not just the language. One great show to watch is “Honma Dekka TV” which is all about science and research. While the scientists and researchers reveal their studies there are comedians who joke about what is being presented. A popular talk show to watch is “Shabekuri 007” where a pair of entertainers talks about their lives in front of a panel of comedians.
Living in Japan for an extended period of time is something you will remember throughout your life. There are endless things to do and places to go where you will find fun and interesting people to interact with. Japan is a safe country and you will grow a lot from the journey.