I had two programs to choose from for my study abroad semester in Japan: IES Tokyo or IES Nagoya. My Japanese teacher suggested the Nagoya program for a few reasons. First, since with the Nagoya program you are a student of Nanzan University, a Japanese university, you get more immersion and although you are still taking classes with foreigners, you can join university clubs and socialize with Japanese students. Secondly, Nagoya is less tourisity than Tokyo, which means not everyone speaks English and you are forced to use Japanese in your daily life. Thirdly, Nagoya is a major train / bullet train stop, and is situated between Kyoto and Tokyo. I prefer the old capital Kyoto to Tokyo, and so the location is perfect for me as I can visit Kyoto as often as I want, whereas it might take 4 times as long to get to Kyoto from Tokyo.
For my semester in Nanzan University I took Japanese (obviously), Japanese translation, Japanese Society, Tea Ceremony, and Woodblock Printing. All of the classes were extremely interesting, and the workload did not at all hinder my plans to travel every weekend. Japanese translation was fun because we got to work with a variety of materials such as short stories, manga, and song lyrics, while getting extra practice on what we learned in the other Japanese classes. For some classes, such as Tea Ceremony and Woodblock Printing, the teachers could not speak English very well, but they spoke Japanese very clearly and used simple words so that we could understand them. The teachers got us involved in seasonal Japanese events as they happen - we got to do flower arrangement in the Tea Ceremony class on Girls' Day, for example, and got to do a tea ceremony outside during cherry blossom season.
Our accommodation arrangements were made through Nanzan University. I am a vegetarian, and since there are not a lot of vegetarians in Japan I did not expect to get a host family which was my first option. However, Nanzan was able to match me with a host family! The host mother was very attentive to my needs, and asked me upon our first meeting what I could and could not eat in detail. She would always check with me when she was unsure of something, too. During a trip with my host mother to Shirakawa-go, we stayed at a traditional, family-run Japanese inn that my host mother stayed at way back when she was in high school! She taught me about the inn, and pointed me to good spots to visit or to get food that I otherwise would not have known about had I travelled alone. It was a great experience being on a host program, since you get to experience daily life as part of a Japanese family: you don't just read about what the Japanese have for breakfast, or what they do during certain festivals, and so on - living with a host family, these daily activities become a part of who you are.
I was able to explore Nagoya as well as travel outside of it every weekend. Transportation in Japan is very very expensive, but there are things you can do to minimize the costs, such as taking normal trains or buses instead of more the more costly Shinkansen (bullet train). Being on an IES Abroad program as well as a Nanzan University program, you get the best of both worlds: you get to go on on excursions organized by both programs. With IES we have been to Hiroshima, Nara, and Nagahama, and with Nanzan we have been to places inside Nagoya such as Nagoya Castle, or the Toyota Manufacturing Plant. On the IES program trips we were able to stay at traditional Japanese inns and have traditional Japanese set meals (kaiseki) - they are very costly and if I had travelled alone I probably would not be able to experience these things.
One thing that might count as a negative for Spring-semester students: in Japan, the new semester does not start until April, so you will not get to meet the local students for the first 4 months that you are here. However, there are still Japanese students in the dorms, or if you have a host family, you can talk with them! April is when all of the club activities start, too, and you can join them if you want to befriend Japanese students. I was in the Shorinji Kempo club, and even though my Japanese was not fluent the members there were extremely nice.