• Japan
    • Kobe
Academic Year, Fall, Spring
Subject Areas
Cultural Studies East Asian Studies

Program Details

Program Type
Direct Enrollment
Host Family


Starting Price
What's Included
Accommodation Activities Classes Some Meals Travel Insurance Wifi
What's Not Included
Airfare SIM cards
Aug 15, 2019
Jun 10, 2020
5 travelers are looking at this program

About Program

The Illinois Year-in-Japan (YiJ) Program offers students the opportunity to spend a life-changing fall or spring semester or an academic year developing their Japanese language skills and expanding their knowledge of Japan through the intensive language program and Japan studies courses. Classroom learning is enhanced by living with host families, field trips to historical sites, and various social activities. The program, which boasts a long and successful history, is administered by the University of Illinois’s Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures for a consortium of American universities that includes the University of Arizona, the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa, and the University of Pittsburgh. YiJ is housed in the Konan International Exchange Center of Konan University in Kobe, thirty minutes from Osaka and an hour from Kyoto. Since the launch of the program in 1976, YiJ has served over 600 students in the U.S. Any university student in the world is welcome to apply.

Video and Photos

Program Highlights

  • Tuition is significantly lower than the University of Illinois’s in-state or out-of-state tuition.
  • Available for any majors. Earn 16 credit hours each semester from the University of Illinois—10 credit hours for an intensive Japanese class and 6 credit hours for Japan studies.
  • Stay with your host family and experience the Japanese lifestyle first-hand. The coordinator will match you with a host family that best suits your personal needs.
  • The Resident Director (RD) from a U.S. university is on site to provide necessary advice on your academic and social life as well as to oversee student health and safety.
  • Enjoy field trips and participate in various art/sport clubs with local Japanese students!

Program Reviews

5.00 Rating
based on 19 reviews
  • 5 rating 100%
  • 4 rating 0%
  • 3 rating 0%
  • 2 rating 0%
  • 1 rating 0%
  • Academics 4.65
  • Support 4.95
  • Fun 5
  • Housing 4.95
  • Safety 5
Showing 1 - 8 of 19 reviews
Yes, I recommend this program

Make your experience in Japan the BEST one!

Going on the YIJ program is one of the best decisions I have made so far. Like many others, as a huge fan of anime (and Japanese language & cultures ofc), studying abroad in Japan has always been a dream of mine, and I am grateful that YIJ program and Konan University have completed my “Japan-dream” in a way that is even better than I could imagine. Although I must admit, before applying for YIJ, there has been a period of time where I debated with myself whether I should apply for programs that study in a more worldly known Japanese University such as Tokyo, Waseda University. Because of this, I consulted my senpai, who has previously participated in YIJ and studied in Konan University and has many friends involved in different study abroad programs. He said, “If you simply like the idea of having ‘a top university’ to look good on your resume, apply for a different program; if you want to enjoy and experience Japan from first-hand, YIJ will give you a never forgetting year.” Now that I think back, I know he was absolutely correct.

Who should apply for YIJ?
For those of you who loves to learn the Japanese language and Japanese culture, YIJ’s academic curriculum will make you (or at least made me) very happy. The Japanese teachers and Konan/KIEC staffs are very nice and friendly, you can always talk to them if you have any questions. For those of you who likes Japanese anime/games/manga/goods, go explore Sannomiya, and you will find your “heavenly realm”. For those of you who likes the city and nature, Kobe (where Kobe Beef and YIJ’s host school is located) has mountains on one side a beach on the other and in between you will also have a taste of the urban atmosphere (Osaka, the second largest city of Japan, is next to Kobe). For those who want to travel around Japan, Kobe is also not too far away from Kyoto and Himeji, and YIJ offers field trips that takes you and your other study abroad friends to live your Japan life to the fullest. For those of you who are social animals, you get to meet many other study abroad students who are also interested in Japan just like you, and if you would like to get to know more Japanese people, join a school club/circle, go to a Izakaya or a bar! If you are the more chill type of person who would appreciate some quality alone time, there are so many good (student-friendly priced) cafes around Kobe where you could read a book and enjoy the coffee and desserts, or you could do a self-travel as Japan is very safe to do so (PS: most Japanese hostels are surprisingly clean and cheap). For those of you who are tight on a budget, every YIJ students from the year I went were able to receive scholarships from Konan or the Japanese government. Konan University also offer tutoring job opportunities where you teach/talk with Japanese students in English and at the same time, develops your interpersonal and communication skills.

I hope some people find my review to be helpful, and if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to email me or talk to me on Instagram (if I don’t read the emails LOL)! I am more than happy to share some of my personal experience and maybe provide you some recommendations as to which restaurants or cafes are the best or what you could do to explore while you are in YIJ.
E-mail: zhenlie98@gmail.com
Instagram: @dasfada13

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
I wish I had started traveling earlier regardless of my Japanese level! I wish I had worked even harder on developing my Japanese. I wish I had explored more and cherished the time and moments I have spent with the people while I was there a little bit more. Go YIJ! Go Konan University!!
24 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Best Time of My Life

It had always been a dream of mine to go to Japan, so as soon as I got the language requirement this program asked for out of the way, I focused all my energy into making sure I got in, and that effort paid off 200 times over. I loved every single second of my time in Kobe; when people ask me what I disliked or what was uncomfortable, I honestly have no answer. It was so much better than I could have ever asked for in every way!

My host family was wonderful. I don't know if they pick students or if the program assigns students to families, but whichever way it works, I felt like they were a perfect match for me. They were extremely supportive and accommodating, and the time we spent together was enjoyable and always a learning experience.

Konan University itself was also great. The campus was pretty small relative to my home university, but everything being so close together made it feel cozy and accessible, rather than intimidating. The convenience store and cafeteria being so nearby the building we had classes was great, since it allowed quickly buying a drink or something during passing periods. Students were very friendly too. I joined a club while in Konan, and it enhanced my student life a lot. Definitely join a club if you have the time.

I also loved the Kobe/Kansai area. Before starting the program, I was kind of wishing I was in Tokyo, but once I started, I fell in love with Kobe immediately. The Kobe area isn't overwhelmingly populated; most of the cities I went to had a nice suburban feel that I've grown up around and enjoy. A lot of super interesting towns, including Osaka if you want to visit a big city, are a 10-60 minute train ride away from campus, so you'll never get bored (my favorite town was Takarazuka, please go to Takarazuka!!).

My Japanese also improved a fair bit, which is natural if you're in a program of this type, but I feel the need to mention it. If you're like me and really want to improve your Japanese, this program is a good way to do so. Immersion and 3-hour Japanese classes every day go a long way.

All in all, this trip was amazing and unforgettable. If you have any hesitations about going, I say definitely go!! It will change your life.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Go for the year, not just one semester. I should have stayed!!
27 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Opportunity

Since it was my first time getting to leave the country there were a lot of things that I was nervous about but I can safely say that going to Japan for a year to study was worth every moment.

Kobe University was amazing school and I met many excellent teachers and lifelong friends who I still talk to even upon returning.

Kobe is a great city to explore and it is located next to many other large cities such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Himeji meaning you will never get bored of exploring.

There is also a lot of delicious food to find and Japan has many options but their choice of fish and deserts is quite expansive. Even having eaten there everyday I never got tired of what I ate and I look forward to trying more when I return.

Having been there for a year i have no hesitations saying if i ever had the chance to return I'd be happy to do so!

28 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

It is more than you can imagine

My name is Jiaao, I was in YIJ program at Konan University, Kobe, for one semester started from fall 2018 to the beginning of 2019. I will put this word before I start to talk about my life there. I would rather be there for one more semester even if I cannot graduate on time.

Everything that you have here is more than what you could ever imagine. Academically, it is a happy experience, but never an easy one. You will be placed in one of the several levels after an exam. Do not worry about whether you did good or not because no matter what level you were put into, you will definitely learn a lot. I was put into the highest level and one day when I talk about some grammar with my classmate at another level, I realize some of the grammar they learned is unfamiliar to me. I then realize that even though I am at the highest level, there is always more to learn. The morning class is always going to be your language course. The instructors are the teacher of Konan University. I was worried a little bit at the beginning because local teachers may not know how to teach foreigners, but soon I found out they are professionals. It's never a boring class because you will have a chance to hear more about cultures, stories, watching videos that related to the materials, and some times even going out to talk to the locals. You will have your own research topics to eventually make a presentation and talk about it to your classmates. They give you a chance to local areas to talk and learn about your topic so learning about it is not like sitting in front of the desk and searching it online. By the end of the semester, you will have a chance to take an official Japanese test which if you learned carefully in your daily classes I think you will pass it. Afternoon classes are those cultural courses such as art or history. These courses are taught in English just like the classes you have been taking in your University. I do not know about the other classes but the two that I have done were the art and the history, which during the weekend the professor will take you out to actually go to those places to learn more about the subjects. For example, for the art of Kansai, we have been to temples, shrines and traditional Japanese castles to learn about architecture, religion, painting, and sculpture. For history, we went hiking one of the local mountains and also temples and shrines. All these field trips were paid by Konan University except for the meals, so you do not need to worry about the train tickets or the tickets to the temples, the school will pay you back to you pretty much once you come back from the trip.

There are a lot of things you can explore in the campus. Circles and clubs are open to foreign students. I participated in Wataiko, the traditional Japanese drum club, and was performing to the audience both in the school festival and public show. Rehearsals were going pretty late but it was exciting, just like those rehearsals you have seen in animes, which you feel the atmosphere and joyful sense of achieving something by doing things with your teammates. You can legally work as a tutor in the Global Zone to teach English. There are games in the room which you can use to have better communication with the students. Most of the students that I met were shy, but they are willing to try so you wouldn't feel you are wasting your time here. You will have the chance to do presentations for the Japanese students on the topic you like to introduce your culture. For me, this is not only about teaching, but more about sharing cultures, which is always intriguing. School festival is once in a lifetime thing. It is the real SCHOOL FESTIVAL you saw in the animes and mangas!

Other than the field trip that you had in with your professors, you will have an official trip held by the University. I only did fall semester and we went to Koyasan, which was built by monk Kukai. Again, it is paid by the school and you do not need to worry about your budget. Those who did one whole year were going to more places, as I heard, such as Hiroshima, and Tokyo.

Study aside, let's talk about something interesting. Kobe is perfect in its location, you get Sannomiya, which all the traditional bars, anime-related stores, video games shops, and Karaoke were located. Frankly, who does not like drink beer and parties and games? These places are perfect to hang out with your friends. A lot of restaurants here were also great where you can do all you can eat and drinks, or high-level wagyu beef cuisine if you saved a lot of money. It took about an hour or a little bit more but no more than two hours to go to Osaka and Kyoto, which you get more historical attractions and Izakayas(Japanese bar)! You have to try the Manga Kissa(Manga Caffe) which you can even stay for a night if you talk to your host and school, again, once in a lifetime.

You will do the homestay while you are here in Japan. It really depends where you will stay but they are all not too far from the school which takes no more than an hour to go to school. I lived with a generous granny and a dog and two cats. There were days that I simply do not go out but just stay at home with lovely friends. I assume the hosts are not speaking English just like mine, but communication is never the problem. On the contrary, you will get improved even if you do not study hard but to chat with the host daily.

I miss the days that I had here every single day. I miss the days when we all sat together at Global Zone talk about our cultures, learn about each other's languages; I miss the days we were at the Izakaya, drinking beer, laughing together; I miss the firework show and the Karaoke; I miss the trips that we help each other to climb up to the highest mountain. Those days that I spent were the happiest time in my life and I dreamed to go back.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
27 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Adventure Time

I participated in the Year-in-Japan program in 2019 spring. Although the five-month period is not long, I have had a wonderful life every day.

YiJ is already a well-established, mature program, so you can get a colorful experience and enough support here. The facilities at Konan University are advanced, and the staffs are great; you can always get timely help.

In addition, Konan University has a Global Zone for international students, so we have our own space to study, eat, and communicate with others. Except for your assigned language partners, many local Japanese students also go to the Global Zone every day. If you want to improve your language skills and want to meet more friends, this would be a good opportunity.

The language teaching here is very good as well. Many Japanese teachers can provide you with all kinds of help, not only in class but also after class. If you have questions regarding the Japanese, they will be helpful to you. The workshops and study trips covered in Japanese classes are impressive, too. For example, during my semester, we participated in a Noh play workshop and experienced it under the guidance of professionals. As for study trips, we went to Shikoku and Hiroshima and participated in many interesting and meaningful activities. I think that I won’t have a chance to get in touch with these if I am just a tourist but not a YiJ student. What’s more, you can also choose two courses in Japanese studies, which can really help you understand more about Japan.

Jumping out of the study, YiJ provides you homestay opportunity, and they are very sweet and lovely. My host parents took care of me a lot, and they made me better fit into this new environment.

All in all, I am very satisfied with my exchange experience. I believe I made the correct choice to choose YiJ. So, please don't hesitate to sign up! You will never regret it.

24 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Chance to Learn About Japan and Yourself

Hi! My name is Miriam, and I attended the Year in Japan Program (YiJ) for the 2016-2017 academic year. Overall, I can’t express enough how much it helped me towards my personal and academic goals. The combination of daily language classes and living with a host family boosted my confidence in speaking Japanese and navigating daily life abroad, and the location of Kōnan University puts exchange students at a wonderful advantage to travel to many different places, exploring the culture (and the food!) as they go. I arrived in Japan very nervous about making mistakes, and worried that I would miss out on many things because I didn’t know the language well enough. However, the practice YiJ provided helped me to break out of that shell and seek new experiences at school and beyond, and by the time I left Japan I felt I had truly settled into life there. I had small cafés to frequent and favorite spots that were “off the tourist trails”; I had funny language mishaps and great language achievements, and all of the classes I took supplemented my knowledge of the country as I went along. Beyond the classes, YiJ also offers a few class trips that help solidify everything you’re learning and provide fun breaks from school at the same time.

On a personal level, my time in the program threw all sorts of challenges my way—from culture shock to language barriers, and everything in between—but these roadblocks helped me to become a more confident, independent person, and steered me towards new future goals and job aspirations. Now, two years later, I am once again living in Japan, but without the YiJ Program I don’t think I would have sought this path. For any student considering study abroad in Japan, I would highly recommend YiJ. There will be many challenges, but if you allow yourself to be changed by your time there you will have a wonderful opportunity to experience another country to the fullest, all while growing as a person and building your academic résumé.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Try anything and everything you can, and never stop trying to do new things. It's okay if those new things are small, like going to a new restaurant or visiting a store that you see everyday on your way home. But one of the most valuable parts of study abroad is right in the name--you're abroad, and you have the chance to make as much or as little of that as you choose. To take that opportunity and run with it, be it by taking a trip or just participating in a local festival, and you will find your "play time" just as valuable as the times you spent in class.
23 people found this review helpful.
Yes, I recommend this program

100% Recommend

My name is Monica, and I was a part of the YIJ program in the Fall semester of 2018 (September-December). There are many great things about this program, such as the Host Family option, and Intensive Japanese language courses (with great teachers!). However, one thing that I really LOVED about this program was how organized and helpful the staff was! I 100% believe that this is one of the best programs out there!

Having had friends who have studied abroad in Japan with other programs, they had all struggled with figuring bank accounts, insurance, part-time jobs, finances, and phone services. From day one this program gave us very detailed instructions on how to open our bank accounts and figure out the insurance system. The program also has the option to have a Japanese college student to help you if you need it. Another thing was the phone plans, I had thought I would have had to figure this out myself, but the school actually brought in phone companies that gave us a DISCOUNTED rate because we were staying short term! Overall the program is really looking out for your best interest and because program coordinators are easily accessible at the school, any question or concern that you have will be addressed in a timely manner!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
I had to travel to Tokyo from Kyoto by myself, I was a bit anxious because I did not want to miss my flight.
27 people found this review helpful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful time at Konan University with YiJ!

Hello! My name is Zoe, and I’m a senior with a major in East Asian Languages and Cultures and a minor in Informatics. I wanted to do the study abroad in Japan for several reasons: I wanted to improve my Japanese, learn about and experience Japanese culture firsthand, and because I had always dreamed about living in Japan someday.

Through the YiJ program, I got to do a homestay and live with a Japanese family. This experience taught me so many wonderful things you can’t learn in a classroom: Japanese meal etiquette, how to sort your trash, how to eat sashimi, and of course the wonders of the kotatsu. The homestay also allowed for me to fully immerse myself in Japanese. Instead of returning to a dorm with other international students after classes, I would go home and chat with my host parents in Japanese about class or the weather or what was on TV. In this way I was constantly learning and speaking Japanese, both formally in the classroom and informally at home and out with friends. On most days I didn’t even speak English at all.

Living in Japan helped me to become more self-confident and independent. At the start of the program, I was nervous to go places by myself, but received advice from a former student that it was best to go out by yourself, because if you went with another international student, you would just end up speaking English. This turned out to be great advice. I went to a bar by myself for the first time and ended up talking to so many different people and making so many new friends I was encouraged to go back and try again, and again, and again with different restaurants, bars, concerts, and cafes.

Each time I tried going somewhere new bolstered my self-confidence as I realized that I was perfectly capable of doing things I never would have done back in America. I also improved my Japanese skills greatly, as I was always meeting new people and having interesting conversations. People stopped asking me “are you a tourist?” and started asking me “how long have you lived in Japan?” At some places I even became a regular and came to be good friends with the bartenders and several other regular customers.

This program has helped me so much. I’ve delved deeper into my hobbies and interests and found what makes me happy. I’ve learned what it’s like to live away from home, independent of my parents and hometown. I’ve learned about Japanese language, culture, history, art, and even economics through classes at Konan University.

I have visited culturally and historically significant sites, like a one-thousand year old hot spring bath or the oldest wooden structure in the world. Better yet, I’ve actually understood the significance of these sites, and been able to appreciate them fully, from learning about them in class. I’ve made great friends, got to see bands a younger fifteen-year-old me would have died to see play live, and have even met and had drinks with one of my favorite musicians. I had a wonderful time, academically and emotionally, and I can’t wait to return to Japan after graduation.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go places by yourself! You end up learning more about the location, the people, and yourself that way.
25 people found this review helpful.

Questions & Answers