Home to booming modern cities, beautifully manicured gardens, ancient castles, and towering video arcades, Japan’s depth and diversity attract students from the world over. This comes as no surprise - nowhere else in the world can you hop aboard a bullet train and go from the dizzying streets of Tokyo to the calm Zen of gardens in Kyoto in little more than the blink of an eye.
Japan’s broad offerings of history, religions, technology and language make for an ideal and fascinating study destination. Japan has something to peak the curiosity of any student, add to that a welcoming atmosphere and simplicity of travel—it’s a wonder anyone goes anywhere else!
Language Intensive Programs: during the summer, many universities and providers offer language intensive programs, which are typically 1 month-6 weeks long. These programs focus on language acquisition and immersion and are a wonderful way to kick-start your Japanese studies or to deepen your classroom language skills. Many language intensive programs include a homestay option, to really give students exposure to day-to-day language use.
Cultural Studies: For those students who are interested in a more diverse array of courses, there are many summer programs in Japan which offer Asian Studies or Cultural Studies courses. These programs are a great way for students to explore the history and tradition behind cultural practices while also experiencing these practices in person. Take a calligraphy or flower-arranging class to really get a feel for the depth of tradition which breathes life into Japanese culture.
Combination Study/Intern programs: Japan boasts a thriving business economy, a fast-paced tech industry, and a robust education system. As such, Japan is a popular destination for international internships alongside a study abroad program. In this type of program, participants will gain professional hands-on experience in & out of the classroom.
Planning your Trip
To be honest, there isn’t really a bad time to visit Japan. With spring cherry blossoms, warm summer sun and awesome rainstorms, autumn leaves and excellent winter skiing, Japan is pretty incredible year-round. Still, Japan is best to visit when the weather is fair and pleasant; while in Japan, there are countless gardens and temple to explore, castles to gape at, and bustling city shops to browse. The cultural sites and deep history of Japan inspires travelers to get out there and wander; Japan is not the type of place you visit if you want to lurk in museums. So, take advantage of that summer weather to view Japan’s gardens at their greenest, those shop windows at their sunny sparkliest!
Tanabata: July or August 7 (regional differences), Tanabata, the “star festival” is a colorful and aspirational festival, celebrating a special alignment of the stars.
Obon: Mid July or August (regional differences), Obon is a traditional Buddhist festival held to commemorate and honor one’s ancestors. Be warned that while Obon is lovely festival to witness, it marks one of Japan’s busiest travel seasons, so make your arrangements well in advance!
A Few Quick Packing Tips
What to pack: If you’ve ever heard of the Harajuku district in Tokyo, you know that the Japanese are fashion-forward and, on a whole, quite well dressed! Typically, people in Japan dress more formally than we do here in the US. While traveling in Japan, you will not want to be wearing Crocs and sweatpants—pack a few nice items to dress up your jeans—you’ll be happy you did!
Bring comfortable shoes! As I mentioned earlier, you will want to spend your free time in Japan strolling through gardens and exploring massive department stores; sore feet can really put a damper on things.
Budget: The cost of living in Japan is higher than that of most cities in the US, especially of you will be staying in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka. Be sure to budget carefully before you go, and consider purchasing food from grocery stores or convenience stores rather than eating at restaurants for every meal.