When it comes to studying abroad, many people consider European countries rich in history and culture, like Italy and France. While these are amazing places to explore, don’t forget about the Land of the Rising Sun!
Japan is also incredibly rich in history and culture. In fact, Japanese culture has evolved greatly and is now a combination of Asian, European, and North American influences. If you do decide to study abroad in this wonderful country, here are a few things you should know before you go.
1. Know some Japanese
Going to another country that doesn’t speak your language is hard enough, but imagine if you didn’t even know a lick of the language. Always have a language book on hand and be sure to learn a few common words, as well as hiragana (the characters used in Japanese writing). This will really help you get around and allow you to ask for something you need.
2. Bring your own medicine
You’re not allowed to bring more than 3 months of prescription to Japan, while some medicines are not allowed at all. For a list of prohibited medicines, visit this website: http://traveljapan.wikispaces.com/medicine+restrictions.
3. Japanese clothing sizes run small
An American size 2-4 is considered a large in Japan so make sure you bring enough clothes and shoes for your stay. Don’t over pack though! Bring clothes that you can layer so you’ll have multiple looks with just a few items.
4. People will stare…a lot
The population of Japan is 98.5% Japanese; so if you’re not of Japanese decent, you will stick out. Some people will stare and others won’t even glance in your direction, but just expect it so you don’t feel highly uncomfortable.
5. Learn to read between the lines
It is common in Japan to be polite and not say when something is bothering you. Make sure that you’re aware of others feelings because they’re not going to tell you outright if you’re doing something wrong.
6. Get ready to walk
People walk everywhere in Japan. Public transportation is very common, but you will still have to walk to the stop or station. I suggest investing in some quality walking shoes!
7. Get your chopstick technique down
Many Asian countries use chopsticks instead of forks and knives, so start learning now. Not only will it make your life easier, but it will really impress native Japanese citizens when they see you use them correctly.
8. Say yes to everything
Well, maybe not everything, but if someone invites you to an event or just to hang out, say yes. You never know what amazing experience is waiting, so don’t miss out!
9. If you’re American, prepare for mixed reactions
Now I’m not saying people will hate you, but some people will either not care, assume stereotypical things (loud, fat, pretentious), and others will freak out and instantly love you.
10. Learn to love seafood
It’s not secret that one of Asia’s staples is seafood. Of course there will be non-seafood options, but chances are you will be invited to eat sushi…more than once.
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11. Be prepared to speak English, even when you don’t want to
Depending on who you meet, if they speak English they’ll probably want to practice their skills with you, and often. While you should definitely be willing to help with their English practice, make them aware that you would like to work on your Japanese skills too!
12. Visit temples
Temples are beautiful and a great way to learn more about the Japanese culture. Don’t forget to wash your hands before you enter, its custom!
13. Slippers are common courtesy
Every house you enter, and even some buildings, require you to wear slippers. Be prepared to follow suit, this is polite behavior.
14. Don’t freak out if you get lost
You will get lost, but don’t fret. This is completely normal for anyone studying abroad. Think calmly and try to find some who speaks English, if you’re language skills aren’t that great, and simply ask for directions. Most people are very kind and will try their best to help you.
15. Baseball is popular
You will likely be offered the chance to go to a baseball game, depending on the season you’re there. Go, seriously. At the 7th inning of a Hanshin Tigers baseball game they take out balloons and set them free into the air.
16. Basically anywhere you go will be crowded
Japan’s population has over 126 million people! Many places you will visit are popular destinations and thus, there will be lots of people, so prepare for crowds.
17. Karaoke and Purikura are musts
Karaoke is a fun past time in Japan. Co-workers even go out together after work to sing and drink. Purikura (a photo booth) is also popular and is actually really fun. Some purikura places even have a beauty station for you to fix your hair and makeup.
18. Like in every country, you will see things that are ‘strange’
But remember…it’s not strange, it’s just different!
19. Fruit is expensive
If you are a fruit lover be prepared to pay a high price for some of your favorite fruits. Or instead, try some of the cheaper, local food favorites!
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20. Don’t miss out on festivals
Festivals are a great way to try out new foods and activities of the country. There is always tons to do and they make for great memories!
While this guide should certainly prepare you a bit for studying abroad in Japan, there are plenty of things I didn’t have a chance to address! Be sure to do your research on the country and make sure it’s a choice you’re truly happy with.
Feature image source: and 7-themes.com
Brittany Cote is a book and makeup enthusiast and full time student. Instead of her mother yelling at her to stop watching TV or get off her phone, Brittany was told to stop reading! When Brittany isn't reading or trying a new makeup look she's either hanging out with her friends, taking a walk outside, or planning her next getaway. After studying abroad Brittany's mission is to help people realize and accept differences.