The beating heart of a civilization which has thrived independently for thousands of years, Tokyo is not only central to Japan’s complex and fascinating history, it has also become one of today’s most important international cities. Phrases like “culturally rich” do not do Tokyo justice in the slightest; with over 35 million people inhabiting the greater metropolitan area, the city is like an entire universe within itself. For students looking to explore an entirely different way of life, study abroad in Japan will provide one of the world’s most impressively efficient and occasionally surreal cities. Curious students will meet their match in Tokyo!
Study Abroad Programs in Tokyo
Japan is the world’s third leading economy, and the reasons behind this can largely be found in a culture of efficiency and top-notch education. While Japan is most widely known for its cutting edge technology industry, other popular areas of academic study in Tokyo include business, law, popular media, humanities, and economics.
The University of Tokyo is widely considered Japan’s premier university, and one of the most prestigious academic institutions in all of Asia, making it a fantasitc place to study abroad in Tokyo. Beyond this, Tokyo boasts over one hundred other colleges and universities throughout the metropolitan area, including Musashi University and the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
The language barrier can be a hinderance to many students interested in study abroad in Tokyo; attending many local schools can be nearly impossible without Japanese language skills, since classes are taught primarily in Japanese. However many larger institutions are making a push to attract more international students to study abroad in Tokyo, by offering a wider array of English-taught classes. Most study abroad programs in Tokyo will also have their own branches or connections to international schools within the city, making an English education easily accessible to foreign students who want to study in Tokyo.
Another quirk of the Japanese University system is that semesters typically run from April to September and October to March, slightly offset from the academic year of most Western universities. Many study abroad programs in Tokyo take this into account and make adjustments by adding cultural immersion or intensive language programs to compensate for time lost or gained. Prospective students who wish to study abroad in Tokyo should plan accordingly with their home universities on how to work around the term differences.
Life in Tokyo
Japanese culture is starkly different from most Western societies. Surprisingly though, students who study abroad in Tokyo will often find that these differences often make adjusting easier rather than difficult. The Japanese take pride in politeness, mutual respect, honor, cleanliness, and just about every quality that make a place civilized and easily adaptable to. For a region inhabited by 35 million people, Tokyo is an astonishingly peaceful and efficiently run city. It is safe, clean, and the intricate metro system brilliantly connects every corner of the city.
It goes without saying that students who study in Tokyo will never get bored. There are seemingly an infinite amount of fun activities and cultural intricacies to explore as a stranger to this mega-city. Exotic markets, niche bars, ancient temples, sumo wrestling, karaoke, the list goes on and on. Natives of Tokyo are always friendly and eagerly hospitable to foreigners. Make the effort to befriend locals and explore all the nooks and crannies that make Tokyo such a never-ending puzzle to be experienced.
Keep in mind though, study abroad in Tokyo will not be cheap; Japan has a thriving economy and life in the big city can take its toll on your wallet. As one of the most globalized cities in the world, Tokyo ranks up there with New York, London, and Paris when it comes to cost of living. Don’t let this deter you from studying abroad in Tokyo though. Financial aid is readily available to most students, and just like most major cities it is easy enough to eat and travel cheaply if you are thrifty (for more information on scholarships available for study abroad in Tokyo check out GoAbroad’s Scholarships Directory).
Accommodation & Visas
It may not come as a shock that living space is generally limited in Tokyo. As a tiny island nation, Japan is famous for making everything smaller and more efficient, and this includes lodging. Yet, while not exactly spacious, living quarters can be surprisingly comfortable. Adaptation comes with the territory.
Those who study abroad in Tokyo will likely be able to choose between apartment, homestay, or dorm style living. Apartments will be for the more independently driven student who enjoys privacy and their own space, while homestays offer a more authentic cultural experience, as part of the family, and home-cooked meals. Consult your specific study abroad program provider to discuss available accommodation options and make the best choice for you.
Although most Westerners do not need a visa to travel in Japan, you will likely need to obtain a student visa to study in Tokyo for an extended period of time. As Tokyo is an enormous international city and seeks constantly to attract foreign students to its universities, the visa process is not difficult. In general, most study abroad programs in Japan will help guide you through the visa situation. If not, start the process with plenty of time to avoid last minute tangles, and consult GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory for more instructions.
Benefits & Challenges
Perfect for Curious Souls. Life moves quickly and efficiently in the Land of the Rising Sun. At times living in Tokyo may feel like science fiction, making it a fantastic growth experience for any student who is willing to take the first step.
A Distinct Culture. As an island nation Japanese civilization has to an extent remained isolated throughout history. And today, even though Tokyo is ranked as the fourth most global city in the world, you will still have the opportunity of experiencing a distinctly autonomous culture as impressive as it is endlessly intricate.
Mesmerizing at first, the city will soon enough come to feel like home. If you are up to the challenge of studying abroad in Tokyo, then come and have the adventure of a lifetime.