Living in Japan as a language student

Last year, 2016, me and two friends moved to Japan together. However, I was not very good at blogging about it.  From now on, I’ll be writing down my memories from that time.

Why did I move to Japan

Since about early 2011 or so, me and my two friends Marcus and Erik were talking about wanting to visit Japan together some day. We decided that it would probably be a good idea to do right after we would graduate from university (which would be in 2014). In 2013, we started planning more in depth about what we would like to do, what we would like to see and how long we would like to stay. Unfortunately we didn’t see it work out at the time, since staying for longer periods would make accommodation expensive, and staying for shorter periods left us wondering if the expensive (from the perspective of university students) flight tickets were worth it.

Studying Japanese

While I was studying computer science at the university between 2011 and 2014, I took some basic classes in Japanese at the local study circle, and Marcus joined me as well.

By the end of 2014, I found an ad about studying Japanese at a school in Japan trough a Swedish travel agency. They were having an information event soon and I decided I might as well check it out, since I did have an interest in studying Japanese. I asked Marcus and Erik what they thought about it, and we all went to the event. The idea of moving to Japan and studying Japanese sounded pretty good, although it’s obviously more expensive than going there as a tourist.

Deciding and getting ready to move

Come summer 2015, and we all had decided to move to Japan. I wanted to move there for a whole year, but we decided to initially only sign up for 6 months since it felt more comfortable in the case that we’d like to get back to Sweden earlier. Tuition for 6 months was about $3250, which was not an issue since we could take a students loan from CSN. And each month we would get students allowance and an optional students loan, just like if we had decided to study in Sweden.

We had a couple of different language schools to choose from across Japan. We wanted to stay in Tokyo, and the school that the travel agency suggested to us was KAI Japanese Language School. Dealing with visa’s and accommodation was pretty straightforward. Our travel agency helped us a bit with the process, but overall we didn’t have such a great experience with the travel agency as we had liked.

Moving to Japan would require me to take leave from my work. Luckily, the law is pretty straightforward that the company cannot deny my request for unpaid leave if the reason is to study, so there were no issues to take a leave instead of having to resign.

Getting to Japan

Getting to Japan was easy enough. I had found us some cheap, one-way, youth tickets from Gothenburg to Tokyo at Finnair, for $300 per person. The flight went mostly well, unfortunately it was a nightmare for me. A couple of days prior to the flight, I had caught a cold which made my nose stuffy. Apparently this is not a good thing when it comes to pressure differences. On the decent to our first stop in Helsinki, I developed an intense pain above my eyes, like nothing I ever felt before. It even got to the point that I passed out for a short while. On the much longer decent to Tokyo, I was prepared that it would probably happen again, so I managed to deal with it without passing out. We later learned using nose spray when flying with a stuffy nose is a good idea.

Arriving at Narita Airport, immigration was a breeze. We had expected it to take a while since we figured we had to deal with visa stuff. We didn’t manage to fill in our “entering the country”-form that we got on the plane so we had to deal with it right after we landed. In the maybe 15 minutes it took us to deal with that, everyone had already passed immigration, so we could just pass trough and get our residency cards.

We headed into Tokyo using the skyliner. We were set to meet with the staff from the share house company at Nippori station. Before that we decided to get something to eat from a nearby Mos Burgers. I enjoyed it albeit being pretty tired after the flight. Erik on the other hand didn’t have much of an appetite at the moment.

Finally at our new home

Meeting up with the landlord went well. Being escorted to our new home by one of the staff was nice. I wasn’t very happy with the contract signing since the contract was in Japanese only. But we didn’t have much choice other than to sign. The rooms we were renting were really small and very basic. My room was the biggest at 12sqm, which I paid $700/month for. In total there were 12 rooms over 5 floors. One floor being common space with living room, showers and kitchen. The first day was spent mostly unpacking stuff and getting something to eat.

The first goal was to notify our ward that we had moved in. Dealing with this, we got help by one of the landlord staff. Fill in some papers, wait some hours, and it was done.

Stay tuned for more 🙂

  • Payton Pringle

    Thanks for this information!! It doesn’t seem as many are following this blog as should be, and I was wondering if you still frequent it? I am very interested in doing such a program, and using your blog as sort of a step-by-step real person fill in is very helpful. Are you finding Japan to be as exciting as you’d hoped?