Life in Japan

Learn as much of the language as you can before you go, you will eliminate a lot of trouble and have a lot more fun. The Japanese language also entails many cultural aspects of Japanese life, so it will also help you understand the Japanese mindset, which may puzzle you if you have no knowledge of the language. Nigel from NY, Year Program
The Japanese aren't very confrontational, so if you think you're doing something wrong, ask your host family. Make sure you keep communication open and let them know that you need to continue talking! Abigail from CO, Year Program
The difference in the meaning of little suggestions or tips was the most difficult thing to adjust to. In my culture, you don't have to take the suggestion or tip, but in Japan, a suggestion or tip is more of an orderJulia from MN, Semester Program
You should make sure that you join a club at school, since a majority of high school students spend time with their clubs.Jon from TX, Year Program
Try ALL the food! Go to the convenient stores and buy bread and candy. It's just so good. Especially the rice balls. You'll miss it when you get back!Angie from CA, Year Program
It was very different in the way that people wanted to blend in and get along rather than stick out and be their own person. Ariel from NV, Year Program
I think the most difficult thing was the concept that asking questions was not ok; they got angry when I questioned what they told me, even when I was trying to get a better understanding of the culture and mannerisms. Nicholas from CA, Semester Program
Even if you are offered snacks and permitted to eat them before dinner, don't. Wait at least until after dinner before eating anything extra.Donovan from NM, Year Program
In America, I feel it is necessary to explain my actions if I do something wrong. However, in Japan, they do not feel this way, they simply expect an apology. At first I found this a difficult concept to stomach but eventually I realized it was really good, it is easier to just say sorry than it is to explain yourself.Nicholas from CA, Semester Program
Japan is still moderately segregated by gender. Boys and girls do not often eat lunch together or hang out in high school. Nigel from NE, Semester Program
One of the hardest things to adjust to was the dinner time. You couldn't eat whenever you wanted, you usually had to wait a while for everyone to come home.Donovan from NM, Year Program
Be nice and cordial, and do not hug people on first sight. Also, bring tissue/toilet paper with you wherever you go and beware of the hole-in-the-ground toilets!Chi from CA, Summer Language Study Program
You might be stared at but don't be intimidated; it's normal for Japanese people to stare. Everything they do is a part of their culture, not something to offend you.Jessica from NJ, Summer Language Study Program
The hardest thing I had to deal with was keeping my voice down. America is very outspoken and loud but Japan is very quiet and respectful so talking loudly can be seen as a bad thing. Olasunkamni from NY, Summer Language Study Program

Digging Deeper


Additional Language Resources
Cultural Resources
News and Media
Movies and Documentaries
  • Spirited Way (2001)
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  • Kikujiro (1999)
  • Our Homeland (2012)
  • Hula Girls (2006)
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
  • The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness (2013)
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (2011)
  • 21 Up Japan (2007)
Books
  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
  • The Makioka Sisters
  • The Doctor’s Wife—Sawako Ariyoshi
  • The Woman in the Dunes
  • The Rising Sun: The Decline and Fall of the Japanese Empire
  • Kimono: A Modern History
  • The Roads to Sata: A 2000-Mile Walk Through Japan
  • Japanese Soul Cooking
LGBTQ Resources Heritage and Ethnicity Resources (Diversity)

Note: The links and resources listed in "Digging Deeper" have been provided to AFS by people involved with our organization, including alumni members, volunteers, etc. AFS has not reviewed the resources in their entirety and presents them "as is" for your own information. As such, the sites, publications, films, etc. do not necessarily reflect the approval of nor the views, opinions, and/or values of AFS.