Ultimate Guide to Japanese Language Schools in Tokyo

Picking the right Japanese language school in Tokyo can seem impossible, especially with new "teachers" popping up left and right, looking to make quick money. We've done the research for you and found the top Japanese language schools in Tokyo, and they're all right here at your fingertips.

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What You'll Find in this Article

As you begin looking for your language school in Tokyo, please take the time to go through each section of this article carefully. We don't want you to be part of the 25% of westerners who regret attending a full-time Japanese language school. Before you sign any contracts, learn all the details.

Section 1: Is Attending a Japanese Language School Right for You

  • Should I attend a Full-time Japanese Course
  • Should I attend a Part-time Casual Japanese Course
  • Should I attend a Part-time Intensive Japanese Course
  • Should I Self-study Japanese

Section 2: What are your School Options Based on your Visa

  • Japanese School Options for Tourist Visa Holders 
  • Japanese School Options for Residence Visa Holders
  • How does the Student Visa Process Work

Section 3: Full-time Japanese Schools - What are the requirements?

  • What are the Requirements for Students with a Japan Residence Visa
  • What are the Requirements and Rules for Students who Need a Student Visa

Section 4: Full-Time Japanese Schools - The Admissions Process

  • Information Needed to apply to a Japanese Language School 
  • Steps before Admission
  • Timing of Enrollment
  • Steps Up to Admission

Section 5: What are the Schedules and Classes like at a Full-time Japanese Language School

  • For Beginners
  • Beginners Homework
  • For Advanced Students
  • Example of Semesters
  • Day to Day 
  • What you’ll Learn at Each Level of Coursework 
  • Business Japanese Courses 
  • Deaf Education

Section 6: How Much Will a Full-time Japanese Language School Cost Me?

  • Types of Fees
  • Costs and Expenses for Housing
  • Costs and Expenses at a Part-time Japanese Language School (No Visa Sponsorship)

Section 8: After Graduation

  • Entrance Exams
  • Recommendation System
  • Jobs
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Is Attending a Japanese Language School Right for You

The simple answer is yes: if you want to stay in Japan for more than three months and are from a country that does not have a working holiday program with Japan (e.g. American), then a Japanese language school will help you enormously. 

The answer is also yes for someone who wants to live in Japan and wants to be able to work in a profession outside of English teaching or programming. Many businesses are now hiring foreigners with a daily/conversational N3 level of Japanese, so attending a school for about 1 year full-time is a good way to get your proficiency level high enough to find a job.

For those already residing in Japan, a Japanese language school is a great way to start learning Japanese, especially if you have a hard time studying on your own. An intensive one month program is a good way to boost your proficiency level between jobs.

Choosing the Right School Can be Hard

The first thing you need to know is that there is no one best Japanese language school. Every language school offers different methods of teaching and coursework, and a school that appeals to one person may not appeal to another. Some schools provide support for job seekers while others focus their curriculum and support for students who want to enter a Japanese university. Other schools provide Japanese speaking courses, while the majority focus purely on reading, writing, and kanji.

We recommend that you clearly set out your goals for attending a school and then look for reviews from former students which include major details about the school. You should not trust any site that only provides rankings; try to understand what type of curriculum the school provides and what type of students they cater to.

the Should I Attend a Full-Time Japanese Course

Time and research have shown that studying full-time is the fastest way to learn the Japanese language. The more time you invest in your learning, the more your Japanese ability will grow. Enrolling full-time is a serious financial decision and will involve a large amount of dedication. You may not always be able to learn at your own pace, and you may need to dedicate more than the class time to learning the language.

The main reasons students give for attending a full-time language school is to either satisfy their student visa or to learn Japanese as fast as possible. If this is your situation, then full-time schooling is probably for you.

Working more than 20 hours a week while studying Japanese is really tough. You'll run the risk of having to take a course over again because you are not learning well enough. If you will need to work, we recommend studying in advance as much as possible to successfully make the transition to studying full-time while working.

Should I Attend a Part-Time Japanese Course

Attending a part-time casual Japanese language school in Tokyo is a good option for those who:

  • want to see what a course is like or
  • want to save money or
  • have time constraints

If you're considering a full-time Japanese language school, you might want to give yourself a "trial" run with a part-time course. You'll get to experience a real class, see the actual materials, and meet other students. This way, you won't drop a large sum of money on a course that ultimately won't work for you.

A casual part-time Japanese language school is helpful to those who have a hard time studying or focusing at home. The school can help you get into a good rhythm for using Japanese on a weekly or even daily basis. When you're spending your own money for the lesson, you're not going to miss the lesson or slack off on the homework. Motivation! Once you develop a nice self-study rhythm, you can leave the school and go off on your own.

Another reason to consider a casual course is when you have a full-time job that you don't want to quit, and you simply cannot commit to a 15-hour weekly intensive course, even for a single week.

Choosing the right casual Japanese learning course

Here are some key questions to answer to make the right decision:

  • Is there an entrance fee?
  • How much are textbook and materials?
  • How many months do you have to pay for in advance?
  • How many lessons can I take in one week?
  • Lesson: Do I have to learn to read and write kanji?
  • Lesson: How many students are in the class?
  • Lesson: Do I study with the same teacher each week?

Some schools charge an entrance fee from around 10,000 - 30,000 yen, which is  standard when enrolling in a membership plan. Make note of any facility fees and lesson material fees. It’s also important to double-check on how many students are in each group lesson. Some schools have classes with 15 - 20 students while others offer smaller sizes from 4 - 8 students.

You should also find out where the majority of their students come from. It can be tough to make friends with classmates who do not understand your native language, especially when all of you are beginning Japanese students.

Japan Switch in Shinjuku and Gotanda / Shinagawa is a great option

We recommend our partner school Japan Switch because there are no entrance fees, group lesson sizes are 3 to 7 students, and lessons are really affordable. They are open on weekdays from 9:00AM - 1:30 PM and have lessons for beginner to low-intermediate students. Japan Switch has two locations in Tokyo and is popular with foreigners. If mornings at Japan Switch don't work for you, we also recommend J's Language School in Ebisu and We Japanese Language School in Shibuya.

Japan Switch Tokyo

  • No entrance or enrollment fees
  • More than 30 - 60% cheaper than other Japanese schools
  • Monthly contracts
  • Conversation and practical use Japanese lessons
  • More than 150 active students in less than 1 year
  • Locations: Shinjuku and Gotanda / Shinagawa
    • Shinjuku Branch: Weekdays 9:30 - 1:30 PM
    • Gotanda Branch: Weekdays 9:00 - 1:00 PM
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Should I Attend a Part-time Intensive Japanese Course

Whether you have one week or several months to commit to learning Japanese, taking an intensive short-term course is an excellent option to rapidly boost your Japanese proficiency. Consider a school like Coto Language Academy, which offers intensive lessons for periods of one week to three months and more. Intensive courses usually involve a commitment of 15 hours a week with three hours of class time each day.

Teachers at intensive short-term language program usually do speak English because these courses are targeted to students from western countries. We highly recommend a short-term intensive course if you have the time and money. You'll find a huge return on your investment.

Should I Self-study Japanese

If you want to save even more money by studying Japanese on your own, check out our ultimate guide on how to self study Japanese. Remember, though, that you  need to study one to three hours each day to make progress. Learning Japanese is not a sprint but a marathon. Consistent study during several hours a day over multiple years is the only way to learn Japanese (at least until some Matrix-like invention allows us to download language abilities).

If you struggle to develop a self-study routine and think a few guided lessons would help you get started, we recommend taking lessons with at our sister company Japan Switch. They offer monthly contracts with no entrance fees, so you can take one lesson a week and try it out for a month or two. This encourages you to use Japanese more regularly, and once you get your self-study routine rolling, you can leave the school and rock out!

Final reminder: one class per week with no practice between lessons will not give you language proficiency. Study well and often for maximum results.

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What are Your School Options Based on Your Visa

Japanese School Options for Tourist Visa Holders

If you plan on coming to Japan on a tourist visa, you can only attend a part-time Japanese language school or a short-term intensive program, even if it's a full-time Japanese language school. There are many Japanese language schools in Tokyo that accept tourists for the short-term, be it a casual or intensive Japanese language course. Here are some of the places we recommend:

  1. Japan Switch
  2. Coto Language Academy
  3. We Japanese Language School
  4. This Japanese Language School
  5. J's Japanese Language School

Japanese School Options for Visa Seekers

If you want to stay in Japan for more than three months, you basically have one option. Unless you can obtain a visa like the working holiday visa or spousal visa, etc., you need to attend a full-time Japanese language school and enroll for a minimum of six months to receive a Japanese student visa. This will cost you $3000 - $4000 in lesson tuition and $500 - 1000 dollars in enrollment fees and other expenses.

Note: It's possible to stay in Japan for longer than three months if you use the tourist visa multiple times, but please note there is a limit to doing so, and overdoing it could result in you being denied re-entry into Japan.

How does the Student Visa Process Work

You'll have to apply to the school of your choice and pay in advance for a minimum of six months of tuition before you can even begin the visa process. If you enroll and pay in advance for 18 to 24 months, you may receive a small discount on your tuition.

Getting your Japan Student Visa

The first step is to find a licensed and authorized school and pay the tuition up front. Please note that an unlicensed or unauthorized school cannot sponsor your visa. Next, the school will send you an application and the additional paperwork required by the Japanese immigration authorities to apply for a student visa. Once you receive all the paperwork, you need to go to the nearest Japanese embassy and submit the documents to get your student visa. Then you can start your big adventure to Japan!

You will receive a 6 to 24 month visa, depending on the school and how long you paid for in advance. Some students receive a 12 - 24 month visa even though they only paid for 6 months, while others who paid for 24 months will sometimes have to renew their Japanese student visa after twelve months. The variables are numerous, so check with your school before applying.

If you receive a visa for longer than the schooling you paid for and decide to quit the institution after the term you paid for ends, the school will inform immigration that you are no longer a student; the government may require you to leave the country at that time. The opposite is also possible: you could be asked to leave the country if your visa expires before your school term ends. If you paid for a term longer than your student visa, you and the school will have to apply to for a renewal around two months (the maximum) before the expiration of your current visa. Don't worry; the visa renewal process is much easier and faster than obtaining the initial visa. Just make sure your lesson attendance is good because that could affect your visa renewal status.

In summary, the minimum period of study at a Japanese language school in Tokyo and Japan is for six months for students on a student visa. Be aware that not all Japanese schools are licensed schools, and only licensed schools can sponsor visas. You can check if your desired school is licensed in Japan or not here:

https://www.nisshinkyo.org/search/index_e.html

Maximum Student Visa Term

The maximum length you can attend a Japanese language school is 2 years. This is a visa issue and not a school issue, so changing Japanese language schools will not extend your visa. This measure is to prevent visa-hunters from gaming the system. If you want to stay longer and/or want more education, you could enroll in a university or trade school.

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What are the Requirements for Attending a Full-time Japanese Language School

Requirements for Current Japan Visa Holders

If you currently have a residence visa that allows you to stay in Japan, you don’t need to pay for six months (two terms) in advance. Many schools will allow you to enroll for one term, which is 3 months long, because you do not need a visa from them. Another awesome benefit of having a residence visa is that you do not need to meet the strict Japanese lesson attendance numbers, which are 70 - 80%, to maintain a student visa.

Requirements for Student Visa Seekers

First and foremost, you need to pay for your lessons. You also need to prove that you or someone else has the funds to support you as a student. This is determined by showing that you have a minimum amount of income in a bank account. We believe the number is around 500,000 yen, not counting tuition payments.

Another requirement for student visa holders is that you have to attend over 70 - 80% of the classes you signed up for. Different schools have differing numbers for the minimum attendance, but there is a legal minimum to maintain your student visa. If your attendance falls under this minimum, your Japanese language school will not renew your student visa.

The Lesson Attendance Rule is Serious

Be cautious with meeting the attendance requirements because you cannot change Japanese language schools if your attendance is low. This applies even if you strongly dislike your current Japanese language school. Your new, potential school will request your attendance records from your original Japanese language school and, based off your records, accept or deny you. If you stop attending your current lessons while looking for a new school, your current school attendance still matters. If you decide to stop going to lessons because you are searching for another school, you can be denied entry to the new school due to poor attendance at the current school.

It’s important to find a good school for many reasons. You don't want to be sent home because the school doesn't meet your needs and you stop attending. If the school violates immigration requirements for student management, they could have their ability to sponsor a student visa revoked, which hurts you. The rules are also stricter if you are working over the 28-hour limit, or doing night work such as bar tending or hosting.

The reason these rules are required by Immigration is because your stated purpose for coming to Japan is to study. If you do not uphold your stated purpose, your visa could be (and likely will be) revoked.

Here is a link to a well-known Japanese school in Tokyo that gives some examples of the types of school rules you will encounter.

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The Admissions Process to Japanese Language Schools

Requirements to Apply to a Japanese Language School

To do a long term study course (6 months-2 years), you must acquire a student visa. To acquire a student visa, you will have to do a lot of paperwork with the school and Japanese immigration and the consulate in your home country. These examples were referenced from Tokyo Central Japanese Language School and Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute.

The following requirements are from the Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute web page. Please note that these documents don’t need to be translated into Japanese.

  • School application
  • Personal history
  • Statement of purpose to study abroad
  • Statement of relatives and their health
  • 4 photos(h4cm×w3cm, taken within the last 6 months)
  • Last diploma copy (original documents may be required)
  • Last academic transcript copy
  • Certificate of Japanese learning (optional)
  • Copy of passport
  • Health certificate
  • Health check (varies from school to school)

Documents prepared by your financial sponsor

Your financial sponsor is usually a family member or spouse who will support you while you study, if you are unable to support yourself. This person will need to submit the following:

  • Statement of financial support
  • Certificate of employment
  • Proof of income
  • Bank certificate of deposit
  • Copy of bankbook
  • Copy of identification
  • Family credentials
  • Written oath (optional)

Steps Before Admission

The admissions process varies based on whether you need a student visa or not.

Student Visa Process

You should apply for your student visa 4 to 5 months before your expected enrollment date. Waiting until 3 months or later in advance would be risky because of potential visa issues. Your tuition fee would be refunded if your certificate of eligibility or visa were denied, but you would not have your application or enrollment fee refunded.

The first step of the enrollment process is the same as described above: make an application to the school. Once all of those details are organized, you will receive a certificate of eligibility and with that certificate, you can apply for a visa at the Japanese embassy in your home country.

Please note that almost all Japanese language schools want to do the entire enrollment process online. If you need a Japanese student visa, they most likely will not accept walk-in appointments because you need to do the visa process in your home country. Chances are that the visa process in your home country is much easier than in Japan. If you wanted to check out the school, you could probably go there and look around while you are in Japan, but they probably will not have specialty sales staff to guide you or allow you take a trial lesson. However, if you are here already, it may be worth asking!

Enrollment Process for Foreign Residents in Japan

For someone with a valid Japan residence visa, schools will have one staff member available to help you with the enrollment process in person, including a level check. It's possible to enroll in a Japanese language school program mere weeks before lessons start when you already reside in Japan. All you need to do is fill in the application and pay the money in advance; you don't need a sponsor. The whole process generally takes 1 - 2 hours to complete.

Timing of Enrollment

A key element for a full time Japanese language school is the timing of your enrollment. You cannot join a class mid-term; you'll have to wait for the next term to begin studying. This ensures that all the students are on the same Japanese level and are on the same page academically. Additionally, the visa process can be unpredictable. Even if you wanted to join mid-term, you could miss the whole term if you had any visa issues.

Steps Leading Up to Admission

Step 1 Consultation
Step 2 Placement Test
Step 3 Application and Payment of Tuition Fees
Step 4 Receipt of Certificate of Eligibilty
Step 5 Application for student visa at Japanese embassy or consulate in your home country
Step 6 Arrival in Japan and begin classes
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What are the Schedules and Classes like at a Full-time Japanese Language School

Plan your time in Japan carefully; class schedules vary from school to school. If you want to spend your time more focused on exploring, it’s better to find a part-time Japanese language school or a casual full-time school. If your main focus is learning Japanese, the best option may be a more intensive program.

Here is an overview of what you can expect from your classes:

For Beginner Students

Basic Format: In Japanese language schools, the teachers move between classes while the students stay in the same room. Each day of the week, you'll typically have a different teacher over the course of  3.5 hours of total of class time, with 10-minute breaks every 50 minutes.

Your First Day: Before you start, you’ll probably have a self-introduction with the class before moving into the lesson.

Lesson Focus: Beginners learn 3 new kanji per day. They'll be guided to write each kanji 10 times and learn 3-5 words associated with that kanji. Each new word is pronounced by the teacher, and students are asked to repeat the word aloud. The new kanji are tested the day after they’re taught.

Generally, the tests are a sheet with both hiragana and kanji characters. Words written in hiragana must be rewritten in kanji and words written in kanji must be rewritten in hiragana. Two weeks after learning the kanji, students take a larger kanji test. 

Beginners generally spend a full 2 hours studying grammar and sentence patterns. Alongside studying grammar, beginners practice speaking by partnering up and running through a speaking exercise using the grammar they just learned.

Beginners will spend time in listening practice and occasional reading-only exercise. Listening exercises for beginners involve hearing a short dialog and then answering some true or false questions. The teacher will ask students to read a sentence from the test and repeat it so all students end up reading the same dialog  3-4 times.

Homework for Beginners

Beginners will be asked to do kanji homework as well as any associated sentence pattern homework for the day. To maximize your success at a Japanese language school, expect to study at least 1-2 hours a night. Beginning students usually complete a worksheet every night. Here are some articles we have created to help you practice each aspect of the Japanese language; Kanji, Reading, Conversation, Listening, Vocabulary.

Here are some apps to maximize your studying:

  • Memrise - Language app
  • Anki - Mobile flashcards
  • Quizlet - Create your flashcards and use others, learn the language through games

For Advanced Students

We interviewed a friend who took an advanced course at a Japanese language school in Tokyo, and he stated that it took him around 9 months to jump from an N2 level of Japanese to an N1 level. He studied around four hours of Japanese every day in addition to taking 4 hours of lessons each day, because that was the only way he could keep up with his Korean and Chinese classmates.

Advanced course work

The course work for an advance student changes based on the season of the year. The three months before the JLPT test are often solely dedicated to test preparation. The rest of the year focuses a lot on discussions, reading, and learning useful Japanese expressions.

During the JLPT preparation season, which is between September and November, all your classes will center on preparing you for the four sections of the test. You'll have four classes a day, and each hour is focused on a different section. You'll take a vocabulary/kanji course, a listening course, a reading course, and a grammar course. You will also spend several days taking mock exams using previous-year tests to simulate the actual test-taking experience.

During non-JLPT test preparation season, you will have a more well-rounded and practical Japanese education. For the school he attended, the school gave our friend written assignments several times a week where he had to write about half to one full page on a topic. Other assignments included reading a 3 to 4 page story in Japanese that used many natural expressions and applying it to both written and spoken Japanese exercises. The stories usually focus on Japanese culture and current issues to help students understand Japanese culture better. The teacher helps students practice pronunciation by making them read the text; students could then ask questions related to the story.

Tips for keeping up with Chinese and Korean classmates

You cannot keep up with these classmates if you dedicate the same amount of study hours they use. Chinese students can already read Kanji and will always out-read you, and the Koreans will outclass you on everything except Kanji.

The person we interviewed mentioned that westerners need to spend around 90 minutes more each day than their Chinese classmates because of the need to learn kanji. You'd have to be a whiz-kid for learning language or spend more than 3 additional hours a day to keep up with Korean classmates! He also said that he used to type his written assignments to save time and to use the same time cramming vocabulary and grammar.

In his experience, you'll have to study and review the reading section for class discussions in advance because you probably won't be able to read the text as quickly as your Chinese or Korean classmates. The teacher will give you a set amount of time and your Korean and Chinese classmates will be ready to go before the time is up. You, on the other hand, will likely want an extension of time!

Example of Semesters

Here’s an example of a typical Japanese Language school year, provided by Kai Japanese Language School.

Winter Term - January 16 to March 27

Spring Term - April 5 to June 21

Summer Term - July 1 to October 2 

Autumn Term - October 10 to December 20

Summer Break - August 3 to August 25

Semester lengths and breaks change from school to school, but this is a basic outline to help you get familiar with the time constraints of Japanese language schools.

Day to Day

Depending on the language school, you'll have the option for either a morning class or an afternoon class. Sometimes, you may not get to choose. For a typical Japanese language school, you attend five days a week for three to four hours, which ends up being 15-20 hours a week.

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What You'll Learn in Each Level of Coursework

As you progress, the level you’re learning at will change, and so will the coursework. These examples are provided by Kumon Japanese Language Program.

Beginner

At this level, you'll start to understand and use everyday familiar expressions and phrases, as well as be able to introduce yourself to others and answer basic personal questions. You'll have the capability to interact in a simple way if the other person talks slowly and is willing to help.

Number of Kanji You'll Learn 428 Kanji
Number of Words You'll Learn 415 Words
Sentence & Paragraph Length up to 900 Characters
Intermediate

At the intermediate level, you're able to understand the main points on the subjects you'll regularly come across at work, school, and similar places. You're capable of understanding most conversations. You have the ability to produce simple connected text on familiar topics and personal interest. You can describe experiences, events, and dreams, and give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

Number of Kanji You'll Learn 668 Kanji
Number of Words You'll Learn 3,375 Words
Sentence & Paragraph Length up to 1,300 Characters
Advanced

At an advanced level, you can understand longer and demanding text. You can express ideas on specific topics without searching for phrases, use the language in both social, academic, and professional areas, and produce clear, well-structured, and detailed text on complex subjects.

Number of Kanji You'll Learn 1,000 Kanji
Number of Words You'll Learn 6,380 Words
Sentence & Paragraph Length up to 6,000 Characters

Deaf Education

Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute has a Deaf Education Program.

In addition to teaching international students in Tokyo, Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute developed a deaf education program to contribute to the development of hard-of-hearing education in Japan.

Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute uses the Ezoe Method to help teach their HOH students. This method has proven effective for HOH students and often attracts the attention of professors who study deaf education because of its superior track record.

The Ezoe Teaching Method emphasizes Japanese particles with pictures and diagrams. This method utilizes jyubako cards, colored particles, and "visualized grammar." The Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute has also published textbooks for student use.

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How Much will a Full-Time School Cost Me

Types of Fees

Application fee: 

You must pay an application fee of 20,000 – 35,000 yen just to apply to a school. This amount is non-refundable regardless of whether you get a student visa or not.

Entrance fees: 

You must pay an additional cost of 50,000 – 100,000 yen to enter a school. These fees come under the categories of an entrance or registration fee, facility fee, and student insurance.

Textbook fees:

You normally have to pay around 6,000 - 12,000 yen in textbook fees for every two quarters. The required materials come in the form of course textbooks, test preparation textbooks, and vocabulary and kanji textbooks.

Lesson fees: 

Each school year has 4 quarters, and you will pay 140,000 yen – 200,000 yen for each quarter, depending on the school. You will study 5 days a week, 3 or 4 hours a day. Schools that charge higher lesson fees usually have more experienced and qualified teachers, somewhat smaller class sizes, and/or a good reputation that justifies the higher tuition fees.

Costs and Expenses for Housing

Some Japanese language schools offer housing options such as dorms. For some Japanese language schools, you’ll need to find your own housing. Here we’ll differentiate the pros and cons of these options.

Cheap Strict Rules Option to Live Alone Could be Expensive
Integrated Experience Lack of Personal Space Chose how you Commute Commute Time
Security Noise Problems Gain Idenpendence Less Security
Less Chores Keeping the Space Clean for Others Create your own Personal Space More Space to Clean

How Much does an Apartment Cost

There are several types of housing available for foreigners. As mentioned, some Japanese language schools provide an apartment to stay in a building they own or have an agreement with the owner. Other options include finding an apartment on your own or living together with other people in a shared house or renting a private room in a shared house. Based on the size of the room, amenities provided, and location, the prices can change drastically.

This article will focus on living conditions for your average student with a budget of around 400 dollars - 1000 dollars a month for an apartment. They are apartments more than 1500 dollars a month, but this article will not focus on that. However, if you are looking for some higher price locations in Japan, I would recommend the site Tokyo Apartments.

My Budget is Around $500-$600 a Month

Your best option for an apartment would still be a sharehouse, but getting a smaller room that may not have a shower included. Not having a shower can suck, but the good news is that they do have a shower room like a university dorm or a shared shower. You would need to take a shower out of your own place of residence. The cool thing about shared houses is that if you choose a place like Oakhouse which provides enormous residences of over 50 people, some of them have karaoke rooms, movie rooms with projectors, ovens, and other cool amenities.

Your other option would be to live around 40 minutes from central Tokyo or Osaka and have your own private place. The good news is that for 600 dollars a month, you can actually get a two-room or larger apartment if you live on a train line that connects to a central location like Shinjuku but is around 30 minutes or more away.

Most Japanese language schools in Tokyo provide a dormitory around the 500 - 700 dollar a month range.

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My Budget is Around $600-$1000

You have a lot more flexibility in your options of where to stay in a big city. You could choose a tiny apartment in a super central location or a big apartment 30 to 45 minutes outside. You can also get a nice sized apartment in a shared house if you are looking for a community.

Should I Stay in a Shared House

I would recommend staying in a shared house if you are looking for a community and people to intermingle with. It would be ideal for someone who is introverted but feels lonely living on their own. The shared house would give you a nice foundation so you could meet other students who are attending a Japanese language school. Interestingly, most people I know who change Japanese schools usually live in shared houses, and they compare information about their schools.

I would also recommend staying in a shared house if you are not sure you will live in Japan for more than 6 months or even 1 year. The main reason for this is that the initial costs are much lower and you do not need to buy appliances and furniture. They also have internet and provide basically everything else you need except a smartphone from day one.

Should I Stay in a Private Apartment

If being around other people and having to greet them every day or having other people seeing you coming in and out would drive you crazy, I would recommend a private apartment. Those are some of the complaints that people who have a private room in a shared apartment mention. Other complaints include having to share the microwave and refrigerator and sometimes having to wait in line to use the appliances.

The major downside of living in a private apartment is the cost. Outside of paying the rent, you normally have to pay 

  • 1-month rent for gift money to the landlord - does not come back
  • 1 to 2 months rent for deposit - sometimes it comes 
  • 1-month rent to the real estate agent for the introduction
  • 1-month initial rent
  • 9000 yen a year for fire insurance
  • 23000 yen to change the keys

Depending on the apartment, you may be spending 2000 - 2500 dollars a month just to move into an apartment that rents at 500 monthly, and spend an additional 400 dollars - 1500 dollars for furniture, utensils, and appliances as most apartments are not furnished. My recommendation is to find a furnished apartment and apartments that do not require the gift money. Check out KIMI WILL be apartment services for apartments with low moving costs. This guide has more information on the terminology in Japanese that you need to be aware of for renting an apartment.

Should I Stay in an Apartment/Dorm Provided by the School

I would say yes if you want the conveniences of a private apartment without having the enormous move-in costs mentioned above. The school normally rents it out to incoming students, so you probably would not have to pay the gift money or some of the other fees. The other good feature that is that it would be somewhat furnished; it would be more expensive for the school to throw things away than leave them in the apartment for the next person.

Costs and Expenses at a Part-time Japanese Language School (No Visa Sponsorship)

Attending a part-time Japanese language school in Tokyo is a great way to learn Japanese with greater freedom to see the city. Here is a breakdown of the expenses of what an average part-time school will charge.

Japan Switch

If you’re looking for a more casual (and cheaper) language school that you can study without a student visa, Japan Switch is a wonderful option. Japan Switch is a more relaxed option if you’d prefer a causal study experience in Japan. Residents and visitors alike have the option to study here. 

Japan Switch offers both group and private lessons, as well as a superb course to quickly improve your Japanese and study more. Japan Switch has no registration fees or contract cancellations fees. They also allow free makeup classes for group lessons. You can set up a monthly contract, choose when you want to study, and commit to it for the month, or pay in advance for classes. The further in advance that pay, the cheaper each lesson becomes.

Here is an example of Japan Switch's group study schedule and expenses. Since Japan Switch works with their students to set up times and lessons, the prices may change.

  • 2 Locations in Tokyo: Gotanda/Shinagawa branch & Shinjuku branch
  • No Enrollment or Hidden Fees: no entrance fees or contract cancellation fees
  • Quality Textbooks & Certified Teachers: developed by Coto Language Academy, all teachers have passed their first level of teacher training in Tokyo
  • Monthly Contracts: Ability to stop schooling for a break and come back later, increase or decrease lessons
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One 50 Minute Lesson ¥1,500 + sales tax or $13.85
Cost of One Private Lesson ¥3,000 + sales tax or $27.64
8 Lessons for the Month ¥12,000 + sales tax or $110.76

Coto Language Academy

There’s a one-time registration fee of ¥10,000. Material costs are extra.

8 ¥20,800 + sales tax or $191.98
16 ¥40,000 + sales tax or $369.20
32 ¥76,800 + sales tax or $708.86
48 ¥110,400 + sales tax or $1,018.99
96 ¥211,100 + sales tax or $1,944.23
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Scholarships for Japanese Language School Students

The information for these scholarships is provided by Shinjuku Japanese Language Institute.

Independent Administrative Institution Japan Student Services Organization Application Period: April /Monthly Sum: ¥48,000 Requirements: Must hold a student visa /Must maintain 100% attendance /Must continue studies at SNG until end of March the following year
Takayama International Education Foundation (for Asian students only) Application Period: January Monthly /Sum: ¥50,000 Requirements: Must hold a student visa /Must maintain 100% attendance /Must study at SNG for over a year /Must continue on to university
Kyoritsu International Foundation (for Asian students only) Application Period: April /Monthly Sum: ¥60,000 Requirements: Must hold a student visa /Must maintain 100% attendance /Must study at SNG for over a year

The information for these scholarships is provided by Tokyo Galaxy Japanese Language School.

Tokyo Galaxy Scholarship Must graduate from Tokyo Galaxy /Attend Tokyo Galaxy for more than a year’s term /4 students annual recipients Awarded ¥100,000 /Evaluation based on: Grades, In-class performance, Essay
Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Student Awarded while attended Tokyo Galaxy /Attendance must be over 90% /Monthly stipend of ¥48,000 /Evaluation based on: Attendance, Grades, In-class performance, Essay
Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Student Reservation Program Must go to University after /High grade on the Examination for Japanese University /Admission for International Students /Monthly stipend of ¥48,000 /Head of school’s nomination /Evaluation based on: Attendance, Grades, In-class performance, Essay
LSH Asia Scholarship Awarded in October /1 recipient, chosen by school/ ¥100,000
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After Graduation

Once you’ve graduated from your language school and you’re aiming to pursue your Japanese education, there are lots of paths to follow! You could apply to your choice of graduate school, undergraduate school, or a vocational school.

Entrance Exams

In Japan, the academic year begins in April and ends in March. Students generally enroll in April, however, some universities allow entry in October.  Japanese universities require an entrance examination for privately financed foreign students. Here are some of the requirements for general eligibility for an undergraduate degree program for international students:

  • Completed 12 years of school education in your home country. Your transcript is required
  • No immigration issues that interfere with your entry into Japan or with your study in Japanese university
  • Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) 

EJU

The EJU is a part of the entrance examination for international students who wish to study at universities or higher educational institutions in Japan. This exam is held in Japan twice annually in June and November. It’s held in about 17 cities outside Japan, mainly in Asia. The examination topics are Japanese as a Foreign Language, Science, Japan, and the World, and Mathematics. Questions are available in Japanese and English.

Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test is a standardized criterion-referenced test to evaluate and certify Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers, covering language knowledge, reading ability, and listening ability. The tests are generally held in July and December. The test dates in 2019 are July 7 and December 1.

The JLPT has five levels: N1, N2, N3, N4, and N5. The easiest level is N5 and the most difficult level is N1. N4 and N5 measure the level of understanding of basic Japanese learned in class. N1 and N2 measure the level of understanding of Japanese used in a broad range of scenes in actual everyday life. The test usually measures skills through testing reading and writing comprehension.

Examples of University
The University of Tokyo Waseda University
Hitosubashi University Keio University
Tokyo Metropolitan University Meiji University
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Doshisha University
University of Tsukuba Waseda University
Hitosubashi University Keio University
Tokyo Metropolitan University Meiji University
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Sophia University
Examples of Vocational Schools

There are many different types of vocational schools so do some research and you’ll find a school with your passion!

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Jobs

Students in Tokyo can only work 28 hours a week, and it’s not permitted to work a full-time job. Working more than 28 hours is a violation of your work permit and could cause you to lose your student visa. 

In order to work in Japan, you must have a designated stamp on your foreign residence card or zairyu card. If you don’t have this stamp, you will have to go back to immigration to get the stamp that grants you permission to work as a student. Without this stamp, it is technically illegal for you to work and companies cannot hire you.

One Coin English

If you’re interested in using your Japanese language in the workforce, a great option is becoming an English teacher for Japanese students. One Coin’s mission is to increase the number of bilingual speakers in Japan. They teach through lesson plans, games, flashcards and support materials. Teachers at One Coin English also get to learn Japanese at a lower rate! One Coin English has teachers from over 20 countries and 5 continents. They have 9 schools, 8 in Tokyo and one in Yokohama. They include paid 12-hour training for new teachers and cover travel costs. 

Requirements to work at One Coin English:

  • Valid work visa or permission to work
  • Available to work a minimum of 15 weeks
  • Available to work a minimum of 9 months
  • Desire to help students improve their English
  • Enjoy speaking with people
  • Salary is 1,200-1,5050 Yen an hour

Legoland Japan Playmaker

If you’re looking for an amusement park job, check out Legoland Discovery Center Playmaker. The Legoland Japan team hires foreigners to work in the Japan Resort theme park in Nagoya, or the Lego discovery centers in Osaka and Tokyo.

Typical Salary: ¥1,300 an hour

Restaurant Positions

A better way to interact with the local people and serve them food. Many restaurants are searching for employees to help them manage their restaurants. This is the most common part-time job in Tokyo and you could work for almost any restaurant. Part-time jobs in Tokyo that involves dealing with Japanese customers in the food business will require daily conversational skills of Japanese.

Typical Salary: ¥900 - ¥1100 an hour

 Bars

When you work in a bar, you get to communicate with the customers, observe the bar life, and meet new people every shift. This is a perfect job for anyone that does not mind being in a loud and fast-paced environment. Working as a bartender in a host club or hostess club, or any other red-light district types of businesses are not allowed for those on a student visa or working holiday visa.

Typical Salary:

¥1100 - ¥1300 an hour 

Interpreter and Translator

After graduating from a language school becoming an interpreter or translator will not be difficult. Both the Japanese enterprise and foreign enterprise should understand each other and your priority is to make sure that the conversation goes smoothly.

Typical Salary: ¥1,500 - ¥3,100 an hour

Requirements: Valid visa and N2 Japanese 

For more information check out our article on 15 Part-Time Jobs in Tokyo for Foreigners.

japanese school flag

Common Misconceptions about Japanese Language Schools

You need a student visa to study at a Japanese language school You only need a visa for a long-term study period, which is 3 or more months
Only kids can become fully bilingual Adult language learners can become native-like speakers of their target language
Japanese language schools teachers are strict and mean Many Japanese teachers are wonderful, patient, and very kind to their students
Japanese is the hardest language to learn Depending on your native language Japanese may be harder to pick up, but if you care about learning the language you can stick with it and see it through
You won't need to do homework Homework is very real at a Japanese language school
Japanese language schools will only teach me to speak Depending on which school you visit you’ll most likely be doing University entry test prep

Summary

Now that you've read the whole guide, you know how to research potential schools and find the best fit for you. Go forth and find your perfect Japanese Language school! If you want additional study tips, be sure to check out our other ultimate guides.

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