The Busy Life of a Student Studying in Japan

The Busy Life of a Student Studying in Japan

By Candela Guo, Greenheart Travel High School exchange student in Japan

Before realizing it, I have actually been in Japan for nearly 4 months. My stay in Japan so far has been wonderful, exciting, busy, tiring, yet amazing. I should have finished this post earlier, however, I was too busy to edit it and I sincerely apologize for the delay!

I used to be one of the potential exchange students looking desperately for useful information about life experiences in Japan, and I didn’t find much before going on this high school exchange. Therefore, I hope that what I’m going to share below could be a little help to the readers, since I personally believe that it would be more comfortable to have some ideas in mind as a preparation.

I feel that Japanese high school life is most intriguing, so this post is mainly commenting on my classes and club activities. I’m planning on writing about daily life in another post.

My Typical Daily Schedule as a Student in Japan

I suppose that now I’m living a life just like that of average Japanese high school students. It is very different from what I was familiar with in the U.S.

  • I get up by 6am
  • I take public transportation for 2 hours to commute to school (yes, it’s VERY FAR but not uncommon for kids here).
  • I attend classes for 6 periods.
  • I participate in after school club activities for 3 hours or so.
  • I spend another 2 hours on the way home
  • I finally got to sleep at 11 or 12pm, if lucky.
homeroom class

This is the typical schedule of my day, and when “interviewing” friends out of curiosity, I found out that about a third of my classmates share a similar routine life. Yet, they seem fine with it, although the popularity and quality of each class could be indicated by numbers of students who haven’t fallen asleep. People try hard to avoid naps in class though!

Most of the time the entire class participates as long as the lecture itself is not too boring (more taking notes and lecturing here). Still, my school friends admit that the public schools are usually less stressful, as I’m exchanged to a competitive private high school.

My Class Schedule

I’m currently taking the following classes:

  • English (3 different courses emphasizing respective aspects);
  • Physics
  • Japanese (both Contemporary and Classics)
  • P.E.
  • Computer Labs
  • World History
  • Health
  • Japanese tutoring lessons

I’m dropping Japanese and Physics due to the need to study for the SAT. Having studied in the regular Japanese class enabled me to learn about Japanese culture in detail, but it is true that for me the lecture was hard to comprehend. So, I’m going to continue my study in literature during the tutoring hours.

Differences in School Style

Instead of switching classrooms, the student body is divided into homerooms and therefore expected to wait for teachers to come to teach. At the beginning of each year, the name list of new homeroom placements would be posted on the first day of school. It is quite rare for two people to be placed in the same homeroom class throughout the three years of high school.

Oh yea, the high school here ranges from 10th to 12th grade, and the school year starts in April instead of September, with a longer spring break and a shorter summer. By the way, it is so hot now!

football game 2School Club Activities

At school, club activity is really important to students. Although at other schools, many choose to work part time outside of school to make money, my school requires everyone to join a club. I chose to be the manager of the football team, since I did cheerleading back home. But, there is no cheer squad at my school, which is kind of sad.

All sports teams train really hard. Practice is usually 6 or 7 days per week, 3 hours on school days, and 4 to 6 hours on weekends. When it rains, people often practice in the rain. Some sports involve gymnastics or dance practice for 8 hours every day during summer with occasional breaks and camps. Also, unlike American schools, the sports season here usually last for one year. One often sticks to the same club and never switches.

Customs and Traditions in Japanese Schools

The first years are obligated to bow and greet/aisatsu (挨拶) the Senpai(先輩), students who are in second and third years, and the new members are always responsible for cleaning the room and carrying heavy equipment. To be honest, I never really got used to it when the first years greet me with really sincere looks, but I could feel this kind of social convention existing everywhere in this country and playing a role in people’s lives.

Japanese don’t do it to please the elders, but rather out of the respect for those who have put more efforts into the group activities. Here one’s ability is definitely valued, but one’s behaviors and manners tend to draw more attention and matter more. Moreover, did you know that you needed to bow to the field before entering to play? At first I always wondered to whom were they bowing…

football team

My school is affiliated with Ritsumeikan University, one of the best colleges in Kansai area. Therefore, the two affiliated high schools’ (same name, different location) football teams share the same mascot, and many players continue to play in the college team. Some started in middle school section and have played for the same team for 10 years when they graduated from the university.

I suppose that this kind of “tradition” creates a sense of community. As the champion of the prefecture, our high school’s team aims at nationals although there is a long way to go. The football games are normally held on weekends, so that family and friends who are busy till Friday night can all come to support the players.

To study at Japanese high school can be really challenging and busy, but the exchange students usually have the choice to make adjustments in order to make time for exploring Japan and experiencing Japanese lifestyle. My Japanese got so much better over the past 4 months, and my host family is also extremely nice. I wish there would be more people choosing to study abroad in Japan in the following year. Looking forward to seeing you all!

Want to learn how you can study abroad in Japan?

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20 thoughts on "The Busy Life of a Student Studying in Japan"

  1. Kris says:

    I’m glad to see students are required to do an activity.

  2. Sahika says:

    This was a helpfull post, thanks a lot.

  3. MD Sher Shah Afghan says:

    Nice post.I am Indian…School teacher and keen to know about Japanese culture and society..

    1. Chase Chisholm says:

      Japan is such an interesting place! Our programs there, however, are only open to high school students at this time.

  4. Mwanza misheck says:

    How much more are African respected there the way they relate to the natives or vise versa ?
    Besides the cost of living there?

  5. Logan Herron says:

    I’ve been dreaming of going to Japan since I was 14, I’m 17 now and I’ve come across a problem. If I were to be turning 18 this coming summer, would I still be able to go for a year of high school? My grades aren’t exactly all that good, but I’m just wondering if this is a certain problem and I won’t be able to. I guess what I’m asking is this, is there a age limit to being able to go to school in Japan?

    1. Jill says:

      Hi Logan, definitely don’t give up on your dream to go to Japan! We do require a GPA of at least 2.75 and some language basics to apply, but we allow students between 15 – 18 years old to travel on the program. We also offer a summer language camp in Japan that has fewer requirements to apply if you are interested in checking it out! Here’s the link: http://greenhearttravel.org/program/teen/language-camps/fukuoka-japan

    2. chihirouzumaki123 says:

      Hi. This is my opinion but I wish to study there aswell as live in japan when I’m older. I’m 12 now and I’m planning to study at age 16 and move there when I’m mature and have a well payed ,decent job. But anyway if you take the test to study there but fail (witch isn’t for sure) you could always go on holiday there or even be an English teacher later on if you still wish to go there. And also your age doesn’t matter they will just put you in a class which match your grades. Lest say I’m 19 and I have a average IQ. I will probably end up in first year for classes.
      So yeah that’s what I know if it helps at all. If you need more information you can always watch j-vlogers on YouTube. I recommend Ronni Denise, sharia in japan and SakuraKisetsu. Not all of them are students but they live in japan or have lived there. They should help you with some basics and tell you more of the culture aswell as the do and don’t of Japan. Hope this helps ya dude. =)

  6. Cassandra Klun says:

    I almost got to go to Japan on an exchange program, I was actually on track to go and really excited, the one thing that held me back was the fee; $7,000 in 7 months, without some kind of miracle there was no way that was happening.

    1. Jill says:

      Hi Cassandra, we understand the program fee can be challenging. We do offer a Teen Summer Language Camp in Japan as an additional option to experience the culture and learn the language for a shorter time period. Here’s the link if you are interested. http://greenhearttravel.org/program/teen/language-camps/fukuoka-japan

  7. Lucy Heartfilia says:

    I am super excited to go to Japan! I have been working on my Japanese language and writing skills for a little while, and I get to go to Japan when I’m a senior!!! *sigh* Still got a while, though…

  8. chamodi samaratnga says:

    where is the next post?

  9. Red says:

    Uhhhhhh I want to come to Japan but I’m going to have to come for university. Also how would I be able to be exchanged or go there for uni. And does uni start at the age of 18 or 16?

  10. Rom Anharachana says:

    i want to know alot because i am going to japan but i cant speak japanese plus i am only 12. i want to know how long does it need for me to able speak japanese normally and how to communicate well with other went we dont know a single word.

  11. Jelly Fisheduc says:

    though you can say it was busy, I can see on your post that you were having fun while studying in Japan

  12. habiba says:

    the best i love it i cant wait to be 15 to start i am 13 and have 2 years to study and research before coming to japan i am a Muslim don’t mind submitting to the rules and doing every thing host family says and eat and go to school with a scarf walking and in school take off In school and then yh learn come back before doing my GCSE and going 6 form (college)

    1. Anime Lover says:

      Did you visit Japan you said two years ago you will visit it at 15 and now after two years you became 15 so was it good going to Japan

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