In Kyoto, I would recommend the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), which has both a summer program and an academic year program:
There are a lot of programs in the Kansai area, but this is one option. KCJS is a great program, and Kyoto is a fantastic place to live. I’m actually participating in the program right now, so I speak from experience.
If you study advanced Japanese, the Critical Language Scholarship program (http://www.clscholarship.org/) will fund a summer at KCJS.
I’d also check out the possibility of volunteer lessons. A lot of cities run them at the train stations. Definitely not as regimented but it’s a great chance to connect with the community a bit and is usually really well priced (I got 1.5 hours for 200 yen in Gifu).
I’d bet a post on http://www.gaijinpot.com would be all it would take to find a volunteer class for any given city.
Kudos on heading toward Kyoto rather than Tokyo. I really enjoyed my visits there. I’ve only lived in Gifu though so I can’t say for sure how living in Kyoto is.
Thanks for the tips and the links. KCJS looks great, but it’s only for people who have studied Japanese before, right? I should have mentioned that I’ve only studied it on and off in my spare time, I would need to start at the beginner’s level.
I’ve only heard nice things about Kyoto, so hopefully that’s where I’ll be heading some day. I can imagine it feels closer to the “real” Japan than Tokyo.
Taking volunteer lessons sounds very interesting, could be fun to do on the side to try to get ahead in class! And make new friends.
One of my favorite cities that was not too big and not too small is Fukuoka. It’s often overlooked, but it’s a really great place. There are fewer gaijin there so you would be force a bit more to speak Japanese. Also, the people are super nice and friendly there.
I’m not too sure about where a good place to go to learn Japanese is, but when I went I was in Okazaki and it is a beautiful city. It’s big enough so you get that city feel, but if you drive certain places you can see rice farms right in the city! It’s amazing. My one piece of advice would to be adamant in speaking Japanese to the locals. They will always want to try out their English on you, and if you keep responding in English, you won’t learn, right? So if they talk to you in English, respond in what Japanese you can. They’re very nice about their language there. Even if you’re not speaking perfectly, mostly they’ll tell you you’re doing an awesome job at attempting! Haha.
I found a language school in Fukuoka called GenkiJACS which does look great and highly acclaimed. Fukuoka is not on Honshu though, so you would be far away from Kyoto, Osaka and all those cities I’d like to be able to visit while I’m studying. Anyhow, it’s certainly an option!
Talking with the locals is definitely a good way to learn any language. Nice to hear a little about Okazaki, it’s been hard to find people who have actually been there…
I hope people are still reading this thread because I have another question to ask everyone: what about the regional dialects in Kyoto and Fukuoka (the places I’m the most interested in now)? I’ve heard kansai ben, the dialect they speak in Kyoto, is very different from the standard Japanese they speak in Tokyo. Wouldn’t that be a problem when studying there?
Hey a little update one year later: I’m going to Kyoto in March to study at KICL (Kyoto Institute of Culture and Language) for at least 6 months. ;)
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