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Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013
Myriad options for studying Japanese in the sticks
Reader JA is seeking a Japanese language school in the countryside here for his 18-year-old son.
"He would like to live in rural Japan and study Japanese for three or four months, and then ski Japan's famous powder," he writes. "Is there any resource or direction you can point us to?"
Most of the language schools I've been able to find are located in the more populated areas of Japan. However, it's possible to find schools outside of large cities. Also, many smaller cities and towns throughout the country offer weekly classes, private lessons or ways to connect with a language partner.
Our readers shared some ideas.
@1DayJapan suggested Sakura, a school in Munakata, Fukuoka. You can find the school online at www.j-sakura.net.
@GlennRubin said: "I went to the Yamasa Institute (in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture) many, many years ago. They have both visa and nonvisa programs." Visit www.yamasa.org for more information.
Finally, while this probably isn't quite what JA has in mind, @LaurenNihon said it's possible to study Japanese with Kumon via their correspondence course from anywhere in Japan. See www.kumon.ne.jp/jpn/english/course_correspondence/.
The Japanese Language School Guide has a comprehensive list of schools across the country. Most of the institutions listed seem to be located in cities and some places only offer exchange programs for enrolled college students, but it's still worth a look. Search their online directory at jls-guide.com/english/index.html.
For an immersion experience, a home stay might be an option. You can choose from many organizations, but here are a few to get you started.
JTB USA sets up eight-day home stays that include basic Japanese lessons, details of which you can find here: www.jtbusa.com/en/other/o-lesson.asp.
Homestay Web (www.homestayweb.com) helps you search for host families around the world, and JB said she found a "wonderful host and by now a dear friend" through them.
If you're over 18, the Center for Cultural Exchange can set up a home stay somewhere in Japan (you can list three preferences when you apply) for one to four weeks. Visit www.cci-exchange.com/travelabroad/program.aspx?id=868 for more.
Michael used Cultural Homestay International and "absolutely loved it." They offer several different program options. See www.chinet.org for details.
Samantha recommended Labo, a "family-based youth organization" in Japan. "Labo has a one-year internship to teach English and live with five to six different host families," she said. Get more information at labo-exchange.com.
It's also possible to do a travel home-stay, and Japanese Guest Houses can arrange one in rural Kyoto, according to Jeff. You can find their website at www.japaneseguesthouses.com.
If your city has any sort of sister-city relationship with Japan, you could contact them about potential home-stay or exchange options — they might facilitate or know of programs you could take part in.
Toni's son and daughter took part in a yearlong home stay/exchange program through the Japanese Foundation for Intercultural Exchange after graduating high school in 2005 and 2007. Due to difficulties with the group, she doesn't recommend it unless it has changed since then.
"My daughter went with five others from Canada and was the only who completed the year due to the bullying each student received from their JFIE supervisor as well as issues that JFIE refused to resolve on their behalf at their various high schools. My son's JFIE supervisor was no better but he had a wonderful host family whose son we had previously hosted in Canada. This family had to go to bat several times for our son regarding issues caused by JFIE that could have ruined his year in Japan. Unless JFIE has changed dramatically, I would never suggest that any foreign student participate in its program."
For students, studying abroad is another option, and some courses might include a home stay. @DancinPeter suggested the AFS Summer Language Intensive program: "The six week course is good. Four or five weeks of language classes. I did this in 2010 in Nagoya." If you are a U.S. student, check out www.afsusa.org/study-abroad/ to learn more about their options.
A few readers recommended IES Abroad for currently enrolled U.S. college students. They offer several different study-abroad experiences in Nagoya and Tokyo, all for college credits. Please visit www.iesabroad.org/study-abroad/japan.
For those with some Japanese ability, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) offers a unique experience to not only immerse yourself in the language and culture, but also to learn more about organic farming and sustainable living in exchange for your time and service. In some cases Japanese may not be required, or you might not be placed at a farm. WWOOF volunteers don't receive a salary but meals and lodging are free. Visit www.wwoofjapan.com/main/index.php?lang=en for more information.
Thanks also to Vicki, Ashley, Stewart, Dustin, Benny, @transpacifique, @GenerallyInept, @tamagotiff, @gyakuzuki, @kichijoji7 and @annapinsky for their suggestions.
If you can recommend any language schools in rural Japan, home stay programs or other related opportunities, please let us know.