1. You need to know how to ride a bike. Even if you do know how to ride very well, please wear the helmet provided by JCMU whenever riding. The bikes here are balanced differently and the sidewalks and roads can be a little bit bumpy. Also, if you are riding on a road, please stay to the left side to flow with traffic.
2. If you are a beginner level student in Japanese, it is highly recommended that you learn Hiragana and Katakana before coming. This will help give you a head start in your classes and also help with reading signs, menus, and food packaging.
3. Jet lag can be a challenge for students. One of the main reasons for this is your body is not only adjusted to sleeping at certain times, but also eating at specific times. Typically it takes one day for every time zone you pass through to adjust. You can adjust more quickly if you make sure you eat meals at the appropriate Japan time. Even though you may not be hungry, you should eat lunch at noon to start training your stomach to stop waking you up at 4 AM.
4. If you are going to be bringing either prescription or non-prescription medication to Japan, be sure to read and understand the restrictions and procedures related to the importation of medications.
Below are Japanese government hosted sites that describe the restrictions and procedures related to the importation of medications to Japan:
- Consulate General of Japan at Chicago
- Includes a list of over-the-counter medications that are prohibited in Japan, as well as information regarding restrictions on the amount of imported drugs dependent on length of stay.
- Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare
- Includes the application for obtaining a ‘Yakkan Shoumei’, a certificate allowing the importation of drugs in excess of restrictions.
5. If you are in need of medical attention, stop and think about what you would do in your home country if the same thing happened to you. If you would like to take yourself to the doctor, use the Health Services page to find a clinic near you. Of course, if you would like a JCMU staff member to come with you, you can contact Harada-san.
6. Don’t be afraid to look silly when using Japanese. You are learning a new language and no matter what your level of Japanese is, native speakers will always be impressed that you are at least trying.
7. If you get lost, ask someone for directions, even if your Japanese is not very good. You’ll find that people here are very friendly and willing to help you. This is also a good way to practice your Japanese!
8. Take time to take care of yourself. Find what helps you recharge so you can enjoy your limited time in Japan.
9. Become friends with locals. There’s no better way to learn Japanese than by immersion!
10. Keep a blog, journal, or photo log of your experiences. It can be a great way to showcase your experience in job or graduate school applications.
11. Research about the do’s and don’ts in Japan before coming. For example, walking and eating at the same time is not generally acceptable.
What you might encounter that could shock you.
- You will frequently have to take your shoes off when entering buildings and homes.
- Cars will sometimes use the sidewalk as a road, so watch out!
- Drinking/being drunk in public is not illegal. While you will see many Japanese people do it, please try to keep your behavior acceptable if you are intoxicated in public. Your behavior will shape how people think of students and foreigners in general.
- Nudity is not a big deal here. This does not mean you should run around naked! But, it does mean that in a sports club, men will often change in the practice rooms, even with women present. Women always change in the locker rooms.
12. Reverse culture shock can be a major problem for some students, especially students returning from their first time abroad.
You might think that returning to what should be familiar would be easy, but many find it is just as overwhelming as culture shock, especially if you don’t expect it. You may find your perspectives have changed, causing you to view your ‘home’ in a new light. This process can be difficult for some people. Students are encouraged to get reengaged with actives they participated in before leaving and to keep in touch with the friends they made while abroad. It’s also helpful to have some kind of presentation or reflection assignment about your experience to come to some kind of closure with the crazy adventure you just had.