7 Unique Study Abroad Programs in Japan to Discover

by Allie d'Almo  |  Published February 4, 2022

There are thousands of study abroad programs running up and down the country offering students the chance to immerse themselves in Japan’s rich cultural heritage, language and food. 

unique study abroad courses Japan

A noodle-making workshop at Yamato Noodle (Photo: Yamato Noodle)

Japan is, at once, one of the most forward-thinking countries in the world and deeply traditional, which makes it endlessly fascinating to anyone who hasn’t grown up here. One of the best ways to learn the language and immerse yourself in Japanese culture is on a study abroad program – and there are plenty to choose from too. From intensive language classes and business management courses to sushi-making and shodo (calligraphy) practice, there’s something for every budget, time-frame and persuasion. With so many courses to discover, we’ve selected seven unique study abroad programs to discover in Japan. 

Noodle making at Yamato Noodle School 

Where better to learn the art of making noodles, than in one of the world’s great culinary capitals? Yamato Noodle School offers short and intensive professional-level courses, designed to give students a deeper understanding of how to prepare a variety of noodles, including ramen, soba and udon. Students can choose from a six-day ramen course or a slightly shorter five-day udon and soba course. Classes cover everything you need to know to become a fully-fledged noodle expert, including the biochemical and physical characteristics of the flour, noodle-making techniques, tuition in using the equipment and ingredient selection. Classes are taught in Japanese with an English interpreter. 

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Pop Culture Studies at the Meiji Academy 

Pop culture studies at the Meiji Academy (Photo: Meiji Academy)

Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Nintendo and Spirited Away only account for a tiny percentage of Japan’s cultural exports over the past few decades. This course gives students the chance to take a deep dive into Japanese pop culture and practice their Japanese at the same time. The school is located in Fukuoka, home to some of the world’s most famous gaming and anime companies, as well as a world-famous cosplay event, maid cafes and a robot centre. Courses run for a maximum of a fortnight and include six lessons per week, alongside Japanese language lessons and cultural excursions.

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Learn Japanese at KCP International 

KCP International is one of the country’s leading language schools, offering year-long and totally immersive courses for around 900 students of all levels every year. Students take a placement exam on arrival to determine their ability and each semester terms consists of over 200 classroom hours of instruction. It’s rigorous, but highly effective. The cultural immersion program includes excursions around Tokyo, from museums to tea ceremonies to manga drawing. The campus is located a five-minute walk from Shinjuku Gyoenmae subway station and students can choose to stay in a dorm or homestay with a local Japanese family. 

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Sushi-making at the Japan Culinary Institute

Students receive a certificate at the end of their class too (Photo: Japan Culinary Institute)

The Japan Culinary Institute offers a wide range of culinary courses, from one day sake-making seminars to a 24-week Japanese chef-training course. The school’s sushi-making cooking course is one of its most popular. Students can choose from a 4,8,12 and 24-week course. The month-long offering includes workshops on fish cutting techniques, Sumeshi (vinegared rice) preparation, traditional and modern sushi-making techniques and a dedicated masterclass in sushi restaurant management. At the end of the course, students are examined and receive certification too. 

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Disaster Mitigation & Nuclear to Renewable Investigations  with The Green Program 

This niche but undeniably topical course explores the origins of Fuskishima’s historic nuclear disaster and the city’s pledge to 100% renewable sources by 2040. Classes cover nuclear, solar, wind and geothermal generation. The course also involves case study and site visits to the Aquamarine Fukushima, Tomato Land Wonder and Minami Soma Disaster Rehabilitation. There’s even a radiation experiment involved. There are some lighter-hearted excursions involved too, including a tea ceremony and encounters with the region’s famous snow monkeys. Courses take place in Fukushima and are full-time for either 9 or 10 days.

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Leadership and adventure program in Hokkaido 

Practical Japanese study and real life experience (Photo: Travel Hokkaido)

Targeting teenagers and young adults looking to study Japanese, the Hokkaido Adventure Leadership Program (ALP) is a cultural immersion and adventure experience. The two-week program involves a dizzying roster of activities and adventures, including daily Japanese lessons with Japanese cultural experiences, outdoor activities and team-building. Programs are limited to 20 students, who live together as an ‘ALP tribe’ in a large guesthouse or cabin. While some classes take place indoors, for the most part, students are out and about exploring Hokkaido with their team leader.

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Art classes at Osaka University of Arts

This AICAD course gives students the chance to combine their art skills with Japanese language tuition. Days are split between intensive Japanese lessons and art classes. The latter focuses on traditional Japanese techniques, including woodblock printing, glassblowing, Japanese painting, animation and textiles. There are six Japanese language level courses to choose from, ranging from absolute beginner to highly advanced. Students live in shared houses or apartments with CET peers and local Japanese students, to top off the immersive experience. 

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