We have all seen Memoirs of a Geisha, Tokyo Drift (Fast & the Furious) and countless other references to Tokyo and the ‘big city’ life in Japan. While such depictions in Western media promise to take us deep into the Asian city’s vibrant culture, they are really, not quite enough. Tokyo is beyond what you see on TV and in film.

Often called the heart of Japan’s politics, finance, education, business and popular culture, Tokyo is truly all the best things about Japan, concentrated into one lively city. It is more of a metropolis than a city, with a large number of universities, museums, corporate headquarters, theaters and financial institutions. And all of this translates into unmatched study abroad opportunities, especially for students looking to get first-hand knowledge in business, finance, engineering, electronics and related subjects. But before you finalize your decision, you need information on study abroad Tokyo programs.  

Why Tokyo?

This is perhaps the biggest question you would have in your mind right now. Here are a few reasons for choosing to study abroad in Tokyo:

Wonderful Tourism Opportunities – Tokyo offers a number of attractions. Have a look:

  • Meiji Shrine – A famed Shinto shrine with beautiful gardens
  • Tsukiji Fish Market – The world’s largest and busiest fish market
  • Sumo – If you happen to be in Tokyo during one of the three grand tournaments, in January, May and September, this is one activity you don’t want to miss
  • Yoyogi Park – For a relaxing evening out with friends
  • Shibuya Crossing – A must visit place to witness the organized chaos of Tokyo
  • Tokyo’s Imperial Palace – The emperor’s residence amidst gardens
  • Tokyo National Museum – For those of you who are into Japanese art and antiques
  • Tokyo Disneyland – Everybody loves Disneyland
  • Kabuki-za – For the die-hard theatre fans
  • Ueno Zoo – Japan’s oldest zoo with more than 2,600 animals
  • Mount Mitake – For those who love mountaineering, nature and outdoor recreation
  • Cherry Blossom Festivals – The welcoming of Spring is celebrated throughout the country through admiration of these wonderful blossoming trees

Transport is Always on Time: Despite its frenzied life, the city is an expert on time keeping. Coming in from the US or UK, you would be baffled that a train due to arrive at 15.44 will actually pull in at 15.44 and a few seconds. In addition to that, if your train is late, you can request a ticket from the platform inspector and show it to your instructor at college (to prove that it’s not your fault you are late to class).

People Are Very Helpful: Even with the extreme language barrier, you will notice that locals will always find a way to help you in the best way they can.

Shops Have An Abundance of Everything: Even the convenience stores in Tokyo sell a larger variety of items than you would normally imagine. Simple choices might even take you hours – that’s the kind of variety they have.

Etiquette: You will often find people bowing and saying hello, or giving and receiving gifts from both hands. In general, people of Tokyo are very polite.

The City is Clean: This is to an extent that everything looks brand new. No rubbish or litter would be found on the streets.

Universities in Tokyo

When planning on studying abroad in Tokyo, you will need to do in-depth research on the universities there and the kind of assistance they offer to overcome language barriers.

  • University of Tokyo – This institution has a strong repute in global education, and offers a wide range of disciplines. It appears in the world’s top 10 universities in areas of architecture, chemical engineering, modern languages, pharmacy and pharmacology
  • Sophia University – This is a private, Jesuit University that was the first in the country to offer programs taught exclusively in English. Subject areas this university is known for are international relations, green science and engineering, among others  
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology – This is considered one of Japan’s most reputable research institutions, having been around since 1881. The university has three undergraduate schools, six graduate schools and five leading research facilities
  • Tokyo Metropolitan University – With an enrollment of about 6,500 students, this university focuses on urban studies and offers flexible study options
  • Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology – Established in 1877, this university now has three divisions in the Faculty of Agriculture and three divisions in the Faculty of Technology

Tokyo has numerous other universities that offer a variety of programs suitable for the international students.

Studying Abroad in Tokyo – On a Budget

Budget is one of the major concerns of students travelling to international destinations for education. Tokyo may seem like an expensive city to live in, but if you manage your money well, you won’t have anything to worry about.

When to Travel Long Distance: In Tokyo or Japan, the peak season is Spring/Fall, when the cherry blossoms are blooming. This is expensive travel season if you are planning a long trip. It is much cheaper to travel off season, particularly in winters or the rainy season.

Where to Stay: While ‘capsule hostels’ might sound like a cheap Tokyo experience, these hostels might actually be less costly and more comfortable. If you are willing to stay outside the city center, you might actually find pretty reasonable hostels. Alternatively, you can also stay with expats or Japanese hosts, through online travel applications such as CouchSurfing.

How to get Around in Tokyo: One of the major costs of living in big city is the transport. And as a student, it can take a toll on your finances. Therefore, look into the following options:

  • Walk or Bicycle – Bike rentals are available in 16 different parts of Tokyo and five Tokyo suburbs. Not only is this a cheap way to get around the city, but it is also ideal for international students who would be interested in seeing the city
  • Subway – Pretty gaijin-friendly modes of transportation, subways carry signs and announcements in English at every stop. There are two subway systems in the city: the Tokyo Metro and the JR. Both the networks intertwine, so things can get a bit confusing. Therefore, you are advised to keep both maps handy for smooth movement. Be cautious about the start and end times of both services – they typically close around 1 am and begin around 5am
  • Buses – Also a cheap option but relatively more difficult to navigate because of the language barriers
  • Taxis – This is strongly not advisable for international students. A trip from the Narita Airport to central Tokyo might end up costing you ¥25,000/$322. So be careful

Where to Eat/Drink: To save money on food, eat in blue collar areas in the northern and eastern parts of Tokyo, like Ueno and Ikebukuro. Other areas could be those that are mainly populated with students, such as Yoyogi and Harajuku. These places have restaurants that offer good value on lunch meals. Eat street food, for the experience and for money saving. Nevertheless, always stock on packaged meals for yourself such as pre-made bento boxes and sushi. For drinks, the vending machines on every other street corner might be a good option.

When you decide to study abroad in Tokyo, you should know that very soon, this city bursting with life will become a true home to you. With its warm and welcoming people, a high powered lifestyle and a city buzz that never dies, it won’t be long before you never want to leave Tokyo.


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