Ideas for places in Japan for immersion?

I’m on a year off work for a trip around Asia. I spent some time in Japan without knowing any Japanese, and only towards the end of my stay I decided I want to study, so now I’m in Thailand chilling and studying Japanese pretty much all day long. After Thailand I’ll have a month or two before going back home, so I’m thinking of spending some more time in Japan.

Because it’s going to be February-March and I dislike cold weather, I’m thinking of maybe somewhere around Okinawa?

I’ve never been to Okinawa, but I wonder if it has many tourists and US military personnel, making it so that locals speak English and aren’t shy to use it, which would be a downside. In my travels around Japan I’ve come across a few tourisic high spots where all service personnel knew some English, like Kanazawa.

I’m somewhat shy and not one to start randomly talking to strangers, but I fondly remember the experience of walking into an oden shop or a cafe in a medium-sized town, where the grandmas start talking to you and asking you questions even though you don’t have any common language.

There is one guesthouse in Suzaka, next to Nagano, that goes above and beyond to create connections between visitors and the local community. Random townspeople just come around to the lobby to practice their English with tourists and visitors can practice their Japanese. This would be ideal, but Nagano is too cold for me in February-March, so I wonder if other such places exist in warmer areas of Japan.

Another idea is to join some program, but would this be too much bureaucracy? If you know of any programs where one can study or practice basic Japanese in an organised way for a few weeks, that would also be great. (But not something hardcore like staying with a family - I’m over 40 and I like privacy :sweat_smile:)


I wonder if this will get more answers if I move it out of the Campfire category :slight_smile:

I had just this experience with nice grandmas around Kochi in Shikoku. Great rural area where nobody is really used to foreigners, so a lot of people want to start chatting with you (In Japanese, you can forget using English there). Also mild temperatures in winter, close to 15-16C during the day in Feb.

The only downside is that it’s a real pain to get there (think either a plane from one of the larger cities or 6 hours in a bus from Osaka).

I’d be looking around Shikoku or Kyuushuu, I simply love those places - people are friendly, it’s not terribly crowded… Life’s simple and more slow there :slight_smile:

Okinawa can be great as well, but one downside I could feel there is the US military base presence just as you said. I’ve been there for 2 weeks and from what I could gather many of the the locals have a sort of love-hate relationship with foreigners


I went to a language school in Fukuoka a couple of times. While you can do a home-stay, it’s not mandatory and you can live wherever you want. Apart from that, if you stay in a small private hostel with a somewhat family-like atmosphere, you’re basically bound to connect to the other guests and to the staff, at least in my experience.


Kochi in Shikoku has a station, so you can also do it in less than four hours by train from Osaka (with one change of train, in Okayama). Plus extra for however far you want to get out of the city once you’ve got there, of course.

(When I visited Shikoku I went by train; I was on the north side in Marugame, but I took a day trip by train down to Kochi to see the castle.)


Nice! Did you go for short periods of time? Does it require planning several months in advance? Are all the students in their teens/early twenties or is the age range diverse?

Shikoku and Kyushu sound perfect!

I went three times, one month each, but you can go shorter or longer without issues.
You need to book the class in advance ofc, and I have no idea how much time this requires up-front tbh, but I would just ask. Other than that, you need an accommodation, and that’s basically it, I think :woman_shrugging:
Most students were in their twenties or early thirties, but there were older students as well, including me (I‘m 53 now), and the oldest one was in his sixties, I guess. And I never felt unwelcome or anything even if there was an age gap.


Come to Kyushu! It’s perfect for your needs. The language school I’m at now in Fukuoka offers short term classes by the week. I don’t know how much lead time they need for short-term though, I’m on the year-long course.

Fukuoka is one of the bigger cities on the island, but there’s plenty of places around that are smaller, and with less likelihood of people knowing English.

You can also get to kansai area like Osaka in about 2.5 hours via shinkansen if you wanna travel up that way.

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@potatonaught @NicoleIsEnough Do you mind sharing names of recommended language schools in Fukuoka that have students of diverse ages? Only if you feel comfortable sharing :slight_smile:

Ah, sure! The school I went to is called GenkiJACS. There is a thread here in the forums with a few reviews of it (from me and from others).


This is something I’d love to do in the future, though I’ll only manage a short time I suspect. Did you find it easy to get placed in the correct level class? I may only have 2 weeks the first time round, so I’d prefer for it to be useful.

Prior to my current trip, I’d have said I wasn’t at all confident in speaking, but that’s now changed in the last month or so and I can hold a (bad) conversation now.

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Would you mind sharing the name of that guesthouse? Sounds like place I definitely want to visit :slightly_smiling_face:

I traveled Japan for 3 months last year, 3 weeks were in Ishigaki, Okinawa and the Amami islands. I highly recommend the other islands (Ishigaki, Kerama Islands, Yoron, Okinoerabu, Tokunoshima and Amami) over the main Okinawa island. Main Okinawa, especially Naha, is packed with cars, exhausting by foot, pretty big and industrial, and just not beautiful or laid-back at all, compared to the other smaller islands.

In Yoron, people would just take me along by car, then I randomly met a group of people collecting trash on the beaches, and one of them introduced me to a friend on the next island, then on the next, and so on. These small southern islands were the easiest to meet and talk to people, out of all areas in Japan I visited.
Caveat: Old people who actually grew up there sometimes have a dialect so thick, it seemed like a different language and sometimes I couldn’t understand anything. Which can be fun, too.


Of course! Kura Guesthouse in Suzaka.
And if you’re ever in Tokyo, its sister guesthouse Shinagawa-shuku tries to do the same, with less success because it’s Tokyo after all, but it has an amazing, friendly and simple vibe nonetheless and it made me fall in love with the cute 北品川 neighbourhood (some of the first kanji I learned :wink:).

It sounded amazing up to this point, but now I don’t know how it would be for me as someone who has literally never spoken Japanese to a Japanese person in my life yet :rofl:

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During my stay in Sendai, I learned a lot of Japanese at the free “Japanese tearoom” (日本語ティールーム) classes in the nearby “citizens center” (市民センター). It was twice a week for 90 minutes each, and I only had to pay for the books. They also seem to do some social and cultural activities. It was really great, and kind of incredible that all the teachers there are volunteers.
I think you can join for a few weeks, but there may not be a group at your exact level at that particular time. Maybe other cities have something like this as well.

It sounded amazing up to this point, but now I don’t know how it would be for me as someone who has literally never spoken Japanese to a Japanese person in my life yet :rofl:

Oh, it wasn’t that bad :slightly_smiling_face: Those were only a few of the people there, and they do understand normal Japanese.


I’m also at GenkiJACS right now thanks to the thread Nicole mentioned. There are folks here from ages 16 to 60+. Most of us are in the late 20s-early 30s currently.


They make quite some effort to put you in the right class. There is an online test beforehand, they ask you to submit a short audio file with your introduction, and when you arrive there is an interview. Depending on your level there are more or fewer classes available. If you are like N5 or N4 the classes are so frequent that you can basically join a class for each chapter of Genki I or II (iirc). For N2 or N1 the classes are more sparse of course, but there are still enough for you to be put in a good class. Also, it is quite natural to feel overwhelmed if you have never been in such an environment (for me specifically, I was not very used to speaking, and it blew my mind how much and how well my classmates could speak). But if you still feel overwhelmed after a few days, or if you feel bored, you should talk to the head teacher straight away, and she might decide that you should go to a different class instead. They are flexible like that.