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Konnichiwa! Planning my 12 month gapyear in Japan! Need some help! Arigato!

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I am currently contemplating the outcome and possibility of taking a 12 month gap year to Japan.
At a very young age (7+) I have been interested in Japan and its culture which is the main reason I would like to take the gap year their. My main wish is to reside mainly in Tokyo, but take excursions to Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima etcetera and to celebrate traditional Japanese festivals. If I do end up taking a gap year, I want to keep it traditional and avoid anything westernised.
Here comes my dilemma. I had initially thought it wouldn’t take a lot of money to visit their. Obviously I’m wrong. It seems I would have to start saving up for the trip and I can’t seem to see that I can go any time soon. I started to save up money at the age of 14 for a car which I have recently purchased. This was from £40 a month and asking for money on most special occasions including birthdays. I couldn’t get a part time job as it would have affected my studies and this problem still arises now. I cannot save up for my gap year with earnings from a part-time job, so I will have to make-do with my father giving me £60 a month. Also, I am about to go to College in Queen’s Mary which lasts a period of 5 years. During this time, if I were to save based on my dad’s portion of the money, I would earn £4320. I am also thinking of selling some of my artwork online which could come to a total of £50 a year. If I were to do a few small jobs during holidays I could raise a minimal of £100 in a month, basing it on the hair salon I might be able to get a job at. This comes to a total of approximately £5000.
This means I can only take my gap year when I am around 23-24 years of age. Does anyone think this is too old? Also, I have heard of things such as host families. Can someone tell me what these are and if it would be cheaper to stay at someone’s house. I have a pen friend from Tokyo who I have been writing to for 4 years now and I was thinking if anyone suggests that I ask her for accommodation at her house for the year? She is trustworthy and has even offered me before, but I want to know how much this will benefit me and what affect it will have in my gap year.
I would also like to know if there are any benefits of going when you are 18. Do you get any programmes that help to pay for certain things and how does one decipher a trip as a gap year? My brother told me a gap year means you have to do volunteer work and help out. I do not mind doing this, but were do you go to find information about this and officially label the trip as a gap year.
I also read that some programmes offer language education. I am very interested in learning the language, but if education is out of the question, does anyone know whether or not it is possible to become fluent in Japanese after living a year as a traditional Japanese resident? This includes things such as buying food from a Supermarket, doing a part-time job, visiting sites, interacting etcetera. I believe if I were to do these things on a regular basis then my Japanese will become a lot more fluent than if I weren’t to throughout the year. Can anyone confirm me on this?
I understand this is long-winded, but I like to plan ahead and want to make sure this trip will be my dream come true. I hope that it is understandable. I have just been back from the Japan Centre in Piccadilly Circus in London, and it reminded me to post about gap years otherwise I will forget…Oh also, not suggesting I hate Japanese food… (I love it), if you were to live there for a year, eating the food, would you become accustomed to it and prefer it more than before if you disliked it a bit? This is a question I want the answer to show to my mum…She reckons I wont enjoy a gap year their as the food wont be nice and thinks all the previous Japanese food I’ve eaten is westernised which might mean I wont like it in its country of origin
Arigato and Sayonara!
P.S. I have this annoying feeling at the back of my mind that I forgot to mention something in this very long post which will annoy me for a while lol…


OK, lots to cover here! 😉 Firstly, if you want to avoid Westerniation, avoid the big cities like Tokyo! You’ll get a much better taste of Japanese culture somewhere a bit more rural like Yamagata or Iwate.
23-24 isn’t too old, and there is even a school of though that thinks 18 is too young! I’m 27 and on my first RTW. Whether you go at 17 or 70, you’ll have a blast so just head off when you’re ready and not when other people seem to be going. The only real benefits of going when you’re 18 are that it will help your Uni application and you don’t have student debts waiting for you when you return.
There’s no real official definition of what a gap year entails – like most things, it’s whatever you make it. You could go dig wells in Tanzania or lie on a beach in Tonga – it’s the self-reliance and personal development that make a gap year, not what you’ve been doing with the days.
I can’t comment on host families, having never done it, but keep in mind that you’d live with them for a year (or thereabouts) and would be bound by their rules. Japanese society being what it is, this may or may not be your cup of [i]o-cha[/i].
One thing you might like to consider is the JET programme. It’s a government exchange where you go teach English in Japan for a year and get (fairly well) paid for it. It’s hard work, but most people get ttime to travel during and afterwards. I was turned down by them curses curses but they may be worth looking at. If you do decide to try it, read [url=http://www.bigdaikon.com rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”]http://www.bigdaikon.com[/url] thoroughly first!
A language course before you go would be a very good idea. English isn’t widely spoken outside of cities, and the more [i]hiragana[/i], [i]katakana[/i] and [i]kanji[/i] you know before you leave the better! You can get by with the basics (greeting, shopping and getting around) in a few weeks – when you’re immersed in a place you pick up the language incredibly quickly. Japanese is also incredibly simple to learn compared to English – regular pronunciations and easy grammar. 🙂 Plenty of English-speaking tourists visit for weeks with only a phrasebook and no problems, so you should be talking like a native in no time.
It’s true that foreign food in the UK is often adjusted to Western palates, but you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Japanese food from places like Yo! Sushi is fairly authentic and rice can’t be adjusted much. 😉 If you eat fish you’ll have no trouble – if you’re veggie like me, you may run into trouble but [i]shoujin-ryori[/i] will see you through. If the worst comes to the worst, McDonalds (boo hiss) is ubiquitous and serves up teriyaki burgers, so I’m told.
The only other thing I’d say is: Even with all your interest and planning, prepare yourself for a whopping culture shock! [i]Gambatte kudasai[/i]! 😀


Hi, I am japanese living in Tokyo. So I will drop some ideas although I cannot give you advice from traveler’s pont of view much.
If you want to stay in convenient and stimulating place, it will be Tokyo. However it is big city and easy to feel isolated from people if you are not belonging to community or school or some kind of group. Also, it will be hard to get into the community if you don’t speak Japanese. There are thousands of people speak English in Tokyo, and lots of foreigners. However, they might be interested i you becasue you speak English but you’d better learn Japanese if you want to be close to japanese people and learn the culture.
I know many foreign visiters complain being isolated in Japan and I feel sorry. But it is easier if you are willing to learn language and get into community.
Teaching English is one of easiest and wellpaid job to get in Japan but you will be more in western community rather than local community. Jet program might send you somewhere in country side but might be able to join local easier.
My advice is going to language school if you have an year. you can enrol language school in Tokyo and get student visa which enable to let you work part time. You wil learn language, meet friends from world and make japanese friends through them or works. You can home stay at your friends palce too.Japanese likes to entertain visiters. But you should talk about the length of stay with them because they might be too much for them to stay whole year.
Good luck with your stay in Japan.
And I hope Japan will be able to provide what you want.


JET programme is your best bet, you will be paid for it and if you request not to live in a city, more likely you’ll have free accommodation. Plus then you could end up in the countryside where you will get total Japanese immersion. Some parts will have only 1 or 2 English speakers forcing you to learn Japanese, which maybe difficult to start, but will benefit you in the long run if you want to learn the language and culture.
Understanding the language helps to understand the way the culture works as they are highly related. Ask Japanese people about keigo (polite beautiful language) and you can see how that relates to how some aspects of the culture work.


think you can go on and enjoy a gap year whatever age you are. Guessing quite possibly you’d appreciate it more once your a bit older.
I’m 26 and currently trying to plan a gap year for next year. Seems that a lot of the discounts are for people under 26 so I’d say try and do it before your 26. Not because you can’t do it after, but because it seems cheaper and organising VISA’s seems easier.
But to me 24 seems a great age to do it, as disappointing as it must be to have to wait that long to get away.


JET seems to be a brilliant programme. I almost did it myself when I was 19 or so.
Have a look into it, but as far as I remember, you will need to have a degree and a TEFL Certificate
And don’t be daft about the age thing. Your travels/gap year/ whatever you want to call it are what you make of them. Age is not a factor that should stop anyone
I’m finally getting to Tokyo for the first time in a few weeks. 😀

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