DIY Travel: International Living In Japan

Today’s guest traveler is Zara, a New Yorker who previously lived in Japan for one summer in a Cultural Discovery Program. I had the pleasure of interviewing Zara and asked her a bit about her exciting adventures in Asia!

1072482_10151700396372940_292743420_oName of Program: Experiment in International Living

Zara’s Role: Group Leader

Country: Japan

Length of Program: 4 weeks

Overview of Program:

The objective is to study Japanese, live with a host family, and explore the cultural and historical sights of Toyko, Sapporo, and Kyoto. While in Sapporo, I received 32 hours of formal language instruction—provided at beginner, pre-intermediate, intermediate, and advanced language levels—in small-group, interactive formats. I practiced reading and writing hiragana and kanji with Japanese teachers, had language exchanges with local students, focused on communication skills for everyday life and upcoming homestay. I had the chance to take time to sample local delicacies, order gyoza and sushi at local restaurants, and explore Japan’s natural beauty with a hike up Maruyama. I also learned about the indigenous Ainu culture of Hokkaido.

What are three words that describe Japan and why?

Culturally-rich. Fascinating. Fun. Japan has a rich culture and there is so much to see and so much to do in the country. One month is not nearly enough to experience Japan in all of its glory. It is an incredible country to visit.


Did you speak the language of this country? Were native people helpful and welcoming?

“I did not speak any Japanese before I went to the country. I wish I had, because it would have made my life so much easier. Japanese people are very friendly but the language barrier can be a great obstacle to getting around.”


Any difficult moments in your new host country?

“Again I feel the language barrier was one of the greatest obstacles I faced. I had to catch on quickly to useful phrases in Japanese. It was also a challenge to remember all of the rules of etiquette of the Japanese culture.”

What was one of your favorite places you recommend to visit?

“One of my favorite places is Kyoto. The city has so many great places to go sightseeing. I would recommend that if anyone ever visits Japan, they must make a trip to Kyoto as well.”

What was your absolute favorite moment during this experience, and why?

“My favorite moment during this experience was walking through the hundreds of orange gates in the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, Japan. It was at that moment that I felt the true essence of Japan flowing through me. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world, walking through those gates at that moment! It was a dream come true and my heart felt at peace.”


Do you wish to return and re-visit Japan? 

“I would definitely love to revisit Japan. I don’t think I will ever NOT want to visit Japan. There is so much that I would still love to see and experience. I also miss Japanese food and candy with a passion.”

If you could give advice to a group of people about traveling, what would you say?

“Pack wisely! Remember that you will be the only person carrying all of your belongings, so be wise about how much you pack and what you pack. Also, study the culture and language of the country you want to visit before you go there.”


Make sure to check out Zara’s video vlogs in Japan! Link below:

Website of Program:

DIY Travel is a section in New Yorker Abroad that demonstrates just how possible and wonderful it is to travel abroad! Look out for recommended programs, apps, and tips to see how you can plan your next adventure! 


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