Ok, since I have been here for more than 3 months now, one would think that I have accumulated SOME kind of knowledge by now, so I will try to give you some advice, and this advice is especially directed towards you who are thinking about coming up to Japan to study Japanese. So let's start!
So, one of the first things that come to mind is "Yay! I am at the airport! Now how the hell am I supposed to go to my new Japanese home?!" Well, there are different ways to go, and the most convenient (but also the most expensive!!!! Be warned!) is to book a transfer, which is basically a chauffeur that picks you up at the airport and then drives you to your home by taxi. It costs 30 000 yen, and trust me, you can buy other, nicer things for that money! So unless, you have a very bad back or bad health or something, please choose another alternative. Well, the other two I know about is the Narita Express train, which will take you to major city parts such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, Yokohama, Omiya, Ofuna, Shibuya, Shinagawa, Tokyo, Totsuka and Takao. With this train you have to have a reserved seat, so make sure you order a seat beforehand. You can do it at the airport before the train leaves, but you shoud probably order beforehand to make sure that you get a seat, because it wouldn't be fun to have to wait at the airport for the next Narita express, as these trains only leave once an hour! I don't know how to book tickets from abroad, but for more info, you can just google Narita Express, and you will now what to do ;)
The second alternative is to use the trains that go on the Keisei line. This is the cheapest alternative, and it is not too tiring, or what do you think, Basma and David? ;)
There are a lot of signs that lead you to the platform, which is, as I remember it, one floor down from the arrival halls, and if you don't find it, just ask for Keisei Line at the information desk! They will definitely know where it is!
But maybe you won't live at one of the big stations =O
Then you will have to change trains at one of those stations, and this might be very difficult as a newbeginner, but just use this site:
This website is great and will show you how you can use the trains and subway to go from one station to another, and how much it will cost you. When you know the name of the line you have to use (make sure of which direction it goes!) and where to get off to change trains, it is actually quite easy to get around =) If you have questions, just ask me! Because I don't know how bad my explanations are ;P
Ok, so now you have arrived to your home! But what kind of home is it? Is it an apartment? Guesthouse? Host family? Dormitory? I can start by saying that the most expensive alternative is living with a host family, but this is good because you get to know the Japanese culture. However, be careful! If you don't like your host family, tell the school immediately! And if you are thinking of prolonging your stay with the family, wait a bit and see how the family REALLY is before you make any hasty decisions! I learned this the hard way =P At first, I thought my host family was great, so I quickly changed my stay from 1 month to 3 (idiotic!), then after half a month or so, I began to realize how bad my food actually was, and how my host family, which was just one woman, was just trying to get as much money from me as she could. Not good, and not ok! And if you get in this situation, tell the school about it, and make sure that you don't have to depend on your family for something, because then you might be afraid that the family will make things difficult for you if you tell the school! For example, I didn't want Seiko-san (my host family) to cancel all the hotel reservations she had made for Basma and David when they came to Japan, so I decided to wait until they had already gone home before I said anything to the school, and by now it is too late to change anything for me as I have already moved out, but I can at least keep other students from living with her. So, in other words, be careful, don't be rash, and THINK PROPERLY BEFORE YOU MAKE YOUR DECISIONS! They will tell you that you have to tell the school quickly where you want to live after your host family so that they will have the time to find you somewhere to live, but I don't think it's that important. In fact, I found my house on my own, the school only looked for vacancies at the school dormitories, and as they said that these rooms were only for long term students, I had to find another place to live by myself. Basically, they just recommended Oak House and Sakura House, two organisations that offer places to live, and then they wanted me to come by the office when I found where I wanted to move to, and when I did, they asked me to call the organisation and talk to them. So in other words, I had to do it all myself, and all the school did was recommend these two organisations =P I thought they would help me book it and everything, but they didn't, so don't feel stressed about not telling the school in time ;)
The apartments are also quite expensive, but then you will live on your own, with your own bath room, toilet, kitchen etc. I got my apartment fully furnitured too from Sakura House, and it costs 79 000 yen per month to live here. I know, it is a LOT, but it is an apartment in Tokyo after all, what would you expect? If you find this too pricey, I would suggest living in a dormitory or guest house. The dormitories might be tiring as you have to share a room with many other people (think school trip with bunk beds =S), and you will have a common shower, toilet, kitchen etc. That is to say, you will have nothing that is yours only, no privacy! This is the cheapest alternative, but it is very exhausting, and a lack pf privacy might be too much if you plan to stay for a long time. So maybe a guest house? This is actually a very good alternative, as you will have your own room with your own bed, but the kitchen and living room area will be shared. If I remeber correctly, you will also have your own toilet and bath room, but I might be wrong, so check it up before you decide! ;)
A guest house is then almost like a big family, and depending on the people living there, you might get a good insight into Japanese culture and get help with the language! I have some friends from school who live at a guest house in Warabi, and they really like it! They say that they can sit in the common room area and do their homework, and the other tenants are more than happy to help =) They also say the manager is awesome and nice, so this is a good alternative to both a host family and an apartment as it is cheaper, and if you go to the right place, you might still get some of the social aspects of staying with a hist family.
And then school will start! What to do about books and dictionaries? My advice? BUY THEM HERE!!!! They are cheaper here, and you have more, and MUCH better books to choose from! You can even buy an electronic dictionary here which will allow you to look up both words and kanji. And when it comes to grammar and learning kanji, the books here are still better. They also have guide books here, so you don't even have to buy that before you come! And to be honest, I haven't used my guide book once =P But maybe you will want one for your explorations, and this is even a bigger reason for why you should wait. You don't know now how much you will need it...
So, you are getting hungry, aren't you? Well, there are a lot of restaurants that serve cheap, good Japanese fast food, but if you want to make your own food, you can buy food at conbinis (convenient stores), but they usually have ready-made food and onigiris, not so muce fruits and veggies if you're looking for that! Grocery stores, and the basement floor of big department stores such as Ito Yokado, Corso, Parco... Some drug stores might even have food, so you will have no problems finding it! =) I would say that the grocery stores and basement floors of the department stores have the most food to offer. Oh yeah, you might even be able to find 100 yen-stores that only sell food! So look around I am sure that you will find something!
Ok, I feel like I've written down a few things now, but if you wonder about something not listed, or something is inclear, leave a question for me! =)
Good luck! =D


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