With the global pandemic and continued border closures, going to Japan during COVID-19 has been challenging at best. However, with Go! Go! Nihon’s help, many students have been able to successfully arrive in Japan during this time to begin their language studies.

One of these students is Sarah Parker, who is currently studying at a Japanese language school in Tokyo. Originally from the United States, Sarah wanted to study in Japan due to her interest in Japanese culture. However due to COVID-19 and Japan shutting down its borders, there was a lot of uncertainty around when she could move to Japan.

In September, Go! Go! Nihon started a petition urging the Japanese government to allow language students from overseas into Japan. At that time, the government invalidated visas as a response to COVID-19, leaving countless numbers in limbo about when, or if, they could move to Japan.

Now that she’s here, we asked Sarah about what it was like for her going to Japan during COVID-19 and what advice she would give to others who hope to study in Japan during the pandemic.

*Note that responses have been edited for clarity and length.

Go! Go! Nihon student Sarah Parker

Before arriving in Japan

When were you meant to arrive in Japan and when did you actually arrive?

I was supposed to arrive in October 2020. I arrived at the end of December 2020. 

What was it like for you when you were waiting to hear back about when you could enter Japan?

I was very stressed, since I had to quit my job and sell my car before leaving the country. It was imperative that I had some idea of when I would be moving [before I could quit my job and sell my car]. 

However, Go! Go! Nihon and my school were very good at keeping me updated on when I would be able to move. Go! Go! Nihon assisted me greatly in understanding how to fill out the paperwork and helping to correct inconsistencies before they were submitted to the school.

Did you have any additional processes to complete in order to be able to arrive in Japan?

I had to get a specific type of Covid-19 test and have a form filled out by the testing entity.

ANA airplane at Haneda Airport

Travelling to and arriving in Japan

What was the process for you leaving your home country?

I always wore a mask at home and so did my family so that I would not be at risk of getting sick before leaving. 

I quit my job 2 weeks early to reduce the risk of infection. I only went out to pick up medicine or food. I also sold my car 2 weeks before leaving for Japan. 

When my family came over for Christmas, they also all wore masks and I ate in a separate room. I rented a car and drove 3 hours to get tested at the nearest rapid COVID testing site 2 days before leaving the country. I also filled out an online form the day before leaving detailing where I would be quarantining and that I did not have COVID symptoms. 

What was the process upon arriving in Japan?

We had to fill out a health form, show the QR code for the form we filled out before leaving the country and get another COVID test done. 

It was very well-organised in my opinion. It was very clear where to go and the employees at the airport made it very clear what paperwork we needed at each stop.

What about your quarantine accommodation and transportation from the airport?

I used a charter service that was recommended by Go! Go! Nihon. It specialises in picking up people going into quarantine. 

I stayed in a hotel during my quarantine, which I booked several weeks before leaving the country. It was near my homestay family and quite small, but had all of the necessities and looked clean and modern.

Starting school

When did you start school?

January 15th after completing my 14-day quarantine on the 14th

How many days and how many hours per day are you attending class in-person?

5 days, 3 hours per day.

Did you have to complete any additional steps or take extra precautions as requested by the school before starting?

Every day during quarantine we had to report to the school that we had no COVID-19 symptoms. 

What measures has your school taken during this time against COVID-19?

My school requires us to wear a mask at all times unless taking a sip of a drink. We are not allowed to eat in the building and are asked not to linger in the school building before or after classes. The classes are small, usually around 10 people in a room at a time, and windows and doors are kept open, regardless of the weather. 

How are you finding your learning experience so far?

I’m enjoying it so far, it has been challenging, but I can definitely see an improvement in my abilities from just a couple weeks of study. 

Advice to others going to Japan during COVID-19

What would you say to someone who’s considering applying to study in Japan in 2021? 

If you are coming in 2021, I would recommend being as flexible as possible on your moving date because it may change. If you are working, I would recommend keeping your job for as long as you can just in case. 

Be flexible, be patient, and do not be discouraged – it will happen eventually.

Want to study in Japan? Contact us to start your journey.