When looking at options for schools in Japan, you may automatically be looking at Tokyo but it’s not for everyone. With the rest of the country to explore, why not take a look at places to study in Japan other than Tokyo?

We’ve put together an overview of some of our favourite cities and why they’re worth exploring.

Oodori Park in Sapporo

Sapporo

Sapporo is relatively well known for its annual Snow Festival but there’s a lot more to the city and the island of Hokkaido than this. With amazing flower festivals in the spring and plenty of exceptional food, Sapporo offers a friendly and welcoming environment to foreign students. It’s also a great hub for the rest of the island which has some of the more wild parts of Japan. We love it so much that we’ve put together an article on some of our favourite things about the city.

Climate: Cold and snowy in the winter, warm and wet in the summer (tends to miss hurricane season).
Highlights: Sapporo Snow Festival, proximity to nature, spring flower festivals, beer.
Local Food: Miso Ramen Noodles (see Ramen alley), Soup Curry.
Partner schools: Japanese Language Institute of Sapporo, Hokkaido Japanese Language Academy.

Daizafu Shrine in Fukuoka

Fukuoka

As you travel further south in Japan, people become more and more relaxed. Fukuoka is a great demonstration of that and offers itself as the perfect hub for exploring the rest of Kyushu, an island full of farms, volcanoes and hidden nature. It’s also great for onsen because of all the active volcanoes on the island. Fukuoka itself has a very laid back atmosphere and with a beautiful beach and hot summers, it’s ideal if you’re looking for a slightly slower pace of life.

Climate: Warm and humid, subtropical which means the summers are pretty hot.
Highlights: Sunshine, Proximity to Busan, Fuji Hachimangu Shrine River Crossing Festival, Dazaifu Tenmangu Shrine.
Local Food: Motsunabe, Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen.
Partner schools: Fukuoka Foreign Language College.

Osaka streets

Osaka

Osaka is often cited as one of the more relaxed cities out of the larger ones in Japan and rightly so. You’ll find the people friendly and helpful and the food is exceptional. With bustling streets, busy entertainment districts and a river running alongside the famous Dotonburi, Osaka gives you the hustle and bustle of Tokyo but with a bit less formality.

Climate: Subtropical, mild winters, and humid summers.
Highlights: Dotonburi, Osaka Castle, Aquarium.
Local Food: Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki.
Partner schools: Daiwa Academy, ECC Kokusai College of Foreign Languages, Kansai College of Business and Language.

Strolling in Kyoto

Kyoto

The traditions of Japan are at the forefront of everything in Kyoto. This makes it the best place to study in Japan other than Tokyo, if you are looking to immerse yourself in the history of this amazing country. With numerous, well-known temples and shrines, it’s a great place to study if you’re looking for a bit of zen. As there aren’t many high rises in Kyoto, it has a more welcoming feel although it’s still easy to get lost. It’s also close to Osaka and is surrounded by plenty of places to visit on day trips. Arashiyama, in particular, gives you an easy getaway with monkeys, bamboo groves and glorious red and orange foliage in the autumn months.

Climate: Subtropical, mild winters, and humid summers.
Highlights: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Arashiyama, and bamboo groves.
Local Food: Yudofu (tofu cooked in a hot broth), Shojin Ryori (Kyoto can be a slightly easier place to get vegetarian food because of this).
Partner schools: ISI Language School, ARC Academy.

Mt Fuji

Kofu

While Kofu is a pretty big urban area by a lot of standards, it’s a much smaller city by Japanese standards. So if you like things a little quieter and you want to make the most of the countryside in Japan then it’s the perfect place for you. It’s surrounded by mountains that are easy to get out too and of course, there’s Fuji and the Fuji 5 lakes to the south. It’s definitely one that should be on the top of your list if you’re looking for a slightly different experience when studying in Japan.

Climate: Warm and temperate, while it gets hot in the summer, it’s less humid than the major cities.
Highlights: Views of Fuji, nature on your doorstep, Kofu Castle.
Local Food: Hoto noodles (Essentially extra-thick udon noodles in a miso soup served in an iron pot) and boiled chicken giblets.
Partner schools: Unitas.

Kobe harbour

Kobe

Kobe has a lot to offer but is also a great hub for visiting other places. With Osaka, Kyoto, Himeji, and Awaji island are all day trips, you can see a lot of different sides of Japan. Of course, there’s the amazing food, but Kobe has a great international feel to it with its port and with the coastline on the south side and a mountain range to the north, there’s plenty of options for getting outdoors. It’s also one of the best places to visit sake distilleries. In fact, we love Kobe so much we’ve put together a whole article on the best bits of it.

Climate: Subtropical, mild winters, and humid summers.
Highlights: Harborland, Mt Rokko.
Local Food: Kobe beef (of course) and Ramen.
Partner schools: Communica Institute.

Snow monkeys in Nagano

Nagano

Why we love it: Nagano is another choice if you’re looking for a slightly quieter city compared with Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. Many people often visit for the famous snow monkeys but if you’re looking to study in Nagano, there’s a lot more on offer. As well as snow monkeys the surrounding mountains offer great hiking and skiing in the winter. The Izuna highlands are particularly worth exploring. The city itself has some exceptional history with ancient temples that are well worth visiting as you can observe some of the Buddhist rituals and Matsushiro Castle also offers an insight into the Edo period.

Climate: Hot in the summer, cold in the winter (plenty of snow).
Highlights: Fuji Rock Festival, Snow Monkeys, Skiing.
Local Food: Shinshu Soba, Oyaki.
Partner schools: ISI Language School.

Having covered some of the highlights of our favourite cities there’s no reason not to think about where to study in Japan other than Tokyo.

If you like to read more about Japanese culture, make sure to follow our blog where we cover everything you need to know about Japan!