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Find out more about university life in Japan!

Want to know what kind of student life is waiting for you when you study abroad at a university in Japan? From annual school events to classes and extracurricular activities, let’s take a look at the quintessential points of a Japanese university to get a better idea of what it’s like to study abroad in Japan! For this article, we’ve put together 9 unique points of university life here. Let’s take a look!

1. The school year starts in April
Unlike the typical September school year start, in Japan, it begins in April. In modern times, the school year has been aligned with the Japanese fiscal year, so that a school year starts in April and ends the following March.
April is also cherry blossom season in Japan. Beginning a new stage amongst the blossoms is a wonderful way to begin!

2. Three long breaks
Japanese universities have three long vacation periods. The first is summer vacation (September to October) at the end of the spring semester, which is about a month and a half to two months long. Next is winter vacation (late December to early January). This period includes the New Years holidays, and is about two weeks long. Last is spring vacation (February to March) at the end of the fall semester. This vacation is two months long and is the longest of all.
Many Japanese students take advange of these long breaks to get their driving licenses, travel, or do internships. As an international student, you can also take advantage of these vacations to get the most out of your study abroad!

3. The clothes you wear to your entrance and graduation ceremonies are different
In Japan, it’s tradition to dress formally for entrance and graduation ceremonies. During entrance ceremonies in April, many wear black or navy suits. During graduation ceremonies in March, however, men wear suits, but women more commonly wear hakama (traditional pleated, skirt-like trousers worn with kimono). Hakama wear originally worn as girls’ school uniforms in the Meiji period (1863-1912), but now they are traditionally worn by graduating female students. It’s common to rent hakama for graduation ceremonies, so while you’re in Japan, why not try wearing some when you graduate yourself? It’s sure to make for some wonderful memories!

4. Classes and lectures are 90 minutes long
A day of studies at a Japanese university usually includes about 6 classes, each of which is about 90 minutes long. Compared to universities around the world, class lengths are on the long side. Some teachers offer toilet breaks halfway through, but in case there isn’t one, be sure to head to the bathroom!

5. The “zemi” seminar system
“Zemi” is a Japanese abbreviation for “seminar.” Seminars refer to group classes in which students areperform research in small groups with a professor. Students in Japanese universities usually join zemi in their third years. In a zemi, you’ll determine your research topic, discuss with your professor and other students, and do your research. Finally, in your fourth year, you’ll present your research in the form of a graduation thesis. This class asks students to perform their research very independently. This kind of experience will also be valuable if you plan to continue your studies in graduate school in the future.

6. Job hunting starts your junior year
Job-hunting in Japan generally begins before students have graduated. Usually, students begin preparing for their job search around summer of their third year of university. In spring, you’ll see students dressed in black job-hunting suits here and there across campus. It’s a sight that’s pretty typical on Japanese universities every year. Unlike students in other countries, many students here determine their place of work before graduation.

For more:
The Job-Hunting Process in Japan
Japan’s Unique Style of Job-Hunting

7. School festivals
If you’re someone who watches a lot of anime or J-dramas, you’ve certainly heard of school festivals in Japan before. School festivals are large, annual, student-organized events. They are usually held in the fall, and often last for a period of three to four days. There are refreshment booths selling food, on-stage performances, flea markets, exhibitions, and other events. Not only students, but people from outside the school can participate, so campuses are are bustling around this time! As an international student, you can set up a food booth with student groups representing your home country, and cook and sell your own authentic food, so be sure to check it out!

8. Student circles and club activities
One way to liven up your university life in Japan is to join a club about something you’re interested in. In Japanese universities there are two categories: student circles and clubs. “Circles” are more like casual associations of people with similar interests: a club you can take part in when you’d like. Clubs, or “bukatsu,” on the other hand, are groups that practice with a goal in mind, like a tournament or competition, and these tend to be stricter and more intense than circles. Take a look and try to find a club that suits your interests and needs. You’ll be able to see what clubs and circles are available around when the new school year starts, when older students will start canvassing for new members, so we recommend taking a look at a variety of groups.

For more:
Club Activities

9. Living on your own is more common than living in a dorm
Japanese universities have dormitories, but due to a limited number of rooms and distance from the school, there are few students who live in dormitories for all four years. Usually, students rent an apartment close to campus and live on their own. If you’re going to rent, do so through your school’s co-op or through a rental agency. Just now that most apartments in Japan don’t come with furniture or appliances, so you’ll need to prepare these in advance!

For more:
If you’re going to live in Kobe… Living By Yourself! (Part Three)

Were you able to get a slightly clearer image of what university life in Japan will be like? There are sure to be differences to your home country, but go ahead enjoy all of the new experiences that are available to you!