Is Tokyo becoming the number one student hub?

Published 2019-08-20 12:06

Tokyo is the second best city for students according to the QS World Best Student Cities ranking 2019. Tokyo takes the second place for the second year in a row. Two years ago, that same city was stuck at the 7th position. How can one explain this sudden interest international students seem to show in Tokyo? What are they coming to Tokyo for?

Internationally renowned universities

Tokyo is home to a few internationally renowned universities. Dan, a Canadian student from Waseda University in Tokyo, explains that this is why he chose Tokyo. "We are so used to major American or European universities. But to say that we went to Japan adds an extra prestige, I think.” Medhi, a French student at Keio University, agrees. "Keio is known internationally, especially for its excellent research departments. It also sets up services to facilitate the integration of foreign students. I am very happy to be here. The college has programs in English, but I am also studying Japanese to facilitate and speed up the integration process. My level is far from perfect, but I’m doing my best.”

Keio is, in fact, in the top 10 best universities in Japan, just behind Waseda, ranked 9th. On the very first step of the podium, the undeniable University of Tokyo, better known as "Todai". It is also the 23rd best university in the world and is sought after by many students both Japanese and foreign so it can be pretty pricey to study there. The very name of the university has become a brand, a symbol of success.

Japan, safety before everything else

Japan is known for its safe environment. And this is a feeling shared by Japanese and expatriates alike. In Tokyo, itself, one can wander around until very late at night feeling completely safe.

And the almost non-existent crime definitely weighed in the balance of the four students we interviewed. They quickly became accustomed to it too. It is not unlikely for them to leave their phones on the table in a restaurant while ordering or going to the toilet. "That's how you save your seat," says Medhi. Something unthinkable in other countries. Yet in Japan, not many cases of theft. "People have respect for the public good," observes Dan.

A tranquility that should not make us forget that crime - even rare - exists. The stabbing attack, like the May 2019 tragedy in Kawasaki, where a man assaulted schoolchildren at the bus stop reminds us that no country is totally safe. Something that worries the Japanese authorities: the level of confidence and carelessness could benefit pickpocketters. It is not uncommon to see people walking around with their bags wide open.

But scams are on the rise, however. And some targeting international students too. For example, scammers pretend they are compatriots and offer their help- which usually costs a lot. But schools regularly alert students and advise them not to answer unknown numbers.

All that expensive?

Despite (or because of) all that Tokyo can offer, the cost of living can be a tricky issue. For Gwen, a Vietnamese student in a language school, you need to know all the good addresses and know the hacks. Dan approves "There are discounters in Tokyo where everything is much cheaper”. Medhi adds:" You have to flee the konbini (convenience store, mini markets open 24 hours a day) as much as possible. Prepare your own food and test seasonal products, and Japanese food, instead of always buying pre-prepared foods. This can definitely save you a lot of money. "

The housing budget, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to work around. Unless you choose a dormitory for about 30,000 yen a month, and give up your minimum comfort. Yô, a Chinese student in a language school, adds: "Moving into a Japanese accommodation was not the best experience. It was cumbersome and expensive”.

Real estate agencies have already capitalised on the interest international students show in Tokyo: many offer turnkey accommodation solutions for students as well as partnerships with schools, discounts etc. Newest concept in date: the social residence. Large modern building, with all the facilities: cinema rooms, sports rooms, co-working spaces, all designed for students and young professionals. An opportunity to get a taste of life in community, and to meet people. By choosing a social residence away from the Tokyo center one can make significant savings.

Art of living and change of scenery

Many agree on this one point: if there is a country that has managed to preserve, despite globalization, its mystery and its peculiarities, it is indeed Japan. In this country where every stone can be a kami (a god), wonder is at every step. Every season has its particularity. Especially spring known for its sakura, cherry trees of Japan. There are newspapers and meteo report dedicated to them- indicating the beginning and end of the flowering season.

In Autumn, the sakura is replaced by the momji, Japanese maple leaves.This place of nature is an integral part of the life of the Japanese. For international students, it's an invitation to reconnect with oneself. Dan, a Canadian student at Waseda University, confirms: "I am a very lonely person, and enjoy long walks in nature. Coming to Tokyo, I wanted to test myself. I was afraid of being "eaten" by this big modern city which never sleeps. But I was struck by the amount of gardens: Ueno, Kôrakuen, Meiji-jingu, Yoyogi, Shinjuku Gyôen, Rikigien, the Imperial Garden ... There is greenery everywhere! It is very surprising to discover a small garden, a large park, or a temple, right amidst modern buildings. It's the magic of Japan. "

Japan aficionados

Many students are really passionate about Japanese culture. Many of them have known it through pop culture: manga, anime, video games, drama (Japanese series), music. This is the case with Yô: "I have watched animes all my life. Then I became interested in drama and Japanese music. Before going to Japan, I lived for about 7 years in the United States - I lived near the Japanese side, and often thought "I'm close to Japan, why not go?" So I finally decided to leave the United States to go to Japan.

Gwen also evokes the geographical proximity with Japan: "I have to study chosen Japan because it is not far from Vietnam! Of course, I also really like Japanese culture. "

For Dan, a lover of open spaces, Japanese landscapes have made all the difference: nature, architecture, art, and food. "I like to test new things" jokes Dan. "I became a fan of melon bread! In a very different style, I like Japanese pop. As for Medhi, it is through books, and especially history books that he discovered Japan and decided he wanted to try living there. "I am passionate about history. When I learnt about that of Japan, I said to myself: let's go! "

Gwen returns to this unique Japanese culture. If she appreciates it a lot, she recognizes that everyday life can sometimes be complicated. She concludes, however, on a positive note: "I realized that by coming to Japan, my character has changed profoundly. I have experienced a lot of things, met people from many different countries and became more mature. Just for that, I'm glad I came to Japan. "