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EF Stories: Emma from Germany in EF Tokyo

Emma traveled to beautiful Tokyo with EF to learn one of the most difficult languages - Japanese. Read more about her experiences during her stay here.
EF Stories: Emma from Germany in EF Tokyo

Oh my, Japan is quite far away, isn't it? And the Tokyo metropolitan area is the most densely populated in the world... What was I thinking when I suddenly decided to learn Japanese in Japan? A language that is far from easy to master.

I have to admit, before embarking on my three-month adventure in Tokyo, some doubts started creeping in: Can I handle all of this? Wasn't it a crazy idea? With the commute time from the host family to school, will I even have the opportunity to spend time with friends? Anxiously, I called the EF office, and they reassured me: Such commuting times are normal in a big city, and most language students feel some nervousness. But I would definitely not regret this journey. And that's exactly how it turned out.

My Host Family

My host family lived a bit outside of Tokyo, specifically in Saitama, which borders Tokyo to the north. I shared the small house with the playful Dachshund, Ron, as well as my warm-hearted host grandma, my two host parents, and my older host sister, who worked as a hairdresser in Tokyo.

I hit the jackpot with my host family – together, we went on outings in the area, went shopping, and cooked. But it wasn't just that; over the course of three months, they became a real little family to me: my host mom took care of me lovingly when I was bedridden for a week, comforted me when I didn't feel well, and asked every day what I had learned at school. Even today, we still exchange messages regularly and send each other postcards.

The Classes

But I hadn't traveled all the way from Germany to Japan just to sit around doing nothing. The purpose of the trip was, after all, to learn Japanese. And what better place to do that than the EF language school in the heart of Tokyo – in Shibuya?

Situated on the 27th floor of the Shibuya Cross Towers, you have a fantastic view of the entire city. From there, you can spot the Tokyo Tower, the famous Meiji Shrine, and the Tokyo Skytree from different windows. Thanks to this incredible skyline, you almost forget that you're actually in a school.

The classes themselves are a combination of regular sessions held within a fixed class group and SPIN-Classes, Special Interest Courses. In the SPIN-Classes, you have the opportunity to deepen your vocabulary and grammar skills or try your hand at the art of Japanese calligraphy, Shodo.

Initially, it can be a bit challenging since most teachers refuse to respond in English during lessons or provide detailed explanations in English. However, over time, you realize that this is the best method to fully immerse yourself in a language. The teachers are incredibly patient and explain everything until you truly understand it.

But it's not just the teachers who give it their all; the school management and all EF staff are also there to assist you with practical matters like extending your visa or accompany you to the pharmacy or hospital in case of illness.

My Free Time

During my spare time, there are so many things to experience! There are school-organized excursions, such as a visit to the Studio Ghibli Museum, cherry blossom viewing at the Meguro River, or a traditional Japanese dance class. Many of these activities are free of charge.

Of course, you don't have these experiences alone – because at school, you can't avoid meeting people from all around the world. Since everyone is new in an unfamiliar city and learning a language they typically only know very fragmentarily through manga and anime, new friendships form surprisingly quickly.

During EF's regularly held "International Day," you have the opportunity to not only learn about Japanese culture but also to explore many other countries and their customs.


What surprised me the most about the trip, aside from how smoothly everything went and how much I fell in love with Tokyo, was the fact that I actually learned Japanese. And I learned much more than I ever thought possible.

When I arrived in Tokyo, I had some knowledge of two of the three writing systems and a vacation-level vocabulary, similar to what most people have for Spanish or Italian. Hello, how are you? Excuse me. Please, thank you. But that was essentially it. After just about a month in Tokyo, I was able to engage in small talk, even with people like my host father who hardly spoke any English.

What about after three months? To say that I now speak Japanese perfectly and can read and understand everything would be an exaggeration. However, I can manage to talk about myself and discuss various topics with Japanese people, even though I occasionally need to consult a dictionary.

I've met such fascinating people, whose lives I wouldn't have had any insight into without this language course: the manga artist on the subway, the two somewhat occult students, the colleagues having a drink with their boss, or the young man whose biggest dream is to work in Germany. And for that, I am incredibly grateful.

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