I sit here writing this at home in New Zealand, reflecting on the two perspective and life changing months that I recently spent in Japan. There one organization in particular that made my trip far more epic than it would have been otherwise, and I feel obligated to share who they are for future explorers of Japan.
But a bit of back story first…
My plan from the outset was something like this; spend one month learning as much Japanese as I could while enjoying the lifestyle one of Japans smaller major cities. Then travel by bullet train to a completely different part of Japan and spend the next month riding a scooter around the countryside, talking Japanese, soaking in onsen, getting lost and free-camping to keep the trip cheap.
As you can probably guess I survived the adventure, but I can say with absolute confidence the success was based on unfathomably awesome people I worked with and met through The Wahaha Japanese Language School based in Fukuoka Japan.
I arrived in Fukuoka having taught myself the Hiragana and Katakana alphabets, but no understanding of Kanji and in fact, basically any other vocabulary beyond ‘konnichiwa’. I could not even count to 10!
Wahaha catered for this and tailored my learning towards basic principles and ideas with a focus on ‘everyday language’ which I would need for later part of my adventure. Classes were with a range of teachers which kept it interesting and fun, but did not distract from the lesson to lesson rhythm.
I also selected Wahaha’s Cultural Classes which allowed me to connect with other students outside the classroom and explore more of Fukuoka City than I would have on my own. This was fantastic as many of the Cultural Classes were run by the teachers themselves and allowed them to share their own interest, skill and passion for Japanese Culture. I personally recommend any opportunity to: go to a baseball game, explore haunted houses, make pottery, visit a Japanese garden, wear kimonos, see the boat races, sign karaoke or watch Kyudo (traditional archery) and Iaido (traditional samurai swordsmanship).
Alongside that was the homely and loving accommodation at Geshuku-tomo Guest House, which was organized through Wahaha. Here I met even more fantastic people and found a whole heap of opportunities to dive into the culture surrounding me, more recommendation: Any and ALL festivals, Akido classes and shrine visits guided by your neighbors mother. You read that right, it’s a mix of all cultures staying there including locals (and the son’s of tour guiding mothers).
Coming home to Japanese home cooked meals, motherly advice from loving Guest House owner and high speed internet/ aircon made my life comfortable and an easy train ride took me everywhere I needed to go.
If you are thinking of going to Japan I highly recommend sending an email to Wahaha, they have some fantastic people there who will help and support you to get the most out of your time.