A Day In The Life of an International Student in Japan

Payton Letko
March 19, 2018
Nanzan University

6:30 am - The Day Begins!

I usually set my alarm at this time to give myself some extra time in the morning to talk to friends at home and to put my futon away. I don’t have a regular bed, but every night I sleep on a traditional Japanese futon on the floor. So every morning I have to put it away, and every evening I have to make it up. (Check out the pictures below!) I also try to give myself plenty of time to get around and do my hair and makeup because people in Japan are quite fashionable. The only time I’ve seen them wear sweatpants in public is if they’re going to sports practice, and even then it’s either some kind of uniform or name brand.

7:00 am (give or take 10 minutes) - Breakfast Time

Every morning I come downstairs and greet my host parents with an Ohayoo gozaimasu, or good morning. My host family is pretty casual about breakfast time, so we don’t all eat together at one time, but my host mom prepares everyone’s bowl of rice and miso soup, the typical morning meal at my homestay, for them when they’re ready. Along with the rice and miso soup sometimes there are small sides of pickled foods, vegetables or egg.

8:00 am - Begin My Commute!

Public transportation in Japan is super reliable and accessible, and basically, everyone uses it. My commute to school starts with a walk 5 minute to the bus stop and a 30-minute bus ride to the train station, which would take an hour for me to walk to so I’m thankful for the bus. Of course, the bus has its ups and downs. It’s really quiet - as an unspoken rule of respect for others around you - making it a great time to study. However, because of the number of people using public transport you aren’t always guaranteed a seat and it can get crowded. Also, the bus only runs so often, so if I’m late for my bus, then I’m usually waiting 20-30 minutes for another bus, which can be frustrating when your hour commute unexpectedly turns into 1hr 30 min. commute. In the mornings at the train station, there are Women’s Only cars until 9:00 am, so I usually use these cars to avoid potentially negative situations and there’s usually more space. The last leg of my commute is just a 5-10 minute walk to school up the steepest hill ever, so don’t worry I’m still getting in my exercise after sitting on buses and trains.   

9:20 am - Japanese class for 3.5 hours

So 3.5 hours of class sounds like a lot, but it’s divided up into 2 hours of conversation class where we focus on vocabulary and grammar, and a lot of speaking practice. Then for the remaining 1.5 hours is dedicated to reading and writing class where we learn kanji and, of course, read and write. My teachers pack a lot into class so we are constantly learning new things, but I really like how my teachers use exercises that force us to simultaneously review the content from previous chapters. In one semester we’re covering 14 chapters of vocab, grammar, and kanji, so class does move very fast, but I’m thankful because the material I’m learning I can use right away in my day to day life.


So what I do in the afternoon varies and depends on the day. After Japanese, I usually always meet friends for lunch for either some nutritious Lawson (convenience store) or Da Ga Ne, which is the cheapest option on campus but you get SO much tasty food! After lunch on Mondays and Tuesdays, my busiest days of the week, I have my other classes (Japanese Literature, Japanese Religion, and Japanese Woodblock Printing). Wednesdays there are no afternoon classes, so sometimes I go practice speaking Japanese in Japan Plaza with the tutors, or go exploring around Nagoya, and at least once a month my school offers free field trips to the international students, like a tour of the Toyota factory. Thursday & Friday I only have class in the morning, so once again I can go exploring or I can start my weekend travels early!


Everyone’s usually home around 6:30 pm and hanging out in the living room before dinner around 7:00 pm. After dinner, we spend time together in the living room talking about the day, watching TV, and sometimes eat dessert! Around 8:00 pm I usually go up to my room and work on any homework or studying I haven’t done yet. Japanese typically shower at night with the father always going first. I usually go last. In Japan, they shower first, but seated on a small stool and then get in the bath. Everyone uses the same bath water, which is why it is important to shower and clean off before getting in the bath, and also why no one washes in the bath.

I was really surprised by how structured and scheduled the day is. I don’t think my life has been this routine since I was in high school and even then the day was still unpredictable because of various after-school sports and clubs, so my family didn’t even have a set dinner time every night, and of course at American university my only set schedule is class and work.


Payton Letko

<p class="MsoBodyText" style="margin-top:2.35pt; margin-right:9.65pt; margin-bottom:.0001pt; margin-left:5.0pt"><span style="line-height:115%">I grew up in a small farm town but was bitten by the travel-bug shortly after leaving for undergrad. I have a sweet tooth the size of Texas, and can often be found searching for the best treats life has to offer.</span></p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Illinois Wesleyan University
Toulon, Illinois
International Studies
Explore Blogs