Scholarships to go to Japan.

Believe it or not, attaining a scholarship is not as difficult as you are probably thinking. In fact, some might claim it even to be rather simple. The difficult part is actually doing the work required of the scholarship; searching for the scholarship is the first step, and depending on the scholarship, an essay might need to be written and evaluated, and/or an interview might take place. What’s great about them is that they are practically free money just handed out to you to do whatever you wish with; in this case, getting your butt to Japan!

Although scholarships are pretty easy to attain, there are some things you can do to tip the table in your favor in regards to traveling to Japan on someone else’s dime:

1. Learn some Japanese: It looks good to the judges if you show you are interested in the country, its culture, or its language. Anything that you can grab onto and really roll with will impress them and make you stand out from the other applicants. Learning some of the language shows you are interested in learning something new, which is key.

2. Learn ONLY SOME Japanese: Do not learn too much Japanese. If you are too proficient in the language, the judges may be impressed but they will most likely send someone less capable in the language over you. This is because, as I mentioned in the previous point, the key is to show that you are interested in learning something new over there. It is a common suggestion from people-in-the-know that if you grew up speaking the language or are simply already fluent in it, it’s best to tell a tiny white lie and develop some sort of American accent when speaking it.

3. Learn the country’s history: If you show you are knowledgeable about Japanese History, you are also showing you are interested in aspects of the country that are not even relevant to this day and age. It shows you care about the country as a whole.

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Photo Credit: Flickr user Okinawa Soba.

Now for the interview process. Most interviews dealing with international travel have judges that are looking for certain things in the applicants.

Some common suggestions for things to DO during the interview are the following:

1. Intercultural sharing: It’s a good idea to explain the fact that you wish to learn about Japanese culture while also sharing your own with them. This is one of the major reasons judges believe you should be going for. Intercultural sharing is beautiful!

2. Show excitement: No one wants to give away a prize to someone who does not even seem like they care about the prize or the experience they are about to have. However, it is important not to be overly excited and crazy, of course.

3. Include a personal story: Including a personal story that somehow connects you with the country, its culture, or its language will help immensely. Explain yourself to the judges and tell them why you are even doing this in the first place.

Now that you have these tips and tricks to aid your applications, essays, and potential interviews, get cracking and grab yourself those scholarships! Free money to help you get to your destination awaits you!

The cheapest time to buy your airfare.

When thinking about when to actually go to Japan, you need to be aware of any cultural holidays or important natural observations. Holidays to watch out for are Obon, which is usually in mid-August or mid-July, depending on which region of Japan you are in; Golden Week, which begins April 29th and ends May 5th; and the Christmas/New Year holidays.

In addition, in late March and early April, the sakura (cherry blossoms) naturally bloom all across Japan, beginning in one region and quickly spreading to others; during this “season”, as it is lovingly referred to by the Japanese, enormous crowds from all over Japan and even other countries flock to certain areas and enjoy group outings and picnics under the trees. Japanese television news even reports the best days to go view them, right with the weather forecast. You read that right — there is a cherry blossom forecast in Japan.

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Photo courtesy of Dick Thomas Johnson (via CC BY 2.0)
Full-sized version can be found here.

The cheapest times to buy airfare and travel to Japan are when these four major events are not occurring. One of the cheapest times to go is right after New Years, between January and early March. However, it is also important to consider what you could potentially be missing out on by saving your money. For example, the cherry blossom season is one of Japan’s most well-known and popular times to visit for a reason; the beauty is overwhelming. Also, during the Winter, if you are anywhere near Tokyo the sun usually sets by 5pm, making sightseeing much more difficult. Like anything else in life, there are trade-offs by trying to visit Japan on the cheap.

If you are based in Atlanta or live a state over, the best deals during this non-peak times are usually found if you travel from a large airport that generally serves as a hub to others, such as our famously known Hartsfield-Jackson International AIrport. Major discounts can be found traveling from this destination to Narita Airport in Japan beginning mid-January until early March.

As mentioned in a previous post, however, visiting Japan on someone else’s dime is an even better prospect, and studying abroad through your local college can often make this possible. Our own Georgia State University has a program for Japan which can be found here. In a future post I will write about scholarships, how to attain them, what to write about in any required essays, and what to talk about (and what not to talk about) in any required interviews, if applicable.