Cheap ways to learn Japanese in Tokyo

January 16th, 2018 By Cyrielle U

You made it! You sat up in Japan, and you are now either looking for a job either already working - if you got lucky enough to find the few job offers that does not require a minimum conversational level of Japanese level.

But here is the point: if you want to have the maximum job opportunities, a better salary, and even your own private apartment you better improve your Japanese level as soon as possible! Many landlords actually often do not accept foreign tenants if they don’t speak well Japanese, even if you provide a Japanese emergency contact. If anything had to go wrong in the apartment they want you to be able to deal with it, with no language trouble.

And here is the dilemma (supposing you do have time to attend classes every day, and you do have enough motivation study seriously after classes): it is quite expensive. 2h/day from Monday until Friday for 3 months will cost you around 200 000 yens (around 1 600 euros depending on the rate), plus the books cost, plus the additional registration fees that most schools require.

You might also realise, a bit late, that instead of planning your school registration you were busy setting up, traveling and enjoying your new life, and… you missed the deadlines to register for the semester!

Do not worry, here are some useful tips to learn Japanese at very low costs:

1- Free lessons given by volunteers in your ward: to get the basics and the grammar

One of the best advice I had! In Tokyo, most of the ward offices have a volunteer teaching programme.

Check it out and register as soon as possible for the semester. If you already studied Japanese they will make an assessment interview to appoint you to the class that matches your level. You can choose to attend classes once or twice a week, morning or afternoon, for only 2000-3000 yens. If you missed the deadline you can still join the class during the semester (but there is no pro rata for the allowance fees). Completely free lessons are also provided on weekends, however all levels are together so I find it less effective.

Here is a link to find more about:

2 - Meetups: to practice and improve your conversation level while making friends is a popular online social networking website. People from all over the world can share their common interest with others and meet offline through Meetup.

Many language exchange meetups are organized in Tokyo, it is a great opportunity to practice your Japanese with locals. The majority are English – Japanese exchanges but you can also often find it in your native language. Most of them are free, you just have to buy a drink, and some of them have a cheap entrance fee 300-500 yens plus a drink.

Depending on your objective and your level I recommend you to pay attention to three points: the time, the place, the description of the Meetup.

If you are comfortable enough in Japanese and just would like an opportunity to practice and meet Japanese people:  late afternoon / evenings Meetups that are held in bars are good. Be careful, bars tend to be noisy with loud music, good to chill out but it does not provide the best environment to focus for beginners. But if you want a more serious approach to practice and need to focus: go for daytime Meetups held in cafes.  You will have more chances to meet people coming in the same objective which is first learning and they will be more pedagogical. Still it is a really nice way to improve your Japanese, but also to make friends.

Also, depending on the area you attend the Meetup, the spirit tend to vary too. For example Takadanobaba is a typical student area with rather young people attending.

Finally, the description of the Meetup will give you an idea of the spirit people are coming in with keywords such as: fun and relax or / learn and practice.

Have a look to this link and find out the Meetup that fits you:

One serious cafe where language meetups are very good for beginners since organizers give a short lesson and provide you with grammatical tips:

3- One to one language exchange with a Japanese buddy

Another more intense way to learn is to find a Japanese buddy willing to teach you his language while you teach him yours. A very pleasant way again to practice, and since you are only two people you can choose together the best way to learn and personalize it: chatting, with books, in cafes you want to try, at home etc.

Here are two websites that specialise in finding a foreign exchange buddy:

Good luck to all of you !!

A reminder to let you know that if you are looking for an accommodation in Japan, our portal JapanRoomFinder.comhas  plenty of apartments and rooms in share houses available all over Japan. Send us an enquiry if you like one of them.