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Staying with a Host Family in Japan During Your Studies

Before living in a shared house with a couple of my best friends, I stayed with a host family for 1 year and a half back when I was still in college. Rent in Japan is pretty expensive, so staying with a host family was a great way for me to save money.

My time with the host family turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life. All 5 of them treated me as if I was part of their home, as they never failed to be so welcoming and kind towards me. I really didn’t expect them to be so open to me because I was under the impression that most Japanese people were very shy, extremely private, and consider personal space to be sacred.

After all these years, I’m still incredibly thankful to the host family that brought me in. I won’t forget all the dinners that I became a part of, all the movie nights and hangouts I enjoyed, and all the care I received from them. They are a huge reason why my first two years in Japan were bearable and helped me become the person I am today. In fact, I still keep in touch with them.

But surely not every host family is going to be like them. And there are certainly advantages and disadvantages when it comes to living in a homestay. So in this article, we’ll cover all the pros and cons of living with a host family as a student in Japan.


If I’m talking about the host family that took me in during my first few years in college, I could think of about 10 advantages off the top of my head. But as I stated earlier, obviously not all families are like theirs. Nevertheless, there are still pros that are present in every homestay.

Practicing the Local Language

Staying with a host family can really improve your skills in the Japanese language. Host families have varying levels of English proficiency, and there’s a chance you will end up with a family that can speak very little English. As you will have to interact with the people around the house, think of this as an opportunity to exercise your Japanese language skills.

I know this did wonders for me, ability-wise. I came to Japan only knowing basic Japanese, but within a few months, I could speak, read, and understand the Japanese language because of the countless daily conversations. I remember being amazed by how patient they were with me, even when I frequently pestered them with questions.

But in my opinion, even if the host family does know how to speak your language, you still need to learn the local tongue, as a show of courtesy to them for allowing you to be a part of the household.

Immersing Into the Culture

What better way to learn the country’s culture than to actually live among the people? I learned a lot of Japan’s great traditions and way of life not just from living with the host family, but by truly spending time with them.

The most notable ones were simple things like table manners and taking off shoes before entering a house. They instructed me to always give loud slurping sounds when eating food such as ramen to give respect to the cook. They also taught me to practice wearing uwabaki or Japanese slippers indoors, as it is the norm for Japanese households.

Another fond memory that has stuck with me since was during my first days in Japan. I was with my host family’s son who was around my age. We were heading towards the commute for school when we crossed paths with one of our elderly neighbors. Even though we were in a hurry, he stopped and took the time to greet and bow to the neighbors and I followed suit. To me, that respectful gesture will always remind me of the humility of the Japanese people.

Paying Less for More

The main reason why I let the university set me up with a host family is because of the affordability. In my first year, I only had to pay around 80,000 JPY per month during my stay with the host family. The rate would increase by 3,000 JPY in my second year, but that really didn’t matter to me as I was having such a terrific time with the host family.

I remember looking up some shared houses back then and discovering that rates went from 85,000 JPY to 90,000 JPY. Even though these shared houses were closer to the university than most homestays, I was immediately discouraged by the prices. And when you consider the fact that my breakfast and dinner were already included in the package to go along with free wifi, choosing to stay with the host family was a much better deal and experience.


While I would not trade the experience of staying with my host family for anything else, living with a family has its share of disadvantages as well.

Lack of Privacy

For the sole reason that you are living under another family’s roof and in another country, there are bound to be times when you’ll wish you’d have more privacy. Living under another family’s roof means having to share spaces and abiding to their house rules. You have to be considerate of the family, make sure not to cause any disturbances, and follow their customs.

Back home, I had the habit of bringing my phone into the bathroom and playing some music while I took a bath. When I moved in with my host family, they did not outright say anything about playing music, but I knew I had to keep noise to a minimum out of respect.

Personally, the lack of privacy was a minor problem for me as I had my own room to do things that I’d like to do by my lonesome. Every homestay will undoubtedly provide every student with their own room, as Japanese people like privacy. But if you don’t like that you can’t roam around the house during the wee hours of the morning, wearing nothing but undergarments while trying to find food at the fridge, then a homestay is not for you.


Transportation is going to be a minor hiccup as a student because most Japanese families live outside the center of the city, where most schools are. If you are planning to stay with a host family, you will certainly need to get used to riding the train to and from school.

Back then, I took 2 train rides per day. One to travel to the university and one to get back home. Each train ride consumed an hour of my time. This really didn’t bother me that much when I was still a student, but there were times when I wanted to hang out with some of my classmates but I couldn’t because I had to catch the train schedule. So if you are someone who likes to roam the city and hang out with your peers, living in a homestay may make that difficult for you.


I was so grateful that the stars aligned for me and I was taken in by the best host family anyone could ever have. Although I’ve had a great experience, not everyone is going to share the same sentiment as many factors come into play, which may be a dealbreaker for some. There are disadvantages that come along with living in a homestay, but it’s up to you if you think you are up for the experience.

We hope this article about living with a host family will be informative to you. We hope you find a great homestay in the future!

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