Welcome to Osaka
Understanding identity abroad is important—regardless of whether or not you think it will play a role in your own experience. While we strive to create and maintain programs that support students of all races, religions, abilities, gender identities, and sexual orientations, you also play a crucial role in creating a welcoming and supportive environment for your peers navigating aspects of their identity in a new country. The information and resources on this page serve as a starting point to help you understand experiences you or your CET classmates may encounter while abroad.
Race & Ethnicity
Japan is often represented as not racially or ethnically diverse. Foreigners who look non-Japanese are often assumed to not be able to speak the local language. As a result, these students may be spoken to in English, may be stared at, approached to take pictures together with, or offered assistance without asking. Individuals who receive extra attention as such have included tall students, Black students, and those with blond or red hair. Generally, these things happen in a non-threatening context and are done simply out of curiosity or desire to help out a foreigner.
Students who are of mixed Japanese heritage can also expect to receive more attention, comments, and questions than their peers.
While homosexuality is legal in Japan, the government only recognizes heterosexual marriages—though same-sex marriages occurring outside Japan (where at least one partner is a non-Japanese citizen) are recognized. Recently, some cities and wards (not yet including Osaka) have begun recognizing same-sex partnerships.
Culturally, sexuality is not openly discussed and many Japanese people have never heard the term ‘LGBTQ.’ Former students have described their Japanese peers’ reactions to LGBTQ identities as neither strongly positive or negative, but mostly curious. There are a few LGBTQ groups in Osaka to which students may have access.
The Japanese government legally recognizes only male and female genders, and trans individuals may change their legal gender only after reassignment surgery. Japanese fashion and media such as anime and manga will sometimes explore androgynous trends or aesthetics, though Japanese culture as a whole has very strict gender roles, and very few Japanese people live publicly outside of the gender binary. Many gender non-conforming students have reported receiving more attention for appearing not ethnically Japanese rather than how they choose to present their gender.
There is no official religion in Japan. Shinto and Buddhism are the local Japanese religions, while minor religions include Christianity, Baha’i, Judaism, Islam, among others. There are local Christian places of worship, as well as many temples and shrines. There are a few Muslim and Jewish places of worship, but those may require commuting outside of Osaka. Students wearing a hijab, turban, or other outward demonstrations of faith can expect to be noticed more merely because it is not commonly seen in Japan. Generally, there are no strong positive or negative attitudes toward certain religions and the Japanese Constitution guarantees freedom of religion for all.
Cost of Living
Osaka’s cost of living is higher than most of Japan—though not as high as Tokyo. Relative to other countries in Asia, the cost of living in Japan is closer to that of western nations. A cup of coffee is usually 3 USD, while a casual lunch spot might charge between 5-10 USD. Past students have mentioned that establishing and adhering to a budget at the beginning of the term was a strategy that helped manage any financial stress. Check out a budget sheet to get an idea of what life in Osaka might look like financially.
CET makes every effort to offer accommodations comparable to those of your home institution. Disclosing early helps us to make proper preparations and work with you to determine if a program will be a good fit. We recommend that you use the following details to inform your decisions and conversations with your Student Services Coordinator.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS: CET JAPAN
Semester students typically attend classes for 2 to 5 hours a day, while summer students have 4 class hours per day. On average, semester classes have between 4 and 12 students, while summer classes average 12 students per class. Electives at OGU typically have 15+ students. For every hour of class, students are expected to complete a minimum of 1 hour of homework.
Services available for students with documented need: Low-distraction test environment; extra time on exams; modified deadlines and seating; note-taker; exam reader; audio recordings or captioned videos of lectures; reading and texts as audio files; syllabi/readings/assignments in advance; a computer to take exams; permission for service dogs in the classroom and on campus; sighted companion; mobility orientation to campus.
CET classrooms and shared student/staff space are on the second, third, and fourth floors of the International Center building. The elevator is narrow and some standard US wheelchairs may not fit. Measurements can be provided upon request. Students who use a wheelchair may want to consider renting a wheelchair locally as it would be more standard in size for Japan.
CET occasionally plans mandatory academic activities and optional trips to nearby sites and other cities after class and on weekends. Excursions may involve urban walking, rural hiking, use of public transportation, and/or going up and down stairs.
Itinerary modifications and accommodations can be made for students with documented need. Transportation can be arranged as necessary, and excused absences are provided for mandatory excursions that are inaccessible due to a disability.
ACCESS in ACADEMICS: AICAD IN JAPAN
Outside of 2 to 3 hours of Japanese classes in the morning (see the section above), your studio art classes are held during the afternoons and are roughly 4 to 6 hours long (2 to 3 times/week). In the spring, studio art classes begin in April and AICAD students can expect April and May to be busy with all classes. Art classes typically have over ten students enrolled in each course and operate in Japanese.
As a student at a Japanese art school, the classwork you take on is largely dependent on the language skills with which you start the program. On-site staff are always there to help you out in terms of support—whether you need a few key vocabulary words or just general advice for navigating a school where most people do not speak English.
Studio art classes for AICAD in Japan students are held at Osaka University of Arts, which is a 1.5-hour commute by train and bus (mostly bus). This is a common commute length in Japan, but is often an adjustment for international students. Commute costs are covered by your program fee.
ACCESS IN HOUSING
Your Home Abroad
Apartments and sharehouses differ in layout and location and are often an adjustment for students used to the spaciousness of American-style accommodations. Commuting from housing to campus varies from a 5- to 10-minute walk to a 15- to 40-minute commute by train and walking (this is considered short by local standards!). The cost of a commuter pass is reimbursed for commutes requiring public transportation.
First-floor residences with ramp access may be available for students with documented need if requested in advance.
Students can choose to live in an apartment or sharehouse that is female-only, male-only, or gender-neutral (male, female, and gender non-conforming students and roommates). Rooms are typically shared, and students must choose whether they want a male or female roommate, as openly LGBTQ local roommates are few and far between. However, arrangements can be made to accommodate more specific circumstances if notice is provided in advance.
Most public trains and buses have a system in place for wheelchair accessibility, and train stations typically have elevators, including the two nearest campus. Most, if not all, crosswalks on major roads are indicated by both light and sound. Major streets usually have sidewalks that are well-kept and provide curb cuts (though some may be steep), but many smaller streets do not offer sidewalks. The main challenge for students with mobility issues may be the walking-heavy lifestyle in Japan.
Health & Diet
As a part of your program fee, you are enrolled in GeoBlue health insurance for the entire duration of your program. Learn more about GeoBlue and how we operate programs with health and safety in mind.
Health & Medicine
There are many health facilities available to students. Service is typically conducted in Japanese, with limited English. Many medications that are legal in the US are strictly controlled or completely illegal in Japan. Those medications include but are not limited to stimulants (pseudophedrine, amphetamines), codeine, many SSRIs, and MAOs, Adderall, and marijuana. Students may obtain a document from the Japanese consulate called a Yakkan Shomei, which is a permit to bring specific medications into the country. It is strongly recommended that students do their research ahead of time.
Keeping Fit in Osaka
Our host university, Osaka Gakuin University, provides many campus amenities, including a gym to which CET students have free access (but make sure you bring shoes you’ve never used outside before!). Students can sign up to use the OGU tennis courts and basketball courts, but reservations fill up quickly. Osaka also boasts many great routes for running along the rivers nearby.
Managing Mental Health
Mental health resources are limited and clinics near campus typically only offer services in Japanese. Generally speaking, psychotherapy is far less common than in the US. There are English therapy services available, however these resources are a 45-minute commute each way.
Many dietary restrictions are easy to maintain in Osaka. It’s tricky but not impossible to avoid gluten or many meats. However, it is difficult to avoid fish—even many broths are fish-based (though you can sometimes find options for kelp- or shiitake mushroom-based stock). Students eating strictly kosher or halal may have a more difficult time eating out as well, since many Japanese people and chefs are less familiar with those diets. There are specialty grocery stores that offer many food options, though they tend to be less convenient and more expensive than the typical Japanese grocery. A few restaurants cater to vegan customers, but most will have no vegan options available. Students following a strict vegan diet should plan to cook at home. Student housing provides basic cooking appliances, so strict diets are easier to maintain when cooking at home.
Resources from Alumni
These are alumni-written essays that reflect upon how their own identity affected their time abroad (both good and bad) and what it was like to navigate another culture in their position. We encourage you to read these to better understand what studying abroad in Japan could be like for you or your future peers.
- Being Queer & Seeking Therapy in Japan by Matty Norris, CET Japan | Academic Year 2018-2019
For “queer, genderqueer, and genderquestioning folks, as well as those with mental health struggles or those thinking about seeking counseling while in Japan”
- Community in Osaka by Sarah Bradbury, CET Japan | Spring 2019
“For off-campus living students, lower-income students, and students who desire close friends in their program”
- From the South Bronx to Osaka: Reflection on my identity and time in Japan by Omar Hernandez Rodriguez, CET Japan | Fall 2018
This is a curated list of blog posts chosen specifically to provide context for life abroad. Posts here may cover culture shock, diversity, daily life and workload, etc. To see all posts from students in Japan, head to the Student Voices blog.
- Learning to Eat in Japan
By Isabella Qian, Yale University | Summer 2022
- Breaking Down Academics at CET Japan
By Laurel Brinker-Cole, Franklin & Marshall College | Spring 2019
- On Belonging: Studying Abroad in Asia as an Asian American/Heritage Learner
By Kyla Aiko Smith, Scripps College | Fall 2018
- Life with a Language Pledge in Osaka
By Jacob Clements, University of Kansas | Summer 2018
In final evaluations, we ask students how their identities affected their experience abroad. The following are a few select quotes from recent program evaluations to help you understand what life in Japan may be like for you or your future peers.
TALK TO ALUMNI
Chat with alumni about their experiences abroad. Once you start an application, your online CET account will give you access to the following resources:
- Alumni Support List: A directory of students who have volunteered to chat about their experiences abroad in Japan.
- Identity Abroad Support Network: A group of students who have volunteered to discuss their identity-related experiences in Japan. This is a volunteer-based program that started in 2019. Volunteers can also opt to have their contact information kept privately by CET staff and only shared when certain lived experiences are asked about.
Don’t see anyone listed for the Identity Abroad Support Network? Call CET for more information and resources. Consider joining after your program to support other minority students abroad.