Tips and Comments from Past Interns

  • Plan for a trip every weekend, and don't be afraid to practice Japanese at every opportunity.
     
  • This has been said many times, but I'll say it again: bring more gifts than you think you'll need. Buy a few extra small things, like coasters/pens/etc., and you can bundle multiple items together if you think you have too many. You can't go back and buy more once you realize you don't have enough.
     
  • 100 yen stores have a nice selection of gift-wrapping supplies (in addition to lots of household goods you might want) for very cheap.
     
  • If you have a Smartphone, download an app that can access the train/bus route information. Google Maps has pretty good routing, but I also sometimes used Navitime for Japan Travel (free on iOS/Android).
     
  • Find some Yelp-like services for suggestions on food and travel. Here are a few suggestions: Gurunavi (has an English site, not all restaurants are listed, no user ratings), Tabelog 食べログ (Japanese-only, basically Yelp), Hot Pepper (Japanese-only hotpepper.jp for food, beauty.hotpepper.jp for hair salons), japan-guide.com (excellent travel guide which has entries and good simple maps for many major cities/tourist areas), Japan Travel Guide (iOS travel guide app), bento.com), TripAdvisor and Wikitravel (both a little hit-and-miss but good for getting ideas).
     
  • If you want to visit the Studio Ghibli Museum, buy your ticket in advance.
     
  • Be sure to talk to your coworkers and try and hang out with people your age especially when there is a large age gap with the team members.
     
  • I would recommend that future interns be comfortable enough with the Japanese language to have normal conversations in Japanese. I believe that not having sufficient Japanese language experience makes it difficult to communicate with Japanese people outside of the professional setting. I would highly recommend that interns communicate with the people who have worked at their host company in the past.
     
  • Clarify with your advisor what your topic is as soon as you can. In addition, try to subtly ask how many people are in your team so you get the right number of gifts to give at the end of the internship.
     
  • Talk to other people in the company, especially the younger ones since they usually have Facebook accounts.
     
  • The 'Designated Activities' visa type makes you ineligible for discounts that are for foreign tourists only. For example, the Osaka Unlimited Pass had 1-day and 2-day versions (the latter was for foreign tourists only), but I wasn't eligible for the 2-day pass. I don't think visa type matters for duty-free products (i.e., electronics), but have your passport with you.
     
  • Look into places where there's free Wi-Fi before leaving, since some of them require you to create an account/download an app. Some train stations in Tokyo have them but I recommend renting a pocket Wi-Fi device (through the company) if you're the type of person that gets lost really easily.
     
  • Get a Suica card (prepaid smart card for most public transportation in Japan) ASAP, and if you have a phone number, get the one with your name on it.
     
  • Bring extra deodorant; Japanese deodorants aren't the same as American ones.
     
  • Leave extra space in your luggage or bring an empty second luggage, especially if the people you know in the U.S. quietly expect you to bring back a lot of Japan-only items.
     
  • Make sure to do some traveling and see more of Japan than just the Tokyo area.  Also, if possible, I recommend trying to get a reservation at Sukiyabashi Jiro.  If you enjoy Ghibli movies, then getting tickets to the Ghibli museum is definitely worth it.  If you want to go to Kappabashi, be aware that most stores seem to be closed on Sundays.  If you plan to meet up with friends, set very specific meeting locations, many train stations are large and have many different gates, so inside of the gates is probably a good decision, though that might not be possible if you take trains of different companies (Keikyu vs JR for instance).