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How to choose a Japanese language school or course


So you have decided that you need to find a Japanese language school and start taking lessons.

Studying Japanese allows a comfortable and open life in Japan.


You CAN try to study Japanese on your own. There are various strategies, tools, and study apps that you can use.

You can try input through watching Anime, reading Manga, or using flashcard and learning apps (Anki, Duolingo…).

But this will not give you practice opportunities to communicate in Japanese.


There is no replacement for the accountability and engagement of taking Japanese lessons at a school.

When you self-study, it is easy to choose resources.

Selecting a Japanese language school Japanese is more difficult.


So, How should you choose a Japanese language school? 

Step 0


Before considering different criteria, you should know what your goals are.  

You should also know how your goals may change in the future.



Current goals


The easiest and most effective way to decide is to look at your Japanese strengths and weaknesses.

 It is crucial to understand clearly about your Japanese language skills.


Are you an absolute beginner with no prior exposure to the language? Do you have basic knowledge already? What skills do you excel at? What skills needs improvement?


Some simple questions can help you assess your current abilities.

Once you have these answers, choosing an appropriate learning environment becomes easier.



Future possible Japanese learning goals


Future goals imay change over time. Consider them carefully, but be open to changing them based on where you are in life.


Japanese requirements change based on your occupation and where you are in life. If these things change – it will change your goals.

In some settings, simple greetings would be enough, while advanced levels are needed in a business setting.

Your goals should be relevant to the kind of life you want to live in Japan – and how much Japanese you will realistically need for that.


For example, if you want to be a working professional in Japan. 

Do you know that some jobs and industries have higher, or lower, requirements for Japanese proficiency than others?


To apply for a job in the IT industry, generally speaking, a N3 JLPT will be sufficient, and the heavily used skills would be speaking and listening. On the other hand, having a job in a creative realm (marketers, copywriters…) might require N1 JLPT or higher.


There are jobs here, such as human coordinators and consultants, that don’t ask for too much Japanese, English alone would be sufficient. However, exactly because of this reason, these jobs tend to be more competitive.


Note: Whichever path you choose, many companies will request you to submita a Japanese resume. Here is a template for those in need.


If you plan to continue your academic education in Japan, an undergraduate or master’s program, will usually require an N2 or N1 level if the program is not taught in English.

Attending courses cated toward that goal would be a great idea.


For some people, traveling around Japan is your highest priority. Since the main method of transportation in Japan is train, bus, and subway, navigating can cause worry; Especially in larger stations like Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, and Shinagawa…


To be able to navigate around, your goal would be learning some simple Japanese phrases/expressions with a little bit of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. To achieve this, a short class will do.



Choosing a Japanese language school


Now that you know what your goals are, we can move on to the next section – criteria to choose the best Japanese language school for you.


Types of schools

There are 2 main types of Japanese language schools: Vocational and Private language schools.


What are the differences?


Vocational schools offer specialized Japanese language programs that are tailored to specific industries. Some of the standard options are healthcare, hospitality, or manufacturing…


At these institutions, you will study industry-specific knowledge/vocabulary to support your future work. This might be a good option for people who know exactly what industry they want to be in.


However, there are downsides such as rigid curriculums, and limited transferability; These courses are designed to teach specialized language and prepare you for communication primarily only in your job function.


Because of this you would have less flexibility either in exploring Japan or in switching careers afterward.


The second type of school are Private language schools.

At private language schools, their aim is to teach general proficiency in the Japanese language.

In comparison with vocational schools, private schools provide a wider selection of language courses targeted to various skill levels, backgrounds, and purposes…


In addition, since they are private, these institutions have more flexibility in both scheduling and course materials.


For example, here at Coto Academy, we have intensive courses for all levels (Beginner to Advanced), part-time courses held in both the daytime and in the evening for busy people, or 1-on-1 courses where instructors can help you with your specific goals, and you can tailor make your schedule.


And of course, if you are worried about your next JLPT exam, we have a pre-exam course to help you with that as well.





We want our study environment to be encouraging and helpful to our learning. Ideally, a clean space with air conditioning that has comfortable chairs.

You will be spending a large amount of time at your chosen school. Your study environment is important. Can you focus without distraction? Do you feel comfortable?


Check some photos of the school’s classroom. Are they spacious and well-lit? Are the seats comfortable?


In addition to that, assess whether the school offers dedicated study areas or resource centers. Outside of class, these areas are available for self-study, review, even casual chats with your friends.


If you are lucky, you can even find one with snack counters and free tea.

(Coto academy provides free water, green tea, and common study areas for our students designed to be quiet study spaces to help out of class learning.)




Look at reviews or testimonials of students. Google and Trust pilot are good places to find real information about what the school provides.


Try to look around in forums or social media platforms to see which ones are the recommended. Besides reviews, see if you can find any successful stories of previous students, or check linkedin for certifications issued by the school.

Teachers / Instructors


 A faculty of experienced, competent, and skilled educators is a good indication of quality. Are the teachers engaging? Do they enjoy teaching? Do the reviews of the school mention good things about the teachers?


Go through the school’s website to see the instructors’ general spirits. 

People often say you don’t choose a school, you choose a teacher. At Coto we make sure that our teachers share our mission and vision for helping our students to enjoy their lives in Japan.

A teacher is an important factor to consider because it depends on if you would prefer a comfortable and interactive environment or a formal one.





Location can also have an impact on your living environment and lifestyle.


Some aspects you should factor while choosing a school are accessibility – how long does it take to get there – and the surrounding areas – is it a downtown area or a suburb?  


Regarding accessibility, a common mistake we see people make is forgetting about the walking distance from the station to the school. 

For example, it takes only 1 train and 10 minutes to get to the nearby station, but 20 minutes walking from there.


It may be nice exercise but Japan’s summer and winter seasons are getting increasingly harsh.

It is best to see if you can find schools that are conveniently accessible by public transport and close to the station.

Coto academy locations are typically within 2-3 minutes walk of major accessible station.


surrounding areas, are also very important. 

The surrounding neighborhood may afford you opportunities to practice speaking Japanese.

Busy areas such as ShibuyaShinjuku, or Ikebukuro would be great options because of their proximity to restaurants. They are the hubs of entertainment in Tokyo.

Finding a school based on location is easy. 

Search for “Shibuya Japanese language school” or “Iidabashi Japanese language school” and you will have a list.



At Coto, many of our students already have permission to live and work in Japan.

We do not provide visas to study at Coto Locations, this means that our students are typically working professionals, business owners, or spouses. 

If you would like to study Japanese long-term and you need a visa to do so. You need to find a school that sponsors a visa. Since this is important, just directly ask the school if you feel unsure.


A lot of them provide free consultations regarding visa applications. This assistance might be especially useful if you are navigating the Japanese visa procedure for the first time.


Usually, you will have to prepare a package of documents which typically includes an official acceptance letter, a certificate of enrollment, and any other forms required by Japanese immigration authorities.


Choosing a course


If you choose to go to a vocational school, chances are you will be provided with a fixed curriculums. 

If you choose a private Japanese school, your learning process will mostly depend on your decisions.


This means you need to consider which type of Japanese course or lesson is best for you.





Firstly, you need to have a clear understanding of the course levels that are provided.


Usually, there are 3 levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. 

Some schools divide them in a more detailed style. Other options such as upper beginner or upper intermediate will also be there.


Making this scale too simple can cause problems. 

If your definition of “beginner” is different from your school’s it could lead you to trying to enroll to the wrong course.


You should always have a confirmation from the school to make sure everyone is on the same page. 

It is critical to have a consultation or to take a self-assessment test created by the school that includes both a written and speaking assessment.





 Private language schools will give you much more control over the pace of your study than vocational schools.

You are in a hurry and need an intensive course to gain knowledge? You can enroll in an intensive course that meets 5 days a week.


You are super busy with work, but still want to improve your Japanese in the evening? You can take part-time lessons.


Are you not a morning person? You can study in the afternoon.


Have a JLPT exam in 3 months and need preparation lessons? Find a JLPT course that meets that need.


There are many options for you to choose when it comes to schedule. Take some time to go through them and see what fits you the most.


Teaching methods


Teaching approaches have a big impact on how successfully you learn a language. Some methods you can consider are:

This is what sets Japanese language courses apart from the educational system. You can have a lot of fun in the classroom.




There is no lack of things to spend money on here in Japan, so every yen counts. Tuition fees can vary significantly among different Japanese language schools.


While affordability is important, keep in mind that tuition fees often reflect the quality of education, teaching resources, and learning facilities.


Don’t immediately turn away from expensive options. Carefully consider whether the fees are inclusive of course materials, resources, and any additional benefits offered by the school.


One useful trick to gauge if a course is truly expensive is to break down the tuition into a per-lesson or hourly cost. It’s normal to be discouraged seeing a big number, but you might be surprised when you do what we’ve just recommended.


Sometimes, you will stumble upon a discount offered by the school. Take advantage of that as well.


Application process


This might sound counterintuitive, but be careful with schools that too readily admit you. Not trying to be controversial or generalize here, but some institutions just want your tuition fees.


And it’s pretty easy to tell if you are talking to one. While having the conversation with them, see whether they put effort into evaluating your Japanese proficiency or not.


A longer and more difficult application process might come across as troublesome, but it’s the school trying to help put you in a suitable learning environment.


Online Japanese Classes


It’s not too new of a thing, but it does have some different aspects that you might want to consider compared to the in-person alternatives.


Not too many though, but let’s go through it together.


Class hours

Since everything is conducted via the Internet, location is not a concern anymore.


But the time plays a much bigger role.


First, if the class you are taking is held in another country, do remember the time zone differences. One thing worth noting is that there are online Japanese classes that provide both online lectures and recorded videos afterward.


On the other hand, for people who are taking online classes from the same country, the time zone is of no concern. In this case, what you want to pay attention to is the class hours. Remember to factor in the transportation time out. Usually, it would be much more flexible in comparison with in-person classes, do your research and pick your preferred time.



Besides the amount of tuition fees, you need to pay, other costs need to be considered.


First, pricing models. When do you pay, how much do you pay – are there discounts for bulk purchasing of lessons?

Do you pay for the whole course up front? 

Are all courses the same cost or do they have a point system where different-level classes cost certain points to get in?


Second, check the accepted payment methodsThere are new methods appear every single day. 

For safety purposes, prioritize PayPal and Credit cards. If a school is cash only – its harder to request refunds or change your study contract.


Also consider the cancellation policy

Having flexibility and control over your contract is good.

Review the timeframe, as well as the percentage they will give you back. 

Make sure there are no additional fees or specific conditions that can cause concern later down the line.


Online Classes

Online classes are another option to consider.  


You should consider your learning goals and if you learn better in a group with other learners and practice partners – or if you learn better solo.

Small groups of around 6 people are a great size to keep you motivated and engaged during class.

You should find a small group online class with speaking opportunities; the best would be to have both.

If your schedule does not match with online group classes:

another option is to look for private online classes



Due to the nature of online classes, teaching materials can have a significant impact. Unlike being in an in-person class, participating in online courses requires you to engage more through self-study.


So consider what learning materials are used and choose wisely.


Look for Japanese schools/courses that use in-house materials and textbooks. 

Generally speaking, they know what they are doing; they would not invest the costs and efforts to create and use those materials otherwise.

At coto we use a mix of award winning commercially published textbooks and in-house custom curriculum that we have developed.

Nihongo Fun and Easy, Genki are examples.


Studying with Coto


Coto Academy.


We have 4 locations: Shibuya, Iidabashi, Yokohama, and Azabu Juban, located in neighborhoods from entertainment hubs to more subtle and laid-back residential areas.


We take pride in our helpful and friendly staff.  


They will help you practice your Japanese while you are in school. They are passionate about helping you succeed in learning Japanese.

Many of them are bilingual and have experience living abroad and learning language themselves.


Our Small class sizes


We focus on small class sizes and a strong community atmosphere.

Our Japanese courses are designed to have a maximum of 8 people per class. 

That way we can ensure that there is room for people to speak, to question, and to interact.

If you would like to learn more – please get in touch with us by filling out the contact form.





  • Four volunteer Japanese teachers who met through the Japanese language volunteer group WAIWAI opened the “Iidabashi Japanese Language School” to provide professional Japanese language education for daily life.
  • Started offering private lessons in an apartment in Iidabashi, focusing on private lessons.
  • Published the Japanese textbook for survival use - “Nihongo Fun & Easy”
  • The three-week intensive course started
  • Incorporated as Be Unique Co., Ltd.
  • Started creating an original teaching material series for practical conversation
  • Started offering flexible group lessons “Japanese Plus”
  • Expanded and relocated to the current school building
  • Rebranded to Coto Language Academy
  • Started a recruitment business called CotoWork
  • Opened a sister brand in Azabu Juban called Coto Japanese Club
  • Started Coto Online Japanese Academy
  • Coto Japanese Academy Yokohama expanded in Yokohama