World Youth Service Society


World Youth Service Society 
Address: Yamato Bldg. 5F, 17-5 Nihonbashi Odenma-cho, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0011 Japan 
Phone: 03-5651-0339
Fax: 03-5651-0337
Programme Director: Ms.Atsumi Nishida


Life with Host families


WYS will select the host family for each student that has been accepted into the program. It is important to remember that all host families have volunteered to host exchange students, and therefore they are also expecting a great experience. Host families choose you based on your applications and on how well you would fit into their family in terms of hobbies, personality, interests and background.

It is also important to know that host families are also participants in this programme and just like you do, they also have a clear purpose for participating. It is very important that you, the host family, host school and WYS cooperate with each other so that the purpose for participating in this programme is met by all parties and the experience becomes memorable and pleasant for all.

A typical Japanese host family will usually be very busy during the week, so they will expect their host students to quickly adapt to their status of a family member and share responsibilities just as the rest of the family members do. They will also expect you to value their culture and to show continuous interest in learning about Japan. Be prepared to ask many questions and to communicate with them in Japanese as much as you can, even if that is not much! They will treat you as one of their own children, so be prepared to act as one! It is also important to remember that Japan is still a conservative country, so teenagers here are not given as much freedom as teenagers in Europe for example are. Be prepared to ask for permission and to practice the three golden words for good communication known as “ho-ren-so”: report, contact, seek advice.

Japanese School Life

From the structure of the buildings, to ways classes are held and ways students are required to behave, schools in Japan may be very different from your country’s schools.

In Japan, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) manages the national education system, and the Ministry is in charge of providing guidelines to schools, board of education and any other educational institutions. Therefore, each school will have a fixed curriculum and students in general cannot select classes depending on their interest. Japanese schools usually have approximately 7 classes a day. School usually starts at around 8:30 am and ends at around 4 p.m.


Exchange students will usually be placed into a “homeroom class”, and will have their own desk. Unlike in many other countries you are most likely to have almost all of your classes (except for art, music, physical education or any other special classes) in the same classroom – your homeroom classroom. There will be a homeroom teacher and a homeroom class everyday. Class schedule will be arranged by the school, so you will not need to register subjects by yourself. Most Japanese classes are lecture-based.

Japanese schools put a great emphasis on extracurricular activities. Club activities stretch from all variety of sport, including soccer, baseball, tennis, handball and dance to cultural clubs, such as tea ceremony, music, drama and broadcasting. Exchange students are encouraged to enroll in a club activity of their interest while on the program. Clubs are held after school hours and students usually spend approximately 1-2, at times even 3 hours a day engaging with their club activities. Participation in a club activity gives students a good opportunity to make friends, study Japanese and learn much about the Japanese culture.


Japanese Culture

While in Japan, you will be exposed to a regular Japanese life. That is natural and your goal should be to try to understand and adjust to this culture and its understandings, beliefs and way of living. You may find Japan very different from your own country and culture. Sometimes it may be difficult for you to understand many things, but learning of new cultures always requires much time and dedication.Here are some points students coming to Japan should know as they are about to settle down in Japan.


In Japan, emphasis is placed on groups more than individuals. Belonging to a group makes Japanese people feel secure and Japanese people are very cautious of group mentality and behavior in a group. Every person belonging to a group – family, school, company, etc – has a strict role that he/she is expected to follow, without being told directly of what to do. Causing troubles and disturbing the harmony of the group is considered rude and arrogant. Any individual behavior is considered a disturbance of the harmony in a group and therefore everyone’s mood is being affected. Understanding this way of thinking is essential for understanding how Japanese people think and behave. Cooperation and teamwork are necessary in any school life. Preserving consensus between people of the same group is essential in Japan. Remember, “Family” and “School“ are also a group.

Consideration and Thoughtfulness
Being a part of the group means that one is expected to understand and care of how others feel before they think of themselves and their own benefits. Being self-centered can 
damage the harmony between people so Japanese people put themselves in second and always think about others first. It is very important to have consideration and thoughtfulness to others. You should think what the other person will feel or think before you do or say something. Learning this is very difficult, because in this sense Japan is different from many foreign countries. 


In Japan, when people talk about themselves, they should not boast too much. Even if you are the best student in your school, you should not boast about it to others. Any aspects like good looking, clever or rich should better not be used when you describe yourself. Remember to be modest in Japan, so that people who are listening to you will be comfortable. Remember, being modest and being passive are totally different. You should be positive and telling what you think or what you want is not rude at all. You should keep a good balance.

Honne and Tatemae
“Honne” are Japanese people’s honest thoughts and feelings and “Tatemae” is what they are supposed to say in any given situation – in other words, their public facade; manners. People often avoid mentioning their honest feelings to keep a good harmony in their community and society as a whole. In the Japanese vertical society, where order is maintained by giving priority to groups rather than individuals, this is considered necessary for survival. The tactics of Tatemae are often used in order to solve problems efficiently without hurting anyone, while pushing one’s opinions too hard tends to be avoided.

Japanese Language

Many exchange students find the Japanese language difficult to learn due to its highly complicated writing system, which consists of three different character sets: Kanji (Chinese characters) and Hiragana and Katakana (two syllabaries of 46 characters each; together called Kana). All three sets are used when writing Japanese and it is essential that one understand all of them in order to have a good command/proficiency in the Japanese language. Knowledge of Hiragana and Katakana are essential due to the fact that those are necessary for learning Kanji.


Another key feature of the Japanese language that causes many students confusion is the difference of levels of speech. Different words and expressions are used when talking to an unknown person or a superior, such as school teachers, host family members or counselors, as opposed to when talking to a younger child or a close friend. Using polite phrases toward seniors is known as Keigo (honorific language). It is the status quo in Japan and one needs to master this in order to be fluent in the Japanese language.

Prior to the start of the exchange program, students are expected to be able to read and write Hiragana, Katakana, basic Kanji, in addition to have at least a basic understanding and command of the language, including being able to introduce oneself and greet in Japanese.


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