Learn the Japanese language and culture in Suwa, Japan

Summary Information

Ages:  16 and up
Location:  Suwa, 2.5 hours south-west of Tokyo
Accommodation:  Host Family
Duration: 1 week and up
Availability:  Flexible, year round admission
Supervision:  Suitable for mature teenagers, as there is unsupervised free time

EIL in conjunction with MEC Nagano Prefecture offers an exciting and thrilling language course in Japan. As Japanese is growing more popular in schools, we are finding more and more young students hoping to have a real Japanese experience. The MEC School is based in a rural town on the shores of Lake Suwa at the foot of the Japanese Alps, about two and a half hours south-west of Tokyo. It is an ideal base for participants wishing to combine language learning with exploring the environment and getting to know traditional Japan. MEC is a very small school with a very personal approach, giving individual attention to all students.


The school itself is open all year long and accepts students from all over the world. Not only does it host students wishing to learn Japanese, it also is a school that teaches English to Japanese students. At any one time, there will be very few students taking Japanese lessons, so each student will get private or near-private lessons, depending on the time of year.

Students stay with Japanese host families. Westerners are rare in Japan, and the idea of hosting is quite a foreign concept to them. The host families, therefore, feel honoured and privileged to meet enthusiastic young students, share their home, and exchange cultures with them. Irish students are treated as a special guest, are doted upon for the duration of their stay and sometimes build lasting friendships and stay in touch for years to come. This is truly one of the more exciting and memorable parts of this programme for many returned students. Families offer full board, which is a fantastic way to experience homemade Japanese cuisine. Lunches are packed for students during the week for school. Families are normally 30 to 45 minutes commute from the school. Students are advised on using public transportation and trains when they arrive for orientation meeting with the Japanese coordinator. They will be shown how to get to and from school using the trains.

Students will receive 15 hours of lessons each week in either private or semi-private lessons. The materials and books are supplied and lessons are constructed to suit the individual level of each student for maximum learning. Students will receive their lesson schedule (as it varies at different times of the year) after they arrive and have an orientation.

This programme is custom made for each student or group if more than one are going at the same time. The coordinator in Japan will construct the schedule of lessons and activities depending on what time of year and what opportunities are available.The coordinator takes into consideration the interests of the student and will try, but cannot guarantee all interests will be possible to accommodate. Some student in the past have done the following:

  • Excursion to Tokyo
  • Visit to Japanese car factory
  • Kendo
  • Shrine and temple visits
  • Theme park near Mt. Fuji
  • Visit and meet students local high school (which resulted in a local TV report)
  • Various museums
  • Japanese drum workshop/show
  • Tea ceremonies
  • Even have a meeting with the mayor!

Students have a custom-made activity and excursion programme. Depending on what festivals, activities and events are occurring at the time of year, our partners in Japan create a unique and varied cultural activity schedule. The students particular interests are taken into consideration for the programme construction as well, so if you have certain interests or hobbies, do let us know ahead of time to see if they can be facilitated. The school will organise 2 activities and one excursion per week stay.

Families play an additional role in activities and leisure. Families love to spend time with their students and will hope you will allow them to share your time with them doing various things. This is not “included” in the programme and it totally at the digression of each host family. The key thing is to have an open mind, a sense of adventure and try everything!



  • When will I get my host family information?

    It takes a lot more time to organise and find Japanese host families than in other countries. Even if you apply very far in advance, sometimes in will only be a matter of weeks before you get you family details. In the details will be the names, address and contact information for your family. Sometimes they will also send photos, but not always. Rest assured, they will be very eager to meet you when you finally arrive.

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  • What sorts of activities would there be?

    Every year and every programme is different from the next. Past participants have done some of the following but are not limited to:

    • Kendo
    • Shrine and temple visits
    • Theme park near Mt. Fuji
    • Visit and meet local high school
    • Various museums
    • Japanese drum workshop/show
    • Tea ceremonies
    • Even have a meeting the mayor!

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  • How do I get there?

    The nearest airport is Narita Airport. We will arrange personal transfers to and from there. In years past, students have flown via London with Virgin Atlantic.

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  • Why do I write a host family letter? What do I write?

    This purpose is two-fold:

    1. We use this letter to assess your current knowledge of Hiragana and Katakana Japanese. No prior knowledge is needed, but some basic knowledge is strongly encouraged. So this letter must be in Japanese as best to your ability. You should write your interests, hobbies and about yourself, family, job, school, friends, etc.
    2. It is a chance for your host family to know more about who is coming to stay with them. Host families will want to please you and are eager to know as much about you in order to prepare. Because of their knowledge of English may be limited, this may be the only way they really get to know the background details about you!

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  • Can I go with a friend?

    Friends can go on this programme together, but you will most likely not be in the same host family. During lessons and activities organised by the school, you will be together.

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Supervision is not 24 hours in Suwa. Host families welcome the student and treat them as a special guest during their entire stay. Students should treat their host parents as "parents" and respect curfews and family rules. The host families will be concerned about their safety and where they are at all times, so it is important for students to communicate frequently with them.

The coordinator in Japan frequently checks up on student welfare. The activities and excursions organised by the school are supervised, but during free time, students are allowed to explore on their own.

Students will be shown and given directions on how to get to and from school during their orientation. Most students travel by train and should be able to do this unassisted if enrolling in this programme.

The dates are 100% flexible throughout the year. We recommend that you arrive in Narita on a Friday or Saturday so you have time to rest and recover from the long journey before you begin your classes on Monday. Remember the day you depart will not be the day you arrive in Japan! We offer courses by the week. If you would like to stay longer than 4 weeks, we can certainly create a longer programme for you. We will consult with our partners in Japan if you are unsure when is best to arrive so you get the most from your stay. August is notoriously hot and humid in Suwa, so we recommend earlier in the summer than later.

Prices 2017*

Fee includes:

  • 15 lessons per week
  • Books and materials
  • Host family accommodation with full board
  • Activity programme: 2 activities per week and 1 excursion. The host family will also take part in leisure and entertainment, but students should pay for themselves.
  • Insurance with CareMed
  • Return transfers from Tokyo Narita Airport

Flights, personal spending and pocket money are not included.

*Please note that due to currency exchange fluctuations, EIL reserves the right to alter the price to suit the exchange rate at the time of booking.

  • Completed application form
  • €350 deposit
  • 1 passport photo
  • A “Dear Host Family” letter written in Hiragana and Katakana Japanese as best as possible.
  • Several personal photos to send along to your host family

When applying, please mention any hobbies, activities or special interests in Japanese culture to consider when constructing your programme.

We ask that you send applications no later than 2 months in advance of when you want to travel to Japan.

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