How do I get to Kanazawa?
From Narita Airport:
One can get to Kanazawa from Narita (NRT) either by air or by Shinkansen (the Japanese rail system). If you decide to fly, your domestic flight will likely depart from Haneda (HND) airport and arrive in Komatsu (KMQ). From there, you can take the bus to Kanazawa station.
If you decide to go by train, the easiest way to get to Kanazawa may be to first take either the Narita Express or the Keisei Skyliner into Tokyo Station, take a second train(shinkansen) into Kanazawa. When you buy your tickets to Kanazawa at Narita airport, they will most likely explain the route in more detail. http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ is a useful site for planning this trip.
From Osaka Airport:
From Osaka Airport (KIX) one can take the JR Special Express Thunderbird, which runs very often and goes straight to Kanazawa. One can also take the JR Special Express Haruka to Shin-Osaka station and then switch to the Thunderbird. The ride is from 2.5 hours to 3.2 hours. http://www.kanazawa-tourism.com/eng/info/info5.php might be a useful site.
Remember that tickets are bought in the station, so do not worry about not having them in advance. Also be aware that layover time for the trains may be very short so make sure you know which track your train arrives on and from where it departs as sometimes you may need to go up or down stairs. Checking a map beforehand would be useful, and don’t be afraid to ask someone for help if you need to!
What will my host family be like?
There are host families with all sorts of compositions, so there’s no typical host family, but after you have been accepted, you will receive an email with your host family’s profile – their names, ages, etc.
Host families have all been carefully selected and most people generally have a very pleasant experience with their host families.
How do I get from Rifare from my host family’s house?
Depending on where your host family lives, you will most likely take the bus or train into Kanazawa. Rifare is very close (within walking distance) to Kanazawa Station, so chances are you won’t need to walk far from the station/bus stop once in the city. Your host family will help you the first time you commute to make sure that you know the correct way to get to Rifare.
How do I pay if I need to take the bus/train to Rifare?
Since commuter passes are cheaper than paying for fare each time you commute, you will buy a commuter pass for a month at a time on your first day with your host family. Costs vary, but can be expected to be over 10,000 yen for one month. PII will reimburse you about a week later.
Do I need to bring cash? When/where should I exchange money?
Since you will probably need cash on your first day with your host family to pay for your commuter pass, you should exchange some cash (about 20,000 yen) before coming to Japan.
Once you’re in Japan, there are various places where you can exchange dollars for yen. One of the best (and most convenient places) is the post office. There is one located inside Kanazawa Station, as well as a few located closer to Rifare. The station usually offers the best exchange rate.
Do I need a cell phone? Where can I get one?
Cell phones aren’t necessary, but they’re useful for getting in touch with your host family and other students. There are phone rental stores inside airports. Getting your phone on international roaming is another option if you don’t plan on calling much.
Should I bring a computer?
Computers are useful for doing homework if you want to do it at your host family’s house – some assignments are required to be typed. Computers are available for use at Rifare.
Will my host family have WiFi/Internet?
Not all host families have Internet, and some who do have Internet do not have WiFi. However, you can access the Internet at Rifare – there is both wireless service and also wired Internet accessible at computers in the classrooms and library.
Where can I get lunch?
There are small restaurants very close to Rifare; however, since cultural activities in the afternoon often leave little time to sit and wait for food, these might not be the best options. (However, when you do have time, lunch specials at these restaurants are generally very affordable.) The most convenient is the convenience store, FamilyMart, located directly underneath Rifare, which sells drinks, snacks, bento, onigiri, salads, sandwiches, etc. The train station has restaurants with fast service, as well as a small supermarket on the second floor that sells bento, sandwiches, and other prepared foods. Oomicho Market has lots of food stalls (croquette, yakitori, etc.), a few sushi restaurants (kaitenzushi included), and some pricier restaurants on the second floor, but it takes a while to walk there. Walking beyond Oomicho, there are more options, but walking there can take up to 15 minutes, so explore when you have more time!
What is there to do on the weekends?
Kanazawa is a city full of history – there are many temples, shrines, and old neighborhoods that you can explore. If you’re not really into that, there few department stores like Forus near the station that sell clothing (third floor generally has cheaper clothing brands), books, CDs, etc, as well as many karaoke places. Karaoke in particular is fairly inexpensive and a good way to bond with your fellow PII'ers!
Kanazawa is also very close to the sea, so you can quite easily go to the beach. Ishikawa Prefecture also has a zoo that’s accessible by bus.
On the long weekends, it’s possible to go to Kyoto and/or Osaka for several days.
If I want to travel outside of Ishikawa over the long weekends, what’s the best method of transportation?
Trains are fastest, but also very expensive. Buses are the cheapest (under about 8,000 yen, at most), but take much longer than trains and can also get unexpectedly delayed. There are discount buses with very limited seating and extremely cheap prices, but their schedules are not as accommodating. There are also overnight buses that depart from Kanazawa station. In all of these cases, it’s best to start planning early.
Your host family might know a lot about transportation – ask them for help.
Where would be a place to stay on these trips?
Youth hostels are abundant in Japan and very popular among college travelers. Prices are generally cheap and are worth looking into as they may offer group discounts. Many of the hostel staff are also fluent in English.
Hotels are also an option, but in both cases, be sure to book ahead!
Should I bring a gift for my host family? What kind of gift should I bring?
What is a typical day like?
Although class starts at 9, you will typically wake up much earlier to have breakfast with your host family and commute to Rifare. When classes start, usually, after each hour, you will have a five minute break. After class ends at 12, there is time for lunch. After lunch, there may be a cultural activity – either mandatory for the entire group or optional (for optional activities, you sign up to participate on a paper posted on a bulletin board opposite the IFIE office). Transportation to the activity is provided. Activities usually end between 3 pm and 5 pm; afterwards, you are free to do whatever you wish – stay at Rifare, return to your host family’s house, etc. If you decide not to go home for dinner, you should contact your host family or alert them beforehand so they know not to make your share for you.
How does the workload compare to a regular Princeton course?
The workload is definitely comparable to a Princeton course. Especially challenging is the pace – you need to learn kanji quickly, for example. It’s impossible to go one day without studying or doing homework, except maybe on the weekends. However, this is the only class you have, so most likely you will not be up into the wee hours of the morning working on homework if you leave a few hours to do it.
Often, it may be better to study efficiently and consistently rather than cramming a lot. Also, your host family will probably be more than happy to help you if you have any questions and are usually pretty nice about you trying out new grammar points in conversation with them.
What kind of clothes should I bring?
Part of your stay in Kanazawa will be during the rainy season, so an umbrella is helpful (although you can buy them quite cheaply upon arriving in Kanazawa). Weather in the summer of 2016 ranged from a little chilly to extremely hot. For the most part, the weather will be warm – bringing more than one pair of pants is probably unnecessary.
Remember that Japanese people typically do more laundry more often than Americans – as often as every day! It would be best to try to get into this habit. Doing so would mean fewer clothes to bring! Also, if you are planning to pack light and buy a lot of clothes from Japan, remember that sizing is very different and an XS in America may typically be an M in Japan.
You will visit the prefectural government office within the first week – formal attire is required for this. There is also a farewell party at the end of the program for which you may want to wear something more formal for also.