No matter the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and experiencing the outside world through our electronic devices is going to be with us for a while yet. To make the best of all this time to ourselves and to help out some wonderful instructors in Japan, who are offering live classes and courses online, we’ve put together a list of some of the best.

Keeping active

Exercising is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy and beat the stress. With gyms shuttered, and running around the neighborhood bringing on anxiety of either catching COVID or being considered a poor social distancer, what are the options for getting a workout? Luckily, if you’ve got enough space to lie down, you’ve got enough space for yoga. Bilingual yoga instructor Mika Saito has started offering online lessons over Zoom. You can make a booking to attend a class here. Classes are limited to 5 students. According to Mika, she can check the alignment of your poses through the camera, and give advice in real time.

Yoga Instructor Mika Saito | Photo by Charlie Moritz

Getting creative

Tokyo based Adrian Hogan—professional illustrator and one of the organizers of the popular Pause Draw meetups is offering drawing courses. Adrian was interviewed on the Tokyo Cheapo Podcast and he was a social media sensation for his illustrations drawn on paper coffee cups, with coverage on CNN and Quartz. You can see some of Adrian’s amazing work on his Instagram and you can find out more about Adrian’s online drawing classes and sign-up on Adrian’s website.

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Adrian Hogan | Photo by Adrian Hogan

If manga is your thing and you fancy trying your hand at becoming a mangaka, then Manga University has you covered. They have been offering live lessons from English-speaking Japanese manga artists. Anyone can participate, and you can sign-up through their website or on their Meetup page. The fee for participation is ¥1,000.

Ryo Katagiri gives a live manga drawing lesson | Photo by The Manga University

Improving your Japanese

All your usual excuses for not knuckling down and improving your Japanese now sound about as convincing as Donald Trump’s latest coronavirus remedy. If living in Japan is not reason enough, another good reason to improve your Japanese is the current terrible state of the Japanese economy. If you need to switch jobs, or find a new one, a certificate of Japanese language proficiency will come in handy.

Luckily for you, Japanese language teacher extraordinaire, Twitter superstar and friend of the site Akiko Suzuki is now offering online lessons. Akiko’s in-person lessons were so sought after that you couldn’t even sign up for them, so taking an online lesson is a great opportunity. Lessons are limited to 30 students and the cost is ¥1,000.

Photo by Akiko Suzuki

“First, I explain grammar points, show some example sentences and then make sentences with students. The students share the idea using the chat function.” says Akiko. “I pick some ideas up from the chatbox (correct the sentences if there is a mistake) and write in the slides. I make slides for each lesson and use it to explain. I speak Japanese in the class.”

Starting a new career

Whether you’re facing some time out of work, or you’re looking for a career reset, what better time than now to switch to a high-paying job in software development? If you’ve ever fancied becoming a developer or a software engineer, then Tokyo-based coding school Code Chrysalis now has remote, online courses available. Both its popular part-time Introduction to Programming class and its full-time Software Engineering Course are now taught completely online. In fact, the response has been so good according to co-founder Yan Fan that Code Chrysalis will continue to offer remote courses even after they return to the classroom. 

Pair programming | Photo by Code Chrysalis

As a special bonus for our readers, if you mention Tokyo Cheapo at sign-up, you can get 5% off any course or 10% off any course if you sign up with a friend (offer ends in August.) You can find out more about the Code Chrysalis remote experience here. You can also listen to an interview with co-founders Yan Fan and Kani Munidasa on the Tokyo Cheapo podcast.

Cooking up a storm

Seemingly overnight, people have discovered that all the implements and machines in their kitchens can be used to make actual food. And judging from social media, you people are making far more than you can eat!

airKitchen cooking lesson
Cheapo Carey learned how to make gyoza through airKitchen. | Photo by Carey Finn

airKitchen provides easy access to online cooking lessons with chefs worldwide, and they have a wide range of Japanese options. We tried out an online gyoza class with Chef Junko and were not disappointed (we were very full afterwards, though).

Alternatively, Ayuko Kokado of Buddha Bellies Cooking School in Kanda has started offering 60-minute live lessons over Zoom. You can email at to arrange an online session.

Buddha belly online
Buddha Bellies Online Class | Photo by Buddha Bellies

And although it’s not quite “live”, renowned chef and Japanese cuisine cookbook author Elizabeth Andoh of A Taste of Culture, has started the Tsudoi Project through a Facebook group. The group is for online get togethers and sharing cooking challenges based on “Japan’s best culinary practices”.

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Become the life of the (home) party

Lauren Shannon of Arigato Japan is running cocktail-making experiences. Before the one-hour session, you get the various ingredients ready at home, then Lauren guides you through how to create two different seasonal Japan-themed cocktails.

Photo by Arigato Japan

Learning new skills

For many years, the Tokyo campus of Temple University has been offering in-person continuing education courses in English. Now that we can’t all squeeze into a classroom, most of the same courses are being offered online—for a 25% discount on the usual fee. The offer can even be combined with other existing discounts. Some interesting courses include Professional Writing, Translation & Interpretation, Accounting, Investment & Finance, Computer Graphics, Publishing, and Web Design.

If you’re looking for ways to experience Japan virtually with less of the learning aspect, take a look at our guide to virtually travelling in Japan.

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