To be fair though Jason, you can end up going to somewhere a bit more provincial and end up speaking no Japanese and have everything done for you. So far, my university in Japan next year has a whopping 8 international students is stuck in a giant posh residential area (not exactly the type of place gaijin would hang out.) Seems so far that my current process has been doing everything in Japanese (only application in the entire year that is entirely in Japanese. Its very much being thrown in the deep end.
People seem to think that Tokyo is one giant expensive metropolis with lots of foreigners where everyone can speak english, and if you stay clear of the obvious places its definitely not that. Maybe people, have made the assumption, rightly or wrongly, that simply avoiding Tokyo by default improves your Japanese. Its all about pushing yourself personally - I think you made this comment yourself a few months back in our year abroad meeting.
For most people its a matter of cost. As you know, Sheffield are now sending 10 students to Doshisha. Most people wanted to avoid this - but still go outside of Tokyo... Normally, if you have an ideal uni in mind, they will send you there but some unis (Nagoya springs to mind) have some nasty pre-requirements. Also, just because you aren't in Tokyo doesn't mean you are spared having to commute. Kobe for example takes two train rides to get to from the student dorms.
I can understand why people avoid Tokyo life, obviously my reasons are a mix of personal and social reasons (most of my mates and g/f are in Yokohama/Tokyo area.) Whilst I think its cool to go somewhere a bit smaller with less gaijin - its almost as if, once you've explored the city and been to all the places you've been to - you can get bored pretty quick and the novelty can wear off. Maybe I'm wrong, but this is just my personal opinion.
- Huge city, always stuff to do, never get bored
- More opportunities for different types of work, considerably higher pay
- Easier to find random stuff from home (imported goods etc.)
- Easier to find fellow gaijin (sounds stupid, but sometimes you do need to find fellow british people as well.)
- Suica and o-saifu keitai in virtually any store, supermarket, konbini or station. Far more convenience...
- Easier to find english speaking staff when you have to start signing up the horrendous paper work or look for a good internet provider.
- easier to find completely random things for all tastes.
- mostly get to live in an apartment, throws you into tokyo lifestyle a bit more.
- If you ever wanna work there (and most likely you will) you will be better prepared than most people.
- no horrendous provincial dialects (although the taxi drivers do speak crazy.)
- easy to travel to and from other areas of japan and the rest of asia.
- Busy, crowded
- Expensive. (stay clear of the bars unless you want to drink £7 pints.)
- Huge commutes (especially for unis located in central Tokyo.)
- Lot more gaijin (lot more gaijin who speak no Japanese anyway. Especially the ones you have to help out on a regular f---ng basis.)
- aspects of living in an apartment on your own. (although there are other students nearby as well.)