Ideally, Japanese majors should study abroad during their second or third year of language study.
Keep in mind that in some cases your session abroad will run according to the Japanese academic calendar (March through December).
Your first year is best spent fulfilling general education requirements and language prerequisites. If you’re interested in getting a head start on your language study, the summer between your first and second year is a good time to study abroad.
Sophomore year is a good time to study abroad. Most language credit earned abroad will count toward your major. Refer to your 4-year graduation plan  to ensure you’ll be at the right language level and will have earned the required number of hours before your fifth semester begins. Depending on your program, you might be able to get literature or other culture courses approved by your major advisor.
Junior year is also a good time to study abroad. Again, most language courses taken abroad will count toward your major —just be sure to review your language level before enrolling so you don’t double your language courses. Depending on your program, you might be able to get literature or other culture courses approved by your major advisor.
You may also study abroad during your senior year —just be sure that all of your requirements will be met for graduation upon your return.
If you can’t seem to fit study abroad in during the school year, consider a short-term summer program like the Hokkaido Summer Language Program ! Or one of the other summer programs suggested here .