With over 600 institutes, Japan is a world-class education and innovation hub. The country is well-known for its high-class education, research facilities, and efficient environment, factors critical for your post-graduation journey. Japan is popular among international students for its support services and scholarships that make studies easier.

This article explores the distinctive aspects of pursuing a post-graduate degree in Japan, focusing beyond the application requirements, admission process, and potential costs. This guide will help you take advantage of the international outlook of many educational institutes.

Ph.D. Degree Admission Requirements

Applying for a Ph.D. in Japan as an international student requires a thorough understanding of the admission requirements. As an aspiring student, you must be prepared to create a comprehensive application package based on the application requirements of the specific university you are applying to. For instance, you might be required to provide proof of a master’s or bachelor’s degree, letters of recommendation, a research proposal, and application fees.

However, the admission requirements may vary from one institute to another. In the case of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, you must submit your transcript, application statement, recommendation letter, and proof of English language proficiency, among other items. On the other hand, Tokyo International University simply requires students to submit proof of completion of 16-year standard education and language proficiency documents. Here’s a list of the general requirements that you need to prepare for your post-graduation journey in Japan:

1. Proof of Master’s Degree

For a Ph.D. program in Japan, you must have completed a bachelor’s, master’s, or equivalent degree. Many universities require students to upload their diplomas or transcripts of their past degrees (BSc, MSc, etc.) as proof of completion.

2. Letter of Recommendation

Submitting a letter of recommendation is essential when applying for a doctoral degree. This is your chance to stand out from other applicants by presenting a holistic view of your academic and professional journey. The referee must be someone who has overseen the academic or professional journey of the applicant.

3. Research Proposal

Many Japanese universities, like Nagoya University, require their students to submit a well-detailed research proposal. Most of the time admissions committee may even request students to present their research proposal. It outlines the research you want to pursue during your Ph.D.

4. English Proficiency Test Scores Identity Validation Documents

If you apply for English-language Ph.D. programs, universities will require you to submit proof of English language proficiency.

5. Identity Validation Documents

When applying to postgraduate programs at some universities, you may need proof of identity by submitting a copy of your passport or ID documents. This is required to validate your background and nationality.

Language Proficiency Tests Needed for Doctoral Studies

The language requirements for pursuing a doctoral degree in Japan depend on your selected medium of instruction for the specific program. Generally, Japanese universities offer two types of programs: English and Japanese language programs.

Suppose you’re applying to a Japanese-language program. In that case, you must submit proof of Japanese language proficiency through test scores like the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) or the Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) Examination. Although the minimum scores differ for various universities, a proficiency level of N1 or N2 on the JLPT is generally accepted across postgraduate universities. Apart from test scores, you should also expect to submit a research proposal or a sample of your academic work written in Japanese.

As an international student, mastering Japanese may take a lot of work. You can opt for English-taught doctoral programs such as the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, the International University of Japan, and Waseda University. You can demonstrate English-language proficiency through standardized test scores such as the TOEFL (with a minimum score of 80) or IELTS (with a score of 6.0).

Ph.D. Degree Application Process

Japanese universities are very selective about the postgraduate students they admit. Thus, it is critical to understand the admission requirements for a doctoral degree in Japan, which is crucial for a successful beginning of your postgraduate studies.

Most Japanese universities, like Tokyo International University and Ristumeikan Asia Pacific University, have online admission portals to make the application process seamless. Here are the key steps for admission, highlighting the procedural details that prospective students must consider:

Step 1. Find a Suitable Ph.D. Program and Potential Supervisor

Selecting an appropriate postgraduate Japanese university requires extensive research, especially if you apply to a foreign country. Start by checking university websites and gathering information about admission requirements.

Step 2. Prepare the Required Documents

Depending on the admission requirements of specific institutes, gather the required documents. This may involve requesting your current institute for the transcript of records, letters of recommendation, personal statement, and/or research proposal if required.

Step 3. Applying to the University of Your Choice

Several universities allow prospective international students to create their accounts online, upload the required documents, and invite referees to upload their letters of recommendation on the admissions portal. Students will need to pay the application fees online via credit or debit cards. In some cases, instead of the prospective students being the ones to upload the requirements online, some Japanese postgraduate institutes require the institutes where the prospective student currently studies to be the ones to directly upload or email official documents such as transcripts of records and diplomas.

Step 4. Wait for the Decision

If you have applied online, the institute will inform you of your admission decision online or via email. In some cases, students might have to undergo entrance examinations or interviews during selection.

Step 5. Accepting the Admission Offer and Enrolling at the University

The university will provide you with an official acceptance letter and admission certificate if accepted. Once you have confirmed your acceptance, you must pay the tuition fee and make the necessary arrangements for the visa application process.

FAQs: Ph.D. Application Process in Japan

Is It Expensive to Study Ph.D. in Japan?

Although cost concerns most international students, studying in Japan is relatively affordable compared to other popular study destinations. The cost of a Ph.D. degree depends on the type of university you apply to, with public universities having lower fees than private universities. Some subjects are costlier, like dentistry, medicine, and pharmacy.

In the case of the University of Tokyo, the cost of a Ph.D. in Medicine or Veterinary Science is around ¥520,800 annually. Students must also pay an admission fee of about ¥282,000 at the time of application submission.


Applying for a graduate degree in Japan requires strictly following the specific university guidelines. To better prepare for your studies in Japan, make sure to check the university website for any updates or changes in the application process.


Hopefully, this article will guide you in planning your graduate studies in Japan. If you are still unsure of what study program to take, check out the Available Programs in Japan for more options! You can also find insightful articles about Japan on our Study in Japan page!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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