Choosing Japan for your studies can be a great choice! Japan is a mix of old traditions and modern culture, making it a special place to learn. Studying there is also not just about books – international students looking to travel can experience a society that values harmony, respect, and innovation, giving you a view of the world that’s really different.

Studying in Japan is awesome for a bunch of reasons. Their universities are some of the best globally, offering lots of different subjects to choose from. You also get to use the latest technology and participate in innovative research projects, making learning hands-on and fun. Plus, they teach you important things like being disciplined, working together, and being part of a community – skills that are super useful in today’s world.

So, picking Japan as your study spot opens up exciting opportunities for both learning and exploring their amazing culture!

How to Plan for Your Studies in Japan

Getting prepared to study in Japan? Let’s explore how to plan and get ready for this exciting journey!

Education System in Japan

Japan’s education system is quite known for its emphasis on academics, discipline, and a strong work ethic, spanning six levels from preschool to graduate school. Preschool, though not mandatory, sees over 70% enrollment, focusing on social skills and early literacy. Elementary and junior high schools provide comprehensive general education, while high schools offer public, private, and vocational tracks.

When it comes to higher education in Japan, the country stands out with its impressive array of 781 universities, 607 junior colleges, and 1,085 specialized training colleges. Graduate studies in Japan offer competitive master’s and doctoral programs, emphasizing advanced research and critical thinking skills. International student enrollment peaked at 312,214 in 2019 but briefly declined to 242,444 in 2021 due to the pandemic. However, it’s worth noting that enrollment is now back on pace, reaffirming Japan’s status as a preferred destination.

Moreover, 72,047 international students pursue bachelor’s degrees, and 53,122 are enrolled in master’s or doctoral programs, with China leading in student origin, as per the reports by JASSO and MEXT.

Choosing a University in Japan

Choosing a Japanese college involves considering factors like academic reputation, program offerings, and location. The University of Tokyo, one of Japan’s best institutions, is often regarded as one of the best in the world for its demanding academic offerings and stellar reputation in research. Another prestigious university dating back to 1869, Kyoto University, is celebrated for its strengths in science, engineering, and humanities.

Not to mention, Tohoku University in Sendai is a prominent research university with several Nobel laureates and a strong alumni network, especially in the fields of science, technology, and medicine. Osaka University is noted for its attractive campus culture and diversified foreign student community, and it provides comprehensive degrees in medical, law, engineering, and arts and sciences.

Consider the university’s strengths in your field of study, language of instruction, and campus culture when considering applying. You can also look into available scholarships, support services for international students, and potential for research or internships. By evaluating these factors, you can make an informed decision and choose the university that is the best fit for you.

Choosing a Study Program in Japan

To find the ideal study program in Japan, it’s crucial to evaluate your interests. Explore sought-after subjects like engineering, medicine, data science, business, Japanese language, and environmental science. Additionally, your decision should align with the specific level of study you are contemplating.

Apart from elementary and secondary education, students in Japan can pursue postsecondary education at several levels. There are a variety of educational paths available, ranging from two to three-year associate or diploma programs that emphasize vocational training for immediate employment to four to five-year bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs that give a thorough intellectual basis.

Here’s what you can expect from these study levels:

Degrees Duration
Diploma or Associate Degree Diploma or associate degree programs last 2-3 years and focus on vocational training, preparing students for immediate employment.
Bachelor’s Degree Bachelor’s degree programs span 4 years, providing a comprehensive academic foundation.
Master’s Degree Master’s degree programs last 1-2 years, focusing on specialization and advanced research.
Ph.D. Degree Ph.D. programs, lasting 3-5 years, emphasize original research.
Research Fellowships and Postdoctoral Training Research fellowships and postdoctoral training, lasting 1-3 years, offer advanced research experience and mentorship for those pursuing academic careers.

How to Finance Your Education in Japan

In this part, we’ll talk about the money side of studying in Japan. We’ll cover things like how much school costs, what it’s like to live there, and ways to get financial help or scholarships in Japan.

Tuition fees in Japan

In Japan, tuition fees for international students vary by degree level and institution. For undergraduate programs, fees can typically range from ¥820,000 to ¥900,000 per year (including the admission fees). Master’s degree programs cost ¥800,000 to ¥1,000,000, and doctoral programs range from ¥680,000 to ¥1,100,000 annually. National universities typically charge ¥820,000 to ¥900,000, public universities ¥820,000 to ¥1,000,000, and private universities ¥1,000,000 to ¥1,500,000.

Despite these heavy expenses, the quality of education and experience often justifies the investment. Studying in Japan can be a rewarding experience, and the cost of tuition is often outweighed by the benefits of a world-class education. However, students should carefully research and plan for all associated costs before applying.

Cost of Living in Japan

While tuition fees are generally similar in Japan, the overall affordability varies when factoring in accommodation and living costs based on city locations. University of Tsukuba, University of Hyogo, and Iwate University are more budget-friendly options, whereas the University of Tokyo, Waseda University, Keio University, and Doshisha University may be considered pricier due to higher living costs in their respective locations.

The cost of living in Japan as an international student involves several key expenses. Accommodation, typically the most substantial cost, ranges from ¥30,000 to ¥50,000 per month for shared apartments or dormitories, while private apartments may cost between ¥50,000 and ¥100,000 per month. Homestay arrangements, including meals, can range from ¥50,000 to ¥80,000 monthly.

Food expenses, varying based on dietary choices, average between ¥15,000 and ¥30,000 per month. Transportation costs, dependent on city and distance, include affordable monthly passes at ¥5,000 to ¥10,000, with cycling being a budget-friendly option. School-related expenses, encompassing textbooks and supplies, amount to approximately ¥10,000 to ¥30,000 annually.

Miscellaneous expenses, covering personal items, entertainment, and occasional travel, are budgeted at ¥10,000 to ¥20,000 per month. Health insurance is mandatory, with National Health Insurance (NHI) requiring a monthly premium of around ¥2,000. Combining tuition fees and living costs, the estimated total annual expenditure ranges from ¥1,556,000 to ¥2,856,000.

Actual expenses may vary, emphasizing the importance of careful financial planning and exploration of available aid options such as scholarships and student loans.

Based on the above estimates, here’s a detailed table of the estimated annual cost of studying in Japan for international students:

Expense Approximate Annual Cost
Tuition Fees ¥820,000 – ¥1,500,000
Accommodation ¥360,000 – ¥600,000
Food ¥180,000 – ¥360,000
Transportation ¥60,000 – ¥120,000
Books and School Supplies ¥12,000 – ¥36,000
Miscellaneous Expenses ¥120,000 – ¥240,000
Health Insurance ¥24,000

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial aid and scholarships for international students in Japan are diverse, including options such as Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarships covering tuition, living expenses, and travel. Universities offer their own scholarships, and private foundations provide aid based on various criteria.

Some specific scholarships include The Honjo International Scholarship Foundation, which covers tuition, living, and travel costs, and The JASSO Scholarship for Japanese Language Study, which supports language learners. Fully-funded or full-tuition scholarships are attainable, but competition is intense.

To enhance chances, initiate early research, meet eligibility criteria, maintain a strong academic record, write compelling applications, secure strong letters of recommendation, and adhere to deadlines. Diligent preparation increases the likelihood of securing these prestigious opportunities for studying in Japan.

How to Apply to Universities in Japan

Beginning the application process for Japanese universities is a significant step for international students, involving key aspects such as admission requirements, necessary documents, application deadlines, and general admission steps.

Admission Requirements

Meeting the admission requirements for Japanese universities involves fulfilling specific academic and language proficiency criteria. Most universities mandate completion of at least 12 years of formal education, equivalent to a high school diploma. For courses in Japanese, proficiency demonstrated through the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is required, with a typical minimum level of JLPT N2.

Alternatively, for English-taught courses, proficiency validated by English language proficiency exams like TOEFL iBT (minimum 80), IELTS (minimum 6.5), or DET (minimum 105) is necessary. Additional requirements may include an application form, fee, entrance examination, letter of motivation, and, for graduate programs, a research proposal.

Application deadlines vary but are generally in the fall and spring semesters. Strategic planning, thorough research, and adherence to eligibility criteria enhance the likelihood of successful admission to Japanese universities.

Required Documents

For admission to Japanese universities, international students typically need a set of required documents, including:

  • Completed Application Form: Personal information, academic transcripts, and letters of recommendation.
  • Application Fee: Usually around ¥30,000 – ¥50,000 (approximately US$230 – US$380).
  • Academic Transcripts: Official transcripts from all previous schools, translated into Japanese or English if not originally in either language.
  • Letters of Recommendation: Two or three letters speaking to academic abilities, character, and potential for success.
  • Language Proficiency Test Scores: Proof of proficiency in Japanese or English, depending on the program’s language, such as JLPT, TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test.
  • Entrance Examination Results (if applicable): Results for required entrance examinations, like the EJU.
  • Letter of Motivation or Research Proposal: Required for graduate programs, explaining interests and goals.
  • Additional Documents: This may include a passport copy, financial aid documents, or a certificate of health.

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines for international students in Japan vary by university and program. Typically, there are two main deadlines: one for the fall semester and another for the spring.

Fall Semester:

  • Undergraduate: Late November or early December for the following spring.
  • Graduate: Early September or October for the following spring.

Spring Semester:

  • Undergraduate: Late April or early May for the following fall.
  • Graduate: Early December or January for the following fall.

To maximize success, start the application process well in advance:

  • 12-18 months before: Research universities.
  • 6-12 months before: Gather documents.
  • 4-6 months before: Prepare application materials.
  • 2-4 months before: Review materials.
  • 1-2 months before: Submit and pay fees.

Setting realistic deadlines and seeking guidance enhance the process’s success. This approach ensures you can avoid any last-minute mistakes, have ample time to make necessary changes and increase your chances of a smooth and successful application experience.

General Admission Steps:

Here is a list of the general admission steps in most Japanese universities:

  1. Research Universities: Identify institutions and programs aligned with your academic interests.
  2. Review Requirements: Thoroughly examine admission criteria and deadlines.
  3. Gather Documents: Collect necessary application materials, including transcripts and recommendation letters.
  4. Complete Application Form: Accurately fill out the online application form.
  5. Pay Application Fee: Fulfill the specified fee payment during the submission process.
  6. Submit Application: Ensure timely submission by the designated deadline.
  7. Track Status: Keep tabs on your application status and await notifications regarding the admission process.

How to Obtain a Student Visa for Japan

A Japanese student visa is your ticket to enter Japan for higher studies. Typically costing around ¥3,000 – 6,000 and granted for a duration of up to four years, the visa term is contingent upon the specific study plan and duration an individual intends to spend in Japan. This important document not only grants admission but also denotes a dedication to scholarly work in Japan’s academic environment, which is rich in its culture.

Required Documents and Application Process

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the normal student visa requirements for studying in Japan typically include:

  • Passport
  • Photographs
  • Visa Application Form
  • Certificate of Eligibility

It’s important to note that they might vary based on individual circumstances, such as being a Chinese or Russian national. However, the application process for this visa is generally straightforward and accessible. The normal or common steps one must take are:

  • Receive a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE)
  • Submit the required application documents
  • Attend an interview (if called for)
  • Pay the visa fee
  • Wait for visa processing
  • Receive your visa and take your next flight to Japan.

How to Prepare for Your Arrival in Japan

With a visa, an admission offer letter, and a ticket in your hand, you might be thinking that you are all set to go for an unforgettable experience in Japan. However, meticulous preparation before your departure can enhance your arrival and initial days in this new country. Here are some essential aspects to consider before you land in Japan:

Try to Learn Basic Japanese

The national language of Japan is Japanese, and many locals only speak Japanese. While people in urban areas and tourist spots may understand and speak English, having a basic understanding of Japanese will significantly enhance your experience and daily interactions. Consider learning common phrases, greetings, and expressions, as this effort will not only help you navigate daily life but also showcase your respect for the local culture.

Arrange your Accommodation

Setting foot in a new country without any preparation for accommodation might be a risky option, potentially costing you significantly if you rely on hotels or motels for your initial nights. Planning and securing accommodation within your campus or hostels separately in advance is a crucial step to ensure a smooth and cost-effective start to your stay in a new country.

Complete your Packing Checklist

As you leave your home country, try and check that you don’t miss any important luggage or any such item of yours. Some important items that you must carry can include:

  • Travel and academic documents
  • A substantial amount of cash
  • Specific medications
  • A small, meaningful keepsake

Cultural Differences to Expect

Due to its location in the Far East, Japan holds a quite distinct culture other than many Western European nations. With added politeness, friendliness, and a deep sense of respect for traditional values, you can easily adapt to Japanese culture and be friends with the locals out there.

However, adjusting to Japanese food might pose an initial challenge, as it differs from the familiar local sandwiches, kebabs, or pizzas. In Japan, seafood is a staple, and you’ll likely find yourself enjoying various types of sushi. The shift in flavors offers a chance to broaden your culinary preferences and appreciate the simplicity and freshness that define Japanese dishes.

How to Study and Live in Japan

Beginning your academic journey in Japan is an exciting venture filled with diverse experiences. However, it comes with its set of challenges that can be overcome with the right guidance. Understanding and adapting to Japanese culture and diversity is crucial for a fulfilling student life in Japan. This guide addresses key challenges international students may face and provides helpful tips for success.

Challenge 1: Building Social Connections and Embracing Diversity

One challenge is making friends and embracing different cultures, which can enhance your experience. Attend events and join clubs to connect with both local and international students, creating a supportive community.

Challenge 2: Looking for Employment Opportunities and Understanding Work Rules

When it comes to employment opportunities for international students in Japan, the challenge lies in finding jobs and understanding work rules. Contact your university career services, attend job fairs, and explore internships to find these opportunities. Understanding the rules for working as a student is crucial, and networking with professionals can unveil potential job openings.

Challenge 3: Securing Housing and Understanding Health Insurance in Japan

Housing for international students in Japan can be a challenge, but with careful planning, it becomes manageable. Start your search early, explore options provided by the university, and ensure a thorough understanding of rental agreements. Additionally, health insurance is essential; explore different plans aligned with your needs, often facilitated by the university.

Can You Work in Japan After Graduation?

Japan provides a large number of work opportunities for international students post-graduation, reflecting its strong economic conditions and specific industry demands. Sectors like IT, engineering, healthcare, education, and business have a consistent need for skilled workers.

Understanding the complexities of work visas, such as the Technical Intern Training Visa and Engineer/Specialist Visa, specific to varying job roles is essential, aligning with Japan’s work permits for students. These visas facilitate an obstacle-free transition from student to professional, allowing you to contribute your skills to Japan’s workforce. Moreover, it’s crucial to recognize that proficiency in native Japanese is often a key factor in securing employment and thriving in the workplace.

To explore job opportunities, international students can leverage various resources. Online websites such as Online job portals, including GaijinPot Job, Daijob, and CareerCross, offer a platform to explore job listings and submit applications. Besides this, to secure a job in Japan, networking plays a crucial role. Actively participating in industry-specific events, seminars, and career fairs can provide direct access to employers and enhance your professional connections.

Utilizing university career services is another valuable avenue. Many universities in Japan have dedicated career support teams that assist students in navigating the job market, polishing their resumes, and preparing for interviews. Taking advantage of these services can provide tailored guidance based on your field of study and career goals.


In the end, why Japan? The answer lies in unique cultural experience, academic programs, and promising career prospects, encouraging prospective students to consider the once-in-a-lifetime journey of studying in Japan.

This guide has you covered from start to end, helping you smoothly transition into student life. Get practical tips for financial aid, discover available scholarships, and secure the best in the Japanese academic system. Learn about potential challenges faced by international students and find useful strategies to overcome them all in one place. As graduation approaches, explore job opportunities in Japan, and understand visa requirements, work permits, and key industries.


With all the information present in this comprehensive guide, you are ready to book your next flight to Japan and get a study experience like never before!


Hopefully, this will serve as your complete guide when planning your studies in Japan. If you need assistance with what study program to take, here’s a list of Available Programs in Japan! You can also check valuable tips and insightful articles on the Study in Japan page!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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