Studying in Japan

Updated 2023-01-20 07:08

Have you always dreamed of studying in the Land of the Rising Sun? Japan is attracting more and more international students. Although the Covid pandemic has affected visa issuance significantly, the recovery is there. Since March, international students have again been allowed to study in Japan. Here is a guide on how to apply, admission procedures, available courses, and how to get a scholarship.

What are the benefits of studying in Japan?

Japan is the world's third economic power behind the United States and China. There are countless articles about this archipelago, as well as clichés like the one that says: "Japan, between tradition and modernity". This expression, which has been used around the world for so long, does not fully convey the richness of Japanese culture. That's why you need to go there to discover, learn and live your dream in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Studying in Japan is one of the best ways to discover the country from the inside. As a tourist, you won't have the time to experience it fully. The duration of the stay will be too short to live in the rhythm of the seasons, experience the daily rush of Japanese public transportation, discover the Japanese educational system, and live like a local.

Studying in Japan will also give you an idea about a long term immigration: for example, if you want to build your career in Japan. Regardless of whether you choose Tokyo, the capital, Kyoto (10% of Kyoto's population are students), Fukuoka, in the south of Japan, or another city, the change of scenery will be all part of your experience.

Which type of visa is needed to study in Japan?

Before the Covid pandemic, there were two possibilities: stays of less than 90 days without a visa for nationals of exempted countries or stays of more than 90 days with a student visa. Japanese language schools used to accept tourists and long-term students, while universities used to accept students for a university program.

Since COVID, however, things have changed. Until further notice, there are no longer any visa exemptions. All travelers need a visa to move to Japan. These new entry formalities compromise the project of students who just want to learn Japanese in a school. On the other hand, the procedure remains unchanged for university admission.

Enrolling in a language school in Japan

Currently, all international students need a visa to move to Japan and study Japanese. Start by contacting the school that you are applying to, as they are responsible for providing you with all the information relevant to your admission. The school will act as your sponsor and will make the connection with the immigration authorities. The immigration authorities will send the CoE (Certificate of Eligibility) to your school, which will forward it to you. You can then apply for a visa.

The procedure is long (about 6 months), and the processing can be extended due to the current context. Make sure you know when you want to start the school year. Schools usually have semesters or seasons (spring, summer, winter).

International students can start by studying Japanese in a school and then continue their training in a Japanese university. Note that the university year in Japan starts in April.

Preparing to enroll in a Japanese university

Admission to a Japanese university requires an exam, and most language schools offer preparatory courses and special JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) courses. In fact, faculties often require a level of Japanese N2 (advanced intermediate level) to be sure that the student can follow the curriculum in Japanese.

If you are considering a school and faculty program, you should choose a school with a business-oriented curriculum, which includes preparation for the university entrance exams. However, there is no official exam prior to enrolling in a Japanese language institute. In practice, each structure conducts an entrance exam to determine the level of each student. The exam can be taken online before arriving in Japan or on-site on the first day of school.

Applying to a Japanese language school through an agency

If you need guidance or advice, you can seek help from an agency that will take care of the process from start to finish. They can even continue to advise you once you are in Japan. Motivist Japan is one such agency providing free advice to students. The staff of Motivist Japan speaks French, English and Japanese, among other languages. The agency gets paid when you choose to study with a partner school.

Selected language schools in Japan

Motivist Japan's partners include ARC Academy, which prepares students for the JPLT and the EJU (Examination for Japanese University), a compulsory exam for entry into a Japanese university. Waseda Edu Language school prepares for the EJU. Some schools are only present in Tokyo. Others, like ARC Academy, ISI (International study institute) or Genki JACS (Japanese and culture school) are present in different cities. ARC Academy is located in Tokyo (2 schools), Osaka and Kyoto. ISI has 3 schools in Tokyo, Kyoto and Nagano. Genki is present in Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Fukuoka.

To combine learning and cultural discovery, why not choose a school close to nature? Located in Yokowari, Shizuoka Prefecture, Mount Fuji Japanese Language school is, as its name suggests, a language school that is located near the famous Mount Fuji, one of the symbols of the country.

Good to know:

Japanese language schools are expensive. On average, expect to pay between 690,000 and 900,000 yen per year.

Taking the EJU in Japan

To be admitted to a Japanese university, you must first pass an entrance exam. This is known as the EJU, the Examination for Japanese University admission for international students. The EJU verifies the student's ability to attend an undergraduate or graduate school. However, the EJU does not prevent the university from conducting its own entrance exam.

How to take the EJU, quick guide

The EJU focuses mainly on Japanese culture, the Japanese language, science and mathematics. The exam can be taken in English or Japanese (some websites only offer it in Japanese). The exam is held twice a year, in November and June.

In addition to Japan, the EJi is available in 14 other countries: India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Philippines, South Korea, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong. This means that you must be in Japan or another Asian country mentioned to take the exam.

The EJU costs 7,500 yen for one subject and 14,204 yen for 2 or 3 subjects.

Taking the JLPT

The JLPT (Japanese language proficiency test) is not mandatory for enrolling in a university. But it is always helpful to have it, especially if you have a good level. It is a plus point for students. While it is not mandatory for studying in Japan, the JLPT can be required by companies (level 2, advanced intermediate, or level 1, bilingual). So this is another reason why you should consider taking the test.

The different levels of the JLPT

There are 5 levels of JLPT:

  • N5 and N4: beginner, beginner level of listening comprehension.
  • N3: low intermediate level of listening comprehension.
  • N2: intermediate level of oral comprehension.
  • N1: advanced listening level, bilingual.

The JLPT is an MCQ (Multiple Choice Questions) exam, as it is done in the Japanese educational system. There is no oral but a listening comprehension test in the form of MCQs. However, the limitations of the JLPT has been criticized by many as it does not allow for judging the reading and speaking level of the candidates.

Where to take the JLPT?

For companies, the JLPT is used to prove that the candidate has a good understanding of the Japanese language. It proves that you have a sufficient level of Japanese to join the Japanese labor market. Unlike the EJU, the JLPT can be taken in many countries worldwide: France, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Ukraine, Slovenia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ghana, South Korea, China, etc.

How to enroll in a Japanese university

The procedure for enrolling in a Japanese university is now the same as enrolling in a Japanese language school (except for the EJU). International students must be sponsored by their university to obtain the Certificate of Eligibility (CoE), which is an essential document to apply for a visa.

Is it necessary to go through a language school before applying to a university in Japan?

It all depends on your language skills and your needs. If you have a JLPT N2, you don't need to join a language school in Japan. If you are starting from scratch, be prepared to spend at least one year in Japan to acquire the level required for the EJU, so make the most out of your stay in Japan to take the JLPT. Tokyo and the other cities that organize the exam offer two sessions (July and December), compared to other countries.

Regardless of your starting level, take the time to consider all the details of living in Japan as a student. You will also need to cater for your needs during your stay as an international student in Japan. If you choose to work in Japan, you are limited to 28 hours per week. Some international students choose to come to Japan to learn the language in an accelerated way (within 1 year) before enrolling in college. Others prefer to save money by learning the language at home before looking for universities in Japan.

Why learn Japanese when the university offers programs in English?

Most major universities in Japan offer modules in English. The EJU can be conducted in English too. But you must keep in mind the context in which you are studying. Coming to study in Japan to take only English courses does not favor complete immersion (unless you have come for a few months only). But if you plan to stay longer, it is better to learn to speak and read Japanese.

University fees in Japan

Studying in Japan can be expensive. Many variables contribute to the high education costs, like the institution's reputation, its public or private status, the location, the variety of programs offered, the presence of a university campus, amongst others.

Studying at a national university will cost around 820,000 yen per year. Fees can go up to about 1,000,000 yen for a private university and as high as 3,200,000 yen for an undergraduate degree at a private university in medicine, pharmacology or dentistry.

How do I get a scholarship to study in Japan?

There are scholarship options, tuition waivers, and government-sponsored programs for international students in Japan. For more information, contact your Embassy. If you are attending a university that is partnered with a Japanese institution, check with them as well. You may be entitled to assistance as part of an academic exchange.

Can international students work in Japan with a student visa?

In principle, the student visa does not allow anyone to work in Japan. When applying for a student visa, your school will issue you an authorization to work. You must present it to the immigration services on your arrival in Japan (at the airport). The agents will stamp your passport to indicate that you can work.

As mentioned above, you are allowed to work for a maximum of 28 hours per week. However, the nightlife sector is forbidden to international students.

More tips for international students in Japan

Studying in Japan is a rich experience. Whether you choose Tokyo, the capital, or another city, you will discover unique landscapes, new activities, and a different way of life. Take the time to research universities. Proper planning is essential for a successful project.

If possible, come to Japan a few weeks before joining university. Get the most out of this period to settle the administrative formalities and discover your new environment.

Ask questions and for information. Do not go by misconceptions. seek help if you have any difficulties. Studying is not easy and can be even more stressful when you are abroad. Do your best to master the basics of Japanese before coming to Japan

Useful links:

Study In Japan

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan – Student Visa

Todai, University of Tokyo

JASSO - Japan student services organization

List of countries in which the JLPT can be taken

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.