Why study in Japan
Also known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan boasts a long-standing tradition of academic excellence that, together with its truly fascinating and unique culture, makes it the perfect destination for students worldwide searching for a completely new experience. With the country's safe, clean, and well-organised, you can easily understand why a quarter of a million students from over 170 countries choose to study in Japan.
Indeed, thanks to its strong emphasis on rigorous academic standards and deep respect for learning, many consider Japan among the best places to study in Asia. According to international rankings, several Japanese universities consistently rank among the best in the world, with top academic excellence, research output, and student satisfaction scores. For example, the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are in the Top 100 in THE, QS, and Shanghai Rankings.
Why choose Japan for study
1. Japan has relatively low tuition fees compared to other developed countries.As one of the top 7 world economies, Japan offers high-quality education without forcing students to amount excessive debt. Additionally, many universities in Japan offer scholarships and other financial aid options to international students.
2. The exciting mix of ages-old traditions and cutting-edge technology
As a country that values its past and future, Japan offers a unique blend of cultural heritage and technological innovation. Students can explore ancient temples and shrines, learn about traditional art forms like kabuki and ukiyo-e, and experience the latest technological advancements in robotics, AI, and biotechnology. This combo makes Japan a fascinating study destination for international students.
3. Japan offers a wealth of job opportunities in the tech sector.The country is a world leader in technological innovation, particularly in electronics, robotics, and automotive engineering. Companies like Sony, Toshiba, and Toyota are based in Japan, and many start-ups and research institutions are working on cutting-edge technology. Studying in Japan can give students valuable connections and first-hand experience in this exciting industry.
4. Japan is known for its punctuality, cleanliness, and adherence to rules.
With efficient transportation systems, well-maintained facilities, and strict adherence to rules and regulations, students can focus on their studies without worrying about daily life's practicalities. This aspect of Japanese culture can also teach students valuable lessons in discipline and responsibility.5. Japan has a unique and rich culture unlike any other in the world. People worldwide love the unique Japanese food, like sushi and ramen, with its fresh and healthy ingredients and marvel at the wonderful arts of Japan: origami, the tea ceremony, manga, or the ancient art of making kimonos. Festivals like Sakura and the centuries-old Japanese customs centred around ideas of simplicity and beauty are part of this rich culture. Most people who love Japan spend their entire life studying and discovering its culture, so there’s no way you’ll get bored during your studies.
Culture in Japan
Japanese culture is unique in the world: a fascinating mix of pop culture (think about manga and anime) and Zen Buddhism (think about the many temples and peaceful lifestyle). Having limited contact with the outside world, given its location on an island, contributed to the strong cultural identity that is so famous around the world.
Tradition is very important in Japan, and many customs and practices have been passed down for generations. Zen Buddhism is widely practised in the country and has a significant influence on Japanese culture, emphasising simplicity, mindfulness, and self-discipline. Closely related to this are aesthetics which are highly valued by Japanese people: the focus is also on simplicity and harmony, seeking beauty in all aspects of life, from art and design to food and clothing.
At the same time, Japan is famous for its pop culture, which includes anime (animated TV shows and movies), manga (Japanese comic books), and video games. Fans worldwide enjoy the unique art styles, storylines, and characters. The popularity of Japanese pop culture has also led to the development of a subculture known as otaku, which refers to people passionate about anime, manga, and other forms of Japanese entertainment. This subculture has a significant presence in Japan and has also gained a following in other countries worldwide.
Languages spoken in Japan
Japanese is the official language of the country, a complex language with a unique writing system, and the vast majority of people speak only Japanese in their daily lives. However, English is taught as a second language in most schools, so many people can understand basic English.
There are also a few minority languages spoken in the country, such as Ainu spoken by the indigenous Ainu population from Hokkaido island, Ryukyuan spoken on Ryukyuan islands, Chinese, Korean, and Portuguese.
Climate and weather in Japan
Japan has a temperate climate with four seasons. Because of its geography, the country also witnesses some extreme weather conditions such as typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Springs are warm in Japan and famous for breathtaking cherry blossoms; summers are hot and humid with occasional typhoons; weather starts cooling down in autumn, and you can expect snow during wintertime.
Cultural diversity in Japan
Almost all of the people in Japan are Japanese (98.5%). While the country doesn’t have a lot of international diversity, it does boast rich regional cultures. Each part of Japan has its own unique customs, dialects, and traditions. For example, food, festivals, and clothing differ greatly from Kyoto in the south to Hokkaido in the north. Moreover, there are quite a few indigenous cultures in Japan, including the Ainu sea-people of Hokkaido and the Ryukyu people, who live on a group of smaller islands south of the main Japanese island.
Japan is the best place to study if you are looking for a completely new experience alongside people from a culture quite different from what you may be used to.
Japanese food culture
Food in Japan is a big part of the country’s cultural identity and reflects the Japanese way of life. Many Japanese dishes include fish and rice, using seasonal and healthy ingredients, taking simplicity to a level of perfection, eating consciously and with respect and gratitude for the gifts of nature, and eating as a ritual of connecting with other people.
In fact, the Japanese promote a fifth taste (alongside sweet, sour, bitter, and salty), and they call it umami. In Japanese, umami means “essence of deliciousness.” In more practical terms, umami is the taste of an amino acid called glutamate which can be found in proteins and is experienced as a deep flavour in foods like cured meats, salmon, tomatoes, mushrooms, aged cheeses salmon, steak, anchovies, green tea, and more.
Japanese cuisine perfected a few dishes which, in later years, became quite famous around the world:
- Sushi: typically consists of vinegared rice topped with various ingredients, such as raw fish, seafood, or vegetables. Most of the time, it’s served with soy sauce, wasabi (a spicy green paste), and pickled ginger.
- Miso soup: a dish always present in a typical Japanese meal. The soup is made with miso (a fermented soybean paste), dashi (a broth made from fish and kelp - important in Japanese cuisine), and various other ingredients like tofu, seaweed, scallions, and mushrooms. Miso is often part of a healthy Japanese breakfast.
- Noodles: There are three types of popular noodles in Japan – Udon (thick, chewy noodles), Soba (thin, brown noodles with a nutty flavour), and Ramen (thin, curly noodles).
- Rice: a simple ingredient that opens up a world of possibilities in Japan. You can make sekihan if you cook it with red beans, takikomi gohan if it’s cooked with seafood and vegetables, kayu which is a type of salty porridge used as a cold remedy, or onigiri which are rice balls with seafood or vegetables in the middle. You can also make mochi (rice cakes), senbei (rice crackers), and sake (rice wine). And, of course, rice is in all types of sushi.
- Seafood and meats: seafood dishes are abundant in Japan, either raw or cooked, and in a much higher proportion than in other food cultures. Meat, on the other hand, was banned up until the 1870s and only recently became popular.
- Soy products: soy products are a staple of Japanese food culture, and they are used in a wide variety of dishes, such as tofu, miso, soy sauce, natto, and edamame.
One of the best places to enjoy food in Japan is Osaka. The city is renowned for its delightful casual cuisine and friendly locals, with a reputation for tasty snacks like takoyaki (a small and crispy ball-shaped snack made of flour and eggs, filled with small pieces of octopus, pickled ginger, and green onion and cooked in special moulds) and okonomiyaki (a type of savoury pancake made with a batter of flour, eggs, and shredded cabbage, mixed with other ingredients such as meat, seafood, or vegetables).
How to choose a university in Japan?
As an international student, the first thing you need is to understand what are the different types of higher education institutions available in Japan:
- Universities can be national, public, and private and offer undergraduate degrees, which usually take 4 years to complete (except for Medicine, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine which require 6 years).
- Junior colleges focus on areas such as Economics, Education, Nursing, Humanities, and Sociology and can take only 2 or 3 years to complete.
- Specialised/professional training colleges provide vocational and technology-related education and usually take 1 or 2 years to complete.
- Colleges of technology offer courses in Engineering, Merchant shipping, and other related fields of study and take 5 years to complete.
- Graduate schools offer Master's and Doctoral degrees.
In addition, higher education institutions in Japan can be classified as national, public, and private, depending on how they were founded and who governs them. National universities are held in highest regard in Japan, especially the “National Seven Universities,” also known as the Imperial Universities, where admission is highly competitive.
Deciding where you want to study is eventually a deeply personal choice, but you can start by considering a few factors first such as location, necessary budget, language requirements. To make things simpler for you, we made this Choosing a university checklist:
1. Decide what’s the purpose of your studies in Japan (because that affects what institution you have to choose):
a. To learn the language: in this case, you don’t need to apply to a university but a language school.
b. To study any other subject than the Japanese language but in Japanese and then find a job in Japan: in this situation, you should start with the language school, and once you graduate, you can continue to university.
c. To study any subject in English and leave Japan once you finish your studies: in this case, you must find programmes that are taught in English.
2. Consider the type of environment you want to be in:
- A big city with vibrant social life, a dense population, modern architecture and technological advancements, as well as many large corporations where you could work.
- A more traditional city with picturesque views, more nature, and a quieter way of living.
3. Read student reviews to learn how other students feel at that university. If youaccess a programme of study on our portal, you can read tens of student reviews for each study programme. And if you're still in doubt, try chatting with students currently studying at universities you are interested in.
What are the best universities in Japan
Highly respected for their quality of education and research, 49 Japanese universities feature in the most important World Rankings. Here are the top 5 universities in Japan:
- The University of Tokyo has a declared focus on supporting international students, The University of Tokyo (also known as Todai or UTokyo) is considered the most prestigious university in Japan and the hardest to get into. Since 2021, the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research at the university has been working on the "Hyper-Kamiokande" device. This device is meant for a groundbreaking international research project that will start in 2027.
- Kyoto University is the second oldest university in Japan. It has a prestigious reputation as one of Asia's top research-focused institutions and is ranked highly in the region. Notably, the university has produced many renowned scholars, including eight Nobel Prize winners, two Fields medalists, and one Gauss Prize recipient.
- Tohoku University is committed to community engagement and is actively involved in the Tohoku region's social and economic development. The university is also home to several world-class research centres, including the Institute of Materials Research and the Research Institute of Electrical Communication.
- Osaka University is among the first modern universities in Japan and became the largest national university after merging with Osaka University of Foreign Studies in 2007. Osaka University produced a lot of highly quality research, being home to many distinguished scholars and scientists.
- Nagoya University started as a medical school and hospital in 1871 and today is known for its contributions to Physics and Chemistry, including the Sakata model, PMNS matrix, Okazaki fragment, Noyori asymmetric hydrogenation, and Blue LED. The university hosted the International Symposium on Innovative Nanobiodevices in 2012 and is a UN champion university for gender equality.
What are the top student hubs in Japan? (H3)
- Tokyo started off a few centuries ago as Edo, a fishing village, but grew to become the capital of Japan and the most densely populated city. Apart from several prestigious universities, including the University of Tokyo, Waseda University, and Keio University, you’ll also find the Emperor and the Government of Japan here. While home to 14 million, Tokyo is also very safe, ranking the safest city in the world in some indexes.
- Kyoto is the ancient capital of Japan and its cultural capital today. So if you want to fully experience Japanese traditional arts and culture and explore its natural beauty through numerous parks and gardens, then Kyoto is a perfect choice. Home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites, including Buddhist temples, shrines, imperial palaces, Kyoto is also known for its traditional tea houses, geisha quarters, Japanese calligraphy, and origami - the art of paper folding.
- Osaka. We talked about the current capital of Japan, Tokyo, and its ancient and cultural capital, Kyoto. Well, Osaka is Japan’s capital of food where you can enjoy some of the best food in Japan, especially street food. What’s more, Osaka is also famous for its lively and outgoing people who make the experience of eating out and trying all the delicious foods hard to forget. As a student, especially an international one, is hard not to love this atmosphere and want to spend every day here. And there are many students in Osaka attending several very good universities, of which Osaka University, Osaka City University, and Osaka Metropolitan University are the most noteworthy according to international rankings.
- Sendai, “the city of trees,” is the perfect place if you want to study at one the best universities in Japan - Tohoku University - and enjoy outdoor sports and activities in your spare time. The city was founded by a powerful samurai and feudal lord, and today features a lot of samurai history while being a modern-looking city: it sits between the ocean on one side and mountains on the other, so you can fully enjoy what nature has to offer.
- Sapporo. A great place for beer lovers who want to study at Hokkaido University, the 7th best university in Japan. The university’s campus is quite unique because it measures approximately 180 hectares, and it’s located in the heart of Sapporo, a city with a population of only two million people. Buildings cover only 12% of the campus, while the rest is open space with farms, forests, creeks, and pathways. As an extra, Sapporo is the birthplace of Sapporo beer, one of the oldest and most popular beer brands in Japan. And if you want to do more than drink it, you can visit the Sapporo Beer Museum.
Tuition Fees in Japan
The local currency in Japan is YEN so all prices you’ll encounter will be in YEN. However, to make it easier for you, we’ve calculated the approximate equivalent in Euros so you can get a better idea of what to expect. 1 Euro is approximately 144 YEN.
Tuition fees for international students also differ according to the institution's type, which can be classified into national, public, and private. Private institutions outnumber the others, with 620 private universities, 295 private junior colleges, 101 public universities, 14 public junior colleges, and 86 national universities.
On average, tuition fees in Japan for international students range between 4,000 EUR and 9,000 EUR per year. However, you can also find cheaper programmes at around 1,000 EUR per year or considerably more expensive ones at approximately 30,000 EUR per year.
There are low tuition fee universities in Japan that offer Master’s degrees as low as 200 EUR per year, while elsewhere, price can go all the way to over 40,000 EUR per year. However, most programmes are in the range of 3,000 – 4,000 EUR per year. As for doctorate programmes, tuition fees for international students are between 3,000 and 5,000 EUR per year.
Based on the type of universities, the average tuition costs are around 5,700 EUR for national universities, 6,500 EUR for public universities, and approximately 7,700 EUR for private universities.
As you can see, tuition fees for international students in Japan are considerably lower than those in countries like the USA or the UK. In addition, students can benefit from a tuition fee waiver or even an exemption from paying tuition fees. This can apply to outstanding Bachelor’s or Master’s students who are in financial difficulties and can’t afford to pay tuition or to those who cannot pay because of unavoidable circumstances.
>>> Use the ‘Tuition fee’ filter on the left menu of our Bachelor’s, Master’s or PhD search pages to find the programme best suited for your budget. You can also sort the list of available programmes by Lowest tuition fee by clicking the top right Sort button.
Can I study in Japan for free?
Education is not free in Japan for international students, but you may qualify for a scholarship or grant covering your tuition costs.
Several scholarships are available for international students, including the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship, which covers tuition fees and living expenses, and the JASSO Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to students with financial needs. In addition, many universities also offer scholarships and tuition fee waivers for international students based on academic achievements or financial needs.
Nevertheless, you should consider other expenses such as accommodation, transportation, and health insurance.
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Japan
Only a few scholarships in Japan cover the entire cost of studying. At the same time, the majority only aim to cover a portion of the tuition fees and living expenses. This means it’s important to calculate the entire cost of your studies abroad well ahead of time and see how much financial help you need to afford it.
You can apply to some financial aid opportunities both before and after starting your studies, while for others, you can only apply after you come to Japan or after the start of your programme.
Types of scholarships on offer
There are four types of scholarships available to international students in Japan:
- Monbukagakusho Scholarship for International Students addresses students with exceptional academic performance and character, who face financial difficulties. You can apply for this scholarship through your school after enrollment. The grant is open to undergraduate and postgraduate students (both Masters and PhDs).
- Student Exchange Support Program (Scholarship for Study in Japan under Agreement) covers only exchange programmes between Japanese universities and universities in countries with which Japan established diplomatic relations. An exchange, however, means that while you are enrolled at a university in your home country, you can come to study in Japan for a determined period of time out of your full study programme.
- Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho MEXT) Scholarship is offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and there are two paths to apply for it: with a recommendation from a Japanese embassy or a recommendation from a Japanese university. Postgraduate students and students training to become teachers can receive up to 1,000 EUR per month, undergraduate students approximately 800 EUR per month, and students who fit in the Young Leaders category (students coming from another Asian country, studying in one of the following areas: Public Administration Course, Business Course, Law Course, Local Administration Course, or Medical Administration Course) approximately 1,600 EUR per month.
- Scholarships from Local Governments, International Exchange Organizations, etc. According to JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), there are currently 123 scholarships for doctoral students, 134 for Master’s students, 104 for undergraduate students, 10 for students enrolled in a professional degree programme, 24 for students in technical colleges, 20 for those in specialised training colleges, and 36 from junior colleges. Of course, because several organisations are offering this type of scholarship, the application requirements and selection procedures differ from one organisation to another.
- School Scholarships and Tuition Fee Waivers. Luckily, many higher education institutions in Japan provide scholarships and tuition fee waivers for international students. While the most accurate data about fee waivers is on the university’s page, JASSO provides a search page where you can check if your university offers any fee reductions.
Where can you find scholarships
An excellent starting point when trying to figure out where to apply for scholarships is our Scholarshipportal.com, a database where we list over 1,400 scholarship opportunities in Japan.
Other credible sources with up-to-date information about scholarships and financial aid:
- Studyportals Scholarship – International Distinction Award, open to all international students – see FAQ about the award here.
- JASSO (Japan Student Services Association), where you can find a lot of helpful information about financial support, grants, and scholarships for international students in Japan.
- Your preferred university's official website. They will likely award scholarships themselves or recommend partner organisations where to apply for financial aid. You can also check a database of all university scholarships and tuition fee waivers on JASSO’s website.
How to apply
Once you’ve researched and shortlisted the scholarships you want to apply to, it’s time to get going with the actual application. Applying for a foreign university scholarship may be intimidating, but if you follow these steps, it won’t be that hard:
- Check the eligibility criteria: ensure you meet all the requirements, including academic achievements, nationality, age, field of study, and more. Applying for a bursary or a university grant may have different rules from applying for a scholarship.
- Gather the required documents: all financial aid providers have a how-to-apply for university funding or scholarship page. This is the place to find and check what documents you need, things like transcripts, a motivation letter for applying to the scholarship, and recommendation letters.
- Complete the application: pay attention as you fill out the scholarship application form to ensure you include all required information.
- Submit the application, a very important step: take a deep breath and click submit!
- Screening process: for some scholarships, like the Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship, you will also have to take some tests in areas such as English and Japanese, as well as in your area of study. Moreover, an interview is very likely to follow. See our advice on how to do well in a scholarship interview.
- Accept the scholarship: the best part! If you are selected, read through the terms and conditions and accept the scholarship offer if you are happy with the terms.
What to include in your application
The specific requirements for a scholarship application will vary depending on the type of financial aid or scholarship and the program you are applying to. However, a scholarship application will always ask you to explain why you are applying for financial aid and how it will help you achieve your academic and career goals. This is usually done in a motivation letter or a request letter for your scholarship application, and it is the most important element of your application. That’s why it’s essential to Learn how to write a motivation letter for your scholarship.
Other information to include in your application will likely be:
- Personal information
- Academic background, such as your academic transcripts, degrees, and certificates
- Letters of recommendation, typically provided by teachers, professors, or employers who can vouch for your academic abilities and potential
- Financial Information
- Essays or writing samples that demonstrate your writing skills and ability to think critically
- Other supporting materials, such as a portfolio of work or a list of awards and honours
Apply to university in Japan
How to apply
Universities in Japan typically have a separate admissions process for international students, known as the "gaikokujin ryuugakusei tokubetsu senkou" process. This process typically consists of two steps: "shutsugan" (application) and "nyuushi shiken" (entrance examinations).
1. Shutsugan / Application: during this step, the applicants are required to submit their application and other necessary requirements, such as
- EJU (Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students) scores
- JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) scores for programmes taught in Japanese
- English proficiency exam scores for programmes taught in English or in Japanese
What is the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)Many universities in Japan require the EJU in order to assess the Japanese language proficiency and academic skills of international applicants. Achieving a high score on this exam increases your chances of being accepted to a broader range of universities.It may be a good idea to start by attending a Japanese language school, which often serves as a preparatory program, offering curricula tailored to students planning to take the EJU and the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).The examination subjects for the EJU include Japanese, Science, General Subjects, and Mathematics. The Science section is further divided into Physics, Chemistry, and Biology.Study programmes in Japan are typically put into one of two categories:
- Arts (bunkei), where applicants may be required to take Japanese, General Subjects, and Mathematics Course 1
- Sciences (rikei), where applicants must take Japanese, Mathematics Course 2, and two Science subjects.
How much does it cost to apply to university?The application fees can range from around 30 to 200 EUR per university, depending on the institution and program. You might also have to pay for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), which is around 40 EUR in Japan (but this price can vary in your country) and/or for the EJU test, which is 70 EUR for one subject or 124 EUR for two subjects.
When to apply for Japanese universitiesThe academic year in Japan begins in April and ends in March of the following year. Japanese people associate the start of school with the coming of spring and the famous cherry blossoms. A general outline of the Japanese academic year, with 15 weeks of teaching time for each semester:
- Spring Semester from early April to late September
- Summer Break: late July to late September
- Fall Semester: from late September to late March
- Winter Break: late December-early January
- Spring Break: early February-late March
- November for the spring intake
- April for the autumn intake (less common than the spring one)
Documents needed to apply for universityTo know precisely what is needed to apply for a university in Japan, you have to check on the university’s official website. However, these are the most frequently requested documents:
- Application form
- Copy of valid passport and/or personal ID
- Passport-sized photos
- EJU examination score certificate or voucher
- JLPT score certificate
- English proficiency certificate
- High school diploma or equivalent and transcripts
- Personal statement (learn how to write a good personal statement and don’t underestimate this requirement)
- Letter of recommendation
- Proof of payment of the application fee
The language requirements to study in Japan may differ depending on the language of instruction of your study program. If the programme is completely or partially in Japanese, you will be required to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), but it’s very likely that you will also be asked to prove your English language proficiency.
English language tests
According to JASSO, most of the time, there are English language requirements for Japanese universities, whether the programme is taught in English or Japanese.
- IELTS. You’ll get a score of 0 to 9 for each category (Listening, Reading, Writing, and Speaking), as well as an overall band score. Generally, Japanese universities ask for a score of 6.0 or 6.5.
- TOEFL. The four sections (Reading, Listening, Speaking, and Writing) have a score of 0 to 30 points each. You can get a maximum of 120 points. Many universities ask for a score of 90 to be admitted.
- TOEIC is a standard English test designed to assess the practical English language abilities of people working in an international environment. The test is scored on a scale from 10 to 990.
- Eiken (The Eiken Test in Practical English Proficiency). EIKEN has been the most popular English test in Japan since 1963, being widely accepted at thousands of institutions within Japan and globally. The test result can range from Grade 1 to Grade 5, where Grade 1 is the highest level of competency.
>> To learn more about the different tests you can take, read this comprehensive guide we’ve put together.
Japanese language requirements
To have the best experience and the greatest range of opportunities in Japan, you should learn Japanese. If you want to apply to a university that requires proof of language proficiency, then you also have to take a standardised test, and the one most broadly accepted is JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).
The JLPT has five levels, from N5 (least advanced) to N1 (most advanced), and universities typically expect at least an N2 level for admission. This means upper-intermediate or advanced Japanese proficiency, and it would take you around 2,200 hours of study to get there. N1 requires even more hours of study, around 3,900.
You can take the JLPT twice a year, in July and December, and it is available in almost 100 countries worldwide. If you take it in Japan, the cost is approximately 44 EUR, but it will differ in other countries.
Student housing in Japan
Student accommodation in Japan comes in two forms, each with its respective benefits and disadvantages:
- Student dormitories, provided by local governments and universities. This option is cheaper, and you don’t have to pay for a security deposit (shiki-kin), for gratuity money (rei-kin), or for renewal fees. They are usually furnished and equipped with the necessary appliances. However, there is a limited number of rooms available, you will have to share the kitchen and the bathroom, and the rules are stricter: there are curfews and wake-up times.
- Off-campus student housing, the option chosen by 79% of international students. Privately rented apartments offer more freedom to live as you like, and you don’t have to share any of the amenities. On the other hand, you have a security deposit, equal to a few months' rent, the gratuity money, and the real estate agent's commissions in advance. Moreover, you also have to sign a rental agreement and find yourself a guarantor. Sometimes, you will probably have to buy your own furniture and appliances because most long-term rentals in Japan come unfurnished.
When to apply for student accommodation
Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) recommends that you start searching for accommodation as soon as the university informs you that you were accepted because finding a room, especially in student dorms, can be quite competitive.
Cost of living in Japan
Like in many other countries, the cost of living in Japan is different depending on the area where you live. Expenses in urban areas like Tokyo are generally higher compared to rural areas. In terms of housing, the average cost in Japan for students is around 260 EURO per month, but in Tokyo, it goes up to 340 EURO. Another thing to remember is that in big cities, it’s harder to find accommodation close to schools which means you will spend more on transport.
Your monthly expenses, including housing, transport, food and utilities amount to a total of 630 EUR. Here is a breakdown of the monthly average cost of living in Japan, Based on information offered by JASSO:
- Housing 260 EUR
- Food 190 EUR
- Utilities 48 EUR
- Insurance and medical 20 EUR
- Hobbies and entertainment 34 EUR
- Transport 27 EUR
- Other 55 EUR
In addition, you can take advantage of many discounts offered to students, such as Student Travel Discount Certificates offered by your university and discounts at museums, restaurants, and entertainment activities.
Cost of food in Japan
Japanese cuisine is well known for being based on fresh and seasonal ingredients, with rice, seafood, and vegetables as very common ingredients in many dishes. This applies to school children and students alike, who can find nutritious and balanced meals on campus. As for eating out with friends, Japanese students prefer to make food and have drinking parties at home with friends, which reduces costs quite a bit. For example, if you go shopping in a supermarket, you can buy a 5 kg pack of rice for 15.10 EUR, while bread costs around 3,5 EUR, and ten eggs go for 1.7 EUR. When thirsty for a soda, you’re likely to pay 1.5 EUR for a drink, while a meal in a regular, not too expensive restaurant, costs on average 6.91€.
Work and study in Japan
There are many opportunities for part-time work for students in Japan. Some popular options include working in restaurants, convenience stores, language schools, and customer service positions. However, you should remember that many part-time jobs in Japan require at least a basic understanding of the Japanese language. If that isn’t an option for you, you could look into work-from-home jobs for students, and you might find freelance work in English.
Are international students allowed to work in Japan?
To gain permission to work, you must apply for a student Work Permit at a local Immigration Office in Japan. You are not allowed to work in Japan just with your Student visa.
How many hours can a student work in Japan?
Once you have your Work Permit, you can start searching for jobs, but you should remember that while on a Student visa, you are limited to working only 28 hours per week. Furthermore, some occupations, such as working in bars, clubs, adult stores or hotels, massage parlours, and so on. are prohibited.
Where can I find jobs?
Here are some ideas for a good starting point in your search for part-time jobs in Japan:
- Check your university’s career centre or job board, where students can find part-time job opportunities. Also, check your school's international office to see what resources they offer.
- Search online: some popular options include GaijinPot, Jobs in Japan, and Yolo Japan.
- Contact the Language Schools in your area because many hire international students to work as language tutors or conversation partners.
- Networking is important in Japan, so consider joining clubs or organisations related to your interests or hobbies.
Is Japan safe?
In terms of criminality and violence, according to the Global Peace Index 2022, Japan is the 10th safest country in the world and the 3rd safest in the Asia-Pacific region! On the other hand, given its geography, Japan is exposed to a few natural disasters, such as earthquakes or typhoons.
Here are a few specific things to consider:
- Typhoon seasons from May to October, with a peak season in August-September. If you’re in the country during this time, pay attention to any weather warnings and keep a more flexible schedule.
- Learn what to do in case of an earthquake because Japan is a seismically active country.
- If you are a woman, you have the option to take a women-only subway car, marked in pink.
In addition, you should also remember some common-sense personal safety measures that you would use anywhere else in the world:1. Make sure you know the emergency numbers:
- 110 if you need to call the Police
- 119 if you need to call an Ambulance or the Fire Department
Student insurance in Japan
In Japan, there are several types of insurance policies available to students, including the National Health Insurance (NHI) and the Accident / Property Insurance and Mutual Aid (Kyosai). In addition, you can also opt for private student insurance like the one from AON.
National Health Insurance (NHI)
The NHI, also known as "Kokuho," is mandatory for all people who stay in Japan longer than 3 months. To register, you have to go to the local municipal office. When the cost of your student health insurance is calculated, things like age, residency, and employment are considered, especially your income from the previous year. This includes part-time jobs and any other form of income, no matter how small, so it’s very important to declare your income correctly. However, the insurance cost may be reduced if your income is below a certain threshold. A typical insurance price for students is around 40 EUR per month.
The National Health Insurance covers 70% of the total medical cost, and you still need to pay for the remaining 30%. But if you require certain medical expenses which are not covered by insurance, then you have to pay them in full. To get the 70% coverage, you should remember to have your insurance card with you when going to the hospital or seeing a doctor.
Finally, The NHI program has a refund system for medical costs that go over how much you can afford to pay, so the 30% can be reduced if your financial limits don’t allow you to pay for it.
Accident/Property Insurance and Mutual Aid (Kyosai)
As an international student, you can also choose a casualty insurance plan and a personal liability insurance plan to cover accidents or incidents not covered by the NHI. This kind of insurance for students is very helpful in situations such as fire accidents in your residence, injuring someone while riding a bike or driving, or theft of high-value personal belongings like your computer.
Universities in Japan have a few options for such insurance plans:
- Personal Accident Insurance for Students Pursuing Education and Research, also known as "Gakkensai;" the insurance is offered by JEES (Japan Educational Exchanges and Services) and covers injuries sustained during classes or commuting to and from school.
- University CO-OP's Kyosai is another insurance system that students can enrol in while attending university.
Private international student insurance
If you want to have more peace of mind, you can also pick private insurance, which will help you cover the 30% you have to pay for medical expenses, as well as bring you other benefits. From a provider specialising in student insurance, like AON, you can buy a policy that also covers student dental insurance, emergency assistance, personal possessions, and student travel insurance.
>>> Learn more about this by visiting our Student Insurance Portal.
Support services available for international students
There are several support services available for international students in Japan, offered by various organisations and institutions. Let’s see some examples of student support services:
- International Student Services: many universities and colleges in Japan have an international office which provides support with admissions, housing, scholarships, and visa and immigration issues. These offices often offer orientation programs, language classes, and cultural events to help international students adjust to life in Japan.
- Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO): the Japanese government offers support services to international students through JASSO which provides scholarships, financial aid, and information on living in Japan. They also offer programs like the Student Exchange Support Program and the Japan Language Education Center.
Japan Legal Support Center (JLSC) offers legal advice, consultation, and representation to international students in cases related to immigration, labour, and other legal issues.
- Career Services: many universities and colleges in Japan offer career services to help international students find employment opportunities. These services may include job fairs, career counselling, and assistance with resume writing and job applications.
The role of these organisations is to provide student support services to international students with a range of services like information and advice, language classes, cultural events, and financial aid
There are several student organisations in Japan that cater to the needs and interests of international students. Here are a few examples:
- Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO): a government-affiliated organisation that provides various services and support to international students in Japan. It also operates a student exchange program and offers scholarships to eligible students.
- International Student Association (ISA): a student-led organisation that aims to promote cultural exchange and diversity among international students in Japan. It organises various events and activities, such as language exchange sessions, cultural festivals, and study tours.
- Japan International Cooperation Center (JICE): a non-profit organisation that provides training and education programs to international students and professionals. It also operates the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, which invites native English speakers to work as Assistant Language Teachers in Japanese schools.
Things to do for students on a budget
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend on entertainment, don’t worry, Japan offers many budget-friendly and free things for students to do. Let’s have a look over some ideas.
Free Things to Do in Japan for Students:
- Visit Parks and Gardens. Japan has many beautiful parks and gardens that are free to visit, such as Yoyogi Park in Tokyo and Maruyama Park in Kyoto.
- Winter festivals. Attending festivals is one of the best things to do in Japan in winter. Many cities in Japan have winter festivals; some of the best are the Sapporo Snow Festival and the Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in Hokkaido.
- Onsen (Hot Springs). Winter is the perfect time to relax in an onsen and enjoy the warmth of the hot springs. There are many onsen resorts throughout Japan, for example, Kusatsu Onsen in Gunma Prefecture.
Top urban attractions for students
- Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. This is known as the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world and is a popular spot for students and tourists alike. The iconic crossing is surrounded by shops, restaurants, and nightlife, making it a perfect destination for a fun-filled day or evening out.
- Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Taisha is a beautiful shrine located in Kyoto that features thousands of bright orange torii gates lining its pathways. The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the Shinto god of rice, and it’s a great way to experience traditional Japanese culture.
- Universal Studios Japan in Osaka. If you love theme parks and movies, Universal Studios Japan is a must-visit destination. The amusement park has attractions based on popular movies and TV shows, including Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, and more.
- Dotonbori in Osaka. Dotonbori is a lively street known for its neon lights, street food, and shopping. Here, you can enjoy local specialities like takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), while having fun in the vibrant atmosphere of this district.
- Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima. For history lovers, this is a must-see. Hiroshima Peace Memorial is dedicated to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945 and has a museum, monuments, and a peace flame that will burn until nuclear weapons are abolished.
Top 5 Outdoor Attractions
- Mount Fuji. A symbol of Japan, Mount Fuji is an active volcano and the highest mountain in Japan, standing at 3,776 metres (12,389 feet) tall. It is located about 100 kilometres southwest of Tokyo and is a popular destination for both locals and tourists. You can hike to the summit, which is open during the summer months, or enjoy the view from one of the surrounding lakes or hot springs.
- Miyajima Island. Near Hiroshima is a small island known for its stunning scenery and friendly deer that roam freely. The island is home to the famous Itsukushima Shrine, which is built over the water and is considered one of Japan's most iconic sights. You can hike and kayak around the island or take a cable car up to the top of Mount Misen for an awesome panoramic view.
- Kamikochi. Kamikochi in the Northern Japan Alps is perfect for hiking on any level throughout an area of stunning beauty. The trails range from easy strolls to challenging multi-day treks, and the views include snow-capped peaks, crystal-clear rivers, and colourful trees.
- Yakushima Island. Yakushima Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its ancient forests and unique wildlife. Here you can walk through the dense forests, which are home to some of the oldest trees in the world, or bathe in the island's hot springs and waterfalls. If you’re lucky, you see the Yakushima macaque and the loggerhead sea turtle, both endangered species.
- Nara Park. Nara Park is home to over 1,000 tame deer that roam freely. You can feed them and interact with them. Deer are considered a national treasure in Japan. Additionally, you can also explore the many temples and shrines which are located within the park, such as the Todai-ji Temple, which houses the world's largest bronze statue of Buddha.
Travelling in Japan
Japan is amazing for travelling, whether you want to visit beautiful natural locations, ancient temples, or iconic pop-culture locations. However, as a student, your budget might be limited, so we’ve thought of some ideas to help you travel on a budget.
- Plan ahead - one of the best ways to save money is to book flights, train rides, accommodations, and tours in advance.
- Travel off-season - the peak travel season in Japan is during the cherry blossom season in late March to early April and during the fall foliage season in November.
- Use budget airlines - Japan has several budget airlines that offer affordable flights within the country, like Peach Aviation, Jetstar Japan, and Vanilla Air.
- Use public transport - it is well known that Japan has highly efficient public transport, and most cities have passes or other discounts for students. JR offers a 20% discount on train fares; this is the national railway of Japan.
- Stay in budget accommodations - consider hostels, capsule hotels, and guesthouses. These can be significantly cheaper than hotels and offer a unique cultural experience.
- Take advantage of student discounts -websites like StudentUniverse and ISIC (International Student Identity Card) offer discounted travel options for students.
- Consider travel credit cards for students - travel credit cards can offer rewards and discounts on travel expenses. Some cards offer bonus points for travel purchases, while others offer cash back or statement credits.
If you want to remain in Japan after your studies, learning the language is a must. But even if you plan to leave the country at the end of your studies, Japanese is a gateway into the culture of Japan and will give you a full experience of studying there. Luckily, there are many options for learning Japanese both in Japan and outside of it:
Language schools. This is perhaps the most popular choice for learning Japanese in Japan. For students who want to study a programme taught in Japanese but don’t know the language yet, a language school is the perfect entry point into Japan’s higher education. Language schools are also great because you get to meet and spend time with other students like you, so your accommodation will be much easier. Some examples include GenkiJACS, GoGoNihon, and the International Japanese Language Education Center.
University programs. Many universities in Japan offer Japanese language programs for international students. These programs typically range from beginner to advanced levels and may also offer cultural experiences and field trips.
Private tutors. If you prefer one-on-one instruction, hiring a private tutor can be a good option. You can find tutors through language schools, online platforms such as iTalki, Preply or through personal referrals.
Online courses. If you want to start learning before going to Japan or simply prefer to learn from the comfort of your own home, there are many online courses available for learning Japanese. The most popular options are Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, and JapanesePod101.
Living as an expat in Japan
Living in Japan as an expat can be a unique experience. You will enjoy the rich cultural heritage, advanced technology, and unique way of life. Hyper-modern cities, peaceful and serene countryside and delicious food.
One of the first things you will need to consider if you decide to stay in the country after your studies is finding suitable housing.
Big cities like Tokyo have many housing options, from small apartments to spacious suburban houses. The cost of rent is higher in the city, especially near the city centre and public transportation.
In Japan, it’s more common for rental properties to be unfurnished, but as an expat, you might prefer a furnished apartment. These expat apartments are more expensive, but they might have lower upfront costs as well as utility costs included in the rent.
Something else you should expect is that most properties require a minimum 12-month contract and short tenancies are quite rare. Apart from that, it’s likely you will need a guarantor, usually your employer.
Some neighbourhoods are more popular among expats than others. In Tokyo, for example, Minato-ku (Aoyama, Azabu, Roppongi and Shirokane), Meguro-ku (Nakameguro and Jiyugaoka), and Shibuya-ku (Hiroo, Daikanyama and Ebisu) are preferred among expats. Among the perks of these areas, you can count international schools, as well as shops and restaurants with English-speaking staff.
Expat communities in Japan (H3)
According to the Statistics Bureau of Japan, at the end of 2020, only 2.2% of the total population of Japan were foreign residents. Most expats in Japan are from China ( 27.8% of the total number of foreign residents), followed by “Korea” (15.6%), and “Vietnam” (13.4%). Other frequent expat communities in Japan come from the US, the UK, India, and France.
Best place to live in Japan for expats
The cities most preferred by expats are Tokyo, Kyoto, Yokohama, Osaka, and Sapporo.
- Tokyo, the capital and largest city in Japan, which has the largest and most diverse expat community in Japan and numerous opportunities for work, entertainment, and cultural exploration.
- Kyoto is another popular destination for expats, especially those who love history and the more traditional looks of Japan because the city is well-known for its beautiful temples, traditional architecture, and rich history.
- Yokohama, located near Tokyo, is a modern and bustling city that offers a more relaxed atmosphere than Tokyo.
- Osaka, the second-largest city in Japan, is another vibrant metropolis and has a thriving expat community, famous food, and lively nightlife.
- Sapporo, located in northern Japan, is a beautiful city known where you can enjoy skiing and winter sports, thus an excellent choice if you love outdoor activities. Overall, all five cities have high quality of life, abundant job opportunities, and offer rich cultural experiences.
>> You can join Internations to gain access to Japan’s expat forum, so you can join events and socialise with other expats from Japan.
Japan Immigration rules
How your immigration status changes after graduation
Once you finish your studies, you will have to apply for a new visa. Japan has several types of visas, so you’ll have to choose the right one depending on your particular situation. In general, the type of visa you need depends on your purpose for living in the country, such as further studying, working, or starting a business.
Japan’s immigration process
To find out about the immigration process in Japan, you need to go to the MOFA’s (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan) website. You will find the document you need for your application, including:
- application form, available in English, Chinese (simplified and traditional), Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish
- letter of guarantee
- letter of invitation
- list of visa applicants
- details of company/organisation
Types of Visa
These are the most common types of visas that would be suitable for a student who graduates university in Japan:
1. Highly skilled professional visa: if you are a person with outstanding abilities and credentials.
2. Working visa: suitable for a range of professions.
- Business Manager
- Legal/Accounting services
- Medical services
- Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services
- Nursing care
- Skilled labour
- Specified skilled worker
- Technical intern training
3. Start-up visa: this is the right visa for you if you want to start your own business.
Immigrant visa application processing fee
According to MOFA, the processing fee for a single-entry visa is equivalent in Japanese YEN of 20 EUR or 40 EUR for a double-entry visa. However, depending on your specific situation, these fees might be slightly different.
Immigration processing times
The time required to process your Visa is typically 5 working days if there are no issues with the application. However, during periods of high application volume, processing time may be longer than usual. Also, if there are any issues with the application, it will be forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Tokyo in which case it can take up to a month or more.
Moreover, keep in mind that for long-term stays in Japan, you should obtain a Certificate of Eligibility from the regional Immigration bureau before submitting the visa application. If you submit the application without it, the visa may take one to three months to process.
Job opportunities in Japan
For students in Japan, job hunting starts in the third year of university, so when they reach the fourth year, their future job is already guaranteed.
Employers prefer candidates who speak Japanese fluently, so you should definitely focus on learning the language if you plan on looking for a job in Japan. Alternatively, you might still find specific jobs for expats, especially in fields like English teaching, IT, finance, and tourism.
A few popular options for job opportunities in Japan for foreigners include:
- Jobs in Japan, a website where you have the option to choose “no Nihongo,” meaning that you don’t speak any Japanese
- Yolo Japan, with job opportunities and other useful information for expats in Japan
Continue your studies in Japan
If you want to continue your studies in Japan after you graduate from a Japanese university, you can:
- Pursue a Master’s degree: you can apply for a Master's degree, which usually lasts for two years. Head over here to see over 300 Masters in Japan.
- Apply for a PhD: pursuing your doctorate in Japan can be done in two ways: with a Master’s degree incorporated, in which case it will last for longer or without a Master’s if you already gained one before applying for your doctorate. Here’s a list of PhDs in Japan.
Frequently asked questions
1. Do international students need a visa to study in Japan?
All international students who want to study at a university in Japan need to apply for a Student Visa before the start of their studies.
2. Is studying in Japan worth it?
Japan offers one of the best education systems in the world while being more affordable than other highly-desired countries like the US or the UK. Moreover, Japan is a very safe country and has a culture unique in the world, so your experience will certainly be worthwhile.
3. What is the cost of studying in Japan?
Tuition fees for an undergraduate degree cost on average between 4,000 and 9,000 EUR and 3,000-4,000 EUR for a Master’s degree. However, many scholarships are available, which means you might be able to reduce or cover the cost of tuition. Your other expenses, including food and accommodation, will amount, on average, to a total of 630 EUR per month.
4. How much money is required to study in Japan?
There isn’t an exact sum required in order to be able to study in Japan. However, as part of your Visa application, you will likely have to show evidence that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your expenses while studying in Japan.
5. Can I study in Japan without IELTS?
Some universities in Japan require proof of both Japanese language skills and English language skills, while others might only ask for one of the two, depending mostly on the language of teaching. For Japanese, you have to take the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) exam, while for English IELTS, TOEFL, TOEIC, and Eiken are accepted.
6. What are the requirements to study in Japan?
The requirements to study in Japan vary depending on the level of education and the program you are applying for. Generally, you will need to have completed secondary education and have proof of language proficiency (either Japanese or English depending on the language of instruction for your course), as well as meet any additional requirements set by your chosen university.
7. What exams are required to study in Japan?
To study in Japan, you have to pass the regular exams in your country when completing secondary education, such as A levels or the Baccalaureate. In addition, you have to meet the language requirements (for Japanese, English, or both, depending on each individual university), and you will likely also have to take an aptitude test called EJU (Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students) which includes subjects like Japanese, Science, General Subjects, and Mathematics.
8. How to get permanent residency while studying in Japan?
You can apply for permanent residency after 1 year, 3 years or 10 years of continuous residency in Japan. The 10 year route is the most common and accessible for the majority of foreign residents.