In recent years, Japan has been making a real effort to attract more international students. The government’s 300,000 foreign student plan aimed to bring in at least that many students by 2020 (a target it has easily surpassed). As such, there are plenty of incentives to study there, including scholarships dedicated to international students and a growing number of programs taught in English. This guide outlines five reasons to choose Japan as your next study destination.
Experience a world-class education system
As the birthplace of the bullet train, Nintendo Wii, and instant noodles, Japan has a long history of pushing the boundaries of science and technology. In 2017, Japan was ranked by Forbes as one of the top countries in the world for its number of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) graduates. It’s also home to ten of the top 200 universities in the 2021 QS World Rankings, with the University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, and Tokyo Institute of Technology being among the best.
But Japan doesn’t just excel in STEM subjects. The University of Tokyo ranked among the world's top ten universities for modern languages in the 2021 QS World Rankings, as well as for Physics and Astronomy, Chemistry, Mechanical engineering, and Chemical engineering.
Japan wants you
The Japanese government is keen to internationalise. According to a survey by the Hays Global Skills Index, 45% of Japanese firms in 2018 thought there was an insufficient supply of full-time employees, meaning that foreign graduates are needed as a new source of talent. To fill this need, Japan has made its degree programs as attractive as possible to international students.
To diversify their student populations, Japanese universities have been:
- recruiting special staff to support international students
- offering scholarships or reduced tuition fees to international students (more information on this below)
- allowing students to start programs in September (instead of April, when Japan’s academic year usually begins)
- increasing the number of exchange programs with universities in other countries
Learn a new language
With more and more programs in Japan being offered in English, being able to speak Japanese isn’t essential. However, studying there does present a unique opportunity to learn the language. Even if you’ve taken Japanese before, nothing can compare to the immersion of living there. It’s a great chance to become fluent in a highly valuable language.
Japan has one of the largest economies in the world. Many international businesses with a presence there, such as Unilever, Ericsson and IBM, recruit foreign graduates who can speak both Japanese and another language. In October 2018, the number of foreign workers in Japan had reached a record high of 1.46 million. If you can reach Level 2 in the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT), you have huge potential to stay and work there.
Get funding for your studies
In an effort to attract the top talent from around the world, Japan offers a variety of funding options for international students. Although living costs are relatively high compared to other Asian countries, tuition fees are a lot lower than in the US and UK. You can expect to pay roughly 500,000 to 1,000,000 JPY per year for a degree program. Although that sounds like a lot, it works out at around 4,400 - 8750 USD or 3350 - 6700 GBP.
For a full breakdown of tuition fees and living costs, read our guide on the cost of studying in Japan.
Additionally, according to research conducted by the Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO), half of all international students studying in Japan receive some form of scholarship, whether provided by the government or the universities themselves.
It’s also possible to work up to 28 hours per week on a foreign student visa. Not only will this help you to fund your studies, but you’ll get to work on your language skills and build relationships with local people.
Explore a unique culture
Although Japan is often portrayed as a country of robotics, crazy game shows and neon lights, there’s far more to it than that. Across Japan’s many regions and islands, you can find an array of different climates, environments and cultures. Tokyo is, of course, a vast megacity full of excitement, technology, and all things weird and wonderful. Osaka is the country’s food capital and was ranked the fourth most livable city in the world by The Economist in 2019. Okinawa is an island in the south covered in pristine beaches, worlds away from the mountains and ski resorts of Hokkaido in the north.
There are ancient temples and castles to be explored, lush rainforests to trek through, and beaches to relax on. The food is fantastic, the drinks are plentiful, and the local people are often more than willing to welcome you to enjoy both.