Studying in Japan

The process of moving to Japan to further your studies can be overwhelming and complicated. However, this studying in Japan guide will show you how to get started – even if you don’t speak Japanese.

For more Japan-related guides, check out these articles:

– Choosing a Japanese university –

1. Do your research on the Japan Study Support website

Studying in Japan - jpss japan study support
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Japan Study Support (JPSS) is a website that allows you to easily find university courses that are catered to foreign students across Japan. It lists both undergraduate and graduate courses, conducted in either English or Japanese.

The website also has the admission details and necessary information of each course – taken directly from the universities’ official admissions website – in both English and Japanese.

2. Take note of the application period & requirements

Studying in Japan - planner
Image credit:
Eric Rothermel

As different universities have different application periods – especially for courses accepting international students – be sure to check it properly before applying.

Take note of application requirements, such as the medium of instruction of the course and language required, as some English-based courses still require a certain level of Japanese language proficiency due to the nature of the subject.

3. Thoroughly prepare your documents before the application period

As documents such as a letter of recommendation from your high school will take some time to acquire, you should start preparing your documents well ahead of the application period.

Some courses may also require you to submit standardised exam scores such as TOEFL, JLPT, or EJU, so plan ahead and take the necessary exams if you are going to apply for those courses in the following year or so.

– Applying for a Japanese university –

1. When submitting your application

Studying in Japan - checklist
Image credit:
College Raptor

Ensure that you have every document listed on the university’s admission application. One good way to do that is to make your own checklist if the university doesn’t provide one. This step is really important because if you were to forget even a single document, your application may not be processed by the school.

Try to mail your application to the school as soon as the application period starts as it will take some time to reach them.

2. Prepare for the interview

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Preparing for the interview is perhaps the most nerve-racking step in the admissions process.

It is important, however, that you try to show the interviewers that you are a good fit for the course by highlighting your interest and passion for the subject. As long as you are genuine about studying there, you won’t have to worry about not having anything to say. Do not rely on canned interview answers ripped off the internet.

If you are able to impress the interviewers, you might even be nominated as a recipient of the MEXT scholarship by the university.

3. Prepare for the entrance exam

Studying in Japan - matriculation
Image credit:
Fukuoka University

This step may not apply to every university, but some do require you to take an entrance exam. It can either take place online or in person. If you do have to sit for an entrance exam, be sure to do your research on possible exam questions, refer to past year papers if available, and study the respective topics extensively.

– How to get a student visa –

1. After a successful application

Studying in Japan - pen signing
Image credit:
The Beekman School

Once you have been accepted by the university, they will guide you through the process of obtaining a student visa. You should receive a visa application form via mail from your university within a few days of your acceptance notice.

2. Fill out the student visa application form

Studying in Japan - visa application
Image credit:
NILS Japan

After receiving the visa application form, fill it out with your details as soon as possible. Once again, ensure that you have provided all the required documents, lest your visa application be delayed.

3. Mail it back to the university

Check your documents once again before mailing them back to the university. As it may take about two to three months for immigration to approve a visa application, it is advisable to send it back as soon as possible.

4. Getting your student visa

Studying in Japan - certificate of eligibility
Image credit:
Go! Go! Nihon

After your visa application has been approved, the university will mail your Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to you. Bring your COE, the visa application form, and other required documents to the closest Japanese embassy in your country and submit them for processing.

Studying in Japan - japanese visa student
Image credit:
Wikimedia Commons

After about a week, you should be able to collect your student visa at the embassy in your country.

– Choosing types of accommodation in Japan –

1. Thoroughly research the type of accommodation that will suit you

Studying in Japan - mansion
Image credit:
Real Estate Japan

Since this will be your home for the next few years in Japan, it is a good idea to research the types of accommodation available so as to avoid paying unnecessary fees to relocate.

The location and price of rent are important factors to consider when looking for accommodation. It is also ideal to consider your lifestyle to avoid additional stress. 

Are you a fuss-free person who gets along with everyone? Then a shared house may suit you. But if you’re someone who values privacy, consider renting an entire apartment or studio. 

2. Renting an apartment

Studying in Japan - apartment
Image credit:
Kyoto Apartment KOWA

Renting an apartment is generally the most expensive option when it comes to accommodation. You are usually required to pay an exorbitant amount of key money (礼金; reikin) or deposit (敷金; shikikin) on top of the monthly rent. Furthermore, you may also need to buy or rent furniture if the apartment comes unfurnished.

Despite these downsides, many foreign students do opt to rent an apartment when living in Japan. The reason is that they want to have privacy and freedom – two things that you can’t really put a price tag on.

3. Living in a shared house

Studying in Japan - shared house
Shared house in Osaka – J&F House Osaka
Image credit: Tokyo Room Finder

Living in a shared house is usually cheaper than renting an entire apartment. Another advantage is that you will have an easier time meeting new people and making friends.

The catch, however, is that you will have less privacy and will need to deal with others who may have very different lifestyles from yours.

Basically, if you are a person who can get along with others easily and enjoys the company of others, living in a shared house is a good option for you. Otherwise, renting an apartment is the way to go.

4. Living in the school dormitory

Studying in Japan - school dorm
School dormitory in Ritsumeikan University International House Taishogun, Kyoto.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

The school dormitory is usually the cheapest accommodation type. However, depending on the school and the size of the dormitory, you may not have access to this option.

Similar to living in a shared house, living in the dormitory will allow you to meet new people and make new friends. However,  you will have to adhere to rules and curfews, as well as put up with a lack of privacy.

– Knowing the cost of living in Japan –

1. Accommodation

Accommodation is the biggest single-unit cost of living in Japan, with the average price of a single-room apartment rental costing about ¥50,000- ¥70,000 (~USD451.04-USD631.45) per month. Apartments in popular locations can cost more than ¥100,000 (~USD902.08).

You can reduce the cost of accommodation by opting to stay in shared houses or school dormitories, which cost around ¥20,000- ¥60,000 (~USD 180.42-USD 541.25).

2. Daily expenses

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Wikimedia Commons

Daily expenses are often hard to gauge as it depends on the lifestyle of a person. However, the average cost of living in Tokyo for a single person is about ¥120,000 (~USD1082.51) – excluding rent – per month.

One great way to reduce food expenditure is to make your own meals instead of dining out or getting takeaways.

3. Insurance

Studying in Japan - National Health Insurance card
Sample of the National Health Insurance card
Image credit: Akashi City

Foreigners who reside in Japan for more than 3 months are required to register for the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme at their respective municipal offices. Fortunately, foreign students are eligible for a discount, which means they only have to pay ¥20,000 (~USD180.42) per year for insurance.

– Getting a part-time job –

1. Getting permission to engage in other activities

Having a part-time job is a good way to fund your cost of living in Japan. However, before diving into your first part-time job, you have to first ensure that you have the legal rights to work in Japan.

All foreign students require a “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted” (資格外活動許可) stamp on the back of your residence card.

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The “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted” stamp is on the bottom-left side.
Image credit: Kanamori Immigration Law Office

However, even after obtaining permission, there are certain limitations on the type of jobs and the number of hours that you are allowed to work. More details can be found here.

2. How to apply for permission to engage in other activities

When you first enter Japan with your student visa, you will be asked by the immigration officer during the inspection process as to whether you are planning to work part-time in Japan. If you were to say yes, you will be able to get the stamp on your residence card on the spot.

We highly suggest saying that you are planning to work even if you don’t actually want to. Circumstances may change, and you may find yourself in a situation where you have to get a part-time job on short notice.

Otherwise, you will have to apply for it in person at an immigration office near your residence if you were to change your mind while living in Japan.

Studying in Japan - Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau
Nagoya Regional Immigration Bureau
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

For those who are already in Japan and are looking to get permission to work part-time, you can download the application form here.

3. Types of part-time jobs that students can do

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Image credit:
Brooke Cagle

Foreign students tend to work as waiters, baristas, or sales assistants while studying inJapan.

Those who are well-versed in languages can also take up part-time jobs as English language assistants, translators, and interpreters.

It is important to remember that, no matter what part-time job you are doing, you should always prioritise your studies.

Studying in Japan for foreign students

Now that you’ve learned the step-by-step process of how to study in Japan, you can worry less about the complications and work more towards your dream of living in Japan.

To more find out more about Japanese culture, check out these articles:

Cover image adapted from: Wikimedia Commons and Wikimedia Commons

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