Study in Japan
Konichiwa! Are you also interested in studying in Japan? Here we take a closer look at what it means and what you should think about if you want to study in Japan.
Why study in Japan?
There are many reasons to study in Japan. The first and foremost is the cultural experience. Japan has one foot firmly rooted in East Asian culture but they also have a strong influence of Western and American culture. However on top of that you have a truly unique Japanese culture that don’t resemble anything else.
Japanese pop culture attracts loads of young people around the world. Many students learnt their first Hiragana characters while reading Japanese Manga and first got exposed to the spoken language when watching Anime. J-pop, Cosplay, and Japanese fashion all have a strong appeal as do the more traditional culture with Samurais, temples and ancient stories.
Japan is also the home of some of the world’s leading tech and car companies such as Sony, Nikon, Canon, Hitachi, Toyota, Honda, Mitsubishi, Nissan etc. Just going to the toilet in Japan can be a technological experience. At the same time Japan is also a very traditional society where job applications are written by hand and salaries often are paid in cash. Simple things that you can do online in many countries might require a personal visit to an office in Japan.
Japan is a very safe country with low crime rates and most people are very polite. They also expect you to behave in a similar manner, but if you look like a foreigner you can get away with a lot. Japanese service is among the best in the world and you never pay tip. Food is excellent, even if you go to a cheap place or just buy some discounted ready food in the evening at the local supermarket.
There is so much to do in Japan once you get to know the place and the language better. Living in Japan can be frustrating at times but most people will miss it when they go home. Nowhere else can offer you such food and service, such unlimited shopping and crazy activities in such a safe and polite environment. It is hard to fully grasp Japan even if you have been there for a long time there will always be more to discover.
Schools in Japan
Most students start out by studying Japanese at a language school since the language is the key to the Japanese culture. You can take a short language course of 2-12 weeks or you can sign up for a long term program. Japanese people are not very good at English and the universities’ only offer a few programs in English. So if you want to study in Japan for a longer period of time then you had better start by learning Japanese. Language schools usually teach four semesters of 10 weeks per year. If you are a beginner you can study 80 weeks at a Japanese language school and that might be needed if you want to continue in a higher education program in Japanese.
Once you master the Japanese language you can continue your studies at a Japanese university or a Senmon Gakko – a Japanese vocational College. On our page about universities and language schools in Japan you can find the 100 highest ranking Japanese universities as well as recommended language schools.
When and how to apply?
The Japanese school year starts in April and the second semester usually starts in October. Language schools often have start dates in January and July as well, and short term courses start every month at some schools.
For long term courses on student visa you need to apply approximately 6 months in advance to most language schools due to the visa application that is done through the school. Universities and high ranking schools can handle the visa process quicker but they often set their deadlines about 6 months before the course starts anyway. Some universities only take applications during a couple of short application windows so make sure to check the application information of the university that you are interested in.
If you want to study in s Senmon Gakko or University in Japan you will usually need to take an exam to show that you can fulfill their requirements. A Senmon Gakko usually demands JLPT 2 while universities favor the EJU-exam.
How much does it cost to study in Japan?
Schools in Japan charge a tuition fee and a number of other smaller fees. A one year course at a Japanese language school costs approximately 800000 Yen, excluding living costs such as accommodation, food and travel etc. Universities cost approximately twice as much, about 1600000 Yen per year but prices differ from school to school.
On top of that you will probably need about 150000 Yen per month to cover your living expenses. If you study in a smaller city where the accommodation and travel costs are low you might get by on less, but in Tokyo it is easy to spend much more especially if you live in your own apartment.
Many people think that Japan is expensive but this is not entirely true. Shopping and food are often cheaper than in Europe, not least considering the quality that you get. Student accommodation, on the other hand, can be a bit costly in Tokyo considering the size and standard that you get.
The Japanese language and language levels
Is it difficult to learn Japanese or is it easy? The answer is that it is both difficult and easy. Japanese pronunciation is rather easy. Japanese consists of 46 syllables that can only be pronounced in one way. Almost all of those syllables exist in English and other European languages so you can master the pronunciation rather quickly and people will often understand you when you read Romanized written in our alphabet. Japanese also use thousands of English loan words, gairaigo, that has been adapted to Japanese pronunciation. Once you master this you will have immediately have access to a huge vocabulary.
The challenge when learning Japanese is the grammar, the levels in the language and not least the writing. Written Japanese consists of three writing languages. Hiragana and Katakana has one character per syllable where Katakana is only used for loan words. Those two writing languages are quite easy to learn but Kanji, the third writing language, consisting of a couple of thousand Chinese characters is much more challenging.
At Japanese language schools you can study Japanese from beginner level to advanced level. However many schools ask that beginners have at least a passive knowledge of Hiragana and Katakana when you start a long term course in Japan. You can learn those on your own by for example memorizing one character per day. Here are some resources for learning Hiragana and Katakana on your own.
Reas more about learning Japanese.
Student visa to study in Japan
Many nationalities can take a short language course in Japan for up to 90 days on visa waiver. Some nationalities can even extend this with another 90 days. Read more about visa free entry to Japan.
If you want to study in Japan for a longer period of time you will need to apply for a student visa. This procedure starts with applying to and becoming accepted by a school in Japan including sending the school a number of visa related documents. You will need to apply to your school approximately 6 months before the course starts. Then they will send you a CoE, Certificate of Eligibility, about 1 month before your course starts. With this document you can do the final visa application at the Japanese Embassy in your home country.
Read more in our step by step guide on how to apply for a student visa to Japan.
Work in Japan as a student
Students that have obtained a work permission are allowed to work part time in Japan. Then you can work 28 hours per week on school weeks and 40 hours per week during semester breaks. Students are not allowed to take any jobs related to night clubs or adult entertainment. This even includes being a DJ or working as a dishwasher in a night club.
Most students work in shops or restaurants where you can earn around 1000 Yen per hour. However it can be hard to find a job before you speak decent Japanese. The best paid jobs for students is often to work as a teacher in your native language. Either at a school or just give private conversation lessons in a café then it is not unusual to earn up to 3000 Yen per hour.
The work permit is a sticker in your passport. To obtain it you must be in Japan on a student visa. The easiest way to get the permit is to apply directly at the immigrations in the airport when you first arrive in Japan. Then you can get it immediately. Otherwise you will be stuck in the Japanese bureaucracy where you will need several visits to the Immigration Bureau and at least 3 weeks processing time before you can get your work permit.
Insurance when you study in Japan
It is always important to have a good insurance when you study abroad and Japan is no exception. We recommend Dr Walter's Protrip World insurance.
If you are studying on a student visa in Japan you will be asked to pay a small monthly fee for the national health insurance. However, this is no replacement for a real insurance as it only covers 70% of your health care fees and nothing else. Some schools offer a top up insurance covering the remaining 30% but most of those insurances still don’t give you a complete coverage. You need an insurance that also covers transportation, accidents, theft, liability, legal costs etc.
Accommodation in Japan
The standard for student housing is simple in Japan. Rooms are small and insulation is poor. You will depend on your AC for heat in the winter and cooling in the summer.
Most students stay in either host families, share houses or apartments. We can help you to find accommodation in Japan at discounted prices.