Nowhere else in the world are you likely to experience the contrasts that are so normal in Japan. All you need to do is hop on a bullet train and you can be whisked from a concrete maze into lush green valleys of rice paddies in the blink of an eye. You can choose to spend the first half of your day shopping in some of the best markets and malls, and end the day in a rejuvenating hot spring in a serene valley.
Japan is a country which has so much to offer. By choosing to study abroad in Japan, you’ll partake in all of its charms and treasures.
Studying in Japan
If you have your heart set on going to the Land of the Rising Sun, you’ll get the chance to experience the Orient at its best and enroll in highly ranked universities. There are a number of different programs available for students to pursue including semester abroad and summer study courses, as well as full-time degree programs.
Some of the popular disciplines to pursue include:
In addition, many American universities have partner universities in Japan. This allows students to take part in exchange programs. These include:
The University of Northern Iowa exchange program at Kansai Gaidai University
The University of Montana exchange program at Kumamoto University
The University of Miami exchange program at Sophia University
In any case, most programs offer international students the chance to explore and understand local and regional culture, history, customs, and traditions. Students can expect to take field trips in order to provide context for what they are being taught in class. This includes trips to museums, landmarks, temples, and other various historical sights.
Why Study in Japan?
The island nation of Japan is so culturally rich and diverse. Students who undertake a study abroad program in Japan can take the time to explore all of the unique things that it has to offer.
If you still need convincing, here’s why studying abroad in Japan is a fantastic option:
It has a world renowned educational system which is committed to research, development, and innovation
Students get the chance to learn or improve upon their knowledge of the Japanese language
It has the highest number of Nobel Peace Prize winners in Asia. This is a testament to the incredible academic tradition that exists there
There are over 780 universities, many of which rank very high globally
In terms of research, teaching, international outlook, and knowledge application and transfer, Japan’s higher education system consistently ranks very high
Students can also enroll in specialized vocational institutions thereby increasing their study options
Tuition costs are significantly less than what they are in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, even for international students
Japan also recently launched the Top Global Universities program (formerly known as the Global 30 Initiative) which aims to:
Increase the number of foreign students studying at Japanese universities
Foster the globalization of universities in Japan
Encourage students to take on global leadership roles
Remove language barriers for international students seeking to study in Japan
Simplify the application process
Help students find jobs upon graduation
Encourage global exchange programs
Where to Study in Japan
Deciding where to study in Japan can be a little overwhelming. If you’re sure about which degree you want to pursue, your choices can be narrowed down.
The most popular places to study in Japan include:
Kyoto was once the capital of Japan and is the historical heart of the country. Here you’ll find a plethora of museums, historical structures and monuments, beautiful gardens, and stunning art galleries. One of the largest universities in Japan, Kyoto University, attracts scores of international students from all around the world.
Universities that are in Kyoto include:
Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is a large and dynamic metropolis. Here, you’ll get the chance to explore museums, shop to your heart’s content, see the Tokyo palace, and do so much more.
Some of the universities that are in Tokyo include:
University of Tokyo
The Tokyo Institute of Technology
Sapporo is located on Hokkaido, the northernmost island in Japan. It is known for its cold weather and the large amounts of snowfall that it gets annually, which makes the famous annual snow festival possible. Sapporo also has an incredible cuisine, festivals, great winter sports, stunning scenery, and hot springs galore.
Universities that are in Sapporo include:
If you’re looking to live in a big city but don’t want the associated rush that comes with it, Fukuoka is the perfect option. This large city has a relaxed and open feel to it, and while it has everything you would expect from a metropolis, it’s also very laid-back. Here you’ll find great shopping, delicious foods, and mild weather throughout the year.
Universities that are in Fukuoka:
Osaka is the third largest city in Japan by population and is a large economic hub. The people of Osaka are extremely friendly and are known to be very welcoming to foreigners. Osaka is known as the ‘nation’s kitchen’ and features some of the best foods you’ll ever eat.
Universities that are in Osaka:
Everything you need to know about Japan
Japan is an East Asian nation made up of over 6,000 tiny islands located in the Pacific Ocean. Though the country isn’t that large, there are huge regional differences to be found within its borders. You’ll find that each distinct region has their own dialects, traditions, cultures, cuisine, festivals, and characteristics.
Students can easily travel to the many different cities in Japan, both large and small. The Japanese people are enthusiastic about sharing their culture and traditions with travelers and will be more than willing to help show you around.
You’ll get the chance to experience a world like no other; while Japan is one of the most industrialized nations in the world, there are, nevertheless, many places in rural Japan that have retained their traditional roots and practices. In Japan, you can go from being in a bustling metropolis to walking amongst the beautiful calm of rural life in the blink of an eye.
One of the most exciting aspects of living in a foreign country is sampling all the delicious traditional foods that they have to offer. Japan will not disappoint you in this regard. Eating out in Japan is very doable on a budget; you just need to know where to go.
When it comes to grocery shopping, if you plan your grocery trips at night right before the store is closing, you’ll enjoy fresh foods which are marked down to 50-75% off. This includes everything from good quality sushi, to soba noodles and udon.
Street food is also very popular in Japan. Keep your eyes open when you’re out on a stroll and you’ll see the streets lined with roadside vendors selling everything from ramen to sushi.
Here are some of the incredible foods you definitely should try while you’re in Japan:
Sushi – In Japan, some of the best sushi is available from street vendors
Ramen Noodles – These aren’t the same noodles you’re used to getting at your local grocery store. There are so many varieties of this delicious dish available all throughout the country. Why not try them all?
Tempura – Golden and crunchy, this batter is frequently paired with seafood and vegetables
Soba noodles – These buckwheat noodles are a staple in Japanese foods
Shabu-Shabu – A traditional dish made with thinly sliced meats and vegetables boiled in water
Yaki-tori - Skewers of vegetable and meat grilled to perfection
In general, living costs can be quite high in Japan. Students in Japan have two options when it comes to accommodation:
University Accommodation – Most universities have a certain number of flats or dorms reserved for international students. Spaces are limited so make sure you secure on-campus housing early if that’s what you’re interested in.
Accommodation in the private sector – This includes renting apartments, guesthouses, or shared flats.
The precise costs of living will depend upon which region of Japan you’re living in. Big cities like Tokyo are obviously more expensive, whereas cities like Tohoku and Kyushu are substantially less expensive.
The national currency in Japan is the Yen (¥). Bills typically come in three denominations: ¥10,000, ¥5,000 and ¥1,000. Coins on the other hand come in six denominations: ¥500, ¥100, ¥50, ¥10, ¥5 and ¥1.
It is common for payments to be made in cash. Credit and debit cards aren’t used that frequently.
Japan has a very efficient and reliable public transportation system. An intricate system of trains and buses operate in all large cities as well as to and from various regions across the country. The Japanese transportation network is known for being punctual, fast, and generally offering incredible service.
Foreign students living in Japan can purchase a student commuter pass which will give them discounted fares. These passes are not available for exchange students or students doing a semester abroad; they are only for students enrolled in a degree program.
In addition to getting the commuter pass for the city you’re planning to live in, you can also purchase a Japan Rail Pass at a discounted student fare. This will enable you to take the bullet train to other cities across the country.
In Japan, there are four distinct seasons and the climate varies from region to region as well as on the islands two sides: the Pacific side and the Sea of Japan side.
In northern Japan there are many mountainous areas which see heavy snowfall and harsh winters. Summers in the north are generally warm.
In the south of Japan, the climate is subtropical oceanic with mild winters and hot and humid summers. The same is true for western Japan.
In eastern Japan, summers are hot and the winters are very cold. On the Sea of Japan side on the east, there is usually heavy snowfall during the winter months.
Japanese is the most common language spoken in the islands. In more touristy locations, you’re likely to find people who can speak and understand English.
When you get to Japan, you’ll notice that it’ll be helpful to have at least some understanding of the Japanese language. Therefore, most study abroad programs offer Japanese language classes as part of the curriculum.
Things to Do in Japan
Once you’re in Japan, you’ll have no shortage of things to do. Japan has something for everyone, and your time there will be filled with excitement, adventure, and novelty.
Here are some of the things you can do when you’re in Japan:
Climb Mount Fiji
Shop till you drop in Tokyo
Learn how to make and pour traditional tea
Join in Hanami, or cherry blossom party
Explore the historical temples, gardens, museums, and teahouses of Kyoto
Take a trip to the Onsen Bath Houses where you can take a dip in hot, healing mineral waters which bubble up from the earth. If that isn’t enough, these bath houses are located in stunning secluded valleys
Go to local festivals which celebrate various matsuri (or holidays)
Visit Himeji Castle
Take up a traditional Japanese pastime such as origami, painting, calligraphy, or ikebana (flower arranging)
Watch a sumo wrestling match
Sample traditional Japanese cuisine
Visa and Immigration
In order to study in Japan, you’ll need to have a visa. Fortunately, acquiring a visa to study in Japan is a simple process.
Once you receive a letter of acceptance from a university in Japan, the university can apply for a Certificate of Eligibility for a Status of Residence on your behalf. This is issued by the Regional Immigration Bureau in Japan.
Once the certificate has been issued, the university will send you the document so that you can take it to your local Japanese embassy or consulate and apply for your visa.
Once you arrive in Japan, the immigration authorities will grant you the status of “College Student”. You’ll also be given a resident card for the duration of your stay.
If you choose to apply for your visa by yourself (without a Certificate of Eligibility for a Status of Residence) the processing time is a lot longer.
Japan is doubling its effort to welcome more and more international students at their prestigious universities. By making the application process easier and removing many language barriers, Japan hopes to increase the number of international students able to enjoy all that it has to offer. If you choose to study abroad in Japan, you’ll have the chance to experience life in a country renowned for its beauty and exquisite eastern charms. Who knows, the Land of the Rising Sun may just be where your future unfolds.