Studying in Japan doesn’t have to be expensive. You can study in Japan for free using hundreds of scholarships offered to international students. The first step of applying for scholarships is to research different types of scholarships and know whether you need to apply before coming to Japan or after.
In terms of coverage, there are different types of scholarships. A fully funded scholarship usually covers one flight ticket to Japan and one to your home country after graduation, a monthly living allowance, and school tuition. Some scholarships only give a living allowance per month. Some other scholarships offer tuition reductions every one or two semesters.
The requirements of each scholarship vary. However, we will group it by the visa requirement. Some of the scholarships allow overseas applications, but the others are only given to Japanese visa holders.
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Scholarships that can be applied from outside Japan (before arrival in Japan)
The greatest benefit of being granted a scholarship before arriving is you have everything secured. These scholarships usually are fully funded. So, when you come to Japan, you can just focus on studying and socializing with new friends. The school tuition, accommodation, monthly stipend, and other crucial things are already settled before.
However, only the Japanese government and a few private foundations, institutions, or local governments offer these kinds of scholarships. The competition is tough because the spots are limited.
Here are some scholarships you can apply for from abroad.
Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarships
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (also known as Monbukagakusho or MEXT) of the Japanese Government has been giving funds to international students since 1954. It is the most popular scholarship for those who want to study in Japan.
MEXT offers quite extensive programs that accommodate short and long programs for students. Applications should be made through Japanese embassies or consulate-generals abroad or Japanese universities. The number of grantees may change every year because of the budgeting.
For long programs or degree programs, MEXT accepts applicants to enroll in vocational (college), undergraduate, and graduate school. It’s okay if you cannot speak Japanese because this scholarship includes 6 months to 1 year of Japanese language school.
Short or non-degree programs are available to undergraduate and graduate students. For undergraduates, they offer a special program for students enrolled in Japanese language or culture majors in foreign universities outside Japan. For graduate students, MEXT offered a research opportunity in Japan.
However, MEXT scholarships do not allow plural grants. You cannot receive another scholarship if you are a MEXT grantee. Don’t worry, the monthly stipend you receive should be enough, even if you live in Tokyo. If you want to earn more, you can work part-time under some conditions.
MEXT Research Students Scholarship
MEXT Undergraduate Students, College of Technology Students, Specialized Training College Students Scholarship
MEXT Japanese Studies Student Scholarship
This program is specialized for students majoring in Japanese Studies outside Japan. It is a one-year program. The applicant should have good Japanese language skills to attend classes in Japanese universities. After completing this program, the applicant should return to their country and continue their Japanese studies at their home university.
Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO)
If you are not a Japanese studies student but still want to do a short program in Japan, JASSO is your answer. Unlike the program mentioned before, JASSO accepted applicants from any major. Japanese skills are also not required.
JASSO is an independent administrative institution under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan. It offers a monthly allowance for students in exchange programs between foreign universities and Japanese universities.
You can apply for this program only through recommendation. After you are accepted into a student exchange program in Japanese universities, they will recommend you to JASSO. The monthly allowance for JASSO recipients is lower than MEXT grantees, but they allow plural grants if the other scholarship gives less than 80,000.
JASSO Student Exchange Support Program
Local Governments and Private Foundations
There are 17 organizations that you can apply to from abroad, besides MEXT and JASSO. One of them is Rotary Yoneyama Foundation Scholarships for International Students.
The Yoneyama Foundation is the largest private scholarship organization in Japan. The scholarship covers the round trip expenses and living allowance. However, the school admission fee and tuition are not included.
Rotary Yoneyama Foundation Scholarships for International Students
Scholarships that can be applied after arriving in Japan
If you don't get the previous scholarships, don't worry! There are many more opportunities if you are already in Japan. In 2021, there were 132 organizations offering scholarships for international students. The scholarship is usually in the form of a monthly stipend and tuition reduction.
Local governments provide scholarships to students living in their district or students attending schools in the area. Applications usually are made through a school recommendation. The number of awardees per scholarship varies from 2 to 155 students.
The prefecture that offers scholarships: Hokkaido, Iwate, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Toyama, Ishikawa, Shizuoka, Kyoto, Hyogo, Okayama, Hiroshima, Kochi, Shiga, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Oita, Kagoshima, Tochigi.
Many private companies or organizations in Japan offer scholarships for international students. They sometimes have specific requirements, such as certain field studies or designated countries. For example, The Asahi Glass Foundation Scholarship is reserved for students from Thailand, Indonesia, China, and Korea. Another example is Yonex Sports Foundation offers scholarships to students majoring in sports science only.
A lot of private foundations scholarships are limited to graduate students. If you are in a master's or doctoral program, make sure to look for these scholarships.
Some schools and universities offer tuition reductions for international students. The amount is determined by a selection process and the student’s GPA. It ranges from 30 to 100% of the tuition. To apply, you can contact your school directly.
Tips for scholarship hunter
As you can see, only a small portion of scholarships in Japan can be applied from overseas, and only a few offer a full scholarship. It is highly competitive to get these scholarships.
The easier way to study in Japan is using private funds at first, then hunting for scholarships after your arrival. There are a lot more opportunities when you already have a student visa. Even some scholarships are available to non-student visa holders.
You can choose which path suits your situation better. The most important thing is to stay updated and do your best. See you in Japan soon!
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