How to get a Japanese Scholarship


Getting to Japan is expensive. Living in Japan is expensive. Why not let someone else take care of the monetary part of going to Japan so you can go there for free? There are a lot of people (and governments) just handing out money (I feel like the guy that wears the question-mark suit on those commercials) to help you go to Japan and other places as well. Whether you’re looking to grab some scholarships to go to Japan, college, or some other country, these tips could be applicable to you (but even more applicable to those going to Japan).

Scholarships to Japan

First off, I’m not going to tell you where to find these scholarships. That changes all the time and I can’t track that. What doesn’t change (as fast, anyways) is how to get scholarships to Japan. You’re a Google search away from finding the scholarships on your own, but there’s a reason why most people don’t actually get them when they apply.

What you need to do to get a Japanese Scholarship

To be honest, you don’t need to do that much. When I was in high school, I applied for and won a full scholarship to study in Japan for a year (they even paid for things like travel, train, my bike, and more!). It was through the Japanese Foreign Ministry, and when myself and the other 24 recipients got together before heading out I was surprised at the complete lack of quality, not that I wasn’t a little punk myself. I’m not necessarily saying that you can be terrible and still get one, but it’s definitely not like getting a full ride to Harvard either. Besides that, I’d recommend a couple of other simple things you can do for yourself:

  1. Learn some Japanese: It looks good if you’ve studied a little bit of Japanese. Kind of makes people feel like you’re in it to learn something new, and not just to hook up with snow monkeys and vending machines. If you don’t have a local program, then you should consider checking out eduFire. Recommended study years 1-2 years, and I would say that self study doesn’t look quite as good, even if it can be just as effective if not more-so when done right.
  2. Don’t learn too much Japanese: While it’s good to have learned some Japanese, it also looks bad if you’re too good at it.  They want you to learn something new, and would probably rather send someone who isn’t so proficient. If you’ve learned a ton already, or have spoken it at home since you were a wee lad, it might be good to skirt the truth a bit and develop that gaijin accent, in case anyone asks.
  3. Learn some Japanese history: It’s best not to be ignorant about history. It shows you care about the country more than what it has to offer right now. Don’t only learn the good, learn the nasty bad stuff too. It’ll give you much better insight, and judges will appreciate this (and it will show in your answers!).
  4. Write your goals down: I mean it, take out a piece of paper and write it. Then, figure out 10 people that can help you get closer to that goal and contact them about it. Every day, figure out who you can talk to and what you can do to achieve it. There was a study done recently. One group of people at the same college wrote their goals down, one group came up with goals (and didn’t write them down), and the last group came up with no goals. The group that didn’t write their goals down were twice as successful (in terms of salary), and those that did write their goals down made eleven times more. The people who didn’t think about goals at all are asking for your money when you walk by them on the street. WRITE THEM.

Some things to say on your Japanese scholarship essay

Most programs will make you write an essay, or at the very least answer a bunch of questions. Although I’ve never been on the other side of the table, here is my opinion on the things they are and aren’t looking for: DO:

  1. Intercultural sharing: You want to say that you are excited to share your culture with people in Japan, and you are excited to learn about Japanese culture as well. It’s all about sharing cultures and making the world more international. World peace, yo!
  2. Share a personal story: How has Japan affected you personally? Do you have a relative? Is there a particular historic event that makes you interested in Japan, because a grandpa fought in the war? Are you an anthropologist and are you interested in the Ainu? Is there a native Japanese plant species that you and your biology major must go study and learn more about? Little things like this that make you stand out really help. I think mine was that I was doing kendo and wanted to take part in the after-school club culture and learn about that culture + kendo, blah blah blah BS BS BS.
  3. Be Excited: (but not toooo excited). They wouldn’t want to give a scholarship to someone who wouldn’t really appreciate it and make the most of it. One way to show this is by being excited – be careful not to go exclamation mark crazy though!!!
  4. Include a video: I might be going out on a limb here, but I think videos really make you stand out. They show your personality, they give the judges a face to look at and relate to, and they give you a chance to shine (or fail horribly). It’s really easy to include videos on DVDs and such.
  5. Keep a blog: Tell the judges that not only are you excited to share your culture in Japan, but you are also excited to share your experiences on your blog with the rest of the world. Probably would work better if you had a blog before you apply (I bet they’d notice you more if you have a blog with more readers). It’s also a good way for the judges to learn more about you, if they wish.
  6. Have your mommy read it over: I know I felt really dumb when my mom revised my essays for school and such, but I also really appreciated it. Having other people revise your stuff (and staying humble about it) will really improve the quality of your application. Do it, and do it a lot.
  7. Read your application out loud: When you think you are done, read your application out loud to yourself and see if it still sounds good. If it sounds good when you read it out loud, then you’re pretty close.


  1. No Weaboos: Weaboos, essentially, are people who love Japan and have no idea why (the reason is anime, probably). These people don’t get scholarships because the judges aren’t weaboos, nor do they appreciate them (I’m sure they see Weaboo applications a lot, and can totally tell). They are scholarly anthropologist folk who really like the idea of sharing culture and language. They don’t like the idea of sending someone to Japan who has no idea why they love Japan and their Domo-kun t-shirt so much.
  2. No anime, Manga: Probably a good idea not to mention these two things in your application. There might be a few ways to get away with it, but unless you’re already a near-professional manga-ka, it’s probably best to steer clear.

Just to break all this text up, here’s a video for you:

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Things to do for your Japanese scholarship interview

Not everyone requires an interview. Some do, some don’t. Here are a few things you can do to prepare and do well.

  1. Practice: Try to think of all the questions someone might ask you. Learn to tell your personal stories (that make you stand out) really well. There’s a reason why you enjoy listening to interesting people, and hate listening to boring ones. Make your story interesting and learn how to tell it in a way that’s precise, fascinating, and memorable.
  2. Wear something nice: This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many people forget this or think they’re too cool to wear something nice. It makes a big difference. I like hiring people that wear nice clothes to their interviews.
  3. Get better at speaking: Something I do to get better at talking with new people (I want to learn to be outgoing!) is talk to someone I don’t know every day and start up a conversation. Today I talked to someone at a coffee shop about their laptop, yesterday I talked to the transvestite in the elevator about shopping, etc. It’s been a couple months since I started, and now I definitely feel much more comfortable talking to people I don’t know. People who are great at talking aren’t naturally great, they practiced and got better.
  4. Network. Network. Network. I don’t mean with the people interviewing you, I mean with other influential people that can help you get that spot. You have to find the right people in the right space. Some people just know everybody, and will be able to find a connection through someone else to your judges, so that they can recommend you personally (and get others to do the same). It’s no secret that over 50% of jobs are thanks to friends or acquaintances. The same goes for scholarships, it’s all about networking. Recommended reading: Never Eat Alone. Network network network.

What would you add?

Of course there’s a lot that I’m missing, and I’m sure there will be those that disagree with some of these points. Tell me your thoughts! Help others that might be looking for a scholarship to go to Japan. Unfortunately, I’m too old to get a scholarship anymore, but maybe you’re not, and you probably have different experiences. Even general scholarship tips can be useful here – share away!

  • hiro

    hey good day! i have question. is there any advantages if i’m become japanese citizen then apply in japan for scholarships? or foreign nationality first then apply for scholarship in japan? what is better?