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!

  • Joseph Lindsay

    I wonder, can college students get on this? I kind of have a feeling its not entirely possible for people who live on their own… what do you say koichi?

  • Leroy S

    Is there an age limit on when you can apply?? I'm just starting University and would like to apply after my course is finished, so I will be 21 when my course finishes.

  • ellie

    Hey Koichi,
    Thanks for the great advice! I was researching colleges and took a break by watching youtube so it was such a coincidence to see you talking about scholarships lol
    ANYWAYS, I was wondering if it would be good to mention that a person speaks other languages too, because one time I went to a college fair and there was a booth for a Japanese college, and so I started talking to the professors there and I mentioned that I speak Spanish (lol, this seems random but i think that I mentioned this because I said that even though I spoke three other languages, Japanese is my favorite). Afterwards they seemed so much more interested in me, I couldn't believe it!!! So do you think that it would be a good thing to mention my culture even though it is not Japanese related? Does it make people seem more unique?
    Thanks for your time!!!! (sorry i wrote a lot)

  • grillface

    Well, I'm actually about to head off to Japan to study for a year at a university. I ended up getting two scholarships – one through the Australian Government, and one through JASSO. I don't know if the American readers have an equivalent of the former, but anyone thinking to do University exchange should enquire as to whether your host university will let you apply for the JASSO!
    All you need for that is good grades, I think… which are surprisingly easy to get if you choose your subjects well ;)

  • grillface

    You should try to go on an exchange during your degree! You can get scholarships for that. :D

  • Mesqueeb

    I have a question.
    If I get a MEXT scholarship to study in Japan for 5 years, will I be able to get a JASSO scholarship on top of that?
    I read on their website: quote
    ” For international students selected by MEXT, JASSO implements operations incurred in providing stipends. “
    But I don't really understand, and that's all I found about that.
    Do you know anything more about that?


  • grillface

    No idea. I don't think they'd give you both, somehow.
    But getting the MEXT for 5 years would be great!

  • Lynn

    I'm in Atlantic Canada. I'm going to study in Sapporo at Hokusei Gakuen University. JASSO provides full scholarships for a couple students from my university each year. So yep, we have an equivalent.

  • Lynn

    I would say mentioning any interesting things you've done helps. Most people are unilingual, that's boring. Not only that, but it shows your interest in languages. I like talking about how I took a latin course, traveled here and there, met people from different countries, etc.

  • grillface

    Ooo, is that the 80,000 yen one? That's pretty good (especially for Sapporo… it's not going to get me all that much in Tokyo -_-“)

    As for equivalent… I was talking about one from your local (Canadian) government? There probably is one that you can (or could have) get in addition to the JASSO.

  • koichi

    Yep, I agree – anything you can do to stand out from the crowd in a positive way is a must!

  • Peg O'Keefe

    I have questions too??
    Hey is there an Aussie office for JASSO do you know?

    By the way I noticed Japan isnt so big on teaching creative arts at Uni level, does anyone know any university in Japan that would offer such subjects. I'm doing a B.A of creative arts with a major in film studies and i'm a massive fan of Japanese style direction so i'd love to find a school like that.

  • japannewbie

    Selling an interest in Manga would be easier now as the Japanese government is working hard to promote Japan's Soft Power. You've got the Cute Ambassadors, Doraemon as the manga ambassador I believe, and even the government supported cosplay contests. It would have to be on the angle of studying something academic about manga though, and now going to Japan to try to become a manga-ka yourself.

  • facebook-33016208

    Personally, I can agree with how easy it is to get a Japanese scholarship! I didn't have to do really anything because I decided to study abroad and the university that I'm attending just gave me the JASSO stipend scholarship for my entire stay. I heard of the scholarship but I didn't know where and how to start applying for it and they just did it for me! I did have to take a certain course track, but I mainly got it because I'm interested in learning about Japanese culture and interning at an elementary school during my stay.

    I also applied for other scholarships and I talk about my experiences on my blog, if anyone is interested @

    Getting scholarships is definitely possible and a lot easier than most people think. Just get out there and start lookin' & applyin'

  • Your Grandma >=D

    Is it easier to get a scholarship as a college student than as a high school student?

  • koichi

    Yep, totally agreed! One main thing that you need to do (which you did with the desire to intern at an elementary school) is to have a personal story or thing you really want to do while you are there, to make you stand out. Choosing a good one is important too. Interning at an elementary school is perfect, nice one!

  • Crazy Talk

    “..take out a piece of paper and write it…”

    You mean, like, paper with a pen and stuff? That's crazy talk.

  • Tommy

    Hey Koichi :)
    I don't knwo if you would know or not, but are scholarships exclusively for college/university?
    This year I'll become a junior in high school, and either my senior year or the year after my senior year, I'd like to study in Japan (in high school.) The problem is is that it's usually really expensive with all the foreign exchange programs, and I don't have the money.
    If not, would I just have to look for a scholarship to a Japanese university or something…?
    Thanks in adnvance

  • Yusuke

    I applied for a scholorship and I this is quite close to what I did. And a weeabo got the scholorship T_T

    No hard feelings though – he was quite a good manga-ka

  • koichi

    Nope, there are a ton that are outside the college/university spectrum. That's what I did, too.

  • koichi

    Beats me, anyone else?

  • DennisDemori

    Hi there,

    Excellent post – very informative. You mentioned learning about Japanese history – what sources (Books, Websites, etc.) do you recommend?

  • grillface

    I don't think we have a JASSO office. As far as I'm aware, you have to apply through the university that you're going to be studying at in Japan.

    As for the second question, I don't know either. Perhaps you could ask the exchange/study abroad office at your current Uni?

  • HeadingForJapan

    Great! I want to get to the Land of the Rising Sun early, during highschool so university travel comes naturally and also the bragging rights of course.

    Also, I can imagine an interviewer asking “Why do you want to go to Japan?” and the interviewee listing of his favorite anime and manga.

  • Sr_G.O.

    I wasn't able to apply for a scolarship because I'm oevraged for 1 month :( , I mean I had to be under 22 for April 2009 and my birthday is in March, too bad, so if you guys still having the oportunity to do it go ahead

  • Zuzu Y.

    Hello, I actually have a few questions about this.
    1. In Japan, do women do kendo? I mean I am doing it in high school in the US, but do women do it there?
    2. How was the learning different, in other subjects. Like was math harder?
    (well, in general to exchange students, you could be some super genius for all I know xD)
    3.Also, Did you stay with a host many, or where?

    Sorry for the hoard of questions

  • heartlessangel7

    well wat about home schoolers how would they go about trying to find anything or does anyone know of any programs available ?

  • Lenamarie

    Well I just got back from Japan, I spent a good 9 months over there and before that 3 months prior, through a Japanese Language School program in Tokyo. [ Basically I did a loop-hole thing, got us-government financial aid for the american hosting school that was sending students to Japan. (easiest school to work with was Idaho)

    I did a massive search for schools that sent university students to Japan through study abroad. This program appealed me the most because instead of sending you to a japan university it sent you to a japanese language school (now that i know more japanese, i would like to try hanging in a university one semester). So if your school doesn't do study abroad to japan, ook around and see who will let outside students participate in their programs. ^_^

    oh yea overall the only thing i had to pay for was my flight ticket which i believe was $900RT, which i think was a worthy price to be in japan for 9months

  • koichi

    tons of programs out there for people not in normal schools. In fact, if you're homeschooling then it probably means you aren't in college yet, which means most scholarships available to you aren't tied with a school. Run a search and I'm sure you'll find something.

  • Dezzie

    This is definitely one of my favorite posts! I've been thinking about applying for the japanese undergraduate MEXT schoarship for a few months now. I've still got a while to prepare (I'll be apply for the year of 2011), but I think it doesn't hurt to start now. :]

    Oh, and to Tommy and HeadingForJapan: There are a lot of highschool scholarships to study abroad in Japan (which is what I did before my junior year). I went through the program YFU, and I was given a pretty amazing scholarship! Just do your reasearch and you'll find something!

  • Jonas Chillings

    You are going to Hokusei I know tons of ppl from there. If you don't mind tell Jason Barrows if you meet him that Meeks said “Your momma”.

  • Jonas Chillings

    is this limited to undergrads only??? I would love to go to grad school in Japan.

  • Pocko

    I love the way you have to be British to sound clever :P
    By the way, I'im British. And I take your British accent as a compliment matey. By the way thanks for the tips matey.

  • Peg O'Keefe

    I did ask my uni and they really only send marketing and maths kids to Japan, maybe if you study arts your just not responsiable enough who knows.
    I'm going on a scouting mission at the end of the year so i'll run down some uni options then.
    So look out Japan there will be a Peg on the lose

  • grillface

    Ouch, that's pretty harsh on their account. My Uni (Adelaide) told me that they loved to send arts students because they could easily find compatible subjects.
    Oh well, if you have determination then a small obstacle like this won't hold you back!

  • Lynn

    This is most likely because of the university they are in partnership with. My university is a liberal and applied arts university. It's also technically catholic (not really in practice). So their exchange partner is also a liberal arts university. They don't have other programs like math, so it wouldn't make sense to send a math student there.

    Instead of exchange, you could always consider just doing international study. This is done on your own, you pay double tuition I believe (most unis charge this for internationals) not through your university. Then you can transfer the credits back to your home university.

  • serph

    Well, I live in Colombia and you can apply for the MEXT postgraduate scholarships here as well, I plan to do that once I finish my Bachelor's degree in Electronic Engineering, and the requisites aren't that hard to meet: you have to be under 35, have good grades, you have to prove that your English is good through a written exam or your IELTS score or something like that (but I guess that's something you only have to do if you live in a Spanish-speaking country such as mine), and there's a japanese exam that tests your level but it says that it doesn't matter if you aren't that good, you'll have 6 months to study the language and then go on with your grad studies:). And there's the essay, the interview, recommendation letters, and if you want stuff that says you are special like a chess championship award and whatnot. I'm not a native english speaker so forgive me If I butchered your language in the reply, but I need to practice my English too if I want to go to Japan.

  • Caitlin

    JASON! I did my study abroad there too!

  • Caitlin

    This should be common knowledge, but I know of a few people who have made this mistake, so my advice would be, “Don't lie.” If the judges actually check and your blog/vlog shows that you're not interested in anything Japanese except anime, manga, or the youngest Johnny's group, then that's going to kill your application.

  • bk201

    One tip, expect to speak some Japanese in your interview. Prepare some responses so you're ready. The Japanese judge in my interview asked me talk about my hobbies, and so I gladly did. Awaiting results in January. Painful wait :O

  • xeugene123x

    try it out :)

  • Chris

    Hey guys. I'm a senior in high school this year and I've studied Japanese a little bit and would like to apply for a scholarship to study in Japan. I am completely new to this AKA I have no idea where I should start. I've tried googling some of the places here but most of it was just confusing. What is the best way for me to apply for a scholarship? Should I wait until University and then try to apply through there? I've seen a few different categories of student scholarships and I'm not sure which one I would fall into. Any help is appreciated, thanks.

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  • Dezzie

    Hey Chris! I'm a senior in highschool as well and I'm in the same situation as you. I'll share my plan with you: Firstly, I'll be applying for the MEXT scholarship for the yr 2011. The reason I didnt apply for the 2010 scholarship was because of the US school system. I don't graduate until June, but the scholarship needs you to have your highschool education done by April (the Japanese school system starts in the spring.) So what I plan on doing is to gradaute highschool, then go to a commmunity college (or really anywhere is fine) and take some General education courses, and japanese language courses. That way, if I don't get the scholarship, I'll be able to transfer to some other University w/ ease.
    Hope that kinda made sense. I have to say though, do your REASEARCH!!! It pays off in the end. :D

  • Derek Fuerstenberg


    I'm a junior in high school and well, I'm deciding between trying to get a scholarship to go to japan through foreign exchange this year or next year. If I go this year for a full year there are a lot of conflicts that I don't like and well it appears there would be a lot less conflicts if I go for a full year next year. On top of that my GPA is only a 2.8 which limits my choice of foreign exchange program and scholarships plus if I went this year I couldn't go to France for a week over next summer…

    Moving along so my question more or less actually is whether or not if there are any conflicts I'm not seeing going my senior year. I know I meet the program's max age requirements (barely) if I went that year but is there something else that it might get in the way of etc.

    I'm going to talk to my Guidance Counselor when school starts about it all, but argh I'm so confused!

  • Chris

    You're advice so far has gotten me to this page (…) And I'm assuming the scholarship that you're going for is Honors Scholarships for Privately Financed Foreign Students but I'm not sure. I go to that site but it still says it's under construction. Where did you go for forms/application info?

  • Dezzie

    No, I'm not applying for the JASSO scholarhsip because I have NO way to finance myself privately! lol Instead, I'm applying for the Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho: MEXT) Scholarship (which beats out the JASSO scholarship in benefits).

    Here are two sites to visit. They help explain everything:

    Also, since you'll be dealing with them a lot anyway, find the nearest Japanese Embassy and ask them questions. :D

  • raiko

    hey koichi i have a few questions my self the 1st one is con someone who is already going to college get one of these when wanting to attened another college after getting a masters or a bachlers in something 2nd the edgeufire program u do for others when done i know we will be able to speak the language but will we know it well enought to understand other ppl with in the japan i mean i know knowing it is one thing but useing it in a everyday life in japan is something else the speed they use it in is wat im getting at :P and 3rd will it be hard to live there once moved there o-o

  • Mike

    I hope it would be so easy….
    I've applied 3 consecutive years, I have JLPT 3kyuu (taking 2kyuu this december) for a MEXT scholarship, passed to the interview three of them, but didn't get it. They give at most, only 1 scholarship for undergraduate. I'm waiting until december-january for the results of this year application, but it's unlikely to happen since there was another one with more score than me in the exams.

    I met with tons of former MEXT scholars, got an excellent and shiny application form, and all the interviews went quite well. Also my scores from high school are quite good.
    Can't apply anymore since I'll be overaged next year.
    So I think it easy only in some circumstances and in few countries.

    Will have to get my bachelor title to apply for MEXT postgraduate or JET programme. There isn't any one scholarship program here.

  • roundlay

    Having lived in Japan for four years, and in attendance at high school for three of them, I honestly think the aforementioned advice is rather sparse. Talking with friends who're currently studying here, friends overseas who want to be studying here, and in my own experience, the path to residency/schooling in Japan is pretty rocky.