From the comments that we received from my previous two articles, it seems that many of you are actually thinking of coming to Japan for your studies. So, I thought I’d do an article to give you some advice on how to come to Japan for school. Hopefully this article will help you in your attempts to come to Japan and also help to reduce the number of emails on this subject that make their way into Koichi’s inbox (he doesn’t like so many emails).

The stuff that’ll be in the article is only meant as a guide though – the information is only correct to the best of my information and that of the people I have asked. Different schools may have their own selection processes which are different from the norm. Similarly the application processes and how to get to Japan differ greatly between what you’re also coming as – a university exchange student will have a very different process from someone coming for vocational training.

In this post I’m going to be focusing on how to get here on full length vocational training and/or university courses. I won’t be looking at exchange programs since that sort of information depends on an each individual institution (please talk to your guidance counselors for more information). On the topic of going to Japan for full length courses there is very little information to go on, so I hope to fill that hole just a little bit.

Monbukagakusho (Monbusho)


The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan?

Let’s start with the Monbukagakusho scholarship – which I myself am on. This is also often otherwise known as the “Monbusho Scholarship” (which I will use for the rest of the article) or the “Monkasho Scholarship” For a scholarship with such good terms and conditions, there’s both a lack of information as well as lots of inaccurate information out there about it.

Firstly, the Monbusho is a fully paid scholarship provided by the The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (seriously, you’d think that they’d shorten it) for prospective students aiming to study in Japan. The scholarship is often referred to as the Monbusho scholarship, Monkasho scholarship, or MEXT scholarship. It involves not only a waiving of tuition fees but also includes a stipend which is more than enough to live on in Japan.

The scholarship is provided for vocational schools, undergraduate programs as well as graduate programs in Japan (exchange students also have a separate scholarship provided). However, for the undergraduate program, the scholarship is limited to public universities – so don’t apply to the scholarship hoping to go to Sophia, Keio or Waseda.

Generally aside from this the main gist of the scholarship will not differ from what privately financed students have to go through (a period of language school followed by vocational school or university).

The differences between Monbusho and non-Monbusho students will be listed in the following sections.

Japanese Language School


Image by Yumi Momoi

Most – but not all – students go through a period of language education within Japan before starting their formal education in a vocational school or university. Notable exceptions are a significant proportion of graduate students or students going through courses in English.

As you can imagine – Japanese school teaches you well… Japanese! Duh. But in addition to that many schools will also teach you academic subjects such as physics and chemistry in Japanese – which a JLPT Level 1 person does not necessarily know. Thus, there is value in going for such schools even if you have an advanced level of Japanese.

Do note that some language schools will also organize events during which representatives of universities and vocational schools will come to do outreach so this may be useful if you are also planning to apply for your further education in Japan. Don’t expect the big names like the University of Tokyo etc. to come though – these know that people will apply to them without them organizing such outreach activities.

osakaWhere I was for a year in Osaka

For Monbusho undergraduate scholars you will be doing a year long prep course in either Osaka University (ahh the good times) or the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. For Monbusho vocational school scholars you will be having a separate year long prep course in either the Tokyo Japanese Language Education Center or the Osaka Japanese Language Education Center.

The language schools are not strictly necessary though – some universities and other institutions accept direct applications without requiring a period of study in Japan. Monbusho scholars may also apply for a waiver for the language education year (which I do not recommend however). Anyway, this brings us to …

The Applications


I can’t really go that much into detail here because each university and technical school has their own guidelines and application processes.

Generally however, if you’re looking to study in Japanese most places (especially universities) will require you to have done the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU). While there are some colleges which accept a JLPT certificate, in most cases an EJU score is necessary and a JLPT N1 pass is in no way a waiver for the EJU. It goes without saying that this is in addition to typical documentation (eg. high school grades and standardized test scores) that is expected. The EJU is however, usually not necessary for students who are coming to Japan to study in English.

Some institutions may also put in place additional requirements such as a TOEFL score for non-native English speakers. Some schools will also require an additional exam in addition to the document screening – this may come in the form of interviews (in person especially for those applying from within Japan or through Skype for those applying from overseas) and/or further paper examinations.


Do note that the semester in which you will start school depends on the program and on the institution. Generally school starts in April and if you’re studying in Japanese you’ll almost surely be starting then too. Given the application period is generally near August. However, if you are studying in English you may start (or have a choice to start) in September / October. In which case your application period will likely be near the end of the year.

For applications for the Monbusho program and scholarship, the best thing to do is to contact your respective country’s embassy because apparently procedure differs. However, in terms of applications into university within the Monbusho program during your language education period things work this way.

Firstly, vocational and graduate students have their institute decided before arriving in Japan and I haven’t heard of anyone who has managed to change it. However, for the undergraduate admissions, you don’t have to go through the typical admissions process with all the paperwork (thank goodness). However, your scores in your prep course will determine where you go and you will be competing against your fellow Monbusho scholars for a limited number of places at the public universities of Japan.

I can’t stress this enough but the Monbusho is not a straight ticket to a top ranked Japanese school. Do not expect to just sweep into the University of Tokyo or Kyoto after your one year of Japanese education. Competition is tough especially for popular majors such as engineering and economics. In fact, while most get into well regarded schools in Japan, do poorly enough and you may get thrown to a university in the middle of nowhere. And even if you do decently, you’ll be (to be brutally frank) competing against people from other countries – some of which may have a better education system than yours, and some of which may be more (for lack of a better term) exam-oriented than yours.

As I said before though, most do well enough to get into highly ranked universities – but just be aware. Overconfidence is not going to lead you anywhere.

So In Conclusion…

This article is just to give you a rough idea about applying to Japan and hopefully allow you to start thinking about what to do.

There are some things which I wasn’t able to touch on though, like for example grad school applications. And while I hope that this article has been informative please do your own research! It’s your future after all.

P.S. A picture of the instructions for a urine test which I received at Osaka U!


Correction: This article originally stated that the monbusho is unavailable for graduate studies in private universities. This is false and has been corrected.

(Note: I’ll try my best to answer questions in the comments. I may write a part 2 if there’s enough questions on the same topic or if there are any requests for further topics)

Useful Links!


Bonus Wallpapers!

[1280×800] ∙ [2560×1600] ∙ [Animated 1280×800] ∙ [Animated 700×438]

  • Skeen

    well, I’ll be 22 before 2015 so no chance here for the MEXT. Though I’m still going to Rikkyo uni at that time in stead, there are still a lot of alternative scholarship opportunities that I intend to get my hands on, though most of them are from second year on…so I’m gonna have to lay down some serious cash the first year :(….

  • zachary T

    Hey Mr.Austin, thank you for your articles on this subject. I (fairly) recently received my BA in history and kept thinking of where to go for an MA. I never thought I would be able to study abroad, let alone Japan. With these articles I will do a little research, especially if scholarships are available.

  • lazuli

    I wish I could study Japanese and more than Japanese in Japan this way…maybe difficult but I think it’s good if you wanna work in Japan later…anyway I’m too old to study now lol
    I fear last chance for me is the working holiday visa…anyway it won’t be cool to be dropped in some random uni in Japan coz I have a particular place I wanna be^o^
    Can you write an article about how to work (permanently reside) in Japan? xDD

  • Austin fanboy

    This is good! Please, Koichi make Austin a permanent FuguMember. I will buy you crabs!

  • Kay

    I applied twice and didn’t get it T_T

  • yoru.morino

    “However, for the undergraduate and graduate programs, the scholarship is
    limited to public universities – so don’t apply to the scholarship
    hoping to go to Sophia, Keio or Waseda.”

    In the Keio webpage there is a section for the MEXT scholarship…meaning you can apply. So, I don’t know if I should believe in you and began to cry or if I should do a more extensive research on my own haha

  • Wardoosh

    Thank you soooooooooo much for this post! So is medicine as competitive as Econ and Engineering for MEXT? because I’m applying for MEXT 2015 and I need your advice!

  • Shimauma

    Really interesting article!
    It reminded me of when I did a semester abroad in Russia. Studying in the country of your language of choice is really the best way to go! I learned so much more over there.

    And why did you need to do urine testing? I remember that I had to provide two blood tests (one in Canada, one in Russia) to prove to the Russian government that I didn’t have AIDS. We also had to get chest x-rays about two months in. But that was because there was a tuberculosis outbreak in my dormitory…

  • Austin

    Probably a drugs test or something. I don’t know really but well we just did what we had to do with the “peepoles” and didn’t ask any questions.

  • Austin

    Econs and engineering are competitive *within* the Monbusho programme because Econs generally gets around 20 people a year fighting for the same faculties. Roughly the same can be said for engineering. Medicine is hard to get to in the first place (I generally think less than 5 get in per year) but that means that competition within the programme is not that harsh.

  • Austin

    I suspect that that’s an entirely different scholarship given by the MEXT – maybe the JASSO one? If it states it being around 70k yen a month then it’s JASSO. However the MEXT undergraduate scholarship does not allow you to directly apply to private universities, unless there was a sudden policy change that I’m unaware about.

  • JayWeinmann

    I applied last year and failed. It was an interesting experience, the language test itself was really difficult but you don’t have to score very high to make the minimum requirement. Either way I’m glad I didn’t pass due to personal life issues that would be currently unresolved if I was in Japan right now.

  • VCQ

    That English translation on the paper is PRICELESS!

  • yoru.morino

    Well, it’s for a graduate program. I don’t know if that makes a lot of difference.

  • Inna

    Just wondering… do you know if we have to apply for the scholarship only after being accepted into a Graduate program?

  • Ren

    How would a privately financed student go about applying for the Monbusho to attend a Japanese language school directly (as in not applying to an undergraduate program at a Japanese university)? I’m hoping to pursue formal Japanese studies teaching English in Japan for 2 years, but it’s hard to find non-undergraduate information… Any help is appreciated!

  • Eustacia Tan

    I remember the urine test thing! HAHAHA.

    Ah, TUFS, good times :D

  • Inde Taylor

    I plan on doing a semester abroad in Japan through UC Berkeley in a couple years, and im gonna bring my Japanese Language proficiency up really high so I can attempt to attend graduate school at Tokyo University. Cause man oh man, UCB and TU have the BEST engineering programs i have ever seen.

  • Austin

    It probably does because the ministry (and most other countries) somewhat looser with their purse strings for graduate students than undergraduate students – it wouldn’t surprise me then if the MEXT wouldn’t want to sponsor undergraduate students in private schools but would be fine with graduate students.

  • Austin

    Oh that’s not a bad idea. Though my frank piece of advice is this. If you plan to get your Japanese proficiency high enough to study in Japanese (you could always do it in English), you’d have to start now. A semester abroad helps you a lot to improve your Japanese but it won’t be enough to get you there.

  • Austin

    Every cloud has a silver lining I guess? If you’re still under the age limit you could reapply though.

  • Austin
  • Austin

    The graduate program I’m not sure about to be frank. I’ll ask some of my friends and hopefully get back to you.

  • Austin

    I’m not exactly sure what you’re asking here, as in you’re hoping to enroll yourself in a Japanese language school while teaching English? Or you want to learn about English education in Japan?

  • lazuli

    thank you^^ I was too lazy too look on the whole blog^^

  • SD

    Great article! :D Just wondering, since you’re under Monbusho (assuming you applied before coming to Japan?), how would you rate your Japanese skills when entering uni after a year of preparatory course? Like, was it still difficult to learn in class fully in Japanese or was it doable with all the lectures and projects and stuff?

  • CPSanti

    Hi! I was in the graduate program at Toudai 2001-2007, and I’m pretty sure I had batch mates who were in Sophia and Waseda. I don’t think they restrict you to public universities. Plus places like Toudai are pretty much privatized these days. Also, though I did 6 months of Nihongo and am pretty conversant, not all grad students have to learn it. It all really depends on your professor and your field of study. I did my dissertation and happyo in English, but I did have some lectures in Japanese, though I was allowed to submit homework in English. The graduate school of engineering at Toudai even has an English track for foreign students ;-) hope this helps

  • Maria

    Yeah I was wondering about using the Mobusho Scholarship for graduate programs too…it seems like you can only apply during the application process to the university, or at least that’s how some university’s websites made it seem.

  • Mr.SL

    hi guys at tofugu =D I like almost all of your articles, but I was wondering if you have any article talk about what to visit @ japan, I am planing in taking my honey moon there.

  • Austin

    Well I could already speak an advanced level of Japanese even before I started my prep course so it wasn’t extremely difficult. Then again right no matter how much you study you’re still not going to be as fluent as most Japanese students – it is not your native language after all. But is the amount enough to learn in class in Japanese? Yes.

    Anyway I know some people in the prep course who started the prep course with only hiragana and katakana and entered university with that one year of language education only. It’s tough for them yes but from what I can see they’re still surviving quite well.

  • Austin

    You mean you were in the Monbusho-grad program and you had batchmates in the graduate courses of private universities? Ah I see, hmm…. well I guess for grad school they don’t place the restriction of going to public universities only? For undergraduate programs they certainly do so.

  • Fell

    Thanks Austin for bringing this great article to us. I am a Monbushou scholarship this year (flying on April) and if you don’t mind, there are a few things I want to know. How harsh and competitive it is for engineering? What is the life going to be like in the first year (like lecture content, syllabus and activities)? Do we need to take EJU as well? Hope I am not asking for too much ;-) Thanks

  • Shantred

    What are the chances of being accepted into a scholarship if you’re not a “traditional” student? How about any age limits? I ask because I had to postpone college for myself after highschool and I’m now 24, about to start back and would love nothing more than to study abroad on this scholarship.

  • CPSanti

    I actually didn’t know that. Yes, I was in the Monbusho grad program. And yes, there were actually a lot of Monbusho grad students at Waseda and Sophia. And ICU … I think they’re private too. My hubby did the senmon thing and he was at Osaka for a couple of years.

  • Ren

    Sorry for the confusion! I meant AFTER teaching English for 2 years I’m looking into applying to a Japanese language school; think I mistakenly erased that… Apart from JASSO’s Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students I haven’t yet found any other available scholarships for people coming straight out of the workforce and applying within Japan to attend Japanese language institutes

  • SBSdroid

    I mentioned this on one of your previous articles I think, but “monbusho” no longer exists (and hasn’t for nearly 15 years). It is called monbukagakushō, or monkashō for short. I.e., 文部科学省. It might be a good idea to have the name accurate to help readers who would search for resources regarding the scholarship. ;)

  • Austin

    Okay I’ve corrected the article. Thanks for the information!

  • Austin

    Ah … I have some bad news for you. The scholarship has an age limit where applicants must be at oldest 22 years old when they start the program. There may be other scholarships which are available though.

  • Austin

    Engineering is quite competitive – but as i said in the article most people do reasonably well to get into a top Japanese university anyway. Your life in the first year also depends quite significantly on whether you’re going to be in Osaka or TUFS. And no you don’t need to take the EJU.

  • Austin

    Hmm … this is a bit complex because most of the scholars still refer to it as the monbusho scholarship – I’ve edited the article title and inserted a clarification in the first section about the various names.

  • CPSanti

    Oh, and also I know of some grad students who manage to change schools midway. One girl was originally at Waseda for her Masters, but she finished her PhD at Tokyo Metropolitan University. Also, I know of a girl on Senmon gakko (vocational) who managed to get herself into the graduate course midway through her studies. She ended up doing a PhD in music. Shifting labs within the same uni is also doable. It takes a lot of legwork, paperwork, and diplomacy, but it’s doable if you really want it ;-)

  • Angsty Programmer

    Hi Austin, great article! It’s got my hopes up a bit about studying in Japan. I hope you don’t mind answering another question…
    Because I’m not sure if I would be eligible for an undergraduate course: basically I’ve done 16 years of education and over a year’s worth of vocational training, but I’ve never been to uni.
    Do you think I could still apply? I’m 19 and have a very low level of japanese.
    Thanks in advance

  • Sean Olejar

    Austin, what level of Japanese do you think would be sufficient for consideration for the MEXT scholarship? I’m at N3 roughly right now but I’m not sure if they expect closer to N2/N1.

  • Shanghai Ronin

    I applied for the MEXT graduate scholarship and it was one of the most painful experiences of my life. I think this article should elaborate more on all of the nitty gritty, or at least provide some helpful links as to what exactly MEXT is looking for *in* an applicant, rather than just announcing that the scholarship exists.

    Anyway, for the grad program you have to write a letter of intent, explain your field of research, write out a tentative 2 year plan as to what you will be studying, get letters of rec from people previous employers and professors, get a letter of recommendation from the university you want to go to (this is optional, I think? But I got a letter from a prof at Waseda just in case), get a health check done, and fill out the tedious paperwork. Oh, there’s so much more.

    I remember SCOURING the net for info and not finding anything, until I hopped upon Lars website–and thank god. Not only did he give a step-by-step of what to do, but he also received the scholarship and is now making amazing artwork.


  • Austin

    Yeah I think you’re eligible to apply! The conditions for the undergraduate course are I think 11 or 12 years of formal education so you fulfill that. As for the low level of Japanese – well it really does depend on who else you will be competing against when you apply. Generally speaking it is often said that humanities/arts students are largely expected to have some form of Japanese ability while science students are not required to have it at the time of application though.

  • Austin

    There’s a big range of people who actually get accepted – from people who have zero Japanese ability (tend to be those who apply for science courses) to those with N1s before they came. So Japanese ability is not exactly a prerequisite. However, it certainly does make you more competitive in the selection process.

    As for grades – well my sense is that it really depends on 1) how many they wish to award to your country for that year and 2) how much you stand out against the other people applying. So if you consider yourself “strong” then I think you’ll have a decent chance.

  • ASD

    Let’s say I want to apply to Osaka Universities Biochem course taught in English and need the monbukagakusho scholarship. Do I apply to Osaka’s program first then apply to MEXT or the apply to MEXT and state that Biochem in Osaka is my first choice? I am panicking!

  • Roroark

    Google Translate lmao

  • Steel Neuron

    Very, very interesting!

    I would like to know a bit more about how all of this applies for a potential Ph.D. I will be in Japan for the next 7 months (self-funded) at Doshisha University to finish my master’s in Electronics Engineering. I’ve considered applying for this scholarship to go for a Ph.D. Will my 7 months at Doshisha increase my chances of being accepted? How important, if at all, would a recommendation letter from a Japanese professor be?


  • Falke

    Hi! Are there any information on Tufuga regarding a shorter period of language study? For example, what are my options If I take one month off work and would like to improve my japanese skills? Should I attend some course or live with a host family? Still lvl. N5-N5 though…

    Does any of you guys have experience in this area?

  • Kurami

    I have received a mext scholarship and will be leaving for osaka in april =D then moving on to a vocational school after a year. There is less competition for the scholarships for vocational school education, so I really recommend it to anyone interested because you don’t have to be a straight A student to get it!

  • Hironohaha

    you know what,
    applying for MEXT graduate scholarship was EASY!
    believe me.
    I did it….and I succeed!
    I dont even write my own research proposal, my future supervisor–now current, help me a lot :D
    One clue I can give you here…
    APPLY FOR U2U MEXT scholarship, you ll get BIGGER chance compare to embassy one.
    What quality are they looking for,
    and WILLING to ADJUST to JAPANESE CULTURE–really, tht s what I always emphasize. When my supervisor interviewed me, I said that I have ever been studying in Japan for a year, I “know” the culture, and even if I am not familiar with the topic, I am willing to work hard.
    And VOILA!
    I am typing this in my apartment in Yokohama :)

  • Help needy

    thanks a lot for the article. it made me very clear on the subject, however i wanted to know what were the topics we needed to study to apply for this scholarship for undergraduate level in natural science A. Is is same as japanese syllabus or the questions are a bit more flexible..

  • Kim

    Would it make sense to apply, just for trying to live in Japan and to improve my Japanese?
    I think it would be nice to study in Japan for a year, so it isn’t Japanese I study but something else in Japanese.
    How good should I be at Japanese before applying?

  • Brandon

    Huh, interesting. Congrats, btw.

  • Ellizze

    Hey..are they offering scholarship for animation courses???

  • Coddo

    Hello, it seems I’m a bit late in finding this article. But I do have a question (an odd one actually) and I’m wondering if you can help me a bit with it.

    I Also applied for this scholarship (undergrad) and also went to the interview. Now the thing is, they told me that the results will arrive somewhere in February, and here I am, still with no news. When did you get your final results ?

    I wanted to research and make sure of some things before I try to contact the Embassy in my country related to this problem.

    Thanks !

  • Darren

    Hi Austin. Is the age limit really 22 years old? I’m turning 21 this year and currently being conscripted in Singapore. I thought my chances were zero as I have no way of completing my national service before the commencing of the program. To add on, I am not allowed to disrupt despite my service only being 2 months due during the commencement. So I’d like to at least have a shot at the applications.

  • melvin tah kok wai

    Hi Austin,

    First of all, thank you so much for article that you’ve wrote. It was clearly stating the requirements needed to apply for Monbukagakusho scholarship(MEXT). I’m writing this to inquire information regarding graduate scholarship programme. I’m wondering will it be fine for you to guide me through several questions of mine?

    Firstly, i am having trouble in filling up the application form for graduate students in the “Research Proposal” section. For your information, i am currently just in my 2nd year final semester and i have yet to take my final year project (thesis), generally will be taking on my next semester. From here, can you guide me on how should i proceed to fill for this section? Or do you have any friend of yours who is able to give some guidance on this? I have tried to search from the net and none of the information provided solve my problem. If possible, do you mind to share me your FB address or email?

  • Luis

    Hi everyone i applied to japanese studies students, really was a wonderful experience. My question is, how many possibilites are if i pass all the screens in my country? Me and other 5 mexicans get into the finals so we´re watting for the final decision.
    Hope you can answer me back.

  • Ineedthis

    Hey austin! I just got my undergraduate scholarship application form today, and I have to tell you my nerves are killing me. Ive barely filled it in and im already so scared, I really want this scholarship, hell I need it….Im planning on going into civil engineering….Im not the brightest but I do good and m willing to work hard, but whats been really bothering me is the qualifying exams ill have to take because I really have no idea what to expect, I need help please, just anything to help me prepare. Im not sure if my countries syllabi and the japanese syllabi have anything in commom n thats making me insane with worry….please please help