The Monbukagakusho Scholarship And How To Go Study In Japan

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)

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  • 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