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.
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 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
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.
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 …
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!