For many of us, our first real point of contact with Japan, apart from Anime and Manga, might be when we start studying about Japan at University. Many universities offer courses about Japan, be they Japanese language courses or courses on culture, history and the like. Maybe you major or minor in Japanese (or Japanology) and your interest in the Language, the country and its culture is what got you into University in the first place. Due to this, too many of us studying in Japan for some time seems like a very natural progression. Today I wanted to talk briefly about the different options that are available to you if you are looking to spend some time living and studying in the country of the rising sun.
Your first option is going to be applicable if you are interested in studying the Japanese language. But you do not need prior knowledge to attend many of the Japanese language schools that you can find all across the country. There are many different kinds of school, some small, some big, some more focused on receiving students from western countries while others are focused on students from other Asian countries. If you are looking to attend a language school, Japan has visa agreements with many countries that allow you to stay in Japan for up to 90 days. If you are not from a country that has such a visa agreement in place, or you want to attend school for more than 90 days, you are going to need a student visa. These visas are sponsored by the school and usually allow you to stay and study in Japan for up to 1 year (although you are not allowed to work unless you get permission).
Exchange programs or language programs at Universities
Student exchanges are getting ever more popular and Japan is no exception, with many Japanese Universities sending their students abroad and accepting foreign students in return. If you are currently enrolled in a university, it is a good idea to check whether your university has any student exchange agreements with Japanese universities. Depending on your university, the application process for these exchange programs may be highly competitive, but if you are lucky enough to be chosen as a participant, you will usually receive scholarships and living assistance and thus you can enjoy your life in Japan pretty carefree. But in case you were not chosen as an exchange candidate, do not despair. For diversities sake, many of the big Japanese private universities offer language programs, which allow you to attend University and experience campus life in Japan for up to one year, while mainly focusing on studying Japanese. The caveat here is that oftentimes these programs can be expensive, but in many countries’ governmental bodies, organizations or educational institutions offer scholarships that you might be able to apply for. Inside of Japan, universities, local governments and other organizations provide scholarships as well, making studying in Japan for a year a rather affordable deal.
Enrolling in University
Last and least, we have the nuclear option. If one year is not enough for you, you could always decide to enrol in a Japanese university full-time. If this sounds appealing to you, you probably are already very well-versed on everything Japanese and don’t really need me to tell you anything. For anyone else, the big and obvious problem here is, that courses will almost always be held in Japanese. The number of people, who can understand enough Japanese when they are fresh out of high school and looking for a University, to attend classes in the Language will be pretty low in most non-Asian countries. Some universities provide undergraduate programs in English, but they are also few and far between. Just as with a work contract, committing yourself to a foreign country for up to four years without much prior knowledge can be a big ask, so many people are hesitant about attending University in Japan full-time. If you are from a European country with no tuition costs (I’m from Germany were tuition is generally free), you should also consider, that tuition fees in Japan can be pretty high (up to 10.000 Euro or 100.000 Japanese Yen per semester in some cases).
If you are studying the Japanese language, or are at all interested in Japan, then attending a University or a Language school can be a great way for you to experience life in Japan. If you are considering moving to Japan, then getting to know the country beforehand is also a bonus. Student-life in Japan is famously pretty relaxed, in stark contrast to working-life, but you will still be able to judge whether you could see yourself spending time in the country long-term.