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A Guide to Degrees Abroad in Japan

Studying abroad in Japan for a short semester program and exposing yourself to a thriving national culture, which remains largely autonomous even in our age of global hyperconnectivity, is one thing. However, earning a full degree abroad in Japan is another thing entirely. By learning the Japanese language, attending a local university, and befriending your Japanese peers, you may find that this small island country, which wields a tremendous amount of international influence, feels quite like a second home at the end of your degree program.


Japan encompasses an archipelago of nearly 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean, just east of China, Korea, and Russia. With over 125 million people living mostly among its four major islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku), Japan is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

Tokyo is the big sell for most international students pursuing a degree abroad in Japan. Japan’s bustling capital is the largest metropolitan area in the world, a truly massive urban sprawl which is populated by 35 million people. It is regarded as a premier global city, with huge international prestige in business, politics, science, art, and just about every other area of social influence. One of the world’s undeniably great cities, Tokyo is the place to earn your degree in Japan if you are ready for the Japanese “big time”.

For students interested in an alternative educational experience away from Japan’s nucleus of activity, there are plenty of other promising destinations to earn a degree abroad in Japan. While no longer the imposing power it used to be, Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto is another especially popular choice among international students, thanks to its magnificent medieval architecture and an overwhelmingly rich sense of history. Other flourishing Japanese cities that offer plenty of viable degree program opportunities include Osaka, Nagoya, and Yokohama.

Degree Programs in Japan

When it comes to academics in Japan, things get a bit tricky. While Japanese universities remain open to international students, there is quite a significant catch, which you may already have guessed: the language of instruction almost everywhere in Japan is Japanese. If you are proficient enough in the Japanese language to enroll in regular courses alongside local students, then a literal world of academic opportunity awaits you in Japan. If your Japanese language skills are a bit more limited, or entirely nonexistent, then you’ll have to explore other degree program options in Japan outside traditional universities.

An alternative option to university coursework, for those with limited Japanese abilities, is attending an international school, where it is also possible to earn a degree in Japan. There are quite a few independently run global institutions that offer English-taught degree programs in Japan, both at the undergraduate and graduate level, for students who do not speak Japanese. Many Western universities also have partner or satellite schools based in Japan, which offer additional English-taught degree program opportunities in Japan.

If you want a truly immersive experience earning a degree in Japan, however, then making the effort to learn Japanese is definitely the way to go. Regardless of where you decide to earn your degree abroad, knowing the local language will allow you to delve much deeper into the local culture and way of life.

Some of the most popular degree programs in Japan include international business, philosophy, finance, and art history. The type of degrees available will largely depend on what type school you decide to attend, so keep this in mind when researching degree programs in Japan.

Scholarships & Costs

Japan is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, so the costs of earning your degree abroad in Japan will be largely on par with the rest of the industrialized world. The local currency used in Japan is the called the Yen, which runs at about 120 JPY to $1.

International students may have to pay more in tuition than local students, depending on the university and sometime the specific degree program. For information on financial aid opportunities offered to students earning a degree abroad in Japan, be sure to check out GoAbroad’s Scholarship Directory.

Accommodation & Visas

Dormitories are generally the most popular housing option for international students earning a degree in Japan through a Japanese university. Living in a dorm offers students instant and constant opportunities to immerse into campus life and get to know their peers. Wherever you end up living during your degree program in Japan, expect your accommodations to be small but cozy; the Japanese make use of minimal space very efficiently and comfortably.

You will have to obtain a student visa to earn a degree abroad in Japan. Your host university will need to sponsor you and provide necessary documentation, but it shouldn’t be too much trouble to obtain a student visa if you make sure you get started on your application early. For more information from a Japanese consulate, be sure to check out GoAbroad’s Japanese Embassy Directory.

Benefits & Challenges

The Far, Far East. Japan is known as the Land of the Rising Sun, and for students travelling from the Western world it may indeed at times feel like the opposite end of the Earth. Geographically isolated throughout much of its history, Japan retains an impressively unique cultural identity that will challenge and educate you every day.

Linguistic Opportunity. While many Japanese citizens are able to speak English proficiently, the same does not usually apply for native English speakers. Therefore, learning Japanese will be an extremely valuable skill to carry with you after you complete your degree in Japan.

History Lessons. From the days of the samurai to its abrupt introduction to the West to the horrors of WWII, Japan has an immensely intriguing historical tale to tell. A country is what history has made it, and delving deep into Japan’s roots will help explain the country’s modern identity.

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