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Higher Education and Studying Japanese

Knowledge is power.

Higher education in English in Japan

Why study at a Japanese university?

Both the current Japanese government and Japanese higher learning institutes are actively trying to increase the number of foreign students by offering scholarships and making the path to admissions much easier.

You will have to meet entry requirements, but in most cases, these requirements relate to attendance at the language school and overall language ability. If you study at a language school and can get your Japanese to a suitable level, it’s possible to have Japanese universities contacting you with scholarship offers.

In addition, national universities have much lower tuition fees than in other countries. Even private university tuition can be cheaper, especially if you can receive scholarships.

Types of universities in Japan

You will find three types of universities depending on how they were founded.

  • National universities (established by the Japanese government)
  • Public universities (established by local public entities)
  • Private universities (established by educational corporations)

Private universities account for about 80% of all universities and have about 80% of all university students on their registers.

Types of degree in Japan

  • University Bachelor’s degree = 4 years
  • Graduate school Master’s degree = 2 years
  • Doctor’s degree = 5 years
  • Professional degree = 2 years
  • Junior College Associate’s degree = 2 or 3 years
  • College of Technology Associate’s degree = 5 years
  • Specialized School Specialist’s degree = 2 or 3 years
  • High-level Specialist’s degree = 4 years
  • Medicine, Dental Surgery, Pharmacy = 6 years

Japanese universities that offer degrees in English

You can consult the complete list of degrees offered in English in Japan on the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO)’s website.

Getting into a Japanese university

Most Japanese universities offer a special entrance examination for privately financed foreign students.


If you are receiving funding from the Japanese government, it is best to go to their website for specific instructions.

There are six types of Japanese government-sponsored scholarships available under the Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship program: Those for research students, teacher training students, undergraduate university students, Japanese studies students, college of technology students and special training students.

Find out if you are eligible for a scholarship here.

General process

Eligibility criteria for an undergraduate degree program for international students include:

  • Have completed or will have completed 12 years of school education in your home country (you will need to submit a transcript)
  • You should not have any immigration issues, which may interfere with your entry into Japan or with your study in Japanese university
  • You will take the examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU), administered by JASSO

As for the application, some universities require a personal statement, the result of your Japanese language proficiency test (JLPT, see What is the JLPT? below) and the result of your TOEFL score. Letters of recommendations are needed based on the university you will be applying to, so check with the university.

Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)

The EJU is an examination introduced in 2002 by JASSO, and is considered as a part of the entrance examination for international students who wish to study at universities or other higher educational institutions in Japan. This examination is conducted in Japan twice annually in June and November and is scheduled to be held in about 17 cities outside Japan, mainly in the Asian region. The examination subjects are Japanese as a Foreign Language, Science, Japan and the World, and Mathematics. Questions are available in Japanese and English. Applicants will take the examination on the subjects and in the language designated by the respective colleges or universities. Some of the universities consider the result and grades at senior high school without requiring students to sit the university’s entrance examination. Therefore, if you apply to such a university, you could receive permission to enter that university without even leaving your home country.

Getting a student visa

Once you get accepted into a Japanese university, you’ll be asked to complete a Certificate of Eligibility form, a copy of your passport and proof of funds (demonstrates sufficient funds are available for your studies). Then the international student center at the Japanese university will submit your COE at the immigration authorities in Japan.

After you receive a COE from the Japanese university, you will need to visit the Japanese embassy in your home country and bring the following documents:

  • Application materials for your student visa
  • Passport
  • Student visa application form
  • One photo
  • Certificate of Eligibility (must be original)

For more information about the student visa check our visa section on GaijinPot Study. For general information about studying at a university, see our FAQ.

Studying Japanese in Japan

Classes organized by the local government or volunteers

When you’re finally settled, make sure to check if your city offers Japanese classes or if there are classes organized by volunteers in your area. Those classes are usually free or offered at a very reasonable price. These classes are good to socialize and to learn basic Japanese.

Japanese language schools

Whether you’re looking to learn Japanese for fun, for your career prospects or to improve your quality of life in Japan, investing in a course at a Japanese language school is an excellent opportunity.

GaijinPot Study partners with a range of fantastic language schools across the country. If you’re interested in applying to learn Japanese from overseas, check out our GaijinPot Study Placement Program which provides full support from getting your visa to sorting accommodation for students coming to Japan.

What are the course options at a Japanese language school?

  • Full-time courses

A full-time course typically runs from Monday to Friday for half a day (morning or afternoon). Depending on the school, you can sign-up from 1 week up to a maximum of 2 years. Classes range from Beginner to Advanced level. Depending on your goals check what kind of elective classes schools offer to their full-time students: JLPT, Business, EJU, conversation and so on.

Note that if you are not in Japan and require a student visa, you will need to apply to a full-time course. You can check the schools partnered with GaijinPot here.

  • Part-time courses

If you live in Japan and don’t have the budget or the opportunity to commit to a full-time course, check if there are schools in your area offering part-time courses. Part-time courses are usually organized in the evening or on weekends. They offer a flexibility that would work better with your busy schedule.

  • Private lesson

There are many advantages to studying Japanese with a private tutor. They’ll be able to adjust the difficulty level and type of classroom materials to your own ability levels and goals. You’ll also be able to tailor your lesson schedule to your needs.

Some Japanese language schools offer private tutoring. Otherwise, there are several websites on which you’ll be able to search for a teacher that matches your criteria.

  • Japanese University Language Course

If you are still a student, you can attend a Japanese language course at a Japanese university. The unit credits may be transferable and you could have the opportunity to take on some other classes.

Be social

A good way to learn and improve your Japanese is to get together with some Japanese friends and immerse yourself in an exclusively Japanese environment on a regular basis. The more time you spend getting to know your Japanese neighbours, the faster your Japanese will improve.

Apps for learning Japanese

  • DuoLingo
  • Human Japanese
  • iKnow
  • Japanese LS Touch
  • StickyStudy
  • WaniKani
  • KanjiBox
  • Kana/Kanji LS Touch
  • Pastel Daily Kana Quiz
  • Japanese
  • Lang-8’s HiNative-Language Learning Q&A
  • FluentU
  • TenguGo Kana & Kanji
  • Dr Moku’s Hiragana and Katakana Mnemonics

Game apps

  • Flashcards by NKO
  • Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector
  • Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp
  • Pokémon Go
  • Study Stack
  • Chaos Ring 3

For more lists, check out:

Free online learning resources for Japanese

  • Marugoto
  • NHK
  • A Guide to Japanese Grammar

Textbooks for studying Japanese

From beginner to Business Level, find the perfect textbook for your needs to learn major grammar points and vocabulary.

How to pick the right textbook

Not all textbooks work for everyone, so if you are planning to study on your own and don’t have a mandatory textbook from your school, pick your textbook with care. You should consider your learning style, your needs, and your level. Budget also factors in your choice – don’t rush to buy the first textbook you find.

Where to buy

If you’re not in Japan, consider White Rabbit Japan, Amazon, or other online sellers available in your country.

1. Elementary Japanese

If you are looking for a complete and easy method to get started with your Japanese studies, Elementary Japanese is great for self-learners.

2. Genki

Heavily used by Japanese language schools and courses all around the world, the Genki Method offers a perfect start for beginners. The lesson structure is well-thought-out and easy to follow, and the difficulty increases gradually. The series is designed for in-class learning so the material may not always be presented in the best way if you are self-learning, but there’s no doubt Genki is great to build a good foundation in Japanese.

3. Minna No Nihongo

Next to Genki, the Minna No Nihongo series is also very popular with Japanese language schools and offers the benefit of being translated in many languages. The books offer a very solid introduction to Japanese grammar and vocabulary, with an explanation on the importance of pitch accents in Japan. Essential grammar, vocabulary, listening, and speaking are taught and instilled in students through situational daily conversations. This method covers more content than the Genki method while being very academic.

4. Japanese for Busy people

The romaji version of this textbook is perfect for you if you are a professional looking to grasp the basics of the Japanese language and conversation without dwelling on the writing system too much. If you’re keen on learning hiragana and katakana, go for the kana-version of this textbook. More-business oriented and realistic, the lesson structure introduces key grammar points and vocabulary gradually.

5. Yookoso! An Invitation to Contemporary Japanese

If you’d rather learn with examples and not dwell on grammar explanations, Yookoso! is a good alternative to a more classroom-oriented method. This textbook offers some very academic grammar explanations accompanied by a wide range of realistic example sentences.

6. Japanese the Manga Way

If you are looking to supplement your studies with some fun, Japanese the Manga Way is a good alternative to most traditional textbooks. Well explained and enjoyable, the lessons use real manga to illustrate grammar and key expressions.

Reference books

1. All About Particles

Define and understand better Japanese particles through clear explanations and realistic sentences.

2. Dictionary of Japanese Essential Expression

This comprehensive dictionary of Japanese expressions is perfect for all levels and includes 1,000 entries. If you are studying toward the JLPT, this book will teach you the most essential expressions and provides several example sentences per entry.

3. Kanji in Context

The Kanji in Context series is a system designed specifically for intermediate and advanced learners. This series will enable you to systematically and efficiently learn 2136 kanji and the kanji-based vocabulary essential to advanced Japanese communication. You can practice and review your knowledge efficiently with their workbooks.

Listening and speaking practice

1. Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese! Ace Japanese Interviews!

Whether you are a student or a young professional, this shadowing method will help you a lot in preparing for job interviews in Japanese. You’ll be able to practice your listening and speaking with the typical questions Japanese interviewers ask.

2. 15 Communication Tips for Becoming a Good Speaker & Listener

With this book, you will learn through 15 units how to use appropriate words and grammatical structures in context. You will improve your conversational skills in Japanese and get some tips helping you understand better Japanese communication patterns and culture.

Reading practice

1. Japanese Graded Readers

This is an excellent series of books written in easy and controlled language for Japanese learners. The volumes are graded according to the vocabulary and grammar complexity, from beginner to advanced, so you can enjoy reading in Japanese at your own level.

Business Japanese

1. Nihongo Keigo Training

Perfect if you have an intermediate or advanced level and you would like to review and practice Keigo with realistic conversations. Each lesson also introduces useful tips for working in a Japanese environment.

2. Work in Japanese! Business Japanese in 30 hours (にほんごで働く!ビジネス日本語30時間)

If you’re looking to quickly cover the basics of Business Japanese, this textbook is a great entry with each chapter focused on a specific business setting. Illustrations are provided to help understand each situation. Role-playing exercises are included along with grammar drills, a vocabulary list, and a CD.

3. Japanese for Business People: Getting Down to Business & We Mean Business

Get ready for a lot of business-related practice. This series is fairly complete and will cover most situations encountered in a Japanese company.

4. Japanese for Business: Email, Phone Calls, and Business Etiquette

This series is great if you have an intermediate level of Japanese and you’re looking to improve your business skills.

What is the JLPT?

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is a standardized criterion-referenced test to evaluate and certify Japanese language proficiency for non-native speakers. Since 1984, it’s been organized by the Japan Educational Exchange and Services (JEES) in Japan and by the Japan Foundation overseas. The test consists of 5 levels with N5 being the lowest and N1 the highest level of qualification. It covers language knowledge, reading ability, and listening ability.

In most cases, the JLPT is the best way to measure and demonstrate your ability in Japanese. If you’re applying for a job in Japan, most companies will require an N2 level pass of the JLPT (minimum).

You can take the test in Japan or outside of Japan. It’s an easy process to apply via the JLPT website. The test costs around ¥5000 (in Japan), and you’ll usually have to travel to a designated test center near to your home to take it.

What is the BJT?

The BJT is a proficiency test measuring your current communicative proficiency in business in the Japanese language. The results are processed statistically based on item response theory (IRT) to produce a score from 0-800, and evaluated on a scale of six levels from J5 to J1+.

Studying for the BJT

1. BJT Business Japanese Proficiency Test Skill Improvement Workbook: Listening and Reading Comprehension

If you plan on working in Japan and are looking to prove your worth to your future employer, you should consider taking the BJT. To help you prepare for the test, Three A Network created the BJT Business Japanese Proficiency Test Skill Improvement Workbook: Listening and Reading Comprehension. The book focuses on both listening and reading comprehension in Japanese business situations.

Japanese immigration authorities refer to BJT scores when evaluating visa applications. If you want to do business in Japan, you have to prove that you are a worthy candidate. What better way to prove it than with a high BJT score?


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