What the FAQ? Studying in Japan

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Welcome to the ultimate guide to living and surviving in Japan as a foreigner. In this part of our What the FAQ? series, we will be tackling the most frequently asked questions from students hoping to come to Japan.

Be sure to check out our Student Placement Program if you’re interested in studying here. GaijinPot Study has tons of resources, including options for language schools, cultural tips and quick Japanese lessons. Applications for the January 2018 term close Sep. 8, 2017.

Before coming to Japan

Arriving in Japan

Setting up in Japan

Going to school

Traveling outside of Japan


Before coming to Japan

to do list

I want to study in Japan, where do I apply?

Lucky you. There are tons of educational institutions that offer courses to international students. It all depends on what you want to learn in Japan. You can enroll in a university, junior or special training college, preparatory educational institution or college of technology in Japan for up to four years. If you’re looking for something more short term, you can join exchange programs or language schools for up to two years. We have some options for you over on GaijinPot Study.

So, how do I get the student visa?

Time to get a notepad and pen because this is important.

First of all, you need to get something called a “Certificate of Eligibility,” which is like a pre-screening done in Japan.  In order to get this certificate, you will have to get a school to sponsor your visa application. Of course, most of them will be happy to do so! Each school has their own requirements in terms of what you’ll need to give them, so you can contact us at GaijinPot Study and we’ll make it as easy as possible for you.

Once the certificate is sent to you, you’ll then need your passport (duh), completed visa application form (available for download at Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan), one photograph (or two), and the Certificate of Eligibility (original and copy).

Where am I going to stay?

If you have friends living in Japan, you probably have heard how “unfriendly” Japan can be towards foreigners seeking housing in the country. Although it can be difficult to find housing through traditional Japanese real estate agencies that require guarantors, there are plenty of other agencies that provide foreigner-friendly services for housing in Japan. Check out Gaijinpot Apartments for options. If you are more of a social butterfly or want cheaper alternatives, a share house is a great choice for you. Still having trouble choosing? We have an article covering the pros and cons of both apartments and share houses.

How much money should I bring?

It really depends on your spending habits. Are you a shopaholic? Either bring a lot of money or don’t bring much at all. Japan is known for emptying wallets due to the wide variety of items available for purchase. It’s generally recommended to bring at the minimum ¥100,000 to start your stay. You can always withdraw money from your home bank account using the ATMs at 7-Eleven.

Okay, what else should I bring?

Anything you find necessary but there are certain items that will help you settle in faster. Yes, your favorite teddy bear can also be on the list. As for clothing, the temperature in Japan varies depending on the season and area. You can check the average temperatures of the city you are residing in to pack the appropriate clothes.

So, do I get anything for being a student?

Yes, you do. All you need to do is show your student card and you will open the gates to unlimited student discounts and perks. In addition to all the information we mentioned above, you can also get discounts for train tickets, karaoke, museums, restaurants… you name it. Keep it with you at all times.

Arriving in Japan

arriving in japan

What do I need to do before I leave the airport?

Get your resident card before you head out of the airport — to do so you will need to show the visa you received from the consulate. An official from the immigration office at the airport will then take the Certificate of Eligibility and give you the resident card. If you want to work while you are in Japan, you can submit a completed application for Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted (a very long name, I know). You can work up to 28 hours a week and eight hours a day during vacations. Do not forget to give them this paper! It’s possible to apply after arriving, but it will require visits to the immigration office and potentially a lot of time.

How do I get from the airport to my destination?

It depends on your destination. Most airports have trains and airport limousine buses that will take you to the nearest station close to your new home. Hopefully, your new school will have also given you all the details you need on where to go.

Setting up in Japan

How do I register my residence?

Once you figure out how to write your address in Japanese or English (within 14 days of settling down), you can register your residence with your resident card at the closest local ward or city office.

What about insurance?

Great news for you. You can apply for insurance at the National Health Insurance counter at your local ward or city office. As a student, you can get insurance at a discounted price. The national insurance covers 70 percent of your medical costs, leaving only 30 percent for you to pay upfront. A bargain for your buck.

What do I do with all this money?

Well, the bank of course! It is highly advisable to set up a Japanese bank account because it is more convenient. Make sure to bring your resident card, passport and student ID (or Certificate of Acceptance) when you open a bank account.

Three popular banks in Japan are Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, Mizuho and the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ. Shinsei Bank is another that’s popular with foreigners (some of its services including online banking are available in English). You can also create a bank account at the post office, which offers free withdrawals anytime. Do be aware that some banks will not let foreign students open an account unless they can answer some questions in Japanese, and some banks also have rules about not opening accounts for students unless they have been in the country for at least six months!

Phone service please?

I know you are dying to share all the cool things you encounter here in Japan. There are plenty of phone contracts available from different carriers for different types of students. If you are only here short term, a pre-paid data SIM card would be the right choice for you — buy it at Bic Camera or Yodobashi Camera. For long-term students, consider joining a subscription plan for one or two years. Keep in mind that you need a resident card and Japanese bank account for the plan. The big three phone companies in Japan are Docomo, Au and SoftBank. But, there are other options, too.

Going to school

How do I get to my school? 

As you may have noticed, Japan has a great public transportation system. Using a car is not necessary unless you live outside a major urban center (aka the boonies). The best way to get around without hassle is to have a transportation card like a Pasmo or Suica (or regional variant) that can be used in most major cities. It requires a ¥500 deposit plus another ¥500 that can be used immediately to get started. You also get a small discount by using the card instead of the regular ticket.

If you live close to your school (lucky you), you can either walk or travel by bicycle. There are plenty of different bikes to choose from, but don’t forget to register your bike. Yes, they even have licensed number plates. Bike share and rental options are also available near train stations for those who want uncomplicated cycling.

Wow, transportation is expensive. Is there a cheaper alternative?

Yes, you can get a student commuter pass if you are a full-time student. General commuter passes are available for those who are not full-time. Pick up an application form at your nearest station.

Traveling outside of Japan

I want to come back to Japan, what do I need to do? 

We want you to come back to Japan, too, so make sure to check “I am leaving Japan temporarily and will return” on your disembarkation card before you leave.

We understand that this is a generalized version of an international student’s life in Japan, and everyone’s experience is different. What are some questions you have/had or what do you wish you know/knew as a student in Japan? Let us know in the comments below!

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