Nearly 300,000 international students are enrolled in Japan’s universities each year. And because Japan is among the more expensive countries to seek a degree, you can bet many of them are on scholarship.
Here are five types of study abroad scholarships that could help you finance your time in the Land of the Rising Sun.
1. Japanese government scholarships
2. Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) scholarships
3. US-Japan Bridging Foundation scholarships
4. The U.S.-Japan Council’s Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship
5. Institute of International Education’s Freeman-ASIA Award
Find more study abroad scholarships for schools in Japan
The country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides gift aid to six types of international students, including undergraduates who want to spend a year on Japanese-related studies. Each year, 190 select students receive free tuition, roundtrip airfare and a monthly stipend of up to 120,000 yen (approximately $1,100).
If you want to pursue a non-Japanese studies degree, you could also apply for an undergraduate scholarship if you have already moved overseas. Annually, 460 students receive funding for this longer commitment abroad, which entails one year of language training at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies or Osaka University, followed by four years studying at another local college.
Application note: Your likeliest path to winning one of these scholarships is to be recommended by the Japanese university that has accepted you for enrollment.
If your “home school” is in the U.S. and you want to study for up to a year in Japan, look to the independently-run JASSO. Its Student Exchange Support Program hands out monthly stipends of 80,000 yen (approximately $735) to those who show financial need and are eligible for a student visa.
If, on the other hand, you’re planning to enroll directly in a Japanese school for the long haul, you’re a better fit for The Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately-Financed International Students. There are 7,800 merit-based Monbukagakusho scholarships granted annually to undergraduate, graduate and language-learning students who already hold a visa. As an undergrad, you would receive a monthly stipend of 48,000 yen (approximately $441).
Application note: Both the exchange student and Monbukagakusho scholarships require you to apply through your original school.
The United States-Japan Bridging Foundation awards financial aid for travel and living expenses to about 100 American undergraduates studying abroad each year. For the Fall 2019 semester, the 20th anniversary of the program, the foundation helped send American students to schools in every major city of Japan.
Bridging Scholarship winners receive $2,500 for semester-long programs spanning at least three months, or $4,000 for year-long programs. To be eligible, you must receive transferable credit to your U.S. college or university.
Application note: Applications, which call for a 500-word essay, transcripts and a recommendation letter, are accepted twice per year. Deadlines depend on your study abroad program’s timing. Spring semester scholarship applications, for example, are due in early October.
The Toshizo Watanabe Study Abroad Scholarship Program started as a way to support Japanese students who sought to study in the U.S. Since 2018, it has also helped American students afford the costs of going to school in Japan.
The need-based scholarship would cover up to the full cost of your semester- or year-long study abroad program — the maximum award is $25,000 for one year — but it has strict preferences for its scholarship recipients. The fund prioritizes applicants who are first-generation college students, come from a single-parent household, have lost both parents or have little international travel experience.
Application note: Participate in the organization’s virtual information sessions or join its mailing list for more information.
If you’re hoping to study abroad in Japan or one of 14 other East Asia countries or regions, consider the Freeman-ASIA Award.
The need-based grant provides $3,000 to $7,000 in funding, depending on whether you’re abroad for the summer, a semester or a full academic year. You can better your chances of earning a scholarship if you plan to take at least 20 hours of class time per week and study an East or Southeast Asian language, culture and history.
There’s one catch to the award: Upon returning home, you must lead a service project on your campus or in your community that draws on your study abroad experience.
Application note: Applications for the 2020-2021 school year will open in early 2020.
If the five study abroad scholarships above aren’t enough to trigger your wanderlust, don’t lose hope. Plenty more Japan-specific scholarships can be found via private organizations and local governments looking to diversify their enrollment.
If you’re applying or have been accepted to study in Hiroshima, for example, the Hiroshima International Center is one of many organizations providing financial aid to non-native undergraduates. Browse JASSO’s free pamphlet for a full listing of such opportunities.
Of course, you can also find study abroad scholarships here in the states. Opportunities funded by the U.S. government, schools and private organizations don’t have to be specific to Japan to be worth your while. If you have Japanese or Asian heritage, you might zero in on scholarships for Asian-American students.
Once you’ve truly exhausted your scholarship search, consider other ways to foot the bill for your overseas education. You don’t have to resort to federal or private student loans just yet.