Challenges That International Students Face in Japan

Japan, the land of cherry blossoms, sumo wrestling, and vending machines that dispense everything from hot ramen to fresh eggs. It’s a dream destination for many international students seeking the adventure of a lifetime.

Challenges That International Students Face in Japan

Hold on to your kimono because beneath the enchanting facade of Japan are challenges that can leave even the most seasoned travelers scratching their heads (and sometimes their chopsticks).

Here are some challenges that international students face in Japan and pointers for how you can overcome these challenges

Why Study in Japan?

There are various compelling reasons to study in Japan, and these factors continue to draw students from throughout the world.

From academic excellence to technological, Innovation, and Cultural Richness, Japan offers international students an extensive, valuable diversity of knowledge and experience.

Studying in Japan promises not only a top-tier education but also a profound cultural experience, technological immersion, and a gateway to global opportunities.

These factors collectively make Japan an alluring destination for international students eager to embark on an enriching educational journey.

How to Apply to Japanese Universities

Applying to Japanese universities can be a rewarding process, offering students the opportunity to access a world-class education and immerse themselves in Japan’s unique culture. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to apply:

Research Your Options

Start by researching universities and programs that align with your academic interests. Japan has a wide range of institutions, from prestigious national universities to specialized colleges.

Check Admission Requirements

Each university sets its own admission requirements, so carefully review their websites or contact their admissions offices for specific information on prerequisites, language proficiency exams (like the JLPT), and application deadlines.

Prepare Necessary Documents

Collect the required documents, which typically include academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and proof of language competence. Some institutions may also require organized test scores like the SAT or ACT.

Language Proficiency

Depending on the program and university, you may need to demonstrate proficiency in Japanese or English. Japanese-taught programs often require the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), while English-taught programs may require TOEFL or IELTS scores.

Submit Applications

Complete the university’s application forms and submit them by the specified deadline. Many universities have an online application portal, but paper applications are still common.

Visa Application

Once you receive an acceptance letter, you’ll need to apply for a student visa. Contact your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for the application process and requirements.


Plan your housing arrangements. Many universities offer on-campus dormitories, but you can explore private housing options or homestays.

Financial Planning

Calculate the cost of tuition, living expenses, and other associated costs. Ensure you have a financial plan in place, which may include scholarships, savings, or part-time work opportunities.

Challenges That International Students Face in Japan | Overview

Studying abroad in Japan may seem like a dream come true, with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and cutting-edge technology.

However, beneath the surface, international students often find themselves navigating a labyrinth of unique challenges that add a layer of complexity to their educational journey.

First and foremost, there’s the formidable language barrier. Japanese, with its intricate writing systems, can be a formidable foe for those not raised with it.

From ordering a simple meal to understanding lecture materials, international students often find themselves lost in translation, leading to humorous misunderstandings and cultural mishaps.

The Japanese academic system, known for its severity and workload, presents another hurdle. Students frequently have busy schedules, and although seeking knowledge is admirable, juggling schoolwork and exploration can seem like an endless tightrope act.

Cultural Conundrums

International students rapidly learn that this fascinating nation has its own unique set of cultural issues that both captivate and complicate their experience when they arrive in Japan.

Bowing and Greetings

A bow in Japan signifies more than just a courteous nod. It is a fundamental method of communication that conveys hierarchy and respect.

Learning the bowing skill is crucial, whether greeting your professor or saying “thank you” to a convenience store employee.

Dining Dilemmas

Japanese cuisine is well-known worldwide, but it may be a difficult experience for international students. Japanese menus with raw fish and fermented soybeans may be exciting and terrifying.

Reading through menus that occasionally resemble ancient scrolls is a must for dining in Japan. Ordering food can feel like a puzzle, even with a translation tool. Ordering blunders can result in delightful gastronomic discoveries and amusing conversation.

Food has a huge role in Japanese culture. Before someone uses chopsticks, “Itadakimasu” or “thank you” is usually heard. You’ll also learn always to clear your plate, so if you tend to be a picky eater, sorry.

Saying you’re a vegetarian is like telling a Japanese person you’re from another planet; no matter how many times you shake your head in disbelief, they’ll still give you seafood.

Language Barrier

With its three writing systems and complex grammar, the Japanese language can make pupils feel like they have strayed into a linguistic maze.

Learning Japanese is a challenging process that includes learning fundamental words and decoding difficult Kanji characters.

Academics Abroad

As an international student, starting an academic journey in Japan is like walking into a maelstrom of chances and obstacles.

It’s a challenging and rewarding experience, from mastering the inscrutable Kanji characters to carefully balancing academics and exploration.

Kanji Catastrophes

The logographic script used in the Japanese writing system known as Kanji is incredibly complex.

International students frequently stare at a sea of complex symbols while attempting to understand their meaning.

The Workload

The strictness and devotion of Japanese academic culture are well known. The burden for international students is like a whirlwind, with a never-ending stream of homework, tests, and group projects, as they quickly discover.

The Bureaucratic Maze

Dealing with paperwork and visa procedures can frequently feel like traversing a maze of red tape.

Forms, appointments, and document submissions creep into students’ daily schedules.

Social Life

Japanese people don’t mix well. They frequently associate with familiar faces. Parties frequently feature in-depth discussions of a certain topic.

It is much more typical for couples to part ways at social gatherings, even significant ones like weddings.

Making Friends

Building friendships with locals will be both rewarding and challenging. The complex layers of Japanese social etiquette and politeness sometimes make it difficult for international students to break the ice.

Funny events are set against the backdrop of cultural misconceptions. These mistakes frequently occur, sometimes creating excitement or discomfort, and range from misreading signals to unintentionally upsetting someone with the wrong remark.


In Japan, foreign students have the exceptional chance to participate in traditional festivities and events. But understanding these festivities’ complexity can be a journey in and of itself.

International students frequently find themselves in unexpected situations, whether getting stuck in a large throng during Hanami (cherry blossom viewing) or attempting to perfect the skill of donning a traditional kimono at a Matsuri (festival).

Place to Stay

If you plan to study abroad in Japan for less than a year, you’ll need to find a place to live. Housing options will vary depending on where you decide to study abroad in Japan.

Although hotels can cut into your wallet over time, homestays are a very affordable option but can be delicate.

You can stay in university residence halls for up to a year if you prefer more independence. They are not only more economical, but they also have a far larger community of international students with whom to socialize.

Homestays and university dorms won’t do if you intend to study in Japan for longer than a year, though. Share houses are great since you don’t have to pay annoying things like key money, which is a common reason why international students opt to study abroad in large cities like Tokyo and Osaka.

Scholarships Available for International Students in Japan

Students from all over the world come to study in Japan because of its top-notch educational system and dynamic culture.

The majority of Japanese colleges charge tuition that is considerably less than that of other industrialised countries like the United Kingdom. Numerous scholarships and programmes for financial aid for tuition further cut the cost.

International students can pursue their academic goals in the Land of the Rising Sun thanks to the variety of scholarships that are offered. Here are a few standout choices:

  • MEXT Scholarships
    • Scholarship Value: Accommodation, full tuition fee, and allowances
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Master’s, Bachelor’s, PhD
  • Japan Educational Exchanges and Services (JEES) Scholarships
    • Eligible Degree: Master’s, Bachelor, Ph.D.
    • Scholarship Link
    • Scholarship Value: Tuition fee
  • Japan Foundation of UNU
    • Scholarship Amount: Exemption from paying fees and up to $1100 in allowances
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Ph.D.
  • KUAS Undergrad Scholarship
    • Eligible Degree: Bachelor’s
    • Scholarship Link
    • Scholarship Value: Partial and full tuition fee waiver
  • Yokohama National University Scholarship
    • Scholarship Value: 120,000 yen for undergraduate level and just less than 150,000 yen for graduate level
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Masters, Undergraduate, and PhD
  • ADB Japan Government Scholarship, University of Tokyo
    • Scholarship Amount: Full tuition and a monthly allowance
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Masters
  • Asia Pacific University Scholarship Japan
    • Scholarship Value: Full tuition and a monthly Allowance
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Bachelor’s, Masters, and PhD
  • Joint Japan World Bank Scholarship
  • University of Tokyo Amgen Scholars Program
    • Scholarship Value: Full tuition
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Undergraduate
  • Rotary Yoneyama Scholarship
    • Scholarship Value: 140,000 yen
    • Scholarship Link
    • Eligible Degree: Masters, Undergraduate, and PhD

Factors Pulling International Students to Japan

International students are drawn to Japan because of its distinctive fusion of tradition, innovation, and cultural diversity.

Students from all over the world come to Japan to study for a variety of reasons, including:

Cultural Fascination

Students are fascinated by Japan’s rich and varied culture, which includes everything from antiquated customs like tea ceremonies and donning kimonos to contemporary phenomena like anime and J-pop.

One of the biggest draws is the opportunity to immerse oneself in this fascinating culture fully.

Academic Excellence

Japan is home to some of the best universities and educational institutions in the world, which are renowned for their high academic standards and cutting-edge research.

Students are particularly drawn to programs in the domains of mathematics (STEM), technology, science, and engineering.

Innovative Technology

Japan’s reputation as a technological powerhouse is a significant attraction for students interested in fields like robotics, artificial intelligence, and engineering.

The opportunity to study and work with advanced technology giants is a huge draw.

Japanese Language

Learning Japanese is a valuable skill, and many students are drawn to Japan to immerse themselves in the language.

Proficiency in Japanese can open doors to career opportunities both in Japan and internationally.

Safety and Cleanliness

Japan is celebrated for its low crime rates and clean, orderly cities. The sense of safety and security it offers particularly appeals to international students and their families.

Scholarship Opportunities

Japanese universities and the Japanese government offer scholarships to international students, making education in Japan more affordable and accessible.

Cultural Experiences

The opportunity to experience traditional Japanese festivals visit historic temples and shrines, and savour world-renowned cuisines like sushi and ramen is a unique and enriching aspect of studying in Japan.

Global Career Prospects

Japan’s internationalization efforts have led to an increasing need for people who can bridge the gap between Japanese and global cultures. This opens up a range of career possibilities for international students.

Natural Beauty

Japan’s stunning natural landscapes, from cherry blossom-filled parks to snow-capped mountains, offer students the chance to explore diverse and picturesque environments.

Networking Opportunities

Studying in Japan provides students with valuable networking opportunities, both with Japanese peers and fellow international students, which can be beneficial for future careers.


Studying in Japan can be an amazing experience, but it can also be difficult if you don’t speak the language. Accept the challenge, educate yourself on the fundamentals, treat everyone respectfully, and be patient.

You’ll quickly understand that if you can manage learning and living in a place where the language is not your native tongue, you will become stronger and be able to handle nearly anything else life throws at you.

What Is the Disadvantage of Studying in Japan?

Japan regularly ranks among the most expensive countries in the world due to its extremely high cost of living.

Is Japan Friendly to International Students?

Japan is renowned for having safe public transit and being a secure country for students. The nation provides several career prospects as well as affordable tuition.

What Are the Challenges of Japan Education?

Students’ lack of creativity, lack of flexibility, and lack of future perspective are three of the main issues. First, pupils’ inventiveness is not encouraged in the Japanese educational system. The fundamental reason is the setting of requirements for university entrance exams.

What Is the Biggest Challenge of Studying Abroad?

Financial strain, language barriers, homesickness, acclimating to a new environment, and establishing support networks are five major challenges faced by foreign students who relocate away from home to a new country.

What Is the Biggest Issue Facing Students Today?

People may find it challenging to manage their emotions when they have to balance relationships, extracurricular activities, work commitments, and classes. Due to excessive stress, other students may become lethargic, depressed, or have trouble sleeping.

Is It Good to Study in Japan as a Foreigner?

Studying in Japan is excellent for several reasons. While some students are drawn to Japan because of its strict academic standards, others are drawn because of its extensive cultural legacy.

Is It Better to Study in Japan or Korea?

It will be simpler in Korea for individuals motivated by the spirit of competitiveness and simpler in Japan for pupils who require assistance with adaptation.

What Is Difficult About Living in Japan?

Make sure you are ready if you want to work for a Japanese company because, according to many Japanese experts, understanding Japanese workplace culture is the hardest part of living there.

How Much International Students Can Earn in Japan?

If you work 28 hours a week at the Tokyo minimum wage of JPY 1,041*, you may make about JPY 12,500 per month. Also, the minimum wage will increase by 25% to JPY 1,267 for work done after 22:00.

Can You Get a Job in Japan With a Student Visa?

You can put in an application for a work permit that allows you to work up to 28 hours a week with a Japan student visa. You are permitted to work up to 8 hours each day on holidays.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.