Japanese Scholarships for International Students

Japan is one of the countries that offers the most scholarships for foreign students per year. However, from the point of view of students, one of the hardest parts is getting these information. Fortunately, there is an organisation called JASSO (Japanese Student Services Organisation) that compiles such information annually. The information from JASSO was crucial for me when I was looking for a postgraduate scholarship as a foreigner. There are also many misconceptions such as “you need to be able to speak fluent Japanese” or “you need to apply in Japan” that may apply to some scholarships but not all.

This figure will better explain how the education system works in Japan:

Structure of education system in Japan

In this post, I will give a breakdown on the type of scholarships you can normally find/get (I may have future posts on strategies in getting the scholarships):

1. MEXT Scholarships

For the uninitiated, MEXT is the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which is part of the Japanese government. These scholarships pay for your school fees and come with a substantial monthly allowance (~120,000 – 240,000 yen per month depending on programme). This is the single biggest category and most foreign students with scholarships are on scholarships by MEXT.

There are 7 categories of scholarship targeted at different groups of people:

  • Young Leader Program (YLP)These are meant for older graduates with working experience in government, medical or businesses administration (~80 slots)
  • Research StudentsThese are meant for graduates (or equivalent) who wish to do either a non-graduating research programme or a postgraduate course (Masters or PhD) (~2000 slots)
  • Teacher Training Students These are meant for applicants with teaching experience (5 years) and wish to study about education (~150 slots)
  • Undergraduate StudentsMeant for high school (or junior college under the British system) students who wish to pursue a bachelors degree. Must be between 17-21 years of age (~160 slots)
  • College of Technology Students This is the vocational track (kosen) which is seen as a more ‘hands-on’ as opposed to ‘hard studying’. International students will join at 3rd year and not at the start (read more here) (~50 slots)
  • Specialized Training College StudentsThis is similar to the undergraduate scholarship except that the studies will be done in specialised colleges for specific fields such as fashion, nutrition, personal care, etc… (~50 slots)
  • Japanese Studies Students This is meant for students who are studying Japanese language or culture in their own universities abroad and wish to come to Japan for a year of studies (~500 slots)

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: MEXT Scholarships.

Information for MEXT Research Scholarship for 2015 is available HERE. Undergraduate Scholarship info HERE.

Do I need to know Japanese?

For undergraduate, kosen and specialised training college scholarship recipients, there will be a year of Japanese language training. For research and teach training recipients, Japanese language training depends on your laboratory or school and is often optional.

Special notes:
  • The MEXT Scholarship for undergraduates is particularly attractive as it is not common to find bond-free scholarships at the undergraduate level (anywhere in the world) that gives such an attractive sum of living allowance.
  • For Research Student (RS) scholarship applications, you can either be recommended directly by the university of your choice, or via the Japanese embassy in your country/region. Assuming that you are going the Embassy Recommendation route, first you will enroll as a non-graduating Research Student. MEXT will cater around 1.5 years (depends) for this status. If you do not wish to pursue a postgrad, then you will remain as an RS for the duration of what MEXT catered for you. In the event that you are intending to pursue an MA/MSc/PhD, you will most likely only be an RS for 6 months. Your department will then inform you about a deadline for extension of the MEXT Scholarship to cover a postgraduate candidature. You will then have to submit a new proposal to MEXT and undergo the selection procedure at your department/university. In my case, I had to take entrance exams (I understand this is the norm, but not always necessary). Upon clearing the exam, MEXT gave me the green light for scholarship extension for the duration of my doctoral course.
MEXT. Photo courtesy of Dick Johnson (CC License).
MEXT. Photo courtesy of Dick Johnson (CC License).

2. JASSO Scholarships

JASSO Scholarships are meant to support self-funded foreign students (already accepted into a Japanese education institution) coming from poorer backgrounds. It provides decent monthly allowance of 48,000 – 65,000 yen depending on your level of study.

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: Scholarships by JASSO

3. Scholarships from Local Government and International Associations

These are usually offered by prefectures and cities which are interested in attracting foreign students. Hence, Tokyo is not on the list as it already has a large following of students.

Some of these scholarship are non-exclusive, which means that you can hold another scholarship concurrently!

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: Scholarships by Local Governments and International Associations

4. Private/Corporate Scholarships

These are scholarships offered by companies, private organisations or fund/memorials. They are often specific in field of study, nationality of student and have other requirements. Many of the scholarships pay as much or more than the MEXT Scholarships but have little slots (hence competitive). Many also require applications to be done in Japanese while you are IN JAPAN.

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: Scholarships by Private Foundations

5. “What if I live outside of Japan?”

Don’t worry, you are still eligible for some of the above scholarships. Apart from the MEXT Scholarship and selected ones in the previously mentioned scholarship categories, there is also a dedicated list of scholarships that are specifically for potential students who are living outside of Japan at the time of application (some accept students in Japan for under a year). Some also cover short-term studies such as exchange programme.

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: Scholarships to Study in Japan for the Applicants Residing Abroad

6. “I just wanna be funded for an exchange program”

Download the following PDF file for 2014/2015 information: Student Exchange Support Program

7. JSPS Fellowships

JSPS Fellowships are typically for those who already obtained their PhD. However, one particular fellowship called the JSPS Research Fellowship for Young Scientists is available for students doing their doctoral degrees. The application (available here) is entirely in Japanese, however.

There is also short-term funding for summer programmes.


The OFFICIAL INFORMATION for different scholarships can be found HERE (changes every year).

*Credits for information found in this post goes to JASSO and mistakes (if any) are mine alone. Drop a comment if you have any questions and I will try to help you.

Learn some Japanese
(kyou-iku) education or training

(kou-tou-sen-mon-gakkou) College of Technology. A 5-year college system in Japan. 高専 (kou-sen) in short.