Studying Japanese will without a doubt enhance your experience here, enabling you to have more fulfilling social interactions and easily navigate your way around. However, knowing Japanese is not a prerequisite. There are several universities in Japan, including national universities, that offer courses entirely taught in English across a variety of fields.
After nearly four years of staying in Japan, enough for me to be able to call the city I stay in (Sendai) my second home, I’m here to tell you that while all your fears regarding this country are justified to a certain extent, Japan can offer a study environment that will not only be academically invigorating but will also give you the perfect space for honest self-exploration. It will challenge your ideas of community on a day-to-day basis, gently urge you to think about the different kinds of loneliness that we encounter and must deal with in our lives, and ultimately inspire you to redefine both community and the self in your current context. It will also introduce to you the joy that matcha latte is! I know Japanese food can seem very intimidating at first (Raw fish! Are you kidding me?!), but I assure you that there are several vegetarian and halal options here.
While it is a common belief that Japanese is a pre-requisite to being able to study in Japan, let me just quickly break that down for you first. Studying Japanese will without a doubt enhance your experience here, enabling you to have more fulfilling social interactions and easily navigate your way around. However, knowing Japanese is not a prerequisite. There are several universities in Japan, including national universities, that offer courses entirely taught in English across a variety of fields. You can find some here: https://www.jpss.jp/ja/univ/english/
Tuition fees for national universities (including admission fees and other expenses like insurances) amount to about 8000 USD per annum, and private universities would be roughly double that amount. Living costs can vary greatly depending on the place that you are based, but 1000-1300 USD per month would be a fair estimate. The numbers might seem overwhelming, but education happens to be much more affordable here than in Western destinations that continue to grow increasingly popular. What’s more is that because Japan is consciously focusing on internationalising, arguably a necessity because of its ageing society, there are several scholarships available that one can apply for. This is a comprehensive pamphlet compiled in February 2022 that will give you a good overview of your options: https://www.studyinjapan.go.jp/en/_mt/2022/04/3500fb71fcef9dde65fe53c1baa1befd4743b371.pdf
I am here on the MEXT scholarship, which is the most renowned scholarship for foreign students. It takes care of my tuition and living expenses and lets me work part-time for 28 hours a week with a special permit that one needs to apply for separately at the immigration bureau. However, as a MEXT scholar, you are not encouraged to work part-time and must obtain permission from both your professor and your university office if you decide to. I study at Tohoku University, which has been ranked as Japan’s number one university consecutively for three years. I love my university and my city immensely, but I also have to say that it wasn’t easy in the beginning. What I have realised though, is that it isn’t always about finding your space but also trying to curate the space that you’d like to belong to. It can be exhausting, but the rewards are immense, and there will definitely be support along the way! I love this city like my own; I have found so much of myself here that I never imagined I ever could, and I love it more each passing day.
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I’m not sure how much I can help you but I will try my best!