Introduction to Japan

There are about half a million foreigners living in Tokyo and that number is on the rise. Much of that has to do with the number of employment opportunities the city provides but it is also the nation’s capital for higher education. Whether that be language schools or universities, there are a plethora of them in this city. Japan is also famously known for its shrinking population, something that has become a federal issue in the past few years. Much of the reason that scholarship and grant opportunities exist is because of the incentives revolving around retrieving determined internationals to attend schools in Japan.

The Future for Japanese

MEXT, Japan’s education ministry, has funded many schools in order for them to create international programs taught in English. The goal is for those who graduate to remain in Japan and contribute to its society and economy. Therefore, the goal is for those who study here to eventually acclimate themselves to the country, and one large portion of that comes down to being able to communicate in the national language. The widely used barometer for Japanese language proficiency is the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test). The standard portions of their tests range from N1 to N5, N1 being the most fluent. There are further tests beyond the N1 level, but having received N1 certification is quite sufficient in most scenarios. All the schools on this list aim to produce at least N2 level fluency in their students by the time they graduate, some before their fourth year (the season for job hunting). No two schools are the same, but their end goals are similar. No two students are the same either, so be sure to find the right match for you. Here is some brief information on some of the most well-established universities with Japanese language programs in Tokyo.

Tokyo’s Schools

International Christian University

The International Christian University’s unique curriculum, which combines both English and Japanese throughout one’s undergraduate career, allows students to become familiarized with each language through practice. Becoming bilingual in these languages is attained via stimulating interest and problem solving since classes for one’s major are conducted in each language (with appropriate level guides). There are Japanese language courses but students are broken up into what they call ‘streams’, determined by their Japanese proficiency upon matriculation. For about a year and a half, most classes will be with one’s stream, predominantly in English but steadily mixing in Japanese. It’s an interesting system and it seems to work.

Sophia University

Sophia University offers different types of Japanese language programs for those in their English-based programs. Students are only required to take two semesters worth of Japanese but can continue if interested. Accompanying their basic Japanese language program, there is also an intensive track. This intensive track is designed for those who wish to become fully fluent by the time of graduation. It requires twice as many lecture hours per week and about three or four times as many study hours. It’s not easy, and students in this class readily admit that their life is hectic, though it does work and is offered for the dedicated. There are also classes for those who are native-level speakers yet have little reading/writing experience, catered to those who have Japanese parents but grew up overseas. Sophia is pretty flexible with the amount of Japanese language work a student is willing to participate in and an array of courses for various levels of language skills.

Tokyo International University

Tokyo International University will be offering two degrees in the near future and with them will come required Japanese language courses. The courses will begin at the beginner level and advance to the business level. The progression is staggered, meaning that as one progresses through the course, system classes will be less frequent every week. Those with some level of Japanese language skills can opt into one of the higher-level courses.

University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo has two separate degrees for undergraduates taught in English, both of which require students to study the Japanese language. Matriculated students are broken into groups determined by their Japanese ability tested soon after enrollment. These groups can be correlated to ‘N’ levels as determined by the JLPT. The top level is ‘above N1’ running down to the lowest level for complete beginners. These programs attract native Japanese students or people who grew up in Japan, as studying in English is appealing to some, particularly in a liberal arts setting. Three semesters of Japanese language study are required, but classes are available throughout one’s tenure.

Waseda University

Waseda University offers nine different degrees from seven different Schools. All of these different departments offer Japanese language courses for those interested. Each School’s language requirements are different, some don’t even require Japanese. There are also other languages taught within the university that are also an option. For those wishing to become fluent in Japanese, Waseda’s goal is to graduate students with at least an N2 level of proficiency. However, the school understands that having at least an N1 level is ideal, though N2 is the baseline required for finding employment.

Yokohama National University

Yokohama National University’s Yokohama Creative-City Studies offers a degree designed around urban planning in a globalizing world. This program is conducted entirely in English but proficiency in Japanese is a requirement for all graduates. Those from non-kanji utilizing countries are to have gained their JLPT N2’s in their third year. Those from kanji utilizing countries or those who have entered the university at the N3 level are to obtain their J1+ of the Business Japanese Proficiency Test (BJT). This is no easy task, and will most likely require several hours of outside study work. Senior years are largely dedicated to job hunting, so having passed these rigorous tests beforehand is a certain boon. Classes regarding Japanese etiquette are also taught, a necessity, especially in the business world.

Japan Values its Cultural Heritage, and So Should You

Those who dedicate the time and energy to learn a language anywhere show how serious they wish to acclimate themselves to the culture. Japan is no exception, and if anything they are more serious than most in this regard. It will take a long time, especially if you have no background in kanji. You will experience linguistic mistakes, but once somewhat mastered, the wealth of the nation will open up. These schools all emphasize business fluency, and if accomplished one can foreseeably continue their language education with a firm foundation.