When you hear the word “robot,” some of the things that might pop in your head are Honda’s Asimo, Sony’s dog robot, Aibo, or the anime character, Astro Boy, all of which came from Japan. Japan is one of the leading countries when it comes to robotics. According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), in 2017, Japan manufacturers 52 percent of the global supply of robots globally.

To be able to lead in this industry, a country must educate, train and produce a lot of  excellent graduates to be the future leaders in this field. Japan has several universities and institutions that offer robotics programs, research and projects in the field of robotics. Top universities such as University of Tokyo, Waseda University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Tsukuba University, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Tohoku University, and University of Sendai have their own robotics program. But that’s not all, there are a lot more options to study robotics in Japan. Click this link for a full list of universities and institutions that offer robotics courses or do research in this field.

In this article, I will share the experience of two foreign students who decided to study robotics in Japan. Shreya Santra from India is pursuing her PdD in Space Robotics at Aerospace Department of Tohoku University. Meanwhile, Prashant Shrestha, who likes to be called Arsen, is from Nepal and he is taking his undergraduate degree in System and Control Engineering at Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Why Study Robotics in Japan?

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Because Japan is known for its leading robotics industry, it is not hard to think that students would consider studying here to pursue undergraduate or further studies in this field. For Shreya, she knew in the beginning when and where she wanted to study robotics in Japan, “As a space systems student I was well aware about the Google Lunar Xprize challenge in which the team Hakuto from Tohoku University headed by Professor Kazuya Yoshida were one of the finalists.” she says, “Prof. Yoshida’s Space Robotics Laboratory gained a lot of recognition for the outstanding work and I was eager to be part of this team. I wrote numerous emails to Prof. Yoshida asking for information about PhD opportunities, until he finally replied! He gave me links to the IRP program starting in October 2018 and requirements for the program.” In considering her options, she also considered the scholarship in her decision, she says “In my case, I really wanted to pursue my PhD related to Space Robotics and made a list of the top laboratories in this field. There were Universities from Japan, Germany, Russia and USA in the list. I then shortlisted the graduate program that provides scholarships and the university recommended MEXT scholarship as the first choice.” If you want to know more about Shreya’s program under Professor Kazuya Yoshida, click this link.

As for Arsen, ever since, he dreamed of studying abroad, “If you knew me, you would know that I was always fascinated about the experience of studying abroad: the challenges, the freedom, new exciting places, everything. The scholarship was my ticket to that life. No way I could miss that.” He chose his university because he really liked the program the university had to offer, “I had no difficulty choosing Tokyo Institute of Technology. I was determined to study robotics from the beginning. The System and Control Engineering program from Tokyo Tech was specially catered to match the type of full robotic course I was seeking.”

An even better reason is if you receive a scholarship for your studies. Both Shreya and Arsen received a scholarship from Japanese Government’s Monbukagakusho Program, also known as the MEXT Scholarship. This scholarship, awarded by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technology, is open to all fields of study, for both undergraduate and graduate programs. MEXT pays for 100% of the  tuition fees, on top of the stipend scholars receive monthly which is ¥117,000 – ¥120,000 for undergraduate students, and ¥143,000 – ¥147,000 for graduate level students. Other scholarships in Japan include Musashino University Global Leaders Scholarship, Asia Pacific University Tuition Reduction Scholarship, and several scholarship programs from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and Japan Student Service Organization (JaSSO).

Advice for Aspiring Future Roboticists

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Studying abroad is one hell of an adventure! Of course there will be challenges but all in all, these are part of an experience that will help you develop and grow personally and professionally. When it comes to Japan, you can’t make a mistake if you choose to study robotics here. You have tons of universities to choose from. Shreya recommends to do proper research before deciding where to study, she says, “It is very important to decide what is the subject that you are most interested in and what you can contribute to the field. Do a detailed scouting of the research institutes and universities working on the topic and contact them.” She also recommends looking for scholarships, she adds, “Try to find if the programs are supported by scholarships. I highly recommend applying for the MEXT scholarship as the stipend amount is very good and the research labs in Japan are outstanding.”

If you are applying for a scholarship, Arsen advises that you should not rush your application, “Don’t wait until the last day. Take time to fill the application form and also choose your recommender wisely. Give them enough time to write your recommendation.” And finally if you do get the scholarship and decide to study here, he recommends to take care of you wellbeing, the mental, physical and social aspects of it, he says, “Don’t think about just studies when choosing your university, think also of the community and how you will spend your free time for things other than studies.” he adds, “Whatever you do remember to take plenty of sleep. Sleep is tonic to a healthy life. Nothing is as bright and high as a well-slept guy.”

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So what are you waiting for, future roboticist? Study robotics in Japan now and embark on this adventure. As the Styx song goes, “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!”


References

Robotics in Japan – a collection of groups and project – by the organization http://transit-port.net/Lists/Robotics.Org.in.Japan.html


Robots: Japan delivers 52 percent of global supply
https://ifr.org/ifr-press-releases/news/robots-japan-delivers-52-percent-of-global-supply