Studying in Japan, be it at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral level, is a dream for many students around the world. Japan is often ranked as one of the most attractive study destinations due to its cutting-edge research, low tuition fees, and generous scholarships not to mention it’s vibrant culture and abundance of mouth-watering foods. However, if you have never visited Japan before, it may be a little difficult to start planning your studies here. Japan is a unique country with its own customs and rules, and a lot of information is still only available in Japanese. In this article, I hope to help you all by providing a basic guide for studying in Japan. I will cover 1) Living Costs, 2) Insurance options, and 3) Visa procedures as an international student studying in Japan!

Studying in Japan – Living Costs 

Japan is a generous place for your wallet as students. The abundance of eateries combined with low transportation fees results in a relatively cheap study experience, despite Japan’s famed reputation as an expensive and highly-developed society.

Below are some helpful data provided by the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO):

Average prices of Major Food Products in Japan 

  1. Rice (5 kg) – JPY 2,137 (USD 19) 
  2. Bread (1 kg) – JPY 435 (USD 4) 
  3. Milk (1 L) – JPY 223 (USD 2) 
  4. Eggs (10) – JPY 248 (USD 2)
  5. Apples (1 kg) – JPY 497 (USD 4)
  6. Cabbage (1 kg) – JPY 244 (USD 2) 

As you can see, the average prices of daily food items are cheaper than you may expect. It should be noted that the living costs, however, differ greatly between rural and urban areas. Below are the average monthly expenses (excluding academic fees) of an international student studying in different regions throughout Japan: 

  1. Tokyo – JPY 100,000
  2. Kanto – JPY 96,000
  3. Kinki – JPY 89,000
  4. Hokkaido – JPY 81,000
  5. Chubu – JPY 78,000
  6. Shikoku – JPY 77,000
  7. Chugoku – JPY 77,000
  8. Tohoku – JPY 74,000
  9. Kyushu – JPY 72,000
  10. National Average – JPY 89,000

Lastly, here is the average breakdown of itemized monthly spending based on the national average: 

  1. Rent – JPY 34,000 (USD 298)
  2. Food – JPY 37,000 (USD 237)
  3. Utility charges – JPY 7,000 (USD 61)
  4. Hobby & entertainment – JPY 6,000 (USD 53) 
  5. Commuting expenses – JPY 5,000 (USD 44)
  6. Insurance & Medical – JPY 3,000 (USD 26)
  7. Miscellaneous – JPY 7,000 (USD 61) 
  8. Total – JPY 89,000

2. Studying in Japan – Insurance options 

How does Health Insurance operate in Japan for foreign nationals? International students will be happy to hear that anyone staying in Japan for a period longer than three months will be able to enroll in the same National Health Insurance program as that of Japanese nationals. 

The National Health Insurance (NHI) is a highly popular insurance choice and is what the majority of Japanese residents and international students enroll in. This is because it has an extremely cheap premium. For students, the average monthly cost is around 1,500 JPY. This is less than 20,000 JPY per year.

Enrolling in the National Health Insurance will allow beholders to receive a 70% subsidy towards their medical bill. This means that you only end up paying for 30% of the total medical bill upfront. Although there are some instances where you may not be covered by the National Health Insurance, from personal experience, I have found all of my treatments concerning injuries, illnesses, or dental needs were covered by the insurance.

Furthermore, international students can also choose to enroll in personal accident insurance, theft insurance, or liability insurance. These are provided by private insurance companies and the yearly premium should not differ between Japanese and foreign nationals.

3. Studying in Japan – Visa options 

Last but not least, students who wish to study in Japan without Japanese citizenship must attain a student visa before entering the country. Although there are several types of student visas, the one applicable to international students for study at a 1) university, 2) a junior college, 3) a college of technology, 4) a professional training college, or 5) a Japanese language institute is all titled as “Student”. Periods of stay are as follows: 1) 4 years and 3 months, 3) 4 years, 3 years and 3 months, 3) 3 years, 2 years and 3 months, 4) 2 years, 1 year and 3 months, 5) 1 year, 6 months or 3 months respectively.

When applying for a student visa, the accepting school must first provide a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Furthermore, students must print a balance statement to provide proof of sufficient funds to cover all expenses during their studies in Japan.  

The COE and savings balance must be submitted to the Japanese Embassy or Consulate before your departure to Japan. After your arrival, international students will be provided with their Residence Card and Social Security/Tax Number (“My Number”). 

International students in Japan are able to engage in 20 hours of paid work per week during the semester and 40 hours of paid work per week during semester breaks. Before engaging in any paid work, however, you must file an application to the regional immigration services bureau add receive permission to engage in paid work. 


And there you have it, a quick guide into the 1) Living costs, 2) Insurance options, and 3) Visa application procedure of studying in Japan! I hope you all find this article helpful in some way! 

Here are some other study guides written by my peers that may also help you plan your studies in Japan! 

Survival Guide: 5 Tips for Working YOur Wat Through College in Japan
Best Ways to Learn Japanese before you Study Abroad in Japan