It is widely held that Japan is a mono-cultural nation, which makes people consider its educational system not ideal for international students. However, no longer is the land of rising sun pitched merely as a dream place for fans of its culture. Top Japanese universities are now eagerly seeking to entice students as well as professors from overseas. It is believed that increased financial backing will become a motivational tool for international students to never stop making efforts to succeed. Therefore, there has been an increasing number of scholarships targeted at foreign students recently. In this article, we will introduce the Rotary Japan Scholarship, the largest domestic private sector scholarship program for international students studying in Japan.

【About Rotary Japan Scholarship】

Q1: What is Rotary?

A: Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders, and problem-solvers who see a world where people unite and take action to better our society. Members of Rotary can be found across the globe and all aspire to make a difference!

Q2: What is Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation?

A: Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation is a multi-district activity, supported and promoted by the Rotary districts in Japan. The scholarship program was established in 1952, and it’s directed solely at international students who wish to pursue higher education in Japan. It is the largest domestic private sector scholarship program for foreign students.

Q3: Can I apply for a master’s degree under the Rotary Japan scholarship program?

A: Absolutely yes. Rotary offers scholarships for those who are or will be enrolled in courses at Undergraduate, Masters, or Doctoral levels. These are awarded in all disciplines.

Q4: How many applicants are expected to be chosen? 

A: Per district, approximately 15 applicants are chosen! However, the number may vary from year to year.

【Benefits of Rotary Scholars】

Q: What benefits can I receive from the scholarship program? And what is their grant period?

A: For all programs, a single economy one-way airfare to Japan is reimbursed, up to 250,000 yen. Regarding the scholarship amount, each scholarship program will have a different amount and grant periods. Overall there are two main types of scholarship:

1.] Applicants who use designated school nomination system

Click to see a list of schools that have been designated to participate in the scholarship program. 

+ Undergraduate course: 100,000 yen per month.
Grant period: Two years from 3rd year of an undergraduate course; from 5th year of a course in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine / One year from 4th year of an undergraduate course; from 6th year of a course in medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine.

+ Master course:140,000 yen per month.
Grant period: Two years from 1st year of a master’s program, or one year from 2nd year of a master’s program

+ Doctoral course: 140,000 yen per month
Grant periods: Two years from 2nd year of a doctoral program; from 3rd year of a doctoral program in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine / One year from 3rd year of the doctoral program; from 4th year of a doctoral program in medicine, dentistry or veterinary medicine

2.] Applicants who DO NOT use designated school nomination system:

+ Rotary Memorial Club Support Scholarship: used to extend the scholarship period. Half of the scholarship cost is covered by the Scholar’s Sewa (Host) Club (140,000 yen per month)

+ Rotary Scholarships for Applicants Residing Abroad: for overseas students scheduled to enroll in a Japanese university or graduate school under Japan’s pre-arrival university admission system. See more details here.

+ Rotary Memorial Research Fellowship: for advanced researchers from South Korea and Taiwan who are invited to do research at a Japanese university or academic institution (140,000 yen per month). See more details here.

【Application Eligibility】

Q1: Who is eligible to apply?

A: No matter what type of scholarship program you apply, every applicant must meet the following criteria:

  • Must NOT be Japanese citizens or residents.
  • Must be up to 44 years old as of April 1, 2019 
  • Must have a Japanese Language Proficiency Test with JPLT N4 level or above.
  • Applicants who were awarded Rotary scholarships previously or any other scholarship from another organization, are NOT eligible.
  • Must show enthusiasm for study and clear-cut future goals, awareness and respect for cultural differences, the ability to express oneself fluently and to communicate smoothly, and both mental and physical health in good condition.

Q2: I am currently applying and waiting for the result of another scholarship. Can I apply for Rotary simultaneously?

A: If you are applying for other scholarships for 2020 as your first choice, it is suggested that you should not apply for Rotary. Please note that once accepted, you may not decline Rotary by the reason of receiving other scholarships.

Q3: My Japanese ability is limited. Can I still apply?

A: You should have a sufficient command of Japanese by the time of the interview. Please note that the university may ask the applicant to cancel the interview if his/her Japanese proficiency is not up to the level.

Q4: What are the criteria for screening selection within the university?

A: Each university will have specific criteria for screening selection. However, in most schools, the committee will evaluate the applicants based on their transcript grades, financial situations, written essays, etc. Also by following the criteria of the foundation, the university may select nominees from different nationalities, programs, and enrolled school grades if needed.

Q5: Which type of students will be accepted by the foundation?

A: The foundation is looking for students who willingly partake in their activities in community services. Refer to “What the Foundation Expects for Scholarship Recipients”.


Q: Normally, what is the deadline for the application?

A: A list of designated schools is issued at the beginning of August each year. Those wishing to apply for a scholarship should check whether their school of enrollment in the following April is included in the list. The deadline for April is expected to be March 1st and for September/ October is expected to be August 1st. 

Please note that the deadline, designated schools, and the number of nomination quotas allocated to each may change from year to year.

【Application Procedure】

Q1: Is the application procedure complicated if I apply under the designated school nomination system?

A: Each university on the list may recruit, screen, and nominate candidates for scholarships. Their nominations are forward for final review and decision to the Rotary selection committee within the school’s Rotary district. The selection process, therefore, is two-tiered:

1. First stage: conducted by the school
Applicants must be enrolled or accepted for enrollment in a school designated by the selection committee of the respective Rotary district and must meet the scholarship program’s eligibility requirements.

It is highly recommended that you frequently visit the host school’s website and keep up with the latest information.

2. Second stage: conducted by the Rotary selection committee
The results will be determined basically by documentation review. However, under the decision of the District Selection Committee, the committee will conduct direct or skype interviews, and hearings via telephone.

Q2: What documents do I have to prepare for the application?
 To apply, students must be ready to submit the following documents:
– Copy of the Application for admission (the prescribed form with a photograph)
– Research plan – prescribed form (only required for those planning to enter graduate school)
– Letter of recommendation (prescribed form)
– Copy of Letter of Acceptance
– Composition of “Objective for studying in Japan” (prescribed form)
– Certificate of Japanese language proficiency.

Please note that if you apply for more than one university, a full set of documents is required per university.

Q2: Do all the nominees have to take the interview by the foundation?

A: Yes. Everyone who passed the screening will be taking the interview by the foundation as a nominee from the university. 

Q3: What kind of questions will I be asked at the interview?

A: Every year, applicants will be asked about the reason you chose Japan to study abroad, your research theme (what you are currently studying), details of what you wrote in your application essays, your experiences and thoughts about volunteering activities, and many more about yourself. Everyone will also be asked about what you know about Rotary International and Rotary Yoneyama Memorial Foundation. You should learn about the aim of the foundation along with their activities by studying their website thoroughly, or by asking the current Yoneyama scholarship recipients about their activities. 

【What the Foundation Expects for Scholarship Recipients】

Q1: What responsibilities should I have if I become a Rotary scholar?
A: You can refer to the following obligations:

  • Must attend at least one regular meeting of their Rotary Club.
  • Submit a Scholarship Report twice a year.
  • Give speeches at regular meetings, attend Rotary district activities, and make efforts to deepen mutual understanding throughout such interactions with Rotarians.
  • After the Yoneyama Scholarship Period, scholars are able to expand their network through the Alumni association. Scholars are eligible to participate in various Rotary Clubs and Rotary activities. Yoneyama Alumni Association has a total of 42 groups: 33 in Japan, and 9 others in Taiwan, Korea, China, Thailand, Nepal, Mongolia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Myanmar.

Q2: When and how do I receive the scholarship disbursement?

A: The scholarship will be paid in cash. Each recipient will be assigned to one Rotary club, serving as his/her host club, and one member from that club will act as a “Counselor”. Recipients must attend the monthly meeting of their host club (may be held on weekdays), where they receive the disbursement directly from the counselor.

Q3: Is it fine if I just attend the minimum required monthly meetings?

A: The most important matter for the recipients of the Rotary scholarship is to willingly communicate and be part of the Rotary club activities. If this sounds too hard for you, it may be better for you to apply for some other scholarships that do not require any activity participation.

For further information on Rotary Scholarship application, you can visit their website at (Rotary International) (Yoneyama Memorial Foundation)