Firstly, I will briefly explain why a master’s degree in this day and age is so essential. Have you ever thought of furthering your education after completing a bachelor’s degree to set yourself apart from the rest of the workforce? According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 18 percent of all jobs will require a master’s degree by 2022. While today’s job market is becoming increasingly competitive, the benefits of a master’s degree can help you differentiate yourself and make an impression with employers. However, many college graduates will make the grave mistake of assuming that their undergraduate degree alone will qualify them for a job. Below are the reasons why Japan is an ideal place for a Master’s degree!

Why Japan?

Japan never disappoints foreign students with its high quality in teaching and research. Well-known as a nation with education at the heart of modern society and seven of its universities in the top 50 in Asia (two of them in the top 100 in the world), the land of the rising sun is absolutely a desirable destination to pursue higher education.

Here are a few reasons why you should consider studying a masters degree in Japan this year:

  • Academic excellence: Japanese universities enjoy a world-class reputation for their research and are keen to attract more international postgraduates.
  • Quality of life: Japan is one of the world’s safest countries, offering a welcoming environment for foreign students.
  • Scholarship opportunities: There is a wealth of scholarship programs available for international students in Japan – find out here
  • Learn a new language: Although there is an increasing number of master’s programs in Japan taught entirely in English, you can still immerse yourself in the unique culture of Japan and broaden your mind with different perspectives of life.

Master’s Degree – General Information

  • Duration: 2 years
  • Credits: Normally, the minimum number of credits to be accomplished is 30. Students will have to take a fixed number of core courses (which are delivered through lectures, tutorials, group work, and practicals), research courses and elective courses.
  • The first three semesters are dedicated to coursework and the final semester to your master’s thesis (as well as taking a few compulsory courses).

In addition to passing the exams, you will need to submit a Master’s thesis or present your research if you decide to conduct a Masters’s research project. You will be assigned a supervisor for your final semester but you’d better start your planning your research early.

Let’s learn Japanese!

Graduate schools also offer Japanese language classes, which don’t count towards your course credits but are often free of charge.

Japanese University Rankings

Japanese universities perform well in global rankings, with several institutions featuring in the top 300 of the main league tables. According to the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE), QS World University Ranking (QS), the rankings of the top Japanese universities in the world’s rank in 2020 are as follows:

  1. The University of Tokyo: 36 (THE) – 22 (QS) 
  2. Kyoto University: 65 (THE) – 33 (QS)
  3. Tohoku University: 250-300 (THE) – 82 (QS)
  4. Tokyo Institute of Technology: 250-300 (THE) – 58 (QS)
  5. Nagoya University: 301-350 (THE) – 115 (QS)

By attending a Japanese university, you can earn a master’s degree in these top-notch universities and access a plethora of opportunities for future employment in Japan. So why not give yourself a try?

Tuition Fees for a Master’s Degree in Japan

Overall, the tuition fee for a master’s degree in Japan is not that expensive compared to graduate schools in other popular study-abroad destinations. There are currently over 700 universities in Japan, around 75% of which are private universities. As a rule, Japanese universities can be divided into three different types: private universities, national universities, and public local universities. They all can offer postgraduate degrees.

In national universities, tuition fee for pursuing a master’s program in Japan is fixed by the Ministry or by local authorities for public universities, while that for the private ones might vary. The figures are shown below:

  • National universities: ¥535,800 (USD $4,900) per year + ¥282,000 (USD $2,565) for admission fees
  • Local public universities: ¥538,167 (USD $4,900) per year + ¥230,717 (USD $2,100) for admission fees
  • In private universities, annual tuition fees range from ¥660,750 (USD $6,015) to ¥1,249,304 (USD $11,370) per year. Admission fees are around ¥220,000 (USD $2,000).

Other Expenses

All international students are required to enroll in the National Health Insurance system. This is done through the office that processes your residence registration. The annual premium varies depending on where in Japan you live but is around ¥23,200 (USD $211) per year.


There is a range of scholarships available to international master students. The most prestigious scholarships are those awarded by MEXT.

  • Japanese Government (MEXT) Postgraduate Scholarships
    Applied through the Japanese embassy in your home country, these highly selective scholarships provide roundtrip airfare, university fees, a monthly grant of ¥143,000 (USD $1,300), an optional six-month course in Japanese and help to find accommodation. The scholarships are tenable at selected institutions but in all subject areas.
  • Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarships for Privately-financed International Students
    These scholarships provide a monthly allowance of ¥48,000 (USD $440) for graduate students who do not hold a scholarship (from any source).
  • Japanese Grant Aid for Human Resource Development Scholarship
    This is a postgraduate scholarship available to students from Bangladesh, Cambodia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. This scholarship is tenable at selected universities and provides tuition fees, admission fees, traveling and seminar allowance, book allowance, arrival allowance, accommodation allowance, stipend, and shipping allowance.
  • Scholarships provided by JASSO:
    JASSO, which stands for the Japan Student Services Organization, is an independent administrative institution established under MEXT and also runs the undergraduate university entrance examination EJU. It maintains a useful list of scholarships for international students offered by local authorities and private foundations.

Applying for a Master’s Degree Program

Entry Requirements

If you want to pursue your postgraduate studies in Japan, you should have a bachelor’s degree or an international equivalent. You may have to sit an entrance examination in your subject area or provide a graduate standardized test score such as GRE, so check the specific requirements at your chosen university.

If English is not your first language, you’ll also need to submit an English language certificate, such as TOEFL or IELTS (unless you studied your undergraduate degree in a country where English is the official language).

If you want to join a course delivered in Japanese, then you will have to demonstrate your Japanese proficiency, most likely through the JLPT. 

Required Documents

The application process at most Japanese universities involves a similar set of documents and forms that you’ll need to submit. They include:

  • The application form, normally available online or as a downloadable document
  • Personal statement
  • Bachelor diploma (if you have already graduated) and transcripts
  • References/letters of recommendation (most often two)
  • English-proficiency test scores and certificates (and Japanese equivalent if required)
  • Application fee certificate or receipt

Selection Process

In Japan, the selection process for a master’s program is similar to that of a doctoral program. It’s a good idea to look for a potential thesis advisor for your research project before submitting your application.

Public universities in Japan often operate a two-step selection process: Candidates who are successful at the document screening stage will be interviewed. Applicants who live in Japan will be invited to the university for an interview while applicants outside Japan will have the option of being interviewed via video conferencing.

Visa and Immigration

Once you have accepted an offer of admission, your university can apply on your behalf for a Certificate of Eligibility for a Status of Residence, issued by a Regional Immigration Bureau in Japan. The university will send you this document, which you can present to the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country of residence when you apply for your visa.

The student can apply directly for the visa through the Japanese embassy or consulate in the student’s home country but it will be a time-consuming process. Therefore, it is recommended that you ask your university to apply on your behalf for a Certificate of Eligibility. When you arrive in Japan, you will be granted a “College Student” status by the immigration authorities. There are two periods of stay for Masters students (depending on what information your university provides in the Certificate of Eligibility for a Status of Residence), either two years or two years + three months.

Nothing is impossible if you are determined to it!

I hope that the information given above will be helpful to those who are considering applying for a master’s degree in Japan!