I have wanted to study in Japan for a while to expand my knowledge and curriculum vitae while getting to know how the Japanese & Asian industries function. Also to get to know the country.

I'm a Bachelors graduate in engineering in Europe, and I have seeked masters degrees at Japanese universities, however, it seems they ask for a lot of requeriments and require to do research.

I was wondering, are there any non-university level studies, or exchange programs that international (non-Japanese) students can take there? Ideally something in engineering, but not strictly necessary. I really just want an "excuse" to stay and get to know the country while doing something fruitful. I'm looking at staying 3, 6, or 12 months, as I would like and have to study Japanse (I don't speak it).

I couldn't find anything similar on Google, perhaps because of the language barrier.

  • 4
    Would this question fit on expats or do we have a fitting education site? Or does it belong here, which I doubt.
    – Willeke
    Oct 29, 2021 at 8:05
  • 2
    I think it's a better fit for expats, as the OP asks about a 3-, 6-, or 12-month term. Oct 29, 2021 at 17:33

1 Answer 1


There are some options, but they will depend on your country of origin. If you come from a developing country, your options will be severely limited:

(1) being a visiting scholar sponsored by the Japanese government or your government

The Japanese Ministry of Eductation, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT, Monbukagakusho) sponsors excellent graduate students and visiting scholars from all over the world via the MEXT Scholarship program. However, keep in mind that:

  • places are allotted by country of origin, and usually the competition is fierce, especially for developing countries;
  • depending on country of origin, visiting scholars might not be supported.

Your country might also have such governmental programs that may be able to sponsor you. Again, such programs are rather scarce in developing countries due to the scarcity of resources. However, if you come from a developed country in Western Europe, you may be able to apply for such a program and receive some sponsorship.

(2) enrolling in a Japanese language school

There are of course language institutions that offer (3-, 6-, 12-) month programs. You just need to find one. But of course they only offer instruction in the language, and the pace may not be suitable for you.

(3) enrolling as a "research", "auditing", or "credit-earning" student

This seems most appropriate for you. Basically, you enroll at a university as a short-term student. You will be a full-time student of the said institution and will be eligible for a visa.

Let me explain the difference between the three very closely related categories:

  • A research student (kenkyu-sei 研究生) is a student/visiting researcher attached to a research group at a university, working under the supervision of a faculty member. Usually, they are international students who intend to join the said group as a graduate student, but they do not necessarily need to be so, as long as the faculty member agrees to sponsoring your admission.

  • An auditing student (choko-sei 聴講生) is a student auditing courses at a university, but not for credit. Research students are also permitted to audit courses, but auditing students do not need a faculty supervisor/sponsor, only the permission of the graduate school. However, not all university sponsor visas for auditing students, while almost all sponsor visas for research students.

  • A credit-earning student (kamoku-to rishu-sei 科目等履修生) is a student taking courses at a university for credit. Again, not all universities sponsor visas for such students.

As long as you can find a (host/faculty sponsor/supervisor), whatever you'd like to call, it would not be too hard to enroll in a Japanese university as a research student. Essentially, you hang out in a research group and partake in activities as agreed upon by your host and you. Maybe you help with the research, maybe you do a mini-project, and maybe you can just take some courses, etc. Keep in mind that most courses at Japanese universities are of course offered in Japanese.

There are usually "survival" Japanese courses offered for free by the host institution, so you can learn a bit of the language.

Visits under 90 days do not require a long-term visa, and may not require a visa at all if you come from a visa-exempt country. Longer stays require a "study" or "cultural activities" visa, which requires the sponsorship of an institute of higher study.

Also, have you considered a working holiday? It is not available to everyone (working holiday visas are only granted to citizens of select countries), but it is a way you could stay in the country for a while.

  • Language programs seem to be common around the world. Israel has many intensive Learn Hebrew programs that accept foreigners and don't lead to a degree. Nov 2, 2021 at 14:00

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