Scholarships in Japan for International Students

You should find that most Japanese universities have some form of scholarship you can apply for, either as part of the university admission process or once you are enrolled. At iCLA we have a tuition, facility and equipment fee waiver scholarship that you can apply for as part of the admissions process. It also reduces the enrollment fee. There are five tiers to the scholarship: 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% waiver. The scholarship is for the full four years of the degree, however you must maintain your GPA. The level of GPA you must maintain depends on the level of scholarship you have been granted. If your scholarship application was successful, we will tell you which scholarship level you have been granted in your offer letter, so you know exactly how much your fees will be before you decide whether or not to enroll at Yamanashi Gakuin University.

What Scholarships Are Available for International Students?

The main scholarships available to students seeking to enter undergraduate degrees in Japan are:

    • The MEXT Scholarship
    • Local Government / Foreign Government / Private Foundation Scholarships
    • Tuition Waiver and other Scholarships offered by Universities
    • The JASSO Scholarship 

Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarships

If you have done any research into studying in Japan then no doubt you’ve heard about the MEXT scholarship. It almost sounds too good to be true, free flights to Japan, free tuition, and a monthly stipend paid on top of that. Who wouldn’t want to apply? However, the MEXT scholarship is extremely competitive and the application process takes a very long time. You can apply for postgraduate or undergraduate degree funding. There tends to be more availability for postgraduate scholarships while undergraduate funding is more limited. The undergraduate scholarship is intended to place non-Japanese speakers in an intensive language course for one year and then into a Japanese-taught degree program, often at a university of MEXT’s choosing, not yours. You can suggest English-taught programs that you wish to enter, but it is not certain that you’ll enter one of them if selected. The rest of this article will focus on applying for undergraduate degree scholarships.

Given that the application process can take up to six months, includes a series of rigorous on-site exams at your nearest Japanese embassy, and you can only enter university in April unless you are accepted for direct placement at a university with a Fall (Autumn) intake, only consider applying if you are incredibly academically gifted, already speak a high level of Japanese, and don’t mind waiting up to a year to start university. Bonus points if you are looking to enter a STEM field. 

As the number of places on MEXT is so limited, if you are considering applying, it might be worth asking your local embassy for the number of applications and accepted applicants in previous years in your country.

Eligibility requirements

For the 2024 intake MEXT stipulated the following criteria:

Nationality: You must be a national of a country with diplomatic relations with Japan. Japanese nationals are not eligible. Dual citizens of Japan and another country must renounce their Japanese nationality by the date of their arrival in Japan to be eligible.

Age: In principle, you must be born on or after April 2, 1999

Academic background: You need to have completed 12 years of schooling in a country other than Japan. (Applicants who will meet the above condition by March 2024 are eligible. However, applicants wishing to enroll from the autumn term through direct placement must be expected to complete 12 years of schooling by August 2024.).

The above is a summary of the eligibility requirements. Please see MEXT’s website for the full wording

How to apply

There are two paths to a MEXT scholarship for undergraduate studies, via an Embassy recommendation or a university recommendation.

While you can be nominated by a university, this merely means the university supports your application, not that you are guaranteed to receive it. Not all universities can nominate students, the list is rather restrictive, so please check if they have a quota to do so. iCLA does not.

To apply via your nearest Embassy, please check their website for the application window, application form and exam schedule. The application window is rather short, with applications for the following April made between April and May of the previous year. Embassies conduct the first screening between May and August. The application process and specific schedule differ according to the country of your nationality, so you will need to contact the Japanese Embassy or Consulate General in your country for more details.

Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) Scholarships

Now onto something you have a very good chance of getting, and it’s a pretty cool initiative of the Japanese government, the “Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately-Financed International Students”, more commonly referred to as the “JASSO scholarship”. Every international student that has enrolled in a university course can apply for this, and it pays a stipend of 48,000 yen per month (at time of writing in November 2023). You get the JASSO scholarship for 1 year if you start your degree in April, and 6 months if you enter in September.

Eligibility requirements

To apply for this you need to be a privately-funded international student who has received pre-arrival admission in a graduate school, undergraduate school, junior college, college of technology (3rd grade or upper) or specialized course in a specialized training college in Japan. JASSO defines Pre-arrival admission as “…a program through which international students can directly apply for admission from overseas. Selection is carried out and permission for admission is granted to the candidates without requiring them to come to Japan even once before enrollment.”

How to apply

To receive the scholarship, you must complete the application procedure through the school you will be attending once you arrive in Japan. At iCLA, this is typically done after your Certificate of Eligibility has been issued by the Immigration Department and you have paid your first semester’s tuition fees because at that point, you are considered enrolled in iCLA. The student affairs team at iCLA will contact you to complete required forms.

Local Government / Foreign Government / Private Foundation Scholarships

Additionally there are a large number of local government, corporate, private foundation and foreign government scholarships available to students of Japanese universities. The application period for each is divided by whether you are already in Japan or have enrolled but are due to arrive soon.

How to find

A good place to start is JASSO’s pamphlet Scholarships for International Students in Japan. The university you have enrolled at should also tell you which scholarships you should be eligible to apply for either before you arrive in Japan or during the course of your studies.

You may also wish to contact any Rotary clubs or chambers of commerce in your country that have a connection to Japan to see if they offer or know of any scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships Offered by Universities

You should find that most Japanese universities have some form of scholarship you can apply for. At iCLA we have a tuition, facility, and equipment fee waiver scholarship that you can apply for. It also reduces the enrollment fee. There are four tiers to the scholarship: 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% waiver. When comparing offers from different Japanese universities, make sure to consider not just the percentage reduction you’ve been offered, but whether the scholarship covers all fees or just the tuition. Also, pay close attention to whether or not the tuition fee actually increases in the 2nd year. Being offered a lower percentage of scholarship that covers all fees, with a stable year-to-year tuition fee, as iCLA’s scholarship does, may be a better financial option for you than a higher percentage scholarship that does not cover the enrollment or other facilities fees. Unlike iCLA, some universities in Japan increase their tuition fees in the 2nd year and beyond, so make sure you do the math.  

How to apply

Universities in Japan generally only accept scholarship applications as part of their main application process, or allow you to apply after you have accepted an offer to enroll. iCLA has a section for scholarship essays in our online application, and we will tell you if you have been successfully granted a scholarship in the offer letter. 

You can improve your chances of getting a scholarship by preparing evidence of any extracurricular achievement, such as academic or sporting awards, volunteer work, student government participation etc, including it with your application and referencing it in your essay. While most university scholarships are primarily academic merit based, financial need is also factored into the decision. Finally, if an interview is part of the application process, you should prepare well for the interview and be ready to speak from the heart about why you decided to apply, what parts of the curriculum appeal to you, and how studying at the university fits into your career and life goals. Interview performance is often heavily weighted in the decision to offer students a scholarship or not.   


The array of scholarship opportunities offered by Japanese universities and associated organizations are another factor making studying in Japan an increasingly attractive option for undergraduate and master’s degree seeking students. Most universities have a generous tuition fee reduction scholarship you can apply for and the JASSO scholarship makes finding your feet once you are here in Japan much less stressful. If you would like more information on iCLA’s tuition, facility and equipment fee scholarship, please see our Fees and Funding page.