Charting Your PhD Journey in Japan: Admission, Lifestyle, and Balancing Work with Study

Japan, with its unique blend of ancient culture and technological innovation, offers a compelling environment for ambitious PhD students. Whether you’re diving into cutting-edge research or exploring the bustling streets, life as a doctoral candidate here is full of potential. But to truly thrive, understanding the ins and outs of admissions, budgeting for your lifestyle, and mastering the Japanese language is key.

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Advantages of Pursuing PhD in Tokyo

Application Process and Timeline for a PhD Program

Can You Apply From Overseas?

List of English PhD programs offered by Universities in Japan

Navigating Financial Waters: Living as a PhD Student

Working While You Learn

Mastering Japanese: A Strategic Move for PhD Students in Japan

The Key to Professional Opportunities

Advantages of Pursuing a PhD in Tokyo

There are a lot of factors you should consider before pursuing a PhD in Japan | Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

There are many advantages to pursuing an English-speaking PhD or master’s degree in Tokyo. Here are just a few:

  • High-quality education: Tokyo’s universities are renowned for their academic rigor and research excellence. Many of these universities are ranked among the top institutions in the world.
  • Cultural immersion: Tokyo is a vibrant and exciting city with a rich cultural heritage. Pursuing a degree in Tokyo will give you the opportunity to experience Japanese culture firsthand.
  • Networking opportunities: Tokyo is a global hub for business and innovation. You will have the opportunity to network with leading professionals worldwide.
  • Career prospects: A degree from a prestigious university in Tokyo will give you a competitive edge in the job market.

Application Process and Timeline for PhD Programs

Be sure to do proper research before enrolling in your PhD program! | Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Embarking on a PhD in Japan starts with navigating the admissions process. Programs in English are widely available, particularly in science and technology, economics, business, and various interdisciplinary fields. Admission requires a relevant master’s degree, a well-defined research proposal, and often proficiency in English or Japanese. The admission process for PhD programs in Japan typically varies from university to university. However, the general steps involved in the application process are as follows:

  • Meeting Eligibility Criteria: Applicants must hold a master’s degree or equivalent qualification from a recognized institution. Check the program website for specific admissions requirements and deadlines.
  • Submitting Application Documents: Required documents may include transcripts, recommendation letters, research proposals, and language proficiency test scores (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS).
  • Participating in Entrance Examinations: Some universities conduct written examinations or interviews to assess candidates’ knowledge and aptitude for research.

The application deadlines for English-speaking PhD and Master’s programs in Tokyo typically range from April to June. However, it is always best to check with the individual university for the most up-to-date information.

Can You Apply from Overseas?

Typically, the university will list the application details on their website | Photo by Alexander Smagin on Unsplash

Applications for English-speaking PhD and Master’s programs in Tokyo can typically be submitted from overseas. The application process is usually online, and you must submit the required documents digitally. However, some universities may also require you to send a physical copy of your application materials.

Additional Considerations

  • Admissions requirements: Each university will have its own admissions requirements for English-speaking PhD and Master’s programs. These requirements may vary depending on the program, but they typically include a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.
  • Language proficiency: While most English-speaking Ph.D. and Master’s programs in Tokyo do not require Japanese language proficiency, having some basic Japanese language skills is always a good idea. This will help you navigate daily life in Japan and make the most of your experience.
  • Funding: There are a number of funding opportunities available for international PhD students in Japan, including scholarships, fellowships, and teaching assistantships. It is important to research these opportunities carefully and apply for those you are eligible for.

List of English PhD programs offered by Universities in Japan

UniversityProgramApplication TimelineApplication Submission
The University of TokyoVariousApril – JuneOnline
Sophia UniversityOctober-December (Might depend on the program)April – JuneOnline
Meiji UniversityVarious April – JuneOnline
Temple University (Japan Campus)Ph.D. in Music TherapyApril – JuneOnline
International Christian University (ICU)Arts and Sciences ProgramApril – JuneOnline
University of TsukubaVariousOctober-December (Might depends on the program)Online


If you’re worried about financing your study, there are tons of aids for PhD programs in Japan! | Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Scholarships such as MEXT, Rotary Yoneyama Foundation Scholarships, or university-specific grants are vital in supporting your academic journey. They cover everything from tuition fees to living expenses, allowing you to immerse in your studies and the rich culture of Japan. Read what each scholarship offers below!

1. The Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship

This scholarship is offered by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT). There are scholarships available for privately financed international students, as well as those under student exchange agreements. The application for the 2024 MEXT Japanese Studies Scholarship will open in January 2024.

Value of Award:

  • 100% of tuition (covered by the APU Tuition Reduction Scholarship)
  • 145,000 JPY per month for living expenses (amount subject to change)
  • Economy class air travel between the home country and APU at the beginning and end of the program. 

2. Rotary Yoneyama Foundation Scholarships

This scholarship is provided for future students of Japanese universities and graduate schools. This program serves two different application periods. If your expected enrollment is April 2024, the deadline is March 1, 2024. If the expected enrollment is September/October 2024, the deadline is August 1, 2024.

Value of Award:

  • 100% of tuition 
  • The scholarship provides a monthly stipend for the duration of time, for Doctoral students: 140,000 JPY per month for two years

3. Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Fellowship

This fellowship is awarded to postdoctoral researchers who are conducting research in Japan. The JSPS offers two different programs long-term and Short-term; the application period is from mid-April to June 7, 2023.

Value of Award:

  • 200,000 JPY per month for living expenses
  • Leave for childbirth and childcare: Fellows are allowed to suspend their research for childbirth and childcare and are offered a path back into the laboratory. They can also choose to work short hours while on such leave.

4. The Fulbright Specialist Program Japan

This is a partial funding international scholarship provided by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for international students. For those candidates that met all eligibility requirements, you may apply to join the Fulbright Specialist Roster twice every 12 months. If you were not approved with your first application, you may reapply immediately and be included in the next peer review panel cycle. 

Additionally, the Asian Development Bank-Japan Scholarship Program (ADB-JSP) offers about 135 graduate scholarships annually for studies in economics, business and management, science and technology, and other development-related fields. 

Working While You Learn

Want to earn extra money on the side? Totally possible! | Photo by on Unsplash

As a PhD student in Japan, you’re allowed to work part-time up to 28 hours a week during term-time and full-time during vacations. This can supplement your scholarship and provide real-world experience, but it’s essential to balance this with your study commitments.

Mastering Japanese: A Strategic Move for PhD Students in Japan

Learning the Japanese language might give you several benefits for your PhD in Japan. | Photo by Unseen Studio on Unsplash

For PhD students aspiring to work in Japan, proficiency in the Japanese language is invaluable. It paves the way for greater job opportunities, deeper cultural integration, and successful networking. 

Get the Full Japanese Experience

– Cultural Integration: Understanding the language is the first step to truly immersing yourself in Japanese culture and society.

– Work Eligibility: Many employers prefer or require proficiency in Japanese to navigate the local business environment and workplace culture.

– Networking: Speaking Japanese opens up a wealth of networking opportunities that are otherwise inaccessible, helping you to build valuable connections for your career.

The Key to Professional Opportunities

Having some sort of knowledge and skill in Japanese culture or language will definitely help you in landing a job here. | Photo by Gilly on Unsplash

If you’re a PhD aspirant in Japan with an eye on the job market, gaining proficiency in Japanese is more than just an academic requirement—it’s a strategic career move. The ability to communicate effectively in Japanese can significantly broaden your professional horizons and make you a compelling candidate in the job market, both during and after your PhD studies.

Our Language Courses: Tailor-Made for Your Success

Recognizing the importance of Japanese language skills for PhD students in Japan, our part-time and online courses are designed to fit into a busy academic schedule:

Part-Time Japanese Courses
These are ideal for PhD students who want to balance their research with language study. With flexible class times, you can learn Japanese without compromising your academic commitments.

Online Japanese Courses
For maximum flexibility, coto’s online Japanese courses allow you to learn from anywhere, at any time. This means you can advance your language skills even during fieldwork or if you’re on a research trip.


As a PhD student in Japan, your success isn’t solely determined by your academic achievements; it also hinges on your ability to navigate the local language and culture. By integrating Coto Japanese language courses into your study routine, you’re not just preparing for your dissertation defense—you’re setting the stage for a flourishing career in Japan. So, take the first step towards unlocking your full potential in the Japanese job market with our dedicated language courses, crafted to help you excel in both your studies and your professional life.

Good Luck!

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