The Best way to get into University of Tokyo as a foreign student

If you’ve read my previous post, you know I said it’s best to first apply as a “foreign trainee / research student” (外国人研究生) to the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies at the University of Tokyo (東京大学大学院 情報学環・学際情報学府). The truth is, unless you got the monbukagakusho scholarship, or you’re willing to fly to Japan in July and August for the entrance exam and interviews, it’s almost impossible for a foreigner to be admitted into Todai (東大 – short for Tokyo Daigaku 東京大学).

Once I knew I didn’t get the Monbusho, I started looking into how to go study in Japan as a privately financed student. Apparently, there is a standardized test that you can take to gain admission as an undergraduate. It’s called the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU), it is a test carried out by the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) since 2002. It serves to evaluate whether foreign students who wish to enroll at the undergraduate level at a Japanese university possess the necessary Japanese language skills and basic academic abilities to study at such institutions. However, this test is only administered in Japan and in a few other Asian countries and in Russia. If you live anywhere else, you’re screwed. Also, there’s no such standardized test for graduate schools. So, that means I cannot be admitted into a Japanese grad school from overseas.

After doing more research, I found out that the general case of studying in Japan begins with a student first enrolling in a Japanese-language institute. (Read this link!) You can either 1) sign up for special courses for foreign students held by private universities (valid pdf link), or 2) attend a Japanese-language institutes certified by the Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education. Now I don’t know about you, but it looks to me those Japanese-language institutes are not on the same level as a real university. I would definitely aim for 1 rather than 2. Check out the pdf link above for a list of universities offering Japanese Language programs for foreign students.

Still, having to attend a Japanese Language course at another university means that I am still quite far away from my intended grad school in Todai. I decided to use this option as a backup, and I kept digging for info at the University of Tokyo for International Students website. I looked up admission information for international students (pdf), their International Center and Japanese Language Education, after a few emails to clarify how things work, I believe I’ve found the perfect way for me to get into Todai right away – the “foreign trainee / research student” at the Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies. Being a research student at Todai grants you the rights to study at their International Center’s Japanese Language school. Aside from the fact that I will be getting access to at least one faculty member at the grad school, which hopefully will translate to an advantage when I apply for a graudate student, I also find that the tuition fee is considerably lower than attending other Japanese Language schools!

In the next few posts, I’ll write about what kind of research project I’ll propose. I’ll also look deeper into my backup – the Japanese courses held by private universities and report my findings here.


Just another guy trying to beat the system and be released from the Matrix

Posted in graduate school, information, Japan
3 comments on “The Best way to get into University of Tokyo as a foreign student
  1. Wakarimasen says:

    I am in a similar situation as you. I just found out that my girlfriend (a Japanese citizen studying in the U.S.) will have to return to Japan next year after we graduate in May. She already has a job lined up in Japan and now I’m struggling to find a way for us to stay together.

    The biggest problem is that I can’t speak japanese. I have been studying it on my own since last summer, but without any real urgency. Suddenly the realization hit me that I only have one more year to take the necessary steps for the next major stage in my life. At first I thought the only question was ‘should I go to grad school or find a job?’ But now it’s become ‘do I want to live in the U.S. or Japan?’ And if the answer is Japan, how can I realistically make that happen?

    I have been looking into graduate schools in Japan and found several with international programs taught in English that relate to my field (University of Tokyo, Hokkaido University, Keio University, Toyohashi University of Technology, and Tokyo Institute of Technology). However, I question whether or not I should realistically expect to get accepted into any one of these. It seems like, in general, these English language programs are actually intended for international students from developing countries in Asia.

    And looking at the bigger picture, I wonder if an English language masters program would even be a good idea in the long run if my intention is to live in Japan. It would give me two more years to study Japanese, but I would be constantly working in English without much free time.

    To hold an engineering job in Japan I would need not only conversational fluency in Japanese, but I would need to be able to read and write technical papers in Japanese. With that in mind, I would probably be better served by a Japanese language masters program, but then I am faced with the same problem of having to learn Japanese first.

    In this entry you mention starting by enrolling in a Japanese Language Institute. That sounds like a good way to learn Japanese faster, but these seem to be short programs, some only a few weeks or months, the longest are one year. That just doesn’t seem like enough time to become fluent and jump right into a masters program. Is it really that effective? Or are these intended for people who already have a decent grasp of Japanese language?

    If none of the above options are possible, I am left with less appealing choices. I can stay in the U.S., try to maintain a long distance relationship with my girlfriend, study Japanese on my own until fluent, and hopefully “someday” move to Japan and get a job there. Sounds pretty unlikely to me. If I did this it would probably mean the eventual end of my relationship, and I would likely end up in the U.S. for the rest of my life.

    That’s the “safe” option where I follow the beaten path. The risky option would be to put grad school and an engineering job on hold and try to get into Japan as an English teacher. I haven’t really looked into this yet, but I have heard that there is some demand for this and that there is no formal teaching degree needed. I can’t imagine that the pay would be great, but it might be a way for me to get my foot in the door.

    Good luck with your own efforts and if you have advice for my situation, I would love to hear it. By the way, my interest in Japan is not just due to my girlfriend; I have had the desire to live there someday since before I met her. It has just become more urgent now that our relationship is a factor.

  2. Todai says:

    Good for you! I have been looking up about how to get into universities in Japan as well, without much success. It seems that there are a few facilities, but they are often awkwardly unaccessible for Americans and especially Europeans.

    I think that teaching English would be the back up option, as it is going straight into a job without needing any kind of major qualifications.

    I was considering perhaps flying over there and going to prep school (which I assume costs a lot of money) for a year or so and then taking the university tests. If I fail them, there is always a chance to take it again the next year. The teaching of English at a local school can hopefully provide enough for me to live there that long, if not, there must be some place somewhere that requires a fluent English speaker (but you would probably need to be fluent in Japanese too).

    So, overall, I will do some more research but it seems that universities have enough applicants that can already speak Japanese and therefore are in little need for foreign students, no matter their fluency in English (and Japanese).

    However, there is hope, and I will be taking my JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) next December, and that might help things a little.

    Well, anyways, I’ll try to let you guys know, and I’ll keep looking!

    Gambatte kudasai!

  3. […] written about applying to the University of Tokyo in a previous post. The submission period for that “Foreign Research Student” program at the Graduate […]

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