Study in Japan from the UK: visas, universities, and costs

Gert Svaiko

Love the idea of studying in Japan? It’s easy to see why, as Japan boasts a rich cultural heritage, vibrant cities and incredible food. And of course, the country is renowned for its high educational standards.

But how easy is it to go study in Japan from the UK? We’ll cover everything you need to know here in this handy guide. This includes info on visas, student exchange programmes, tuition fees and the best universities in Japan for international students.

And if you’re looking for a low-cost way to manage your money while studying in Japan, check out the Wise card. This clever international card lets you spend in Japanese yen (JPY) from the moment you land, automatically converting your GBP at the mid-market exchange rate.


Learn more about the Wise card

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.

Can I study abroad in Japan coming from the UK?

You can absolutely study abroad in Japan from the UK, but you’ll need to meet a few key requirements.

The first and most important is to get your Japanese student visa. You’ll need this if you’ll be studying in Japan for more than three months

Another key requirement is Japanese language proficiency. As you’d expect, most university courses are taught in Japanese only - although there are a growing number of courses taught in English. Depending on which course you apply for, you’ll need to pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT).¹ You can take this here in the UK.

You’ll also need to pay for national health insurance when you arrive in Japan, and get a Zairyū residence card.¹ This is for people staying in Japan for the mid to long-term.

What are the Japanese student visa requirements from the UK?

Before you can apply for a Japan student visa as a UK citizen, you’ll first need to get confirmation of acceptance from your chosen university. They’ll apply to the Japanese Ministry of Justice on your behalf for a Certificate of Eligibility. This lasts for three months, so you’ll need to start your visa application before this time runs out.

Here’s the process of applying for your visa:

  1. Book an appointment at the Embassy of Japan in the UK² - it’s in London, but there’s also the Consulate General of Japan in Edinburgh for applicants living in Scotland
  2. Complete the Visa Application Form and bring it with you to your appointment
  3. You’ll also need to bring a valid passport, recent photograph of yourself and your Certificate of Eligibility³
  4. Pay the visa fee and your application will be submitted
  5. Collect your visa from the Embassy once ready

It takes around 5 working days for visa applications to be processed.² The application fee is £41 for a multiple entry visa⁴, and this must be paid in cash.²

Universities in Japan for international students

Which university you apply to will largely depend on what you want to study, and whether you meet the entry criteria. Plus, where you want to live in Japan.

But to help you start your research, here are some of the most popular universities in Japan for international students:¹

  • The University of Tokyo
  • Kyoto University
  • Osaka University
  • Nagoya University
  • Tohoku University
  • Hokkaido University
  • Kyushu University.

All of the above make up the prestigious National Seven Universities, which are Japan’s equivalent to the American Ivy League. Some are even listed in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings 2022.

Other institutions to consider are the Tokyo Institute of Technology (another of the QS World University Top 100) and the International University of Japan. This is the first graduate school to open in Japan, and it offers all of its courses in English.

Which universities in Japan offer scholarships for international students?

Tuition fees in Japan can be pretty high (more on that later) so it could be worth looking into your eligibility for a scholarship. Here are a few of the most well known:

Scholarship nameHost universityEligibility
MEXT Undergraduate Scholarship Programme⁵Any accredited university in JapanOpen to UK nationals under the age of 24
MEXT Postgraduate Scholarship Programme⁶Any accredited university in JapanOpen to UK nationals under the age of 35
Kyushu University Friendship Scholarship⁷Kyushu UniversityOpen to all international applicants studying at a UK university
Daiwa Foundation Small Grants⁸Any accredited university in JapanOpen to UK and Japanese graduates
JAIST Scholarship - Masters, PhD⁸Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (JAIST)Open to all nationals
ADB Japan Scholarships - Masters⁸Any participating university in JapanOpen to nationals of ADB member nations, including UK

Student exchange programs from UK to Japan

Alongside scholarships, there are also a number of student exchange programs available for UK and Japanese students.

In fact, many Japanese institutions have exchange agreements in place with international universities.¹ So if you’re already studying at a university here in the UK, it could be worth finding out whether there are opportunities to study in Japan as part of your course.

How much does it cost to study in Japan?

Tuition fees in Japan vary depending on whether you study at a public, private or national institution - and what course you take. But on average, you can expect to pay:¹

  • £5,456 to £21,293 per year for an undergraduate course
  • £5,323 to £6,654 per year for a postgraduate programme - with medicine, pharmaceutical and dentistry courses being the most expensive.

If you’re keeping a close eye on your money when studying in Japan, the Wise debit card can help. With it, you can spend in Japanese yen and don’t need to worry about changing money, carrying cash around or even opening a Japanese bank account just yet.

Register with Wise today

Please see the Terms of Use for your region.

How affordable is moving to Japan as a student?

The cost of living in Japan varies depending on where in the country you’re living. However, you could find that rent costs are as much as 50% lower than in the UK, while restaurant meals are a huge 85% cheaper.⁹

After reading this guide, you should have all the info you need to start researching your move to Japan. There are lots of options available in terms of scholarships and exchange programmes.

And at the end of your course, you’ll come away with an internationally recognised qualification that will stand you in good stead to start your career. Good luck!

Sources used:

  1. Prospects - Study in Japan
  2. Embassy of Japan in the UK - Visa: General Information
  3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan - General Visa: Student
  4. Embassy of Japan in the UK - Visa Fees
  5. Embassy of Japan in the UK - MEXT Undergraduate Scholarships
  6. Embassy of Japan in the UK - MEXT Postgraduate Scholarships
  7. Kyushu University - Fees and Support
  8. We Make Scholars - Scholarships for British Students to Study in Japan
  9. Numbeo - Cost of Living Comparison Between Japan and United Kingdom

Sources last checked on date: 04-Nov-2022

This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

Money for here, there and everywhere

Find out more

Tips, news and updates for your location