Posted by: Andreas | February 24, 2009

How do I get to Japan?

So, let’s start by checking how to even get to Japan. I will write this from my own experiences and if there is anyone else who has done it in a quicker way, know that you are most welcome to post a comment about it.

The first thing you should do is figure out what you actually want to do in Japan:

Holiday: It might not be the very first destination that comes to mind for holiday (I’m thinking from a European view here), but Japan sports beaches, shopping, and cultural and historic monuments just like other popular destinations such as France, Spain, Italy, Greece or Turkey.

Study: From personal experience I know that there is a widely spread interest in studying Japanese or other subjects in Japan. The country has quite a few interesting universities, with Tokyo University at the top I believe, but also specialised language schools which are basically designed for foreign-only students for them to learn Japanese.

Work: Japan is a place that fascinates many people and I amongst others want to work there. You can find work easily through various sources, with Internet being probably one of the few available if you are outside of Japan. Once in Japan however, you can apply for a job directly through companies, or via magazines which advertise job-opportunities.

Once you have decided on what to do, it’s time to get to work. What you should do and how much work you need to put in depends entirely on what you chose above.


1. First visit your nation’s Japanese embassy or consulate-general online. If you are having trouble finding it, have a look to your right in my LINKS bar. I have listed most countries’ embassies and linked to them there.

2. Look at the Visa section and check how many months someone of your nationality can stay in Japan on a Tourist Visa. Most countries have a period of 90 days and some have even 180 days. I believe there are very few exceptions to this that would limit the days to less than 90.

3. Secure a flight both to and from Japan. Once you are in Japan you will receive a Tourist Visa. You are *not* required to secure a visa before entering Japan [source for fact, 090223]. Your visa will be issued at the airport of your arrival instead. This however, only applies if you are going on holiday. If you intend to study during your Tourist Visa visit, please look at the Study section. The reason why you need to have your flight back booked already is that if you do not possess a return ticket, you will not be allowed to board the plane to Japan in your own country.

4. Also, make sure that you have some money. The officers at the Japanese airport will not search you for it, but it would be good to at least be able to give them reassurance that you have enough money to make it during your stay.

5. Pack your bags and go!


1. First visit your nation’s Japanese embassy or consulate-general online. If you are having trouble finding it, have a look to your right in my LINKS bar. I have listed most countries’ embassies and linked to them there. See to it that your nation has an agreement with Japan that people of your nationality can study in Japan (i.e. apply for Student Visa). If you intend on studying on a Tourist Visa, please see #9 of the Study section.

2. Find the school that you want to apply to. This might be harder than you might imagine. Applying for a Student Visa is not done by you, you see, but by the school that you want to attend. Please note that the Student Visas I will mention are not eligible for people under the age of 18. If you want to know how to apply to a Japanese Upper Secondary school (High School), then please contact your local Embassy. I do not provide any such information.

Also, very important(!). You will want to make absolutely sure that the school you will apply for are official members of the APJLE (Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education). If they are then you know that the school has official support from the Government.

As a special reference for Swedish students who want to study in Japan, know that if the school is not part of the APJLE you will not be able to apply for CSN support during your visit in Japan. To be absolutely sure, you should also ring the CSN and ask that they check if your APJLE-approved school actually is registered in the CSN data base. I can only guess that this applies to other nations’ equivalents of CSN (Student funding association).

3. The first thing you must do is send the school (I assume that by now you have found one, if not, check below for tips) your application form.

If you are applying to a Japanese University then you must do two things; get in contact with the University in Japan and look at their homepage for application procedures, and get in contact with your own University. In the case that your University is already in touch with the Japanese University then your application procedure will be an easy one. Most likely, your own University can take care of the application. If they are not in contact then you must take care of the application details all by yourself and make sure that a transfer from your University to the Japanese University goes smoothly. Perhaps you could even be the first student to set up a connection between them, making it easier for future students to make the same transfer, who knows?

If you are applying for a Japanese language school, then you need to contact the school to receive their specific application form. In most cases these are already available online on their homepage so that you can print it right out. If you do not have a printer, then the school can send you the application form by mail. It should take about 7-10 working days.

4. Choose whether you are applying for a Pre-College Student Visa or College Student Visa. Most Japanese Language schools are at the Pre-College Student level so that once you have graduated from the school, you can continue to a College or University by applying for the College Student Visa.

5. There is always going to be a processing fee for the application form. Also, when sending your application you might (but not necessarily) need the following items:

  1. Six 3 cm x 4 cm photos of you. These photos must be taken without a background, and you should look straight into the camera. Do not turn your face to the left or right. In some countries (such as mine) it is standard procedure to show one ear as well in photos used for ID or passport, but for this you should look straight ahead.
  2. Medical assurance. A statement from a doctor where it says you are at full health and do not suffer from anything. The statement must not be older than three (3) months from the time you received it and the time the Japanese Immigration Bureau receives the application.
  3. Insurance. Some schools can offer you a necessary insurance, some won’t. But if you are going to study for six months or more you are required to have at least some sort of insurance. You should contact the school for exact information on this.
  4. Proof of previous education. You need a certificate of your latest educational accomplishments, such as Upper Secondary school- or University degree.
  5. Proof of current employment. A certificate proving your employment status at your company. If you are unemployed you obviously do not need to supply any such information.
  6. Proof of financial situation. If you do not have enough money to pay for tuition and the living in Japan, you will most likely be denied entrance to Japan on a long-term Visa such as a Student Visa. You need to provide a statement of your bank account’s balance (not the bank account number as I’ve heard a few people believe, just the balance of it) and also a note from your job or bank of your monthly income that proves that you are able to pay for any incidents that might arise. (Note that if you are not the one who will be paying the expenses, perhaps your parents will, then they are the ones who must supply all this information).

6. Send your application with all the necessary documents to the school, *not* the Japanese Immigration Bureau. You will need to get the school’s address in other words. For example:

Japanese Language Institute of Sapporo
2-7, Nishi 26-chome, Minami 6-jo, Chuo-ku, Sapporo Japan

7. Once your application has been accepted, your school will send all your personal documents back, such as the proof of previous education. Then you need to wait. Once the application procedure is done, the school will send you another mail containing the Certificate of Eligibility. Now you must take the Certificate of Eligibility to your local Embassy of Japan who will then give you your Student Visa.

8. Secure a flight to Japan. Pack your bags, you’re on your way to 6 months+ of intense Japanese studies!

9. If you have decided on studying on a Tourist Visa instead, this is what you could (not necessarily should) do:

  1. Apply to the school. You do not need to send a lot of application details since that’s mostly for the Student Visa, not the actual school application.
  2. You might still need a few things in the list above at #5, such as a few photos and proof of your financial situation. Please contact your school for further details about studying on a Tourist Visa.
  3. Tourist Visas are often only given for a 90 day period as can be seen at the Holiday section. This forces you to take a few inconventient steps in order to stay in Japan. There is no problem studying for only 3 months at most schools, but if you want to progress with your Japanese I recommend at least 6 months worth of studies. One way of staying in Japan for 6 months rather than 3 is to leave for another country, say Korea or China, apply for a new Tourist Visa at the local Embassy there, and then return the next day to Japan. Now, I haven’t actually tried this, so I do not know exactly how or if it works, seeing you must have your flight ticket back to your country with you as you go *in* Japan. This means you have a ticket that you have bought but cannot use, unless you bought a ticket that can be rescheduled after you’ve entered Japan. Also, there is no guarantee that you will be able to get into Japan the second time, but I have heard of people who managed last time I was in Japan. However, after discussing this “strategy” with my own Embassy they told me it was a very risky way of extending one’s stay. I have also been in contact with my previous school and they say that one person actually managed to stay a second time on a Tourist Visa but when he tried to do it a third time, he was denied entry at the airport itself and deported back to his country. So I definitely do not recommend a third try.
  4. Pay the tuition fee to the school. Once they’ve given the green light, secure a ticket to Japan and pack your bags!

Tips section:
If you plan on attending a University, you must find the homepage by yourself unfortunately, as I have not attended such a school in Japan and thus do not have any idea which school is good or not. If you are not planning on studying at a University, but rather at a Japanese language school, there are a few that stand out. There are a lot of language schools in Tokyo, but personally I prefer to stay away from the big city since it is extremely expensive and it is hard to find a suitable home. Instead, first and foremost you should check out these schools:

The Yamasa Institute (Okazaki, Aichi prefecture)
Japanese Language Institute of Sapporo (Sapporo, Hokkaido prefecture)

Now these schools are hardly the only language schools you can find out there, besides the ones in Tokyo, but as I have attended Yamasa and am currently applying to JLI of Sapporo, both schools have given me a good impression. I can vouch for Yamasa as being extremely good, low-priced yet great quality, and you definitely get your worth in money back in education and lodging. For the moment I cannot say much about JLI but they also seem to have some comfortable doorms, or in my case, school-related apartments for rent.


Getting a Working Visa is pretty much like getting a Student Visa.

1. First visit your nation’s Japanese embassy or consulate-general online. If you are having trouble finding it, have a look to your right in my LINKS bar. I have listed most countries’ embassies and linked to them there. Look up what types of Working Visas that are offered and make sure your profession is covered.

2. You should most likely apply for a job in Japan before even attempting to apply for the actual Working Visa. 10 out of 11 Working Visas [source] show that you must already possess the Certificate of Eligibility in order to get the Visa. To get a Certificate of Eligibility one must be sponsored by the workplace (or school in the above case Study), thus making it basically impossible to go to Japan to work before you’ve secured employment at a workplace. Not a good idea to get everything ready before getting a job confirmation first in other words.

3. To apply for a job, you might search the Internet. I am not sure how reliable these sites actually are in securing you a job position as I have not tried any of them myself, but it might be worth a shot. Please be careful when browsing though. I do not take any responsibility whatsoever for anything that happens. I am merely trying to inform people of what I find when making a quick Google-search with the keywords “jobs in japan”. The biggest sites containing job information seem to be:


If you are already in Japan, searching for a job is easy. Just find a catalogue or read the newspapers like any ordinary Japanese. Easy.

4. Once you have a Certificate of Eligibility, get to your local Embassy and collect your Working Visa. Pack your bags, you’re heading to Japan and 14-hour-long working days and 10 days of holiday per year!


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