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What Should I Major In: Choosing the Right Field of Study in Japan for Foreigners

Studying in Japan must be a dream. Well, it was mine, and I had a couple of things to think about before finally pursuing it. Japan is undeniably one of the best countries to study in. With its rich history and culture, economic strength, and competent universities, I had always known that studying the land of the rising sun would be the best decision. But before actually taking off to start my educational venture as a foreign student, I had to answer one crucial question: “What do I major in?”

What Should I Major In: Choosing the Right Field of Study in Japan for Foreigners

Of course, when we think of going to a university, we usually have our minds already made up. Ideally, we should already know what we want before going to college or pursuing a master’s degree, so all our decisions should lead us to that goal. But it’s quite different when you’re a foreign student, especially when you choose to study in Japan.

Japan sets itself apart from other countries. It has a deep-rooted history, and the culture is indisputably distinct from the other nations in East Asia. Studying there is a serious challenge unless you’re committed to learning the language and the culture! The educational system from back home could be different from Japan’s, and you should take it into account, along with your personal goal.

In this article, I hope to guide you into making your first big decision of choosing your field of study. My goals might be different from yours, but there are experiences common to international students in Japan. You will probably have to consider a few things, which I also had to assess myself. If you’re 100% certain that studying in Japan is your ultimate goal, read on to be sure about your course as well:

Language Proficiency

You’ve probably read about this tip countless times before, but learning the language does help a lot even in choosing your field of study! As general as it may seem, your level of proficiency in the Japanese language could affect your educational experience in Japan. However, there are American universities in Japan, as well as universities that offer degree programs in English. With your Japanese language skills, where are you heading to?

I took up a Bachelor of Science in International Studies and majored in Japanese Language and Studies for my undergraduate education. My language proficiency was on level N3 when I decided to study in Japan, so I was ready to take on the challenge of studying in Japanese. I also wanted to completely immerse myself in the Japanese culture, which meant studying in Japan in Japanese with Japanese classmates! This goal led me to Japanese universities that offer degree programs that I was interested in pursuing.

If your Japanese language skills still need more work, you could always go for short-term studies in Japan first. After I graduated, I decided to improve my Japanese even more by enrolling in JaLS GROUP. The multi-awarded Japanese language school is in Hokkaido and Kyoto, and they are the first and only language school in Japan to be accredited by Equals. I practiced and sharpened my skills with fellow foreign students, and explored Japan for first-hand experiences. From there, I was finally ready for university!

If not the Japanese language school, you could also opt for American universities in Japan. These universities follow the American academic year, and you will study mostly with fellow English-speaking international students. Programs offered in English for foreign students have Japanese language classes incorporated in their curriculum, so you still get to enhance your skills!

Unsure about the degree to pursue in Japan? Your language proficiency can influence your choice of college or university, which will eventually influence your choice of field of study as well. Some Japanese universities have programs that may require more than an adequate command of the Japanese language. From there, you could check which fields of study are available!

Practicality or Passion?

There are two primary motivations for getting a degree: passion and employment. For me, passion should direct you to your field of study. It’s kind of difficult to study something you’re not interested in! But you could also consider which field of study will surely take you places after you graduate. With these, you can carefully secure your future while you hustle today. Is it possible to study in Japan for free? With the Japanese governments’ scholarships, yes, it is!

Ideally, you shouldn’t have to choose between your passion and budget. But what if that’s the case? Studying in Japan means you’ll be living there for at least a year, which means you also have to find ways to provide for yourself, all while getting educated! Could these aspects have a say on your choice of field of study?

In my experience, I studied in Japan for free and received a stipend, which I used to pay for rent and daily consumption. I only got jobs to afford other activities to make the most of my life in Japan. This means your field of study should preferably allow you to have time for other pursuits. Most international students get into Japanese universities by scholarship. After all, foreign student life can be quite costly, depending on your chosen field of study!

If you ever find yourself being tossed back and forth by passion and practicality, consider your priorities and sources and lay down your options on the table. There should be a practical way to pursue your passion! Ultimately, getting a degree in Japan, whether undergraduate, master’s, or doctorate, is already a way to a bright future!

Do your Research

The most important tip when choosing your field of study in Japan? Research! Yes, looking up all the available options can help you decide. Scholarships, available degree programs, and top and leading universities? Read about them! Had I skipped reading about studying in Japan in general, I wouldn’t have had enough confidence to jumpstart my study plans and apply for a scholarship. I also had enough information about my potential field of study before I started studying about it in Japan.

There are many lists of prestigious Japanese universities that you could enroll in. The University of Tokyo, Sophia University, and Hokkaido University, to name a few! You could study Green Science and Engineering, Global Environment Studies, Global Studies, as well as business management courses. Do your research, and you’ll see just how plenty your options are! Who knows? You could find a field of study that’s related to your undergraduate degree. You might even go for something that you never thought could further your career!

It’s best to equip yourself with all the knowledge you need so you could land on the field of study that you will soon grow into. Almost everything you need to know about studying in Japan is available online. It’s also helpful to ask the right people, such as other international students, guidance counselors in your previous school, or your local Japanese embassy. Do extensive research until you get a clear picture of what you want. This way, you’ll be composed when thinking about your field of study.


Being an international student in Japan can be quite a challenge, but it’s also one of the best life experiences there is! And when you finally find the perfect field of study for you to take, then you’re on to the next step toward your goals. It’s okay if all that’s certain right now is the idea of studying in Japan. It happens!

You could check “Choose field of study” off your to-do list soon. Start with identifying how much you know about the Japanese language and culture and then how you’re going to pay for your education. Wake your passion by doing research and then coming up with a decision. Take your time! Getting that degree in Japan is an adventure, and it will surely be worth it. Best of luck!

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