Since March 2020, thousands of foreign students have had to put their lives on hold due to the entry ban put in place by Japan as part of its COVID-19 response. Many of them have saved up for months and waited their entire lives to have the chance to live, study and build their futures in Japan.

These are some of their stories and why they are asking the Japanese government to ease the entry ban on foreign students.

Note: responses have been edited for clarity.

Kai, Austria

I started to grow interest in Japanese culture and in the Japanese way of life when I first started to learn the language in 2018. Back then I already knew that I wanted to move to Japan as soon as possible. I have studied hard and was able to get my JLPT N4 certificate a year later. Now after two years of consecutive studying, I finally want to be able to enter Japan to further improve my Japanese skills and to experience what life is like in the country I fell in love with.

I am without a job since May and can’t start a new one, as we don’t get a date when we can enter (Japan). I have to use my savings, which I was planning to use to start my new life in Japan.

Adam, UK

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine (to study in Japan). I previously worked in Japan but struggled because of the lack of Japanese and unfortunately, I had to return to the UK. During my time in Japan I had the most amazing experiences and met so many incredible people. I’m determined to return to Japan and want to learn the language and culture in order to enjoy the country properly.

The entry ban is really quite damaging to my career and personal development. I left an incredible job back in March in order to embark on my dream in Japan. However, I couldn’t go and I’m now unemployed having given up my dream job. I had to move out of my apartment and back in with my parents. It’s mentally draining and embarrassing. I will be devastated if there is another delay.

Camila, Brazil

I’ve been preparing for two years to go to study in Japan. I did my first JLPT in 2010, since then I have thought about spending time in the country to practice the language with native speakers and learn more about the culture. Eventually, I plan to do my Master’s in Japan.

My frustration and anxiety is a daily torture. I planned to travel in April 2020. I quit my job and cancelled the rent on my apartment. Right now I am unemployed and living on Airbnb, all of this during a pandemic. I am spending unplanned money each time the trip is delayed.

Hannah, The Netherlands

I have waited since March to go to Japan. I decided to put my law studies on hold so I can go to Japan to study Japanese for half a year. This is the first time in my life that I decided to step out of my comfort zone and do something completely out of the ordinary. For a very long time now it has been my dream to learn Japanese and experience the Japanese culture in a way that I could never experience in my own country.

It pains me so much that international students have to live in doubt because of the travel ban. I am willing to undergo PCR tests and a two-week quarantine if this means I can go to Japan in October. Words simply can’t express how important this is for me.

Michael, Germany

I have been interested in the Japanese culture for almost my entire life. I have been learning Japanese for a long time on my own, but I want to become fluent. Learning Japanese and living in Japan is my lifetime dream. I don’t want to have any regrets.

I have had no income since May. So the waiting time is very expensive for me. My savings were meant for Japan originally. The longer I stay unemployed, the more difficult it will get for me to find a job. I might have to cancel my trip if the delay continues.

Hannah, USA

Being able to study in Japan means being able to expand my world by breaking down that language barrier. It also means being able to move forward in my plans to eventually teach and/or work in Japan.

The delays to opening the border to students mean I won’t be able to come to Japan at all. I’ve had to push my life aside for an entire year, giving up job opportunities in the States because I thought I’d only be in Japan in June/July of 2020. I gave up some amazing jobs because it was my goal to go back to school and learn Japanese. If I can’t come in October, I will have to give up entirely as it’s not financially possible for me to just keep waiting.

What you can do to help

Support students in calling for the Japanese government’s stance on banning foreign students to end as soon as possible by signing our petition here.

Please also watch and share our video with some students, who explain how the Japan entry ban is affecting their livelihoods: