This article was last updated August 2022.
Want to study in Japan for 6 months, but you don’t know how or when to start? Don’t worry, we’ve made this helpful study-in-Japan guide for you, including a planning timeline. This is the same process you should follow if you are interested in living and studying in Japan for 1 or 2 years with a student visa.
Let’s get started.
Anytime up to 6 months before: Research your options
If you have made up your mind to study in Japan for 6 months or more, you should start gathering information about your available options as soon as possible.
Japanese language school terms start every January, April, July and October. But not all schools in Japan open courses four times a year. Our staff can help you to see what term options, cities and schools are available for your desired school term. Normally you need to book your slot for school six months before.
You can start to get a feel for which school is best for you by visiting our website, reading our blogs and watching our YouTube Channel.
8 months before: start 150 hours of Japanese language study
Japanese immigration introduced a requirement for some people (for example, those over 30 years old, those who completed school more than five years ago, etc) to have had already studied 150 hours or more of an official Japanese language school program. Alternatively, you need to have passed any level of the JLPT.
Depending on the situation or the school, self-study can sometimes be accepted as long as you specify the materials used. In most situations, students will need to have a certificate verifying their studies by the school.
A viable option is our 12-week beginner course and our pre-intermediate online course.
These courses were created in partnership with one of our language school partners, Akamonkai, which is the largest Japanese language school in Tokyo. It’s taught by actual teachers from the school and it’s designed to take you from total beginner to JLPT N5 and N4-equivalent. At the end of it you can receive a certificate from the school verifying that you have completed the courses and which Japanese immigration will recognize.
In all cases, all of our schools recommend that students have at least some basic hiragana and katakana knowledge by the time they start class. We recommend students self-study the basics of the language before arriving in Japan. Knowing the basic writing systems will help tremendously as you don’t have to spend as much time learning the bare basics of the language.
Learn more about the 150-hour requirement in our article.
7 – 5 months before: Submit your documents and secure your spot
In order to study in Japan for 6 months or more, you will need to apply for a student visa. The application procedure includes several steps – from completing paperwork and doing document checks, to submitting paperwork to your chosen school and Japanese immigration – which means the process can take a long time.
More importantly, schools have limited spots for language students and they can fill up very quickly, so the sooner you start the process to secure your spot the better. We recommend you do this as early as you can before the application deadline to secure a place in your chosen Japanese language school.
In order to secure your spot, you need pay the application fee. This should be done as soon as possible, even before this 7-5 months prior to starting, in order to avoid disappointment.
Don’t miss our ultimate student visa guide to learn everything you need to know about applying for the Japan student visa.
3 – 1 months before: Pay tuition fee & book flights
Our staff will send you the tuition fee invoice issued from the school. Once you receive this you need to pay your tuition straight away in order to complete the enrollment procedure. Until you do this step it is impossible to move on with the visa process.
Once your payment is confirmed you should then purchase your flight ticket to Japan. You should aim to arrive just a few days before the school starts. This is because the student visa will be valid upon your arrival in Japan and the visa length is linked to the school terms you applied for. Meaning that if you arrive 3 weeks before the school starts and your visa is valid for 6 months, you most likely won’t be able to stay in Japan until the end of the course.
So, be careful with this step and ask us for advice if you need it.
2 months before: Organise accommodation
Most of the accommodation agencies in Japan won’t have availability several months earlier than your arrival date. This is because in Japan there’s usually only about a month’s notice to leave an apartment or a share house.
Go! Go! Nihon partners with a wide selection of partners with different accommodation options from private apartments, to houseshares and homestays, so you can choose the best option for you. Just check out our accommodation page for all of our options and get in touch if you want to know more or are ready to book.
1 month before: COE and receiving your visa
After you have paid the tuition, approximately 1 to 2 months before lessons start the school will mail you your COE (Certificate of Eligibility) by post. The COE is the document that you need to submit to the Japanese embassy in your country to officially apply for the student visa. We recommend you to go to the embassy as soon as you get your COE. Depending on how busy your embassy is, it can take time to get your Japan student visa processed.
3-2 weeks before: Pack for Japan!
At this point you should have your student visa applied on your passport, the school tuition should be confirmed, and your accommodation booked. It’s time to pack your things and get ready for Japan. We have a full recommendation packing list for you in one of our articles.
Don’t forget to double-check with your student coordinator when the first day of school is and to check also the school address. Don’t be late on your first day!
Grades and attendance rate will affect your final result at the end of the term and you can only move into the next level if you pass your final exam. When you come to Japan with a student visa, your main purpose according to your immigration status is learning Japanese. Therefore, you must go to class every day, complete your homework and keep your studies up. With a student visa, it’s possible to work part-time up to 28 hours per week, but don’t forget that studying and going to school should be your main priorities.
Want to stay longer?
Want to study in Japan for longer than 6 months? It’s normally possible to extend your student visa with the same Japanese language school if you are passing your course. In most cases, you don’t have to go back to your home country to extend your visa. However, you should check with your school, or with your Go! Go! Nihon student coordinator, whether you can extend your course and for how long.
For any questions about the student visa application procedure or if you want to get started, contact our Go! Go! Nihon staff today. We will assist you during the whole process.
If you like to read more about Japanese culture, make sure to follow our blog where we cover everything you need to know about Japan!