Exchange in Japan
If you're studying elsewhere, but still want a taste of Japan
Why an Exchange in Japan?
Japan is a fairly exceptional destination for an exchange, given their distinct academic schedule and language requirements. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually relatively easy to get by even if you only speak English.
Exchange programmes in Japan often include opportunities for homestays, company visitations and attachments, providing you holistic learning and cultural experiences. Giving you an experience beyond the typical exchange programmes you get in most countries, where you solely take classes in your partner university.
It's the Cheapest Option
People often associate Japan as an expensive place to live, but that is not quite true. Costs of living and accommodation can be far cheaper than you would get in Western countries.
On the bright side, the Japanese government provides stipends (JASSO Scholarship) of about $1000 a month to almost all students on exchange in Japan. With this and a placement in a student dormitory/hostel (common for most exchange programmes), this means that monthly expenditure is likely less than $600 (cheaper than even the hostel fees in a Western university).
You get to travel around!
As attractive a travel destination as the West, Japan boasts many spectacular places to travel while studying. Its best advantage is the ability to leverage the well-connected and diverse modes of transportations that could bring you to even the smallest corner of this beautiful island.
Each prefecture in Japan boasts its own unique culture and practices - Okinawa has its beaches, Hokkaido has its ski slopes and flower fields, Kansai as the kitchen of Japan, and the Chubu region for its grand mountain ranges and traditional towns.
It's unlikely that you can even cover most places while you are here, but if you do, be guaranteed to be spoiled for choices.
Even before taking into account the JASSO scholarship, studying in Japan is one of the cheapest options available for students to study in a developed country. Taking into account the monthly stipend, Japan becomes by far the cheapest option available for students to study a semester abroad on exchange.
These costs are to be taken as ballpark figures based on averages from the different University websites. One semester is considered to be 4 months. Note that flight prices may fluctuate depending on how far in advance you book as well.
It should be noted that for the Western universities, the accommodation is based off a shared apartment's pricing rather than a single room hostel for Japan. For meals as well, the Western universities calculate purely off their hall's meal plans as compared to eating out for Japan.
Total per Month
Total for a Semester
University of Tokyo
Seoul, South Korea
Limited to 200 ppl
University of Toronto
Imperial College London
London, United Kingdom
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, USA
How do I count the classes to my graduation requirements? While this process differs slightly from university to university, the general process is the same.
Note that classes taken on exchange do not count towards your GPA/CAP. However, the classes you take must still be letter graded (e.g. A/B/C grades and not pass/fail classes) and you must pass the class for it to count.
First is to look at your home universities exchange partner list and pick a Japanese university. Then go to that Japanese university's course catalogue page and find courses for the semester you plan to go. (Japanese universities don't release schedules far in advance, but year on year the Spring and Autumn course lists should not change much although there is no guarantee) Find courses that you think have an equivalent back at your home university within your graduation requirements. Those will be the courses you will take to map back to your home university. Take note of the credit count, Japan's system is different from your home university and so 4 classes in Japan may not be 4 classes in your home university. Figure out the credit exchange ratio (e.g. for NUS, 16 Credits at Waseda university is equivalent to the standard 20 MCs at NUS), and make sure you take enough classes to cover your regular workload.
For more information about mapping courses, check your respective university guides:
For NUS, there is no centralized guide. While guides are faculty dependent, they generally are the same across NUS (including credit transfer ratios). Take note that there are faculty-level exchanges on top of university-level exchanges, so some faculties may have additional slots for certain Japanese universities.
There are some pre-existing mappings on EduRec, but note that many students have mapped modules not on EduRec. Note that one Japanese class is usually equivalent to 3 MCs in NUS. You may have to take additional classes to make up the credit count. E.g. taking 5 classes mapped to your major's modules, and 1 class mapped to a UE for credits.
For NTU, the process is called Module Matching. There is a handy guide with all the resources that you need, including websites, data and a timeline available below:
For SMU, there is a great in-house guide on OASIS to find out more about exchanges as well as past modules that have been mapped from Japanese universities back to SMU.
Most universities in Japan offer student exchange programmes, however your home university has to be a partner university in order to be eligible for it. NUS, NTU, and SMU all have a wide array of partner arrangements with universities in Japan, and we've also listed them for you too. Many student exchange programmes also include additional activities such as home stays or cultural immersion programmes.
There are also summer and winter schools that may be credit or non-credit bearing. So if you're interested in just getting a short-taste of Japan, this is also a viable option.