Welcome to Japan
The Japan Country Guide will provide a historical overview, scholarship information, health and safety tips, plus identity-specific resources to ensure students feel prepared with insight and resources for their global experience in Japan. The information shared below is a bird eye’s view and meant to provide some country-specific context. We encourage students to conduct further research and chat with relevant points of contact including advisors, program leaders, international student services at the host campus, internship coordinators or peers who have traveled to Japan, to gain a greater understanding of their host country and/or city.
Japan is an island nation that is both rich in history, and on the leading edge of modern industry and culture. Its 6,000-plus islands, located east of the Sea of Japan and east of China, Russia, and North and South Korea, are home to lush vegetation, a mix of wildlife, snow capped mountains, and ruins and artifacts of an ancient civilization. Japan’s history has often been one characterized by expansionism. However, after the destruction of World War II, Japan has remade itself into a country that is consistently peaceful and focused on economic and technological advancement.
American students tend to enjoy studying abroad in Japan because of the Japanese influence on pop culture across the world, combined with an interest in language, culture, art and food.
Students visiting Japan will have the opportunity to study an ancient language and culture with many living sites. Japan is also considered one of the world leaders in technological advancements in consumer electronics and telecommunications. If you love Japan, Tokyo, Japan’s capital, is also expected to be one of the leading creators of job opportunities for international business professionals over the next decade, opening it to international travel by expats.
There are many beautiful places to travel in Japan, full of nature and historical sites as a testament to the nation’s rich, deep history. No trip to Japan would be complete without seeing Mt. Fuji. Even if you aren’t an experienced hiker or mountain climber, there are a number of picturesque trails near the base of the mountain. The Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima is a testament to the destruction of World War II and to the commitment of future peace. It has a monument with all the names of the known victims of the bomb and is a must see when visiting Japan. Take time to visit shrines and visit the museums to understand the history of Japan.
Cities & Education
The Japanese education system is a top-ranked system across the world, plus there are so many unique areas to explore for personal interests! Depending on where you are located during your global experience, each of the prefectures (Japan's version of states) offers amazing experiences that you can enjoy. Many students will be based in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, but there are many other places to visit. You are able to travel easily by bullet train and move through the nation; there are five different main islands but you may need to identify certain areas to go. Each of the islands and prefectures have their own seasonal events and holidays, plus are more heavy travel times, depending on the times of the year.
Events & Tourism
Japan has a vast array of historical sites throughout the whole country. There are historical sites that range from temples to museums to parks, dedicated to various leaders throughout Japan’s history. If you visit a temple or shrine, it is important to know the required dress to insure that you are respecting the site. We strongly recommend going to the various sites and taking in the history and culture of your host country. There are many different sites available, depending on your interests, allowing you to get the most of your experience!
In Japan, there are a host of cultural events that will happen during your time abroad! There are major celebrations in each season, but some of the most popular ones are New Years, Golden Week, and the Cherry Blossom Festival. New Years is a multi-week celebration and Golden Week is a week of four holidays, allowing the Japanese time to travel and spend time with their loved ones!
In addition to the national holidays, each of the prefectures have their own holidays from the Omihachiman Sagicho Fire Festival to the Otaue Rice Planting Festival; we highly encourage you to travel to the different prefectures to learn about the differences of the city vs the countryside.
Diversity & Inclusion Climate
Although Japan is a highly ethnically homogenous country – 98.5% of the population is Japanese – it is considered a tolerant country, welcoming of visitors. The ethnic hostility that does exist in Japan tends to come in the form of xenophobia and be targeted at Chinese and Korean immigrant laborers. Japanese Americans are also sometimes surprised to find that they are not considered fully Japanese, even if both their parents are Japanese, as they were not raised in Japan.
Despite Japan’s homogeneity, U.S. students of color, especially African Americans, tend to be well received in urban Japan, where “burakku”, black culture in Japan, is very popular among Japanese youth. U.S. students of color report that, for better and/or worse, the popularity of black celebrity entertainers and athletes in the U.S. is transposed onto them while in Japan. While the admiration can be well-intentioned, it can also come across as objectification and students of color report feeling singled out.
For more additional, identity-specific information about Germany visit the Diversity & Inclusion Guides to Japan.
Population in Japan:
126,168,156 (July 2018 est.)
Noun: Japanese (singular and plural)
Japanese 98.1%, Chinese 0.5%, Korean 0.4%, other 1% (includes Filipino, Vietnamese, and Brazilian) (2016 est.)
Shintoism 70.4%, Buddhism 69.8%, Christianity 1.5%, other 6.9% (2015 est.)
note: total adherents exceeds 100% because many people practice both Shintoism and Buddhism
Immigration & Emigration
Japan is a very homogenous society and has varying perceptions about immigration within the country. In 2015, less than 2% of the Japanese population included foreign-born nationals, but many Japanese are concerned with the amount of Japanese leaving Japan for jobs overseas. As Japan has been encountering issues maintaining its population, since it has been on the decline for awhile, the government decided to implement a new immigration bill recently that will allow more people to apply for visas to live in Japan for up to 5 years, depending on their career skills.
Throughout its history, Japan has long been against having fully open borders, which led to the Meiji Restoration, a pivotal moment in the history of Japan. This event was forced by many outside forces, such as the Americans and British, which leads to issues of colonialism and racism within the society.
Since the new immigration law is just now starting, it will be interesting to see the growth of the foreign population within Japan. Since the foreign population is small, especially of the diverse populations from across the world, many students may encounter ignorant comments or overwhelming curiosity. Some people may ask intrusive questions or try and touch your hair, which can make students uncomfortable.
Health & Safety
You cannot always predict everything that may occur during your time abroad, but taking the proper measures to ensure your health and safety in Japan will lessen the risk of health and safety issues.
Japan is well-known for its high levels of health standards, and you should not run into any complications with your health. The CDC recommends certain vaccines, so we recommend viewing that link, and also being prepared to ensure you have your full amount of prescriptions. Prescriptions in Japan can only be fulfilled by a Japanese doctor; please ensure to read and talk to your doctor about your options.
No matter where you are in the world, whether it is your hometown or a new city, it is important to be alert and practice awareness of your surroundings. Japan is a fairly safe place, however there are a few precautions any traveler should take while navigating the country.
Pickpocketing can happen in city centers and sites that are attractive to tourists. There are many giveaways that can signal someone is a tourist from accent to something as subtle as mannerisms and the way one walks. The goal is not to mask that you are a visitor, but to protect your belongings and ensure you do not fall victim to theft. We recommend following these general tips:
- Be aware of your surroundings
- Leave valuable items at home whenever possible and only travel with your necessities
- Avoid being flashy or careless with valuable items
- Ensure your bags and pockets are tight and completely zipped
- Have a travel partner when possible
Aside from petty crimes, such as pickpocketing or scamming, most travelers can expect a safe and comfortable experience in Japan. One recommendation from the State Department is registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows you to register your trip with the local embassy or consulate which can provide support should you need it.
At Diversity Abroad, we acknowledge that experiences can vary by identities and others’ perceptions of them. To access identity-based resources about Japan visit the Diversity & Inclusion Guides to Japan.
118: Coast Guard
119: Fire, ambulance, and emergency rescue
Funding & Scholarship Opportunities
There are many scholarships to fund your study abroad experience in Japan. Here is a list of Diversity Abroad scholarships available for study in this Japan:
For more scholarships, visit our Scholarships page.