I have an updated version of this article based on the 2021/2022 application cycle application form. Please click here to access that post!
Get a Sample Filled Form!
If you’re signed up to my mailing list, I’ve already sent you a sample filled version of this form. If not, then you can get your sample copy by signing up here for my MEXT Scholarship email notifications. Whenever I have a new post about the MEXT Scholarship, or other news that I think you need to know about the application process, you will be the first to know!
In the sample form (as you can see in the image above), I have filled in all of my answers in red, so that you can easily tell what I wrote and what is part of the original form. Obviously, you do not need to complete your own application in red!
Significant Changes: Format and New Questions
After years of having the form in Microsoft Word or Excel formats, which were difficult to work with, MEXT made it a fillable PDF this year. They also added several questions that take this form from being a simple fact-based application, to actually needing strategic thought (page 5). I will go into more detail on those questions below.
Where to Get the Form
I am not going to send you the fillable form or make it available here. That’s a deliberate choice.
The reason I do not send it to you is that you need to get it from the embassy or consulate where you intend to apply. Why? To make sure that you’re in contact with them and that you’re also getting any additional information or explanations they might have. Besides, as I pointed out earlier, this form is already outdated – it’s for last year’s application (2020) as I write this, and there is always the chance that the form will change, so you want to make sure that you have the most recent version.
This article is about the application form for the Graduate-Level Scholarship Application. I have not read or reviewed the application form for the undergraduate scholarship, or any other type of MEXT scholarship (Teacher’s Training, etc.) I think some of the questions will overlap and that this article and sample will help you regardless of what scholarship type you are applying for, but be sure to check for yourself.
Instructions: Key Points
- You should type your responses into the pdf form using the free Adobe Acrobat Reader software, if at all possible. Not only is it easier for evaluators to read a typewritten form, it makes it easier for you to make corrections, if you have to. If you are going to write by hand, use black pen and write in all capital letters.
If you are using another piece of software to open and edit fillable pdfs, then make sure that it does not leave a “watermark” (the software company’s name or logo) anywhere on the finished project.
- The instructions say to use Arabic numerals, which means “1, 2, 3” etc. Do not write out numbers (e.g. “one”) in the application form, even if it would be grammatically appropriate to do so. You should also use numbers, not words, when writing out months. (e.g. “05”, not “May”)
- Writing year numbers: Be sure to write all numbers in the CE or AD calendar used in most of the world. Do not use the Japanese, Buddhist, Islamic, Coptic Christian, etc. systems of counting years.
- You have to write out proper nouns, including cities, states, countries, etc. Do not abbreviate. (e.g. Write “United States of America”, not “USA”)
- Even if you are filling out the form in Japanese, write all non-Japanese proper nouns (such as names, places, school names, etc.) in English letters. Do not try to write them in Katakana and do not translate terms into English. (For example, if your language uses words that mean “city” or “district” in addresses, write the original word in your language, in English letters, do not translate it to the English word).
Page 1: Basic Information
Photo: Your photo must meet the dimensions specified in the form, be clear and no more than 6 months old, and show your upper body.
Pro Tip: If you are attaching a physical photo, include two extras in the envelope with your application form, keep them in a separate plastic bag to avoid damage.
1. Name: Your name has to match your passport, exactly. Specifically, it needs to match the computerized text at the bottom of your passport, as follows:
To find your name and the correct order for the application form, refer to the bottom two lines of your passport. On the second-to-bottom line, you should see a three-digit country code along with your name. For example:
Everything between the Country Code (USA in the example) and the “<<” is your surname. Everything after the “<<” is your given and middle name, in that order. It is your choice whether to list all of your given and middle names in the “given name” box or to split them between given and middle name, but you must include everything and cannot change the order, even if that’s not what you use in daily life.
If you do not have a “<<” because you do not have a legal surname or have only one legal name, then you should leave the surname block blank.
You cannot enter any special characters, such as accented letters. Even if there are accented or special characters in the top part of your passport, near your photo, there should be none in the computerized text.
Yes, that’s a lot of instructions for a “name” line, but I’ve seen a shocking number of mistakes with this one in the past.
2. Gender: This must match your passport, regardless of your gender identity. Do not expect special treatment or even official acknowledgement of alternate gender identities in Japan. Individual people might by understanding, but institutions are not likely to be.
3. Marital Status: This one is pretty straightforward!
4. Nationality: Write the name of the country that issued your passport. (In Japan, your “nationality” is a noun, not an adjective. For example, you would write “Japan” not “Japanese.”) If you have multiple nationalities, choose only one. If you are applying for the Embassy-recommended scholarship, you must write the nationality of the country you plan to apply in.
5. Japanese Nationality: Japanese nationals are not eligible to apply for the scholarship, but if you have multiple nationalities and choose to give up your Japanese citizenship to apply, they you would be eligible.
Most applicants will check “No” and leave the rest of the line blank, but if you do have Japanese nationality, then you would have to check “yes” and complete the line. If you have Japanese nationality (as a dual citizen) and want to give up your Japanese nationality to apply for this scholarship, then you would have to enter the date when you will surrender your Japanese nationality. Please note that I am not at all recommending this as a course of action.
6. Date of Birth: The tricky part of this line is filling in your age. You need to enter how old you will be as of the date shown in the form (April 1 of the year that you would start the scholarship). In the downloadable example, you will see that the fake applicant has a birthday of Jan 1. That means that he is 22 when he’s filling in the form but will pass his birthday before the next April, so he needs to enter “23.”
Note: In Japan, your age goes up on your birthday. It does not automatically go up on January 1 or on the lunar new year as it does in some other countries. Your age at birth in Japan is “0”. I am aware that in other countries, newborn babies are considered to be “1” at birth, but use the Japanese system for this form.
7.(1). Current Address: Your address as of the day you submit the form. If you will move between when you submit the form and when you travel to Japan to start the scholarship (for example, if you will graduate from college and move home), you will fill in your address after the move in 7.(2). In the downloadable example, the applicant is studying abroad in Japan when he applies for the scholarship. (And, based on his address, he lives at MEXT headquarters). You would also use this line if you were living in a college dorm, etc.
If your current address in is Japan, you need to fill out your current visa status (residence status), too. This is important for confirming how you conform to the eligibility criteria.
In line 7.(2), you want to check the box saying that your current address is your permanent address or fill your permanent address (e.g. Your parents’ address, etc.), if you plan to move between when you submit the application and when you come to Japan. That way, MEXT and the embassy has a mailing address where they can reach you even after you leave the place you’re living now.
You also need to acknowledge that you will not receive a plane ticket to Japan paid by MEXT if your permanent address (in 7.(2) or 7.(1) if you checked “same as above”) is not in your country of nationality.
To complete 7.(3), you will need to access the website in the form (https://www.mofa.go.jp/about/emb_cons/over/index.html) to find the name of the Japanese Embassy or Consulate nearest you. Depending on your country, there may be only one embassy for the country or there may be multiple consulates. In the latter case, you will need to figure out which one serves the area where you live. Your final answer should include the type of office and the city (e.g. “Consulate-General of Japan in Chicago”).
In 7.(4) and (5), for your phone number and email address, I recommend putting contact information that can be used to reach you at any time. If you’re living abroad, as in the example, put a phone number in your home country. You’ll be going back there to apply, anyway, for the Embassy-recommended MEXT application.
Be sure to include the country code for your phone number!
Page 2: Scholarship Records
8.(1) Past scholarship awarded record: The JASSO scholarship and MEXT Honors scholarship do not count for this question. Only the scholarship types listed in the “Program No.” table are relevant. If you are not sure about your past scholarship type, you can ask the embassy or consulate for more guidance.
If you check “No”, you can skip to question 9 and do not need to fill out any of the intervening questions. If you answered “Yes”, you have to fill out 8.(2) and 8.(3)
If you have received one of the MEXT scholarships in the “Program No.” table in the past, then in 8.(2) fill in the start and end dates of your scholarship award and the name of the university in Japan. Then check the scholarship program in the section below.
If you filled in scholarship types 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6 in any of the lines of 8.(2), then you need to complete 8.(3) as well. If you checked scholarship types 5, 7, or 8, then you can skip to question 9. Your past scholarship award is not in conflict with receiving another award.
In 8.(3), if required, you would need to fill in your research and education experience since the end of your last MEXT scholarship award. Typically, you would have to show that you have spent 36 total months enrolled in degree programs and or working full-time.
For the purpose of this table, count the actual years and months you spent in the program or employed, not the “standard years of study” as we will discuss for the Academic Record, below. So, in this case, if you completed a 2-year degree, but it only took a year and 9 months, you would fill in 1 year and 9 months.
9. Applying for Other MEXT Scholarships: You can only be applying for one Japanese government scholarship at a time, so if you are still in the application process for another scholarship (such as the University Recommended MEXT Scholarship from the previous fiscal year, which typically would not release final results by the start of the Embassy Recommended MEXT Scholarship start period), you would have to check “Yes” here, which would make you ineligible to apply. Otherwise, check no.
10.(1) Overlapping receipt of other scholarships: MEXT does not allow concurrent receipt of other scholarships, so you verify that you are not receiving other scholarships that will cover the same period as the MEXT scholarship or that you will withdraw from any others upon receipt of MEXT. You are allowed to apply for other scholarship opportunities at the same time to give yourself a security net, but in the end, you must choose only one.
If you are receiving a scholarship for your current degree, etc., that will end before your MEXT scholarship begins, you do not need to fill in that information here.
While receiving the MEXT scholarship, you are eligible to apply for and receive one-time grants that do not overlap with MEXT payments. For example, you could apply for a grant to pay the cost of travel to a conference, or for a specific research activity.
10.(2) Other Scholarship If you are applying for or have already been awarded a scholarship that will conflict in time with the start of the MEXT scholarship, fill in that information here. If you checked “No” in 10.(1), you can leave this blank or write “none.”
Page 3: Academic Record
Instructions: Most of the instructions are straightforward, but there are a few items that can cause confusion, explained below.
- 1. The chart says to only list programs attended as a full-time student, but the Japanese instruction actually says “as a degree-seeking student”. So, if you were studying part-time in university but constantly working toward earning your degree, that would count. Courses at a university or any other school that did not lead to a degree (or to high school graduation, etc.) would not count.
- 6. University Entrance Qualification Examinations: This refers to an exam taken instead of graduating high school. Usually, it is for home-schooled students, students who dropped out, etc. It will not apply to most MEXT applicants.
- 8. Attended Multiple Schools: As you can see in the “Primary Education” line of the example, I have included multiple schools for the sample applicant. You can fill it out the same way for your situation. If there is not enough space, you would write “See attached” in the Name line and explain the details in an attached sheet.
If you are attaching an extra sheet, you should still write the start and end dates on the application form!
As explained in 5., if you attended preparatory education for university (e.g. a one-year program between senior high school and university), that would be a second “Upper Secondary Education” and you should fill it out the same way.
- 9. Attaching an Additional Sheet: If you attach an additional sheet because you attended multiple schools and cannot fit them in in the same column, then the additional sheet should include a full duplicate of the column you are replacing, with all fields. In that case, still include the overall start date, overall end date, and total years of study in the form, itself.
- Period of schooling attended/Total number of years of schooling attended: When calculating total number of school years, you should include extended vacations as part of the year!
The simplest way to think about it is that you are counting “school years” not “calendar years.” If your school year goes from September to June, that is 1 full year (even though it is only 10 calendar months). You should only use the months field if you attended less than a full year at some point, such as a 4.5 year program.
Primary Education: Typically, this would be your first 6 years of education, though it may be 5 in some countries. Do not include Kindergarten. If you attended a single school that covered elementary and middle school or elementary all through high school, be sure to separate it into the appropriate lines.
Lower Secondary Education: Typically 2 or 3 years. As with elementary school, above, if you attended the same school from Middle School through high school, be sure to separate it into the two lines.
Upper Secondary Education: This includes high school and any college prep school you might have attended, if that took place between high school and college. Do not count community college or polytech experience that earned you college credits here, as those would be considered Tertiary education and should be in the next column.
Tertiary Education: Enter college or university undergraduate education in the first line and graduate in the second and third (if applicable). If you attended multiple universities as a degree-seeking student (including dual or joint degrees), you would fill those in here. However, if you spent a year at another university as an exchange or study away student, indicate that in the remarks section at the bottom, do not include it as a university here.
Location: Only the city and state is required. You don’t need the full address. As you see in the example I have separated the two cities with a slash in the Elementary column.
Remember, do not abbreviate proper nouns, this includes cities, states, provinces, etc.
Dates and Duration: As you’ll see in the example, I counted full school years, not calendar years. If you are still in school, be sure to count the full amount of time that you will attend, not just the time attended so far!
Status: This entry appears for the tertiary education only. Check the appropriate box. If you have not yet graduated, you should check “Expected to complete” and fill in the expected graduation date for your graduation date and the total years you will have completed upon graduation.
Degree: Check the name of the degree you have earned. If your country uses different degree names, be sure to check the appropriate response for Japan’s system.
Total Years of Education: This should be the total years as of the time you arrive in Japan. If you still have 6 months left in your degree, you would count those as if they were finished.
Remarks: In this section, you would list any special information pertaining to your academic history. For example, if you took a leave of absence from school for a year, skipped a grade, studied abroad as part of your education, etc.
If you transferred schools/attended multiple schools for one category of education and you did not attach an extra sheet to explain that, you could also explain the transfer information here.
Page 4: Academic Background (Continued), Scholarship Plans, and Employment History
12. Field of specialization studied in the past: List your focus, major(s) and minor, plus the department, faculty, college, etc., that you belonged to during your last degree.
For example, if you got a BA in History you wouldn’t write simply “History.” You would write something like:
Majored in Japanese history, with a focus on Bakumatsu-era industrial reform. (Department of Asian History, Faculty of History, College of Arts and Sciences)
Note: Remember that one of the eligibility requirements for the MEXT Scholarship is that you must apply in a field that you majored in at university or it’s related field, so you should use this question to draw as strong of a connection as possible between your past studies and what you want to study in Japan.
13. Have you ever written a thesis? This question refers to a graduation thesis at the bachelor’s or master’s level, not to shorter term papers.
14. Publications: If you have any publications, including articles or conference proceedings, or any works that have been accepted for publication (and given a date) but not yet published, write them here. Graduation theses do not need to be listed if they have not been published, but if your university publishes all theses online or binds them and makes them available in the university library, then you would want to list that.
Don’t worry if you don’t have anything to list. Most applicants, particularly those applying for Master’s degrees, do not at this point.
Don’t forget to attach abstracts of all papers you list here.
15. The first course you plan to take in Japan: Where do you want to start your studies? (Note: you might not always get what you want. It depends on the university that accepts you).
- "Non-regular (Non-degree) course" is sometimes called "Research student" by universities. In this status, you are not working toward a degree, but you should be able to upgrade to a degree-seeking status. In general, I recommend that almost all applicants start with this status, for the following reasons:
1. You would not need to take an official entrance exam to the degree program before arriving in Japan.
2. It gives you the opportunity to get settled into your new life in Japan and get used to the Japanese university system before you officially go "on the clock" for your degree. (You can get a maximum of 2 years of MEXT funding for a Masters and 3 for a Doctoral degree, so you don't want to stumble during that time).
There are also other reasons that would benefit some applicants. For example, if your degree program only accepts students in the spring, but you want to arrive in the fall. Or in some cases, there are applicants who do not want to be part of a degree program in Japan, at all (for example, if they are enrolled in a degree program in their home country and only want to come to Japan for a year or two to conduct research for that degree.)
- Master's Degree Course: This would include MA, MS, MSc, etc. In Japan, it is a two-year course and, as a MEXT scholar, you would need to finish in two years or you would lose the scholarship. If you think you need more time, go for a semester or two as a Non-regular student, first.
- Doctoral Course: PhD program. In Japan, this is a 3-year program. The same time condition as Master's Degree applies.
- Professional Graduate Course: This covers all non-academic graduate degrees, such as MBA, MFA, JD, MD, and programs such as Teacher Training programs. These programs can be at the Master's or Doctoral level. (You would have 2 years for a Master's level course such as a MBA and 3 years or sometimes more for a Doctoral level course, such as an MD.)
16. Preferred Month of Arrival: You should base this both on your own situation as well as the program you wish to enroll in. Obviously, if you haven't finished your previous degree, you would have to arrive in Japan after that is over.
You'll also want to see which semester the degree program starts for your preferred program(s) in Japan. If you don't speak Japanese yet, keep in mind that you may be placed in a semester-long survival Japanese course for your first semester after arrival. Account for that semester in your plans when deciding if it is best to arrive in the spring or fall. You can also leave the choice up to the universities, if you do not have a strong need to choose one semester or the other.
Ultimately, the decision as to whether you arrive in the spring or fall is going to be determined by what the university that accepts you writes in the Letter of Provisional Acceptance, but they may use your answer here as a point of reference.
17. Term you wish to study in Japan: This question does not guarantee that you'll get the whole term you ask for - you'll have to apply for each extension separately later. (See my article about How to Extend Your MEXT Scholarship) It does tell the Embassy and the Universities what your long-term plans are, though, so they have a better idea of your situation.
It is possible to start as a Non-regular student (in 15 above) at the Master's degree level and select Doctoral degree here.
If you have are still a student and have no employment history, that will not be counted against you, so don't worry about it.
19. Employment Record: List your most recent two full-time positions here in order of recency. The most recent position should be in the top line.
Page 5: Motivation for Studying in Japan
This entire page was new in the 2020 application cycle, though these questions were fairly common interview questions in previous years. Now you have the chance to think through your answers in advance instead of having to come up with them on the spot in a face-to-face environment!
Keep in mind as you fill in this section that you want to have a theme to your application and every answer in this form, as well as in your Field of Study and Research Program Plan must revolve around that theme to create the strongest application possible and beat out the competition. Every answer you write should help persuade the reviewers that you are the best candidate for the scholarship and have a unique strength that you can offer.
20.(1). What was the trigger for having an interest in Japan? Do not take this question too literally! A lot of applicants will talk about what sparked their initial interest in Japan, which was probably a manga, anime, or game. To be perfectly frank, nobody cares. That's more than cliche. Instead, treat this question as if it said "What was the trigger for having an interest in Japan related to your field of study?"
Remember that throughout the entire application process, you are trying to present yourself as being able to bring unique value to the governments involved, plus the university that you're applying to. Every answer needs to relate back to that theme. If you are researching wartime memory across cultures and your interest in Japan was sparked by Grave of the Fireflies, then it's perfectly fine to mention that as your trigger. But if your research is in marine biology, I would not recommend saying that your trigger was Pokemon. Instead, focus on the first thing that interested you in Japan related to marine biology.
You could say something like, "I had always been interested in Japanese culture and art since watching Doraemon cartoons as a child, but my interest became serious when I learned about . . ."
20.(2). Why do you choose Japan as a destination to study graduate-level education? In this question, you want to be specific. Do not simply try to flatter the officials by saying "Japan has a highly developed education system" or "Japan is technically advanced." I see that in far too many applications, and it is meaningless fluff. And for goodness sake, don't just talk about how you want to live in Japan.
Instead, you want to focus on what advantages studying in Japan offers in your specific field. Instead of saying Japan is technically advanced, write about one or two specific innovations or recent research developments related to your field. Or focus on how Japan has unique experience in tackling the problem that you want to research and how you think you can leverage specific knowledge and experience in Japan to accelerate your research. Be specific.
20.(3). What kinds of things do you think you can contribute to Japan and your home country through your experience of studying in Japan? In my article about "How to Maximize Your Chances of Earning the MEXT Scholarship", I talk about having an application strategy, and this question is where you will summarize that strategy. Your entire application should be built around a practical goal that you want to achieve after graduation, and your research and studies in Japan should be essential to achieving that goal. Your goal should never be something self-centered, but must be focused on how you can serve your society and the relationship between Japan and your home country. For example, if your goal is to become a professor in your home country and elevate the education level in a particular field (where Japan has more expertise), then you would be serving your home country by improving the education level and also serving Japan by maintaining connections to your professors and university in Japan to strengthen their research network and encourage future students to study in Japan, as well. Your goal is going to be specific to your and your country's situation, but try to figure out how it will benefit others. Again, see the article above and my book How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship (link at the bottom of the article) for more strategy.
Page 6: Language Ability, Family, Contact, and Visit History
21. Language Ability: You must enter an answer in each block of both the Japanese and English line here, even if the answer is "0". Note that while the English translation for "0" is "poor", in Japanese, the term can also mean "no ability".
22. Japanese language qualifications: The question in Japanese specifically asks for your certifications. If you have passed the JLPT, fill in the level in the first block (N1-N5). If you have another official Japanese language proficiency test score, such as one conducted by your country's foreign service office, you can list that in "other."
If you've taken Japanese classes in undergrad, etc., but had no official test score, that would not count as a certification, but you can list it anyway (e.g. "8 semesters of Japanese language education").
Attach a copy of your test results to the application, if available.
Proof of Japanese language ability is not necessarily required for the Embassy-Recommended MEXT Scholarship. You will take a language proficiency test as part of the primary screening. However, if you are applying in a field of study that would require primary research in Japanese (interviews, primary source reading, etc.), such as Japanese history, Japanese literature, Japanese law, it would be highly advisable to have language proficiency certifications.
23. English language qualifications: Similar to the question above, fill in your test scores for any official TOEFL (be sure to note the type) or IELTS test. You will probably be asked to produce the certificates from these tests when you apply to university. "Other" can include CEFR ratings, O levels, TOEIC, and country-specific tests like GEPT, but understand that those may not be accepted by all universities, so the universities may ask you to submit formal test results when you apply for a Letter of Acceptance. If you are a native speaker of English, I would recommend writing that in the "Other" category.
Attach a copy of your test results to the application.
English language proficiency is only required if you are applying for a degree program taught in English, but I am assuming that applies to most people reading this article.
24. Accompanying Dependents: MEXT (and universities) discourages bringing your dependents (limited to spouse and children) with you when you first come to Japan. (In fact, in terms of visa requirements, you may find it impossible to do so.) They want you to come first, adjust to life in Japan, then start applying for Dependent CoEs to bring dependents, if necessary. Neither MEXT nor the universities will take any responsibility for your dependents or provide any support for them, including for their visa. However, if you are planning to invite and dependents, you would need to fill in their
If you do plan to bring dependents with you, list their names and relationship to you in this table. (Relationship should be from your perspective, so a son would be "son", not "father-son relationship").
25. Emergency Contact in home country: To put it bluntly, if you were to die in Japan, who should the university call to pick up your body and bring it home to your country?
I know that sounds morbid, but MEXT wants a point of contact that is that close to you.
The person should also meet the following criteria:
- Must not be listed in the accompanying dependents question (24) above
- Must have an email address and access to a phone
- Should, if at all possible, have English or Japanese language ability
- Be an immediate family member if possible
When I was reviewing these applications, any time an applicant wrote “friend,” “boyfriend/girlfriend,” “supervisor,” or anything other than a close family member, we would encourage applicants to choose someone closer.
You must complete every item in this section (although you can leave out the fax number).
Remember to include the country in the address, the country code in the phone number, and use no abbreviations in the address.
26. Past visits or stays in Japan: List your two most recent trips to Japan. In the "purpose" section, the purpose of your visa is sufficient (study, work, tourism, etc.). You do not need to go into too much detail. List your most recent visit in the top line.
Signature Block: Be sure to sign and write the date by hand. A typed signature is never acceptable.
Hooray! You're finished!
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If you want to show your support but Patreon is out of reach for now, I'd appreciate it if you say hi on social media or in the comments below to let me know if you appreciate these posts. You can find me on facebook at @TranSenz or on Twitter at @tagsenzaki. I look forward to saying hi!
I am happy to answer all questions left on this article as quickly as I can. Please also consider reading through the MEXT Scholarship Application FAQ top page and specific FAQ pages to see what I've answered already and to find tips about how to get your questions answered faster.
Interested in Learning How to Maximize Your MEXT Scholarship Chances?
My ebook, How to Apply for the MEXT Scholarship, is designed to help you understand the scholarship and its purpose from the reviewers' perspective, master the successful applicant mindset, and develop an application strategy that will give your application focus and give you the highest chances of success. For more details and a list of ebok retailers that carry the book, click the image to the right!
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