In my last post, I stated that Japanese Government Scholarships, or Monbusho Scholarships, can be an excellent way for adventurous students to earn a degree via a full ride scholarship to a Japanese 4-year college, university, or professional training college. A Google search will reveal some resources for the Monbusho Research Training Scholarships, but very little information regarding the other types of scholarships. In this post, I will be focusing on the Undergraduate Scholarship and the Professional Training College Scholarship and their general pros and cons.

What’s the difference between the two scholarships?

The Undergraduate Scholarship is a five-year full ride scholarship to a Japanese university. One year of preparatory Japanese language training is followed by matriculation at a national university assigned by the Japanese government. Recipients are assigned a school based on the major that they chose when applying. The universities can be anywhere in the country, from downtown Tokyo to the distant Kyushu countryside.

The Special Training College Scholarship is a three-year full ride scholarship to a Japanese vocational college. Like the Undergraduate Scholarship, recipients are assigned a school by the Japanese government based on the major that they chose when applying and receive one year of preparatory language training. Most of the students on the Special Training College Scholarship are placed in Tokyo or Osaka, although I have heard of cases of recipients being sent to schools in Fukuoka and Nagoya.

I believe that both scholarships have their good points and bad points. In general, I would recommend that those looking for a degree that can be immediately applied to jobs in their home country (especially the U.S.) without additional education apply for the Undergraduate Scholarship. While I think that my time on the Special Training College Scholarship was worthwhile overall, the special training colleges are more inflexible in terms of class choices and general rules. That, combined with comparing the experiences of friends studying at Japanese universities to those studying at special training colleges, makes me recommend the Undergraduate Scholarship over the Special Training College Scholarship.

Of course, there are some general pros and cons that apply to both scholarships.


  • You will receive fully paid tuition and a living stipend from the Japanese Government. Basically, the Japanese government is paying you to live in the country and attend school.
  • You will have the chance to experience life in a different culture. In addition to looking good on a resume, living for an extended period of time in another country will give invaluable insights into your own culture (and personality) as well as that of your host country.
  • You have the opportunity to build a nest egg while in school. Japan, unlike many other countries, permits exchange students in good standing to work up to 28 hours per week as long as their studies don’t suffer. With the high hourly wages for English teaching and translation and the absence of educational debt, it’s possible for students to build up positive net worth while in Japan or to use that money for overseas travel and other opportunities that might not be available otherwise.


  • It is difficult, and in some cases impossible, to change your major. You need to be sure that the field you choose when you apply is one that you will be happy studying for an extended period of time.
  • You must be under 22. Unfortunately, there is a maximum age limit for these two scholarships. There will be a cutoff birth date listed on the application.
  • You must be extremely flexible. I’m not sure if this is a true “con” or not, but Japanese Government Scholarships require a high degree of adaptability and tolerance. You will encounter the red tape of the Japanese bureaucracy, racism in various forms, and be expected to function at the same level as your peers while having only a fraction of the language abilities.

It is important to consider the above points as well as your own reasons for applying. In the next post, I will discuss the application process.


“Ignorance is bliss” might be a popular saying, but I personally believe that higher education can be an invaluable asset both in opening professional doors and broadening intellectual horizons.

In an ideal society, everyone should be allowed to obtain a higher education degree a reasonable cost if they are qualified and so wish. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have been able to graduate from a four year college in the United States with no outstanding student loans. However, I know that few are as fortunate as I am. As of 2005, only 27.7% of Americans had earned a bachelor’s degree and only around 30% had earned an associates’. The lack of money for tuition and other related costs can be a major factor in the decision not to pursue or complete a degree. Also, people who do graduate from college often do so with expensive student loans, forcing them to devote a sometimes significant portion of their future earnings to payments.

Over the next week, I’d like to outline one method of obtaining a degree for free that doesn’t get as much detailed exposure as it should: Japanese Government Scholarships, otherwise known as Monbusho Scholarships or MEXT Scholarships. My posts will be aimed at North Americans in general and citizens of the United States in particular, but some of the information will apply to those from other countries as well.

Where I’m from in the United States, the Japanese Ministry of Education’s scholarships for research students are fairly well-known among Asian Studies and Japanese Language students. What many people don’t know is that there are many types of Monbusho Scholarships available, including Undergraduate and Professional Training College Scholarships. With a Monbusho Undergraduate Scholarship, students will attend language school for a year in order to attain a level of Japanese adequate for college studies and proceed to a four year university. Recipients of the Professional Training College Scholarship attend Japanese language school for a year and then continue on to an assigned professional training college (senshuu gakkou) where they will earn the equivalent of an associates degree.

As a Monbusho Scholarship student, the Japanese government will pay all of your tuition and grant you a living stipend for the duration of your studies.

Living and studying in Japan has its highs and lows. Speaking from experience, this scholarship is not for everyone. On the other hand, if you can handle it, the opportunity to attend school in a foreign country on someone else’s dime and create the memories of a lifetime is worth all the stress and struggles.


A dirty little secret of mine: when I procrastinate, I love to read through the archives of random blogs. I’ve found some pretty great blogs this way; most of the ones that I follow regularly were discovered through a series of random links from a friend’s now-defunct blog.

Today, I was breezing through older posts at But WHY Doesn’t it Grow on Trees?, when I found a post linking to this NYT article on coworking, freelancers working independently but sharing a common working space. In some ways it’s like renting a day office, but people in the coworking community are more focused on the creative and personal gains that can be achieved in a synergistic environment of talented, driven people rather than just the physical space.

My current job requires a lot of working from home, so I think it would be interesting to cowork occasionally. Work-wise I tend to be a loner. I’m perfectly happy completing tasks at my own pace with limited supervision. I could see coworking going either way for me- either I would be inspired by the hardworking people around me and my productivity would increase dramatically, or I would be even more distracted than I occasionally get working at home.

Overall, though, I would love to give coworking a try for the networking opportunities and community it provides.

Sadly, I have yet to find a coworking space here in Japan. Hm, maybe I should consider trying to start one up…

Getting out the door on time has never been my strong point. Growing up, I was the sort of kid who would hit the snooze button multiple times and run out the door at the last possible minute, eating breakfast in the car as my mother drove me to the bus stop. Until I hit college, my weekday breakfasts were limited to a choice of a toaster waffle, a toaster strudel, or the occasional milk and cereal in a mug, if I had breakfast at all.

I’m still not a morning person, but I wake up in time to eat breakfast every day. It makes a huge positive difference in my mood and energy level for the rest of the day. I try to include a balance of protein and healthy carbohydrates. I also tend to eat sweeter foods for breakfast to sate my cravings for sugar during the rest of the day.

Some of my recent breakfast choices include:

  • An Orange-Ginger Smoothie – Blend orange juice, a frozen banana, soft tofu for added protein, and grated ginger to taste and you have an instant breakfast. The ginger adds a tasty zing to the drink, plus it helps aid digestion.
  • All-Bran with Milk/Soy Milk and Milo – Personally, I love the fiber content but find All-Bran on its own extremely bland. It’s not the most natural food in the world, but I like to add Milo to the milk for extra taste and nutrients all in one. If I were in the States I’d probably add fresh berries, here in Tokyo I chop up a banana if I want a fruit topping.
  • Oatmeal with Milk, Honey, and Cinnamon – Steel-cut oats have more nutritional value, but instant is all I can find in the supermarkets here.

I’m also a big fan of non-cook breakfast bars, but it can be hard (and costly) to gather all of the necessary ingredients here so I haven’t been making them recently. In a future post, I’ll link to a few of my favorite recipes.

When catching up on various blogs in my Google Reader, my attention was caught by one of the post titles in Gather Little By Little‘s weekly roundup. “Three Keys to Finding True Happiness.” With a title like that, who could resist clicking?

Frugal Dad‘s post describes and clarifies a radio talk show host’s personal keys to happiness, three simple necessities that most people already possess. I especially enjoyed the way he described the final key:

Something to Hope For. Everyone should have something to hope for. Something that drives them towards a goal. It’s been said that if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time. Have something to aim for; a dream that you hold close and never let completely out of sight. When people lose hope they get complacent, and complacency often leads to a poor attitude. This self-perpetuating cycle of negativity can lead to serious depression, and ultimately harm cherished relationships. I know, I’ve been in a rut myself and I lost sight of the dreams I once held close. But all hope is never lost, you just may have to work a little harder temporarily to catch up and see those dreams around the next corner again.

Sometimes when the worries and stresses of everyday life pile up, it’s easy to put dreams on hold and lose sight of the many blessings around us. Keeping a positive outlook in the face of challenge is incredibly difficult. However, no matter how bad things might seem, they always have a way of working themselves out (or getting worked out) in the end as long as you still have hope.

This post moved me because right now, with the concrete goal that I was working towards for the past two years finally achieved, I’ve been caught in a rut. I have a lot of smaller goals and dreams floating around inside my head, but I’ve just been waiting in a holding pattern for those dreams to congeal into a larger purpose. Maybe I need to try to work on those dreams individually for a change and see what larger things they snowball into.

For the other two “Keys to Happiness,” check out the original post.

What makes people happy? What exactly people mean when they talk about “the good life”? Are they talking about having a high-paying job, a great relationship, a meaningful avocation? Every person has different answers to these questions, and I’m still not sure what mine are.

I’ve never been a person who has felt a clear-cut purpose in life. Some people grow up knowing that they will become, for example, doctors. Not me. Instead, I’ve meandered from one activity to another, driven by the nagging feeling that I haven’t yet found what I’m meant to do.

After graduating from an overseas school with another minimally marketable degree, I started thinking more in-depth about what really makes me happy and what I should do with my life. I created this blog in order to have a place to record my process of working through the issue and to record articles, posts, and other things that I find thought-provoking and inspiring.

Slowly, I hope to stumble my way towards “the good life”.