Saturday, August 18, 2007

Japanese Language Proficiency Test

The Japanese Language Proficiency Test (Nihongo Noryoku Shiken) measures a person's proficiency in the Japanese language. Test results are widlely used by professionals seeking employment at Japanese companies and students seeking acceptance at Japanese educational institutions to certify their language proficiency.

The JLPT is held once a year in December in various cities inside and outside of Japan. The test has four levels, the lowest being level 4 for beginners and the highest being level 1 for advanced students. Writing, vocabulary, listening, reading and grammar skills are tested.

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Living Cost

Living costs in Japan and especially in Tokyo are famous to be among the world's highest. However, if you live outside of central Tokyo, adjust to a Japanese lifestyle and do not depend too heavily on food and products from your home country, you may be surprised how inexpensive Japan can be.


Some of the world's most expensive land can be found in central Tokyo. Consequently, even tiny apartments in the city center are very expensive. However, housing costs are distinctly lower in Tokyo's suburbs, surrounding prefectures and in other regions and cities of Japan. Additional commuting costs are often more than compensated by the savings on the rent, especially as many Japanese companies pay part or all of their employees' commuting expenses. If you prefer to live close to city centers, gaijin houses are an inexpensive option to consider.

Utilities such as gas, water and especially electricity are expensive, and phone rates are high. For international calls, consider callback services and other offers for the expat community.


Local supermarkets are relatively inexpensive if you stick to Japanese food such as seasonal vegetables, seafood, soya bean products and rice. If you visit supermarkets shortly before closing time in the evening, you can purchase remaining perishable products at big discounts.

There are plenty of restaurants where you can have a full meal for between 500 and 1000 Yen. Noodles (ramen, soba and udon), domburi (for example, beef domburi), curry rice, bibimba (Korean style domburi), hamburgers and many more types of dishes are available at such inexpensive restaurants. Look for them around and inside large train stations and in business areas.

A meal at a more average restaurant costs roughly between 1,000 and 3,000 Yen, while there is no upper price limit when it comes to high-class restaurants such as ryotei.

During lunch hours, many restaurants offer inexpensive teishoku (set menus) at around 1000 Yen. Lunch boxes (bento), which are sold in convenience stores and department stores, train stations and at temporary stands in business areas are also a good deal.

Yoshinoya, famous for very inexpensive
beef domburi (280 Yen)
Teishoku (set menu)

Everyday goods and services

Clothing departments of supermarket chains such as Ito Yokado or discount clothing stores such as Uniqlo offer inexpensive clothing. The availability of large sized clothes may becomes a problem if you are over 180 cm tall or a big person, otherwise. Department stores and boutiques are more expensive.

Japanese hair dressers are famous for their great service and high prices. However, there are also places where you can get a quick haircut for around 1000 Yen.

While naturally not famous for high quality, 100 Yen Shops sell a large range of products including stationary and kitchen goods at 105 Yen each (consumption tax included) and can be very cost-efficient.

Uniqlo, a chain store for discount clothing
has branches everywhere
QB House offers 10 minute haircuts for 1000 Yen


Commuters can purchase commuter passes for unlimited travel between their home and office/school for a given time period. A large variety of other discount offers is available for train travel in Japan. Check out our Guide to Japanese train tickets for more details.

Owning a car in Japan is expensive due to the mandatory bi-annual inspections (shaken), mandatory insurance, an automobile tax and the fee for a parking space (in large cities). The cars themselves, however, are relatively inexpensive, with smaller new cars starting at under one million yen. A liter of gasoline costs around 100 Yen. The use of highways is subject to tolls.


Electronic goods, such as TVs, stereo sets, cameras and computers are relatively inexpensive at stores like Yamada Denki, Yodobashi Camera, Sakuraya and Bic Camera, and in discount shopping areas like Akihabara in Tokyo.


Studying in Japan

More than 100,000 international students are currently studying at universities, junior colleges, professional schools and other educational institutions in Japan. Their number has been increasing rapidly since the 1980s, with two thirds of the students coming from China.

Visa Matters

Short time studies at Japanese language schools are permitted on a tourist visa. All other foreign student in Japan need a student visa in order to study in Japan. Visa applicants require an educational institution as their sponsor in order to obtain a student visa.

Student visa holders are not allowed to engage in any paid activities, unless they get the permission of the school and the immigration office. Even then, students may work only a set maximum number of hours per week. Working on a tourist visa is prohibited.

Language Schools

Japanese language schools exist in many cities across Japan, ranging from informal conversation schools to government recognized institutions that offer preparatory courses for students to enroll at universities.

There are language schools for all proficiency levels, and courses of different durations from just a few weeks to more than one year.


The Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) is a standard examination in existence since 2002, simplifying the process of admission to Japanese universities for international students.

The examination covers the Japanese language, science, mathematics, Japan and the World and is held biannually in Japan and selected cities outside of Japan. The examination can be written in Japanese or English (except the section on Japanese language; some testing sites don't offer tests in English).

Almost all national universities, about two thirds of the public universities and roughly half of the private universities use the EJU as admission criteria for international students, while the others apply their own entrance exams.

Naturally, most university courses in Japan are only available in Japanese, although quite a few universities offer one or more English courses at a master's and/or doctoral level. Only a handful of universities offer English courses on the undergraduate (bachelor) level.

Scholarships and Exchange Programs

Scholarship programs for international students are provided by the Japanese government, local governments, the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) and private organizations, foundations and companies in Japan and abroad.

Likewise, there are various governmental bodies, organizations and educational institutions inside and outside of Japan that offer short term exchange programs for secondary and post secondary students to study in Japan and experience life in Japan.