Japan is a fascinating country of economic and business prowess, rich culture, technical wizardry, spatial conundrums and contradictions. Japan held onto the title of the world’s second largest economy for more than 40 years from 1968 to 2010. Tokyo, Japan’s capital city, is the world’s largest metropolitan area, with a population of 32.5 million people. Despite having an area slightly bigger than Germany and smaller than California, Japan is the world’s tenth largest country by population, with 127.3 million people. Japan’s four main islands, Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, make up 97 percent of the country’s total land area. Honshu is home to Tokyo and many of Japan’s other largest cities, including Yokahama, Osaka, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, Kawasaki, Saitama, Hiroshima and Sendai.

Despite Japan’s challenging domestic economic environment, many Japanese companies have continued to perform well on the world stage.  As of 2011, Japan counted 68 companies in the Fortune/CNN Money Global 500 ranking of the world’s largest corporations.  Japanese companies in the top 100 of the Fortune ranking include: Toyota Motor, Hitachi, Honda Motor, Nissan Motor, Panasonic, Sony and Toshiba.  Japan’s corporate sector has continued to push the technology envelope in fields such as robotics, medical devices, clean energy, satellite communications and spacecraft, water processing and other high tech industries. Toyota became the world’s largest car company in 2009, before losing a bit of ground to unprecedented product recalls. Nintendo’s innovative Wii marked a virtual revolution in the large, global market for gaming and family entertainment products. The yen is the official currency of Japan.

Japanese society is strikingly homogenous. Ethnic Japanese account for 98.5 percent of the country’s sizeable population. While different areas of Japan, particularly the central Kansai region encompassing Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, are known for having distinctive, colorful local dialects, the whole country essentially speaks the same language. Traditional Japanese society and culture stress the values of harmony, consensus decision-making and social conformity. “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down” is a common Japanese saying and guideline of social behavior.

Japan is located at the northeastern edge of the Asian monsoon climate belt, which brings much rain to the country. The weather is under the dual influence of the Siberian weather system and the patterns of the southern Pacific; it is affected by the Japan Current (Kuroshio), a warm stream that flows from the southern Pacific along much of Japan’s Pacific coast, producing a milder and more temperate climate than is found at comparable latitudes elsewhere. Northern Japan is affected by the Kuril Current (Oyashio), a cold stream flowing along the eastern coasts of Hokkaido and northern Honshu. The junction of the two currents is a bountiful fishing area. The Tsushima Current, an offshoot of the Japan Current, transports warm water northward into the Sea of Japan / East Sea.

Throughout the year, there is fairly high humidity, with average rainfall ranging by area from 100 cm to over 250 cm (39–98 in). Autumn weather is usually clear and bright. Winters tend to be warmer than in similar latitudes except in the north and west, where snowfalls are frequent and heavy. Spring is usually pleasant, and the summer hot and humid. There is a rainy season that moves from south to north during June and July.

Average temperature ranges from 17° C (63° F ) in the southern portions to 9° C (48° F ) in the extreme north. Hokkaido has long and severe winters with extensive snow, while the remainder of the country enjoys milder weather down to the southern regions, which are almost subtropical. The Ryukyus, although located in the temperate zone, are warmed by the Japan Current, giving them a subtropical climate. The typhoon season runs from May through October, and each year several storms usually sweep through the islands, often accompanied by high winds and heavy rains.

The number of students studying abroad is constantly growing, and there are now more than 1.5 million foreign students studying around the world. Students considering studying in Japan are drawn by its high standard of education and affordable tuition.

International students in Japan will receive the benefits of some of the highest educational standards in the world. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, has ranked Japanese high school students number one in the world for mathematics, and number two for scientific literacy. In addition, Japan has the highest number of Nobel Prize winners of any other Asian country. 49% or Japanese high school students go on to enter one of Japan’s 700 universities. Ten of those universities rank in the top 200 worldwide.

Students considering studying in Japan should familiarize themselves with the many educational options available to them, in order to best choose the school that’s right for them. International students in Japan have five options from which to choose: graduate schools, universities, junior colleges, technical colleges, and vocational schools.

Graduate schools are an option for university graduates who wish to continue their education in a specialized subject while studying in Japan. A master’s course takes two years to complete, while a professional graduate course takes one to three years, and a doctorate takes more than five years.

Technical colleges are meant for junior high graduates to acquire practical and specialized knowledge and skills required for a specific vocation. Many of these colleges specialize in engineering, but maritime colleges are also an option.

For students wondering why study in Japan, tuition fees can be a major deciding factor. Especially in comparison to the US, tuition fees in Japan are comparatively cheap. Academic fees for the first year generally consist of admission fee, tuition fee, and facility and equipment usage fee, but in Tsukuba, the regular entrance fees and first year tuition fees have been waived.

Another deciding factor for students wondering why study in Japan is the tuition fee exemption system and the scholarship system, which are better in Japan than many other countries. Partial and full tuition fee waivers are granted to high-achieving students from poorer backgrounds, and a wide range of scholarships are available to students. These scholarships are provided both by the universities and by public and private organizations. Some scholarships provide a monthly living allowance, and either a travel allowance in the first year or paying fees in later years.

Accommodation is undoubtedly a student’s single biggest expense other than tuition fees. International students have three options: University-owned dormitories, Guesthouses, Private renting. Flat-sharing, while becoming slightly more popular in recent years, is still yet to catch on like it has in the West, and dormitory places are typically limited (if they are available at all).

The general cost of living and the scarcity of space in Japan and Tokyo especially has meant that kitchens in mansions are compact and functional with little space for food preparation. Partly because of this there are many restaurants and eateries offering lunch and dinner for $8 to $ 10. Breakfast sets at cafes can be purchased for as little as $5. This, of course, is if you choose to eat out. Costs drop significantly if you are cooking yourself and university canteens will be about half that price. Additionally, convenience stores—found everywhere in Japan—sell fresh salads, sandwiches, and other foods for $2-$5. Average food costs per month is estimated at about $223.

A student who has completed his or her secondary education (include high school) and school education for 12 years or more outside of Japan will qualify for admission to a Japanese university.

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