The golden ticket: Japan’s Monbukagakusho scholarship


If you’re interested in studying in Japan, it pays (literally) to look at the Monbukagakusho scholarship.

The Monbukagakusho scholarship is usually referred to as the Monbusho scholarship, although you also might hear it called the Monkasho scholarship or the MEXT scholarship. No matter the name, this is a very generous scholarship. For Australian undergraduates interested in studying a degree at a Japanese university, this scholarship involves:

  • waiver of all tuition fees;
  • return airfares to Japan;
  • free health care insurance; and
  • a monthly stipend of ¥117,000.

I’m not even joking.

The scholarship is offered annually and typically covers a five-year program, including one-year preparatory study of the Japanese language and a four-year undergraduate degree in social sciences and humanities or natural sciences. Recipients of the scholarship emerge at the end of the program with a Bachelor’s degree from a Japanese university. Importantly, the undergraduate scholarship is only available for public universities (and therefore does not cover, for example, Sophia, Keio or Waseda).  The scholarship is funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The scholarship is also available for postgraduate research students, Japanese language teachers, and students majoring in Japanese studies or the Japanese language, although in this article we will focus on the undergraduate scholarship.


Eligibility & Application Process

Australian citizens who have completed high school and are between 17 and 22 years of age are eligible to apply. Applicants are judged in the first instance by the Embassy of Japan in Australia based on their application documents, interviews, and the results of academic exams they must sit. The exams differ according to the undergraduate program contemplated. Applicants who wish to major in the social sciences and humanities are required to take exams in Mathematics, English and Japanese. Applicants who wish to major in the natural sciences are required to take exams in Mathematics, English, Japanese and two subjects selected from Physics, Chemistry and/or Biology depending on their chosen area of study (five exams in total).

The exams are not easy, even for high achieving Australians, as they appear to be based on the Japanese curriculum which does not always align with that which is studied in Australia. For example, how many Australian high school students would know the answers to this World History test? Fortunately, the academic expectations seem to have mellowed somewhat over time. Applicants are no longer expected to sit the World History exam, for example.  If you are interested in applying, however, it is well worth looking over the previous exam questions.

The Monbukagakusho scholarship is arguably one of the most prestigious, and certainly is one of the most generous, scholarships available to students wishing to study in Japan. For more information and to apply, check out the website of the Embassy of Japan in Australia. You can also read here about the experience of a Monbukagakusho Scholarship recipient currently studying a Tokyo University.


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Will Barker is a lawyer in the Brisbane offices of a global law firm. He has studied abroad in Japan and the UK and represented Australia at a number of international youth diplomatic conferences.

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