japan borders
Pedestrians walk with umbrellas as evening rain falls in Tokyo on June 19, 2020. Source: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP

Japan’s borders may open to international students by the end of next month. According to The Asahi Shimbun, government officials decided that international students who meet certain conditions can enter Japan as early as the end of August 2020. Students who come to Japan on a scholarship from the Japanese government will be the first to receive the green light. The Japan Times reports that the government is expected to expand the easing of entry restrictions to self-supporting international students.

Japan currently has an agreement with 16 countries and regions to ease restrictions for business travelers, and such trips have already resumed between some countries and regions, according to The Asahi Shimbun. On Aug. 14, 2020, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said Japan and Malaysia agreed they may ease COVID-19-related travel restrictions for expatriates in early September if they take precautionary measures such as a 14-day self-quarantine period after entering their respective countries. Japan will reportedly try to receive Malaysian students sponsored by both governments “at an early date”.

Most international students typically come to Japan in the spring and fall. According to data from the education ministry, around 35,000 foreign students arrived in Japan in the fall of 2018, and about 54,000 in spring 2019.

At the time of writing, Japan has banned arrivals from 146 countries and regions, including those who are residents with valid documents. The Japan Times reported that this has sparked strong criticism, particularly from the expat community, as it prevents them from leaving the country.

Japan’s appeal to international students

entry restrictions

Japan’s borders may open to international students at the end of August. Source: Charly Triballeau/AFP

According to the Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO), the number of foreign students in Japan as of May 1, 2019 is 312,214, up 13,234 (4.4%) from a year before, surpassing the government’s international student target of 300,000 a year early. The number of international students in higher education institutions increased by 19,502 (9.3%) to 228,403.

American and European universities typically attract more international students as their medium of instruction is English. Lately, however, Japanese universities are growing more popular with its increase in English-medium courses. According to Times Higher Education, the top universities in Japan include Tohoku University, Kyoto University, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kyushu University.

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