Why are Japanese students drawn to Canada?
Japanese students keep exploring Canada. Source: Unsplash

Japan’s fixation will America is well-known. Japanese designers’ niche obsession with the prototype American garment – denim – has several decades later made them surpass the original masters and make them the number one premium denim producer in the world. Same goes for the best burgers and bourbon – copied from America, re-engineered to be better by Japan.

The US is also the number one study destination of choice for Japanese. According to Unesco data, there are 15,075 Japanese students in the US, nearly five times more than their 2nd favourite study destination, the United Kingdom.

Today, there’s another contender for this spot in Japanese students’ hearts: Canada.

For four years running, Canada is now the second most popular study abroad destination, according to the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO), as reported by Master Studies. About 20 percent of students and 37 percent of parents had Canada as their second choice for study abroad, after the US, according to one recent survey.

Government data shows a 24 percent increase in the number of Japanese students heading to Canada as well.

Top reasons for this increasing love for the Great White North is for its “public safety” and positive learning environment.

Canada’s safety and friendliness are very appealing to Japanese students. Source: Unsplash

Another recent survey found that over 55 percent of students want to learn English overseas, and 53 percent want to work on “interpersonal communication”.

Together – safety and the availability of many English language courses – they make Canada a big hit with Japanese families.

Gerald Keddy, parliamentary secretary to the Canadian minister of international trade told the New York Times that Canada is safer and more multicultural and offers greater flexibility on visas and immigration.

“We have done a great job of attracting students and allowing them to become part of Canadian society by allowing them to work while studying here,” he added.

“Quite frankly Japanese have a pretty good opinion of Canada, I think … They see us as neighbors of the United States but not American.”

It didn’t use to be this way. In 2009, figures from the government and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed the number of Japanese studying overseas dropped to fewer than 60,000 compared to 83,000 from five years before.

But as employers seek to globalise their workforce, that downward trend has started to reverse in 2011.

Speaking to the New York Times, Yukari Kato, executive vice president of Ryugaku Journal said: “The government was beginning to realize they must globalize their human talent, and companies like Rakuten and Uniqlo were introducing in-house English-language policies”.

Foreign language skills as well as experience abroad started becoming requirements among Japanese employers as well, she says.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2013 announced that the country would subsidise “all motivated and able Japanese youth who wish to study abroad”. The goal is to double the number of its student studying abroad by 2020.

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