Japan is a leading nation in science research and its industries mainly focus on automobiles, shipbuilding, cameras, and consumer electronics.

The land of the rising sun, as Japan is often referred to, happily merges her ancient traditions with the most modern technology. There is a mix of the East and the West, the natural and the artificial. Japan has rare skills and techniques in the production of arts and crafts. The land has not only Samurai swords, origami, kimono, and geisha girls well-versed in house-keeping, but bullet trains, science research, and industries focusing on automobiles, shipbuilding, cameras, and consumer electronics. Japan is an archipelago of thousands of islands. But the four largest islands Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu and Shikoku, together occupy nearly 97 per cent of the land area, which is nearly ten times that of Kerala. The demographic trends that indicate a falling birth rate has led to the Japanese government offering incentives to parents for raising the population.

There are nearly 120, 000 foreign students in Japan, most of whom are from China and Korea. There is the case of the Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Kyushu where half of the 6000 students are from overseas. Japan aims to increase the number of foreign students to 300,000 by 2020.Though a few classes may be taught in English, you will have to learn Japanese if you intend to take a higher qualification in Japan. The academic environment is congenial for quality in research, especially in the areas of science and technology. Remember that eight Japanese scientists received Nobel prizes in Physics or Chemistry during the period from 2000 to 2008, four of them in the year 2008.Japanese education enjoys great reputation at the international level. There is, however, some difficulty in communication for many foreigners, since English is not understood even by many professors of eminence.

Types of schools

International students can enrol at one of the five types of institutions of higher learning:

Universities (undergraduate courses)

Graduate schools

Junior colleges

Special training colleges (post-secondary courses)

Colleges of technology

However, most of our students would find it advantageous to finish the first degree in India and then proceed to Japan for further studies.

Universities

There are about 700 universities in Japan, in three sectors—national, public and private—put together. You can join the universities (undergraduate courses) after 12 years of schooling. The duration of study in such universities is usually four years. But medicine, dentistry, and veterinary science require six years. For details:www.jasso.go.jp/study_j/schinfo_e.html Graduate schools

Master's programme: two years.

Doctor's programme: five years (two years for Master's + three years)

Doctor's programme in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science (six years for undergraduate + four years).

There would be differences in the duration among universities. You can seek admission, if you have completed 16 years of education in the appropriate disciplines. Also, many of the universities have independent three-year Doctor's programmes with fellowship for candidates with a Master's degree secured either in Japan or in their home countries. You can gain a Master's in India and then go to Japan for the Doctor's.

For details: www.jpss.jp/eng/index.html

Junior colleges

The duration of study is two years or three years depending on the department. Most of the departments are in the areas of home economics, Humanities, education, and sociology. You can join after 12 years of schooling. For details:www.tsk.or.jp/ryugaku2005/en/index.html

Special training colleges

These offer post secondary courses in vocational education as well as education in skills, technology, and knowledge. You must have completed 12years of schooling, and gained prescribed proficiency in Japanese language. Duration: one or two years. details:www.tsk.or.jp/ryugaku2005/en/index.html

Colleges of technology

There are about 60 colleges of technology in Japan. They offer courses in engineering, merchant navy, and certain other fields. You can join after 12 years of schooling. Duration - five years; but five and a h years for merchant navy. For details: www.mext.go.jp/english/index.htm<http://www.mext.go.jp/english/index.htm.

The academic year

The academic year is usually from April to March, divided into two semesters. Though student enrolment is normally in April, some universities permit entry in October as well. There would be three breaks: late July-late August, late December-early January, and late February-early April. Where do you find authentic information? The first step in the preparation for education in Japan is gathering the right information on institutions, programmes, facilities for research, and opportunities for scholarships. You have to make your own enquiries, since the requirements vary from person to person. One possible source is the overseas Japanese diplomatic establishments.

We have in Delhi, the Embassy of Japan, 50-G, Shantipath, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110021; Ph: 2412 2970; e-mail:jpembjic@bol.net.in; Website:www.in.emb-japan.go.jp<http://www.in.emb-japan.go.jp>.

The Association of International Education, in Japan (AIEJ) also offers authentic information. JASSO (Japan Student Services Organisation). It provides a wide range of information relating to studies in Japan. JASSO also responds to inquiries and offers consultation. Web:www.jasso.go.jp/index_e.html <http://www.jasso.go.jp/index_e.html>.

Japan Education Fairs that are held at various venues. The very useful web site www.studyjapan.go.jp/en <http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en>.

Language training

In many cases, a student first enrols at a Japanese language institution after arrival in Japan, and studies there for a year or two, before taking the entrance test for university admission. There are several private universities offering language coursesYou can choose an appropriate ‘Japanese language institution', in tune with your requirements. Aspects such as culture and life style in Japan may also be taught as part of the curriculum, for enabling the students to flow smoothly into a college in Japan for higher studies.