Japan, sadly, isn’t as cheap as it used to be – it costs roughly the same to live in Tokyo (and, being a student, you’ll probably be living in Tokyo. If you’re not, though, good news! It’ll be cheaper everywhere else) as it would to live in any European or affluent American city. However, there are some benefits to this – for one, part-time jobs would pay a lot more than they would in other parts of the world, and the higher prices act as an indicator of the relative economic success and stability that Japan enjoys. In any case, living costs do not tend to be more than in an American or Europe city.
The cost of studying in Japan isn’t overly cheap, either, with prices for a private university at about $5000 dollars a year. It’s not as cheap as it could be, but it’s still significantly cheaper than studying in American or European universities. Don’t forget; you get to study in Japan – the technological country of the world; the innovator, the inventor, the big one. Although Japanese universities charge more than other universities in this area of the world, this is still an extremely good deal.
There’s more to consider, too – the Japanese government has a scheme in place to hit a target of 300,000 foreign students a year by 2020, making it very keen to accept students from all over the globe. As such, there has been many reports of subsidised loans and even living costs for foreign students – check if you’re eligible before you apply, but the chances look good that money may well be saved this way.
A visa is needed for studying in Japan but most universities are more than happy to do the bulk of the paperwork after they accept you – to obtain a visa a little more directly, an application can be filled at your country’s embassy or consulate. If the university is doing the paperwork, not a lot has to be done, but proof of identity, proof of ability to speak/understand the language the course is taught in (either Japanese or English – see Language), proof of acceptance from the university and proof of finance (such as a letter from your bank or student loans company) is all needed to get a visa from the embassy.
Make sure you know what paperwork you’re filling and where – keep tabs on everything and check and double-check you’ve done everything right – if you’re unsure, the embassy workers and the university will help you; that is what they’re there for, after all.
The main language of Japan is, of course, Japanese; but English is taught in schools from an early age. It’s difficult to learn a language with few similarities to your first language though, and most Japanese people find speaking and understanding English extremely difficult – some proficiency in Japanese is recommended to anyone hoping to live here.
The Japanese do understand written English much better than spoken English, though, so if you’re hoping to live and study here, it’s recommended that you carry a pad of paper and a pen around with you at all times (you will be a student, after all). The degree courses in Japan are either taught exclusively in English or in Japanese, and proof of ability to speak and understand the language is necessary before starting the course.
Your passport (even if it’s an English/American one) may not count as proof of ability – so it’s a good idea to obtain a separate IELTS or TOEFL certificate, even if you just type it out in perfect English yourself.