International students in Japan are in limbo and don’t know when they will enter the country. Time for them is running out.

Davide Rossi
5 min readMay 8, 2021
International students in Japan have been waiting for over one year to enter the country. Copyright: ostill

Yesterday I spoke with Ben, a 22-year university student from England. He has been waiting for over a year to enter Japan. His story is not a cheerful story, but unfortunately is a common story for international students in Japan.

Ben has been waiting for over a year to enter Japan. He is taking online lessons at 4 am. This is affecting his mental health and makes him wonder if he will ever be able to be in Japan.

He has invested a lot of time and money already. Ben has self-studied Japanese for 5 years and got JLPT N1 (the highest level of the Japanese language test). He has put in all his savings last year to pay for the University.

He doesn’t want to give up. Moving to Japan is everything he wants, and he worked for it in the past years. But the Japanese government hasn’t given him a clue about when and how he will be able to enter Japan.

Japanese government forgot international students in Japan. International students will contribute to japan’s society long-term. They will learn the Japanese language. They have invested money, time, and energy to go to Japan. They will follow every measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including being tested before and after taking their flight to Japan, checking their temperature while they isolate for 15 days after arrival, not taking public transportation, and so on.

National Stadium and Shinjuku Sub-Center, Aerial Photography, 2019 Shooting. Copyright tobusora

Japan’s government closed the borders in March 2020 to international students. Meanwhile, Japanese residents can go out and in the country, and Japan has guaranteed access to 200,000 Olympic athletes and related staff and families from around the world.

Davide: Hi Ben, thank you for sharing your story.

Hi Davide, I’m Ben, I’m 22. I’ve been waiting to enter japan for over a year now.

I have to get up every day at about four o’clock in the morning, and it’s very hard to keep up with my lessons. It’s very hard mentally, and it’s very lonely taking lessons in the middle of the night.

I’ve studied Japanese for five years now and I have JLPT N1. I thought this was my chance to go make a career out of it, but it doesn’t seem likely anymore.

Davide: How life changed for you in April 2020 when you understood you couldn’t go to Japan as planned?

I have had to cancel my plane ticket, my apartment that I was planning to live in.

I couldn’t get the job I wanted and my family’s health, in particular my dad’s health, has got worse. As result, our income has gone plummeting down and I’ve been working part-time trying to get enough money to experience japan.

I’m using all my savings to pay for the university and do online lessons. This money is being kind of wasted because I’m not actually experiencing Japan.

Davide: How do you feel right now?

International students in different time zones have to wake up in the middle of the night every day to follow lessons. Copyright Yulia Grigoryeva

I still want to go and I still want to have a career there, I’m not sure how to do it anymore because I don’t know when I can enter.

I can continue the course, waking up at four o’clock in the morning, when I’m still half asleep, or quit. If I quit, the problem is that I’ve waited for this for so long and this is all I have, so there is no plan B for me.

Davide: What job do you want to do after graduating from a Japanese university?

After graduating, I want to be a translator, which I am not sure about anymore. Because many university students in Japan take as many credits as possible in the first 3 years. Because I am not in Japan, I may not get the grades I want to get, so I may not get the job I want to do. This would devastate me, after all the money I spent.

To become a translator, you need a lot of experience in Japan, which I can not get right now.

Davide: What does it mean for you if you can not enter now in Japan?

Tokyo University. Copyright ©Manganganath/123RF.COM

If things don’t get better by September, I’ll have to think about the entire course on whether to quit or continue. It will be a huge decision because even if now I’m taking lessons at 4 o’clock, from the next semester it will be from 1 o’clock. In that case, it would be impossible to keep up with my part-time job and these extreme time difference lessons.

I don’t mind the online lessons, but I would prefer to take the lessons in the same time zone. Is important for a human being to wake up at a normal time, like seven o’clock. It is not humanly right to make someone waking up every day in the middle of the night.

Davide: Besides entering Japan, is there anything that can help you?

I just want the Japanese government to give me some sort of information by the end of September. Because this is when I have to pay for my second-semester fees. The government hasn’t said a single word about international students.

Davide: Thank you very much Ben for sharing your story.

Thank you very much for having me.

Many students like Ben will not wait forever to enter Japan, and time is running out for them. I hope that the Japanese government will let international students know when and how they can enter Japan.

Do you want to hear more stories about international students? Please check the video below and check my YouTube channel.

If you are a student and you want to share a story or you are a media and you want to write about it, you can reach me on Twitter or by email.



Davide Rossi

Cofounder and CEO for the leading study abroad agency in Japan and South Korea. Supporting foreigners to start their life and business in Japan.