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Foreign students still unable to study in Japan

  • October 25, 2021
  • , Asahi , p. 1
  • JMH Translation

By Nakai Daisuke, New York


Leah Justin-Jinich (31), a graduate student at Harvard, was planning to do research in Japan starting in the spring of 2020. She had already been accepted by a Japanese university and received a scholarship. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.


Although she has already been vaccinated, it is still not possible for her to leave for Japan, because Japan hasn’t resumed issuing student visas.


Justin-Jinich is doing research on the  interaction between Ukiyoe artists and Kyokaren [groups of Edo-period dilettantes who made satirical poems]. For now, her research depends on internet sources and is limited by the fact that many Japanese museums and galleries haven’t digitalized their collections. “To understand Japanese paintings, we must see the actual art and read inscriptions on the paintings,” says Justin-Jinich.


Although she is married to a Japanese woman, Justin-Jinich cannot apply for a spouse visa because Japan doesn’t recognize a same sex marriage. Being left without prospects of returning to Japan has been stressful.


John Hayashi (30), another graduate student at Harvard, was already doing research in Japan in the spring of 2020 when the State Department requested him to leave the country. Hayashi’s scholarship fund was discontinued. He has been looking for an opportunity to return to Japan ever since, but he still doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.


Hayashi’s grandfather was a second-generation Japanese. When he was growing up, however, there was nothing that connected him to Japan. That changed when his sister joined a study-abroad program in Japan. Hayashi became interested in the country and followed his sister. “I was drawn to Japan because it offered experiences different from those in the United State where I grew up. I was also attracted by the complexity of the Japanese language.”


Hayashi hopes to remain in Japan studies, but uncertainty is growing. “Many of us are worried about the impact of this [lost] period on our future.”


Nations resuming issuing student visas, but not Japan


After temporarily resuming the issuance of student visas last fall, Japan completely stopped the issuance again in January this year. Only government-sponsored foreign students have been accepted since May. The Japanese government has not scheduled the resumption of visas for privately funded foreign students who wish to study in Japan, despite the fact that those students accounted for about 96% of foreign students prior to the pandemic. While study abroad programs resume elsewhere, Japan is still imposing visa restrictions that are the strictest among the G7 nations. Voices of concern over Japan’s prolonged non-issuance of student visas are growing abroad and at home.

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