Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund

Tohoku fund

We all remember the devastating 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The tsunami created over 300,000 refugees in the Tohoku region. Many people died during the evacuations and later in the shelters due to a lack of food, water, medicine and fuel. Now, many Japanese individuals and families are still left displaced by the disaster and they are in great need of support and proper housing. I pledged to donate 10% of my profit from the sales of my paperback Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story in 2012/13 to the Japan Society Tohoku Earthquake Relief Fund.

Tokyo Hearts cover (2)

I’ve just agreed with the support from the Japan Society of the UK to continue to donate 10% of my profit from the sales of my paperback Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story until December 2014. The book is available on Amazon and from more than 60 other retailers.

Thank you.

One Of My Favourite Japanese Dishes: Shabu-Shabu

I recommend shabu-shabu if you’re sharing a meal with friends in Japan or at a Japanese restaurant in your own country. Shabu-shabu literally means “swish-swish” in Japanese because of the sound you make when you stir in the ingredients. Japanese people love to eat shabu-shabu as part of their New Year celebrations and it’s always popular during the winter months. Shabu-shabu is cooked in a nabe hot pot of broth in the centre of the table. Each person eating at the table adds very thin slices of meat (usually rib eye or sirloin steak), vegetables such as tofu, shiitake mushrooms and Chinese cabbage as well as noodles to the pot as needed. Everyone then helps themselves to the pot. You dip each piece that you take out of the pot with your chopsticks into your own dish of ponsu or sesame sauce before eating. Shabu-shabu is great to share with friends because it’s a fun way to cook and you can discuss the length of time you should swish each ingredient before eating it.


Rising Number of Overseas Students Studying in Japan

Recently, the number of students studying and applying to study at universities in Japan has dramatically increased. Support from the Japanese government and the opportunity for overseas students to develop their creative and technical knowledge at Japanese universities, while they learn more about the Japanese culture, are the driving forces behind the growing popularity to study in Japan.

The Japanese government has identified and embraced this growth and a target has been set to attract 300,000 foreign students by 2020.

Universities within Japan have welcomed this government initiative as well as the sudden increase of overseas students applying to study at their universities. They are hiring English speaking teachers from overseas, increasing exchange programs with universities outside of Japan and offering university scholarships through departments such as the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology or MEXT (for more information on MEXT see blog post below: 4 Ways You Can Fly to Japan for Free).

The Consulate-General at the Embassy of Japan in the UK states that “students of any age who are to attend an approved educational institution in Japan can apply for a student visa for the duration of their course”. The fact there is no age limit on the student visa provides greater opportunities for older applicants. More information concerning programmes that allow UK nationals to travel to Japan to study can be found on the Japanese Embassy’s website.

One area which is receiving particular attention is the study of robotics. The Japanese government has recognized the importance, growth and opportunities associated with robotics and its future impact on national and international communities, especially in the area of aged care. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has allocated ¥2.39 billion in the fiscal 2013 budget to assist the development of robotics. Robotics has gained immense popularity in recent years with both Japanese and international students. The number of students studying robotics at universities in Japan will undoubtedly increase thanks to the government’s promise to allocate more funds in this area.


As the number of students studying in Japan increases, on-line services have been set up to help educate, orientate and guide foreigners on the complexities of living in Japan. Websites such as Gateway to Study in Japan and Go!Go! Nihon provide advice in English for overseas students who plan to study in Japan. These websites provide the know-how to assist with more complicated processes such as acquiring visa documents, finding accommodation, opening a bank account and understanding the health system in Japan.

If you live in the UK and you’re thinking of studying or working in Japan you can find out a lot more about this fascinating country at the Experience Japan Exhibition which is a yearly event at the Royal Society in London.

4 Ways You Can Fly to Japan for Free

There are four ways you can fly to Japan for free. This depends on whether you’re planning a short-term visit or a long-term stay. Of course, there are conditions attached to the word “free” as with everything else nowadays!



If you’re planning a trip to Australia or New Zealand from the UK or vice versa from Australia or New Zealand to the UK, then you can get a free stopover in Tokyo included in the price of your air ticket, if you choose to fly with Japan Airlines. It’s a very long flight from one hemisphere to the other (approximately 23 hours) and therefore a stopover in Tokyo makes perfect sense. Not only do you get a rest before completing the second leg of your journey but you also get to visit one of the most amazing cities in the world for free.

I guarantee you’ll never forget your first trip to Tokyo and I’m sure you’ll want to visit Japan again and again once you’ve experienced a taste of what this amazing country has to offer.

I spoke with a representative at Thomson holidays (a UK-based travel operator) and she said a third party will organise your hotel stay in Tokyo and there is a choice of hotels to choose from depending on your budget.

Japan Air



Applications are now open for the JET Programme in the UK. If you’re successful, you could be flying to Japan for free and starting work next year in August 2014.

The JET Programme is currently recruiting participants from 40 countries. If you have a Bachelor’s degree in any subject and native written and spoken English language skills as well as a keen interest in Japan, then you might want to consider a teaching position in Japan for at least a year. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme provides a free return flight to Japan if you meet and fulfil the conditions of your contract with them. Please note British citizens need to have British citizenship, not simply residence, to apply. However, British citizens may apply from abroad as long as you can guarantee you will be in the UK at certain times during the application and selection year.

I’ve never taken part in the JET Programme but I know there is a considerable amount of respectability attached to this programme and it has a very good name in Japanese circles. The JET Programme participants are contracted to local or prefectural governmental contracting organisations and you would typically work as an English Language teaching assistant in rural areas.

Optimized-JET Programme

The annual remuneration is about ¥3,360,000 (~£21,000.00/US$34,000.00) in the first year but participants need to take into consideration you pay about ¥40,000 (~£252.00/US$410.00) per month towards mandatory health insurance and a pension fund. Also, applicants must pay rent – the cost of rent varies according to the participant’s contracting organisation and the location in Japan. On the upside, the amount remaining after all your expenses have been paid is more than sufficient to live on in Japan. The contracting organisation will also help participants to find housing and this takes away many of the stresses involved with finding accommodation if you’re not fluent in the Japanese language.


The Daiwa Scholarship is a unique 19-month programme of language study, work placement and homestay in Japan for British citizens. This scholarship offers young and talented UK citizens with strong leadership potential, the opportunity to acquire Japanese language skills, and to access expertise and knowledge relevant to their career goals. No previous experience of Japan or Japanese is necessary. The Daiwa Scholarship starts in mid-September and finishes at the end of March.

The recipients undertake intensive Japanese language study at the Tokyo School of Japanese Language, known also as the Naganuma School. After 15 months, they are expected to reach an upper-intermediate level of language ability. Also, a series of weekly seminars in English are held for Daiwa Scholars at Hosei University in Tokyo. These are designed to give Scholars an introduction to Japanese life, culture and society. Daiwa Scholars also spend one month with a Japanese family as part of a homestay outside Tokyo at the end of the first year, to improve their language ability and to enhance their understanding of Japan. As well as this, the Foundation arranges individual work placements appropriate to each Daiwa Scholar’s career goals.

Please note there are usually around 230 applications for the Daiwa Scholarship but only 6 places are granted, so it’s very competitive. Also, applicants must realise this is not simply a “year out” in Japan – scholars are expected to be very conscientious in their approach to their studies at the Naganuma School, in exchange for the funding they receive.

Daiwa Foundation

Completion of the programme is marked by a graduation ceremony in Tokyo at which each graduating Scholar gives a short speech in Japanese. Scholars then automatically become members of the Daiwa Scholars Alumni Association.

Candidates for the Daiwa Scholarships must be British citizens, aged between 21 and 35 years of age by the time of departure, graduates or due to graduate by the time of departure. Applicants should be equipped with a strong degree in any subject or with a strong record of achievement in their field and in possession of clear career objectives and a commitment to furthering UK-Japan links.

The Foundation meets all tuition and examination fees associated with the Scholarship. Daiwa Scholars will also receive a maintenance grant for the duration of the Scholarship which is to cover accommodation and living costs for a single person. Furthermore, the Foundation meets the cost of economy-class travel to and from Japan at the beginning and end of the Scholarship. It’s important to note that while scholars are on the programme, they may not undertake remunerated work.

For their first weeks in Japan, Daiwa Scholars are accommodated in a hotel in central Tokyo. During this period, they will look for rented apartments in which they will live for the remainder of the Scholarship. All Daiwa Scholars contribute to the compulsory Japanese Government Health Scheme from their maintenance. In addition, the Foundation provides standard medical insurance for Daiwa Scholars while they are in Japan on the programme.

4. JAPANESE GOVERNMENT MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology) SCHOLARSHIP:

The MEXT Scholarship is a Japanese government scholarship programme that is offered to international students who wish to study at Japanese universities as research students.

There are several requirements that an applicant needs to fulfil. An applicant must have the nationality of a country which has diplomatic relations with the Japanese government and he/she must have been born on or after 02 April 1978. The applicant has to have completed or will complete a 16-year school curriculum in a foreign country or he/she must be aged 22 or older and have taken an individual entrance qualification examination which has been judged by a graduate school as being equal or superior in academic ability to a university graduate. Furthermore, the applicant should apply for the field of study he/she studied at the previous university or any related field.

Please note the applicant must be willing to learn the Japanese language, they must have an interest in Japan and they need to be enthusiastic about deepening his/her understanding of Japan after arriving. They also need to show they are capable of engaging in study and research while adapting himself/herself to life in Japan.

The applicant also needs to obtain a College Student (ryuugaku 留学) visa and be prepared to be screened by means of submitted application documents, written examinations and interviews. If the applicant is successful they will be advised to learn the Japanese language and to acquire some information on Japanese weather, climate, customs, university education, and conditions in Japan, as well as about the difference between the Japanese legal system and that of his/her home country before departing for Japan. Students will be accommodated in university halls of residence, in private boarding houses or apartments.

Not only will each grantee receive a study scholarship, they will also receive at least ¥143,000 (~£920.00/US$1,468.00) per month for expenses and a free return economy class air ticket. However, the recipient should bring approximately US $2,000 or the equivalent to cover immediate needs after arrival in Japan.

MEXT Scholarship

Above are four different ways to get a free return airfare to Japan. If you have more ideas on how to fly to Japan for free please reply to this blog post so that we can share the information with other people who are just as passionate about visiting Japan.