My teacher in Japan is my hero


A growing number of international students continue to embark on their journey to pursue higher education in Japan. Renowned for the high quality of their education, Japanese universities currently offer around 1000 programs taught entirely in English (around 150 at the undergraduate level and around 850 at the postgraduate level).

The ability to earn a degree without being a native Japanese speaker has made Japan a popular study destination for students drawn to its exotic culture, safety, and, surprisingly, affordable living expenses. Here are the real voices of Tanzanians, Dr. John-Paul Karani and Dr. Atupelye Weston Komba, who studied and obtained a doctorate in Japan.

John-Paul and Atupelye received the recommendation of the Japanese Government Embassy MEXT* Scholarship (below written as MEXT Scholarship), whose application is open every year around April for Tanzanians, administered by the Japanese Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Their story below would let you realize how much the Tanzanian could expand his world by studying in Japan.

1* MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology – Japan)

Message from Dr. John-Paul Karani (J) and Dr. Atupelye Weston Komba (A)

How the trip to Japan began

(A) As soon as I graduated from Ardhi University, I applied for the MEXT scholarship in April. I passed the written exam and the oral interview at the embassy, ​​then I received an admission letter from the university of my choice, Hokkaido University in November. The following year in April, I went to Sapporo where my university is. Before leaving for Japan, I was employed by Ardhi University, where I have been working until now.

Ardhi University granted me a study leave for the 5.5 years I spent in Japan, which gave me the chance to deepen my knowledge up to doctoral level in the field that I I teach here. Hokkaido University, I started as a research student for half a year, which gave me time to acclimatize to a new environment and learn the Japanese language, later I entered a master’s degree during 2 years. And after that, I luckily managed to extend my MEXT scholarship for 3 years, which allowed me to complete my PhD studies.

(J) After completing a BA in Economics at the University of Dar es Salaam, I entered a Masters course in Economics at the same university with the SIDA* scholarship. And then I started working at the Bank of Tanzania, where I work now. One day, one of my colleagues told me about one of the GRIPS* scholarship programs, which is one of the universities in Japan. The scholarship was intended for civil servants in ministries at the political level. So, this realization enlightened me about the ideas of studying in Japan, which motivated me to search for information on the internet, where I found the MEXT scholarship. The day I found was only 10 days before the application deadline and I was supposed to go on a business trip after 7 days. So I only took 7 days to prepare all the documents and asked my colleagues to submit my scholarship application documents to the embassy.

2* SIDA (Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)

3* GRIPS (National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies-Japan)

The reason I chose Japan for my graduate studies

(J) At that time when I was working in the bank in Tanzania, I thought I needed a PhD. As for where to study, I wanted to choose a completely different environment from here, Tanzania, to be more exposed to a different environment than where I grew up. America and Europe were not my first priority because our culture has many common elements like those of the West due to our historical interaction. In addition to academic advancement, I was interested in fully understanding the global economy and cultural differences, and how they are related to the level of civilization and development, and to what extent can this be adopted in my environment local. Considering Japan’s cultural values ​​and level of economic development, it was definitely a place I would like to live and learn.

(A) Honestly, I didn’t care where I was going to do my graduate school, either locally or abroad, I was looking forward to finding an opportunity to further my education… During my research, one day i came across the MEXT scholarship information on probably Facebook from the Japanese embassy in Tanzania. I visited the embassy and inquired about the application procedure. It was my first time applying for a scholarship for higher education. I didn’t know much about Japan before getting the scholarship other than the famous manga. When I received the results of the scholarship, I was so excited to continue my studies.

Atupelye earned a doctorate in environmental science from Hokkaido University, where she found her hero.

japanese language challenge

(J) Before coming to Japan, I visited foreign countries like America and Germany. So I had some images from foreign countries. But I didn’t know that Japan was a country where you can find almost everything in Japanese! My imagination was a mixture of Japanese and English. However, on campus, I managed to survive with my English. And I met 7 families who spoke English through one of the local Christian churches in Japan. They have supported me and my family who have accompanied me later, and have become real close friends until now.

(A) While I was living in Japan, the language was not an obstacle at all. Advancement in technology has simplified communication when there was no common language. Even in the village areas, where the majority use the Japanese language, the Japanese people are very nice, so if they don’t know English, they will try to look for someone who speaks English or use devices to translate for you to help. One day I couldn’t find a place I was going, I asked an elderly person on the street if he knew the place. I didn’t speak Japanese well so I only mentioned the name of the place I wanted to go. I was surprised by the kindness of the elderly lady who chose to accompany me to the entrance of the building where I was going, certainly it was far from where I met her. I was fascinated by Japanese ethics; politeness, consideration for others and willingness to help others. I don’t remember any racist actions throughout my stay in different parts of Japan.

Education in Japan

(A) The educational system in Japan emphasizes perseverance. You can call it “Gambatte* Spirit”. Supervisors encourage and support students to completion which is a very wonderful educational environment. There is proper and well-structured guidance from professors and senior students. I would say my teacher is my hero. He supported me from the conception of my research topic and traveled to conduct fieldwork with me in rural areas of Tanzania. Conducting research abroad during the COVID 19 pandemic has not been easy, but his guidance has helped me persevere, navigate and finish on time.

4* “Gambatte” is a Japanese word meaning “do your best” when you encourage someone to do something a little hard while considering it.

Part-time job opportunities while studying in Japan

(J) I worked as an assistant English teacher at one of the private high schools there. One of the board members of this school was the one who became one of my closest friends. I was recommended by him and went for an interview and then got the job. It was the best opportunity I was looking for, because I wanted to get closer to the Japanese people to learn more about their culture. The interaction I had with my students and colleagues opened a wider door for me to better understand Japanese culture, including work ethic and philosophy. My wife, who came to Japan on a dependent visa, also worked as an English teacher in one of the private international kindergartens and in a children’s center.

Dear our Tanzanian compatriots

(A) Japan is technologically developed where you can study and stay conveniently and comfortably. There are scholarship opportunities and its culture welcomes and welcomes international students. In addition, it is a very safe living environment. You can walk at night. I used to walk home from my university in the evening. I also accidentally left my phone at the biggest train station in my area, and found it in the lost and found office.

(J) You should consider studying in Japan. You will be made very welcome and there is a good support system for students. The quality of education is high and life in general is very supportive of academic and social well-being. Don’t worry even if you don’t know the Japanese language now. You cannot compare the benefit you will get from studying in Japan with the cost of not taking the opportunity to study in Japan just because you were afraid of the language or being exposed to an environment and a totally new culture, the advantage is enormous.

Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship Embassy Recommendation Information

Through the Japanese Embassy in Tanzania, Tanzanians may have the opportunity to apply for the fully sponsored government scholarship. The application window opens once a year at the end of April. Visit the website of the Embassy of Japan in Tanzania ( and check its eligibility.


End of May – Deadline for submitting applications.

Beginning of June – Preliminary screening of shortlisted students.

Mid-June – Written exam and oral interviews at the Embassy

To note: The sister scholarship to this, is the Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship University Recommendation. The selection process in this framework is 100% conducted by the universities. Prospective students must therefore respect the admission procedures of the respective universities. Please get the updated information from our SNS.

Facebook; @STUDYinJAPANforAFRICA Twitter: @studyinJPN_africa

Study in Japan ONLINE will be held on Fri Sept 30 & Sat Oct 1, 2022

Study in Japan The Sub-Saharan Africa Global Network Project Regional Office is pleased to announce that the Study in Japan Online Fair will be held soon at the end of this month. If you plan to go abroad for your higher education, all you have to do is register and meet directly by email with the university staff in Japan on those days. We do our best to make this event memorable for your future career.

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