Scholarships offer a bridge to overseas study

Courtesy of Midori Hosoda
Midori Hosoda, third from right, at her graduation ceremony at Columbia University.

Despite the many advantages to be gained by studying at an overseas university, many Japanese high school students are unable to do so because of the twin barriers of “money and information.” Various scholarship programs exist to help clear both of these hurdles.

A prestigious private university in Britain or the United States may charge the equivalent of several million yen in tuition fees, and there are few Japanese high schools with personnel who know how to navigate the application process at foreign universities. Enrolling in a foreign university is not as widespread as short-term study abroad programs.

The Yanai Tadashi Foundation, privately funded by Fast Retailing Co. founder Tadashi Yanai, has been offering scholarships to universities in the United States since 2017 and in Britain since 2019. Fast Retailing is the operating company of Uniqlo.

Under the program, up to about ¥10 million per year is provided to a student for four years for study in the United States. In Britain, about the same amount is offered for three years.

The scholarship has been awarded to 155 students, the first of whom graduated this year.

Yoshio Ishida, an official of the foundation, said: “Japan is connected to the rest of the world. Yanai hopes that students from all over the world will come into contact and become leaders in their respective fields.”

Ishida said he often feels that students who have gone to overseas universities became more clearly able to express their own opinions.

The more than 90-year-old Grew Bancroft Foundation, named after two U.S. ambassadors to Japan, Joseph Grew and Edgar Bancroft, is one of the most famous scholarships in Japan for students going abroad.

The Ezoe Memorial Recruit Foundation also offers scholarships for students aiming to study at overseas universities and graduate schools in the fields of music, sports, art and science.

Naohiko Hinoda, the headmaster of middle and high schools affiliated with Musashino University, said: “Companies around the world are not looking for bilingual or trilingual people, but for ‘bicultural’ or ‘tricultural’ people who can view multiple cultures from a neutral standpoint. It is very significant to go to a foreign university when you are young and come to know various people, ideas and cultures. I think it would be good if there were more types of scholarships.”

Midori Hosoda received an overseas scholarship from the Yanai Tadashi Foundation and graduated from Columbia University with a double major in biology and comparative literature.

Hosoda, who entered the university in New York aiming to become doctors, said, “I was attracted by the fact that students who want to become a doctor can study a wide range of subjects, from science to liberal arts, at universities in the United States, while in Japan, such people enter university medical departments right after high school graduation.”

Hosoda, who currently studies medical anthropology at the University of Oxford’s graduate school in England, said, “In America I became able to think about things in the world, as I not only learned from textbooks and other books but also met so many people and was exposed to so many things.”