My professor in Japan is my hero

John-Paul obtained PhD in economics from Kobe University, where he also enjoyed the nature with his family.

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

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

John-Paul and Atupelye were award­ed the Japanese Government MEXT* Scholarship Embassy Recommendation (below written as MEXT Scholarship), of which application is annually open in around April for Tanzanians, adminis­tered by the Embassy of Japan in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Their story below would let you realize how Tanzanian could broaden his/her world by studying in Japan.

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

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

How the journey to Japan started

(A) As soon as I graduate from Ard­hi University, I applied for the MEXT Scholarship in April. I passed the written exam and oral interview at the Embassy and then I got an admission letter from my choice university, Hokkaido Univer­sity in November. In the very next year in April, I went to Sapporo where my university is located. Before leaving for Japan, I was employed by Ardhi Univer­sity, where I work until now.

Ardhi University granted me a study leave for the entire 5 and half years I spent in Japan, which has given me a chance to further my knowledge up to PhD level in the field which I lecture here. Hokkaido University, I started as a research student for a half year which gave me time to acclimatize to a new environment and learn Japanese language, thereafter, I entered master’s course for 2 years. And after that, I luckily managed to extend my MEXT scholarship for 3 years, which enabled me to complete my PhD studies.

(J) After I obtained Bachelor of Eco­nomics at University of Dar es Salaam, I entered a master’s course of econom­ics in the same university under SIDA* scholarship. And then, I started working at Bank of Tanzania, where I am working now. One day, one of my colleagues told me about one of scholarship programs for GRIPS*, which is one of universities in Japan. The scholarship was targeted to civil servants in the ministries at policy level. Thus, that awareness enlightened me with ideas of studying in Japan, which motived 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 to a business trip after 7days. So, I took just 7 days to prepare all documents and asked my col­leagues to submit my scholarship appli­cation documents to the Embassy.

2* SIDA (The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency)

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

The reason why I choose Japan for my post graduate studies

(J) At that time while working at the bank in Tanzania, I was thinking I needed PhD degree. Regarding the place to study, I wanted to choose a completely differ­ent environment from here, Tanzania to get more exposure to different envi­ronment from the one grew up. America and Europe were not my first priority since our culture has many common ele­ments as the ones from West because of our historical interaction. Besides, of academic advancement, I was interest­ed to understand well global economics and cultural differences, and how are they related with level of civilization and development, and by what extent can that be adopted at my local environment. Given the cultural values and the level of economic development of Japan it was definitely a place I would like to live and learn.

(A) Honestly speaking, I did not mind where I was going to do my post-graduate studies, whether locally or abroad, I was keen to find an opportunity to further my studies… In the course of searching, one day I cam across the MEXT Scholarship information on probably Facebook of the Japanese Embassy in Tanzania. I visited the Embassy and asked for application procedure. That was the first time to apply for a scholarship for graduate stud­ies. I did not know much about Japan prior to getting the scholarship aside from the famous manga. When I received the results of the scholarship, I just got excited so much about going for further studies.

Atupelye obtained PhD in Environmental Science at Hokkaido University, where she found her hero.

Japanese language challenge

(J) Before arrival to Japan, I visited for­eign countries such as America and Ger­many. So I had some images of foreign countries. But I did not know that Japan was a country where you can find almost everything is in Japanese language! My imagination was a mixture of Japanese and English. However, in the campus, I managed to survive with my English. And I got to know 7 families who spoke English through one of local Christian churches in Japan. They supported me and my family who came with me later on, and became real close friends up to now.

(A) While living in Japan, language was not a barrier at all. Advancement of technology simplified communication when there was no common language. Even in the village areas, where majority used Japanese language, Japanese are very kind, such that if they do not know English, they would try to look for a per­son who speaks English or using devices to translate to help you. One day I could not find a place I was going to, I asked an elder person in the street if she knew the place. I could not speak Japanese well then, I only mentioned the name of the place I wanted to go. I was taken aback by the kindness of the elderly lady who chose to walk me to the entrance of the building I was going to, certainly it was a distance from where I met her. I was fascinated by Japanese ethics; politeness, consideration for others and readiness to help others. I do not recall any racist actions throughout my stay in different parts of Japan.

Education in Japan

(A) Education system in Japan puts emphasis on persistence. You can call it “Gambatte* Spirit.” Supervisors encour­age and support students until comple­tion, which is a very wonderful educa­tional environment. There is proper and well structured guidance from professors and senior students. I would say, my pro­fessor is my hero. He supported me from the designing of my research topic and travelled to conduct field work with me in rural Tanzania. Conducting overseas research during the COVID 19 pandemic was not easy, yet his guidance helped me to persevere, navigate through and finish in good time.

4* “Gambatte” is Japanese words meaning “do your best” when you encourage someone to do something a bit hard while considering him/her.

Part-time job opportunities while studying in Japan

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

Dear our fellow Tanzanians

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

(J) You should consider studying in Japan. You will be greatly welcomed and there is a good supporting system for stu­dents. Quality of education is high and life in general is very supportive for academic and social well-being. Do not worry even if you do not know Japanese language now. You cannot compare the benefit you will get by studying in Japan with the cost of not taking the opportunity of studying in Japan just because you got scared of the language or being exposed to a totally new environment and culture, the bene­fit is enormous.

Information on Japanese Govern­ment MEXT Scholarship Embassy Recommendation

Through the Embassy of Japan in Tan­zania, Tanzanians can get an opportunity to apply for the fully sponsored govern­ment scholarship. The application win­dow opens once a year in late April. Visit the website of the Embassy of Japan in Tanzania ( and check its eligibility.


Late May--Deadline for submission of applications.

Early June--Preliminary shortlisted of screened students.

Mid June--Writing exam and Oral Interviews at the Embassy

Note: The sister scholarship to this, is the Japanese Government MEXT Scholarship University Recommenda­tion. The selection process under this is 100% conducted by universities. So prospective students should observe the admission procedures of respective uni­versities. Please get the updated infor­mation from our SNS.

Facebook; @STUDYinJAPANforAF­RICA Twitter: @studyinJPN_africa

Study in Japan ONLINE fair to be held on 30th Fri. Sep. & 1st Sat. Oct. 2022

Study in Japan Global Network Pro­ject Regional Office in Sub-Saharan Africa is glad to announce that the study in Japan online fair is coming soon to be held at the end of this month. If you consider going abroad for your graduate studies, just register and e-meet direct­ly with university staff in Japan on the days. We try our best to make this coming event memorable for your future career.