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  • JASSO eliminating exchange student funding on medical expenses, meaning sicker ryuugakusei

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on February 8th, 2009

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    Hi Blog. JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization), the group which offers very generous packages for ryuugakusei (exchange students) to come and take up spaces in Japanese universities, is being less generous as of late.  This is a problem since how much those students are allowed to make up the shortfall is limited by visa status.   Here’s an essay from YYZ about what’s going on there and the impact it’s having on different nationalities.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Hi Debito.  Checking out my 留学生掲示板 today I had the shock to find that the JASSO assistance to foreign students medical expenses program, which had been cut from 90% to about 30% last year, is now being cut to ZERO as of this April.

    Background in English: Ryugakusei are supposed to join National Health Insurance and pay 30% of the medical costs just like everyone else. Of course, this is quite hard, especially for students from less-wealthy nations, so JASSO had been reimbursing 80% or so of that 30%, leaving the ryugakusei to pay a more tolerable 6% of medical costs in the end. Last year that 80% of the 30% became about 30% of the 30%, more than tripling medical costs for ryugakusei. For my trips to the dentist [3000 yen out of pocket], it wasn’t really even worth the trouble to apply for the aid, as the bank transfer fee of 600 yen would net me 400 yen 3 months down the road for spending all the time doing the paperwork.

    As of April, that won’t even be a factor. The support will be zero. I can manage, I’m a poor grad student, but I can make decent money teaching English/translating on the side. For the typical Chinese student, it will make life a lot tougher.

    Normally I don’t support handouts in the first place. But, since the Japanese government limits the amount of hours a student can legally work [28 hours per week, no more than 8 per day] thus limiting our income, [especially rough if the only job you can get is washing dishes for 750 an hour] some government consideration is only fair. We can’t live rent-free with Mama and Papa nor count on them for free food or to bail us out in times of need like most Japanese students. Not to mention the desire to travel home even just once a year. [I already can’t do that.]

    Many students must be already violating their visa work conditions just to scrape by. Now, more students will delay medical care, or work even more overtime in violation of their visas. Because when the government limits a self-supporting student to 21,000 yen/week in income [at 750/hr] and already takes about 5000/month just to join NHI, losing the medical expense subsidy is a kick in the teeth, as it’s already impossible to follow the visa work laws and live as a self-supporting student without a full scholarship and/or burning up one’s life savings.

    This development is especially troubling regarding the claimed plan to greatly increase the number of ryugakusei by the central government. Apparently they only want ryugakusei who are healthy and wealthy enough to live comfortably in Japan, the most expensive country in the world.

    I also thought that possibly this aid wasn’t entirely altruistic, as they government would rather have students reporting their medical problems to a doctor than hiding such things as TB, Chicken Flu and the like because they can’t afford a visit to a clinic. [This would be the angle to pursue to convince the powers-that-be to reinstate this system, the concrete result of cutting the aid might be money saved on paper, but a sicker foreign student population as a danger to Japanese citizens, yielding possibly more medical expenditures in the end. These students are the ones cooking your gyoza at the izakaya, and now they’re more likely to be sick.]

    The Japanese source page, found in the display department, in the unlit basement, in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the leopard” [pardon the Douglas Adams reference]

    Probably English versions on individual university websites, as JASSO doesn’t seem to be prominently announcing this themselves. YYZ


    Hi Debito.  Glad I could contribute.

    Thoughts keep going through my head after the initial shock.

    I always wondered why this program (like so many in Japan) was never “means-tested” in some concrete way (just as we would expect some income limit on the 12,000 yen Aso handout). A student from Saudi Arabia on a full Monbusho scholarship (full tuition plus 170,000yen a month) was just as eligible for the JASSO aid as someone from Vietnam who scrubs until 2AM 5 nights a week for 750 yen and lives in a slum.

    As an aside, the Monbusho scholarship (among others) stipend has been going down for the last 2 years or so. [I can’t even apply because I’m over 35, but age discrimination is another issue.] But it seems the government is not putting its money where its mouth is regarding announced intentions to rescue Japanese universities by allowing a flood of ryugakusei. Although if their intention is flood the universities only with wealthy ryugakusei, perhaps these actions are right on target, but unrealistic. But that’s Japanese policy for you.

    Keep up the good fight. YYZ

    9 Responses to “JASSO eliminating exchange student funding on medical expenses, meaning sicker ryuugakusei”

    1. alex Says:

      The spot about violating Visa conditions is true. EVERY Chinese and Korean student I know at my school works over their 28 hours a week just to keep food on the table. (Of course there are some who are here on mommy and daddys bankbook and they work over 28 hours a week in order to keep up with the latest fashions)

      I am probably the only ryuugakusei at my school who isn`t breaking the 28 hour rule. Mind you I am eating nattou, ochazuke, and drinking nothing but mugicha everyday…I also have no kokumin kenkou hoken because I can`t afford it…

      The only reason I am not breaking the rules is because I plan to naturalize…and the fact that students at my university are getting discovered, expelled and deported every year for breaking their visa conditions…

      It`s so funny because the words and the actions of the Japanese government are 相変わらず!矛盾!

      I am so jealous of how easy it is for Japanese people to live in Japan even though they themselves once came here from the hantou and tairiku…

    2. Ryugakusei Says:

      Heh, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

      Scholarship was 180.000y/m on 2003. It has been steadly declining so that current phd students receive about 155-158ky/m, depending on your location. 170ky/m is what the government advertises overseas, but it is only for the first year (guess if they tell the prospective students that).

      Also, that is only for phd/master students. Undergrad students have to make do with about 125yk/m. Now, if you consider that undergrad students have even more school related expenses than grad students (If I need any materials for my experiments, I can ask my lab. Undergrad students of technical oriented fields have to buy all their materials by themselves), things become bleaker.

      Also, from last year, JASSO stopped sending their employees to the airport to receive the students. Now they arrive in narita, usually without speaking japanese, or knowing how the trains here work, and have on their very first day in japan, after a few dozen hours in the plane, find their own way to places like Sagamiono or Kami-soshigaya. (Not to mention those going for other provinces…)

      Yookooso Japan!

    3. CB Says:

      I will not argue for or against Japanese student-visa laws, except pointing out that they are quite generous. My sister who studied in the US was not allowed to work anywhere outside of campus whilst enrolled. And if I recall it correctly they also had a limit upon how many hours they were allowed to work.

      JASSO has several different scholarships. The one I received was just some 80yk/m for a year. Which is more than enough as long as you have a low rent, and just pay for food and entertainment. It would not be enough if I would have had to shell out money for clothes and the like though. Some 150yk/m would be way more than enough though.

      And I find it quite natural that one should live through _some_ economic hardships whilst being a student. If you cannot deal with it, then you can always quit!

      /student since five years (just six more months, then freedom!)

    4. alex Says:


      `And I find it quite natural that one should live through _some_ economic hardships whilst being a student. If you cannot deal with it, then you can always quit!`

      Quit and do what? Are you from one of those families where they send you out on your own because they think it will make you into a man and not because they actually can`t afford to have you sucking their resources?

      I left home when I was 18 and I LIVE (As in I have no home back in my home country) here in Japan while going to school without a scholarship. How can I quit? This isn`t a game. I can`t just go home to mommy and daddy like you probably can.

      I have lived off a single daikon for three days.米なし.

      Is that the kind of economic hardship you are talking about?

      At least in the US/Canada people can work for cash in China/Korea towns. If they are caught they will get a slap on the wrist. Here they get sent back the same day.

      I don`t mind being poor and without insurance because I chose this life but don`t make it seem like somone who doesn`t yet have their degree has any choice in their life direction while being a student.

    5. norik Says:

      I don’t know where Mr YYZ is from (which university, I mean) but at my alma mater Nagoya U, both Japanese students and administration share the view that such system is unfair to Japanese students. I’ve heard myself several Japanese grad students, who were complaining how the government was “pampering” the foreigners, and they should take these money and give them to the Japanese students.

    6. alex Says:

      `who were complaining how the government was “pampering” the foreigners, and they should take these money and give them to the Japanese students.`

      That is the goal. It is to make sure they have a good time and in the end get out. no?

      It is funny how the condition to even the 4 year monbusho scholarship is that at the end of your study you *must* go back to your home country…

      I have applied twice for JASSO with a good GPA twice. The second time around I outlined how much I 苦労した because of financial difficulties and I was swept aside once again.

      Japanese universities should be concentrating their efforts on seeing that students assimilate well into the school. Not that they just receive a favourable image of Japan.

      It has been 30 years at most private schools since exchange programs started and even a longer history of regular exchange students. Why then is somone who assimilates treated as あやしい?
      exchange programs stink of the children eikaiwa philosophy. `getting used to being around people with big eyes and different hair`.

      They demand from us every single medical test there is. I had to take a certain blood test that hasn`t been done in 10 years at my medical office in my home country. If they are so worried about what I bring in they should be equally concerned that I don`t catch anything while I am here. Or is that impossible because infectious diseases are only 外国産?

    7. CB Says:

      Dear Alex,

      “Quit and do what? Are you from one of those families where they send you out on your own because they think it will make you into a man and not because they actually can`t afford to have you sucking their resources?”

      I am talking about a situation where you get 150yk/m., as in the case of JASSO for long term stayers. If you can’t live a decent life on that sum then there is something utterly wrong. This topic is after all concerned about JASSO stipends, not life in general for students.

      I am currently living out of a monthly income of 75yk/m, not from any parents, grants or scholarships but through a loan offered by the government. My parents would not be able to provide that money for me. Then all three of us would have to live off cabbage (since they don’t sell daikon), without rice, just as you suffers.

      And as I pointed out at the beginning of my post, I will not argue for or against student-visa laws concerning the amount of time that they are allowed to work in Japan. That is not a concern of mine since I am no citizen of that country. I can just say that I wished that my home country allowed バイト放題. As of now, even Japan is more generous, and it is also easier to find part-time job in Japan than my home country.

      The only thing that I can say to you, albeit insufficient as it is, is good luck and I wish that you endure till you have your degree! I do not deny that you are living through some severe hardships.

    8. Roy Berman Says:

      Debito, I am currently a student on the Monbusho scholarship, and my health insurance registration fee is actually only about 1700 yen/month. As much as I love getting money from the Japanese government, I find some of the outrage over this a little bit much. I mean, you complain about ryugakusei only being allowed to work 28 hrs a week, but many countries don’t let ryugakusei work AT ALL, or at least only in on-campus jobs. The only limitation on type of work in Japan is that it not be “fuzoku.”

      BTW, my stipend for the first year was 170,000/month and it will go down to 160,000/month for all subsequent years I stay (if more than one). And that’s on top of exemption from the visa application fees, all school related fees including the fee for taking the entrance exam, and a free plane ticket from home to Japan, and an optional one home after the conclusion of my studies here if I want it. While I’m certainly not happy about funding being cut, I find it hard to get too worked up considering the relative generosity of the total package (remember that most grad schools in the US offer zero funding for MA students, only for PHDs) and the dire straits the economy is in at the moment.

    9. level3 Says:


      I think you’re confusing the orignial issue, or maybe the whole comment thread has gone off track.
      The JASSO medical support was for ALL ryugakusei, including the poor ones. The limitied number of lucky Monbusho scholarship winners is not the issue. They don’t really need JASSO medical support with their fat (well, slightly less fat than before but still plenty to live nicely) stipends and all those free benefits (tuition and fees, plane tickets, visas, etc.) anyway.

      If you were getting ZERO stipend, like most students, I’m sure you WOULD be worried about the elimination of this program. And you WOULD be worried about the 28 hour limit, because you WOULD be working those 28 hours a week to earn enough for rent and food.
      But no, just your stipend alone is double what a dishwashing student can earn, and you don’t have to slave in a kitchen until 2AM 5 nights a week. Which apperently gives you enough free time to run a (quite nice) blog instead.

      So, how about a little understanding?

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