An Introduction to the Monbusho Scholarship

Pictured: Me, in the Future (???) 

As mentioned in my first entry, I’m currently living off my savings and cartooning fulltime. My hope is to make fulltime cartooning a sustainable reality, and as such, money is the predictable bottom line. If this venture fails to earn me at least a living wage, I’ll be forced to abandon it (or at least abandon its fulltime pursuit).

But as important as capital is, if I devote too much time to the pursuit of funds, then I wouldn’t have any time to devote to my artwork, thus rendering the whole endeavor meaningless. So there’s a delicate balance that needs to be reached, between time spent on my art and time devoted to the logistics of getting by. Only in rare instances are these two factors in harmony with each other. One such instance is in my pursuit of a Monbukagakusho (or “Monbusho” for short) Scholarship.

The Monbusho Scholarship, like the JET Program, is funded by the Japanese government, and serves as an exchange program of sorts. But while the JET Program works to introduce diversity to primary and secondary English education in Japan, the Monbusho Scholarships seeks to do it at the university level. There are different types of Monbusho Scholarships, but the one that I’m applying for is a graduate-level research scholarship. My research proposal focuses on Japanese Calligraphy and Ink Drawing.

The application process has proven to be long and arduous, and the guidelines were at times maddeningly vague. But the potential payoff is huge: a full two-year scholarship, plus a monthly stipend to live on. So if I get it, I’ll have an opportunity to study Japanese Calligraphy (which I believe would help my cartooning immeasurably), and would get to do so all expenses paid. You can’t ask for much more than that. 

There are four main phases to the application process: 1) getting the written application has been completed and turned in, 2) the Interview and Japanese Exam, 3) Obtaining a “letter of acceptance” from a Japanese professor, and 4) Getting the final “OK” from Tokyo. I have currently passed the first three steps, and am awaiting word on the last one. If Tokyo says yes, then I’m in! Needless to say, I’m excited that I made it this far and am anxious to see if I’ll get it. There’s nothing for me to do now but twiddle my thumbs and wait. I could get word as early as next month, or as late as next February. Naturally, readers of this blog will be among the first to know how it pans out.

Anyway, I’ve decided that if I do get accepted that I’m going to write an account of the whole application process. Like I mentioned, certain aspects of the Monbusho guidelines are really vague, and there seems to be surprisingly little information to be found on the web about it. On countless occasions I thought to myself that I would have killed to have seen a successful application or three, so I’d at least have some idea of what they’re looking for. Since my exhaustive internet search has reveled such things are not readily available, I figured I could fill the void myself. How interesting this would be to non-Monbusho Scholarship applicants I can’t say, but oh well.

By next Friday’s entry I should be ready to unveil a nigh-complete cover design for Tonoharu, so stay tuned.

  • Mayumi Reuvers

    Hi Lars,
    Your site looks fun. We will be checking it. My friends in Japan will be interested in, too.

  • Lars Martinson

    Hey Mayumi,
    Glad you enjoyed my site.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Lars,

    Good luck with your pursuit of the MEXT Scholarship. I applied for this scholarship after returning from the JET Program and later helped coordinate the selection process when working for the Japanese Consulate. Your publication will definitely help give weight to your application. Beware though, I was given the general impression that individuals whose field of study was under the visual arts were less likely to be funded. This may vary depending on the Consulate you are applying through. I’d recommend becoming good friends with the MEXT/JET Coordinator at that Consulate to get a better idea of the applicants they normally recommend. Traditional arts are also pretty much excluded from the program. My best recommendation would be to add some some element of literature or cultural studies to your field of study. Also, having a clear idea of where you would like to study (under which professor, at which school), but remaining flexible enough to “go anywhere MEXT sees fit, helps. Good luck with your pursuit.

  • Lars Martinson

    Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions.

    I’ve currently made it through the first three stages of the application process, and all there is now is for me to do is to wait for the final “OK” or “No thank you” from Tokyo; I should find out about it pretty soon; maybe even as early as next month, probably no later than February. I’ve got my fingers crossed…

  • reina

    hey, good luck. I want to try monbusho too.

  • Edwin Snell

    Hey!! Congratulations!! I too am pursuing the Monbukagakusho scholarship, but am just starting… I am scared silly about the application exam!!! What does it entail?? Is there somewhere I can find an example of it online and prepare for it???



  • Lars Martinson

    Hey Edwin,

    The best resource I’m aware of for exam prep can be found at:

    It includes tests for previous years, so it’ll probably give you some idea of what to expect.

  • irwin b. noriega

    I want to be one of your student..try me!

  • lEILA

    I want to be one of your student. I WANT TO WRITING YOR APPLICATION, WHERE IS IT?

  • renee

    I love this site. I was going mad trying to finf info online. I am going to apply next year. I need help getting ready for the maths exam. Please help me some, I need your help badly! So if anyone is good at math and is willing to help please email me . We can study online together. I can help you with the english paper!

  • maylee

    hey, i’m also applying for the MEXT for starting in oct 2009. i need some help though. I finished medical school and I’m an M.D. and i’m currently doing my residency in pathology. So i already have a letter of acceptance and a very detailed study plan, from a researcher in japan to do basic science research with him in gastrointestinal pathology. All i want to do is apply as a research student and get funding to work with him. I turned in my application last week. but i just got an email saying i might not be eligible. since there is a clause in the guidelines. “as a general rule those who have completed a graduate course are not eligible unless they pursue another degree in japan.” So i thought graduate course meant PhD only, but does it also mean MD? they were telling me that i might not be eligible. does anyone have any experience with this? is this true? if so then can i apply for a masters in japan? does anyone know what that means? taking graduate courses in japanese? (which might be a problem since i don’t speak any japanese) or is it just doing reserach and doing a thesis? well my interview is on thursday? is there anyone out there who has recieved the scholarship in the past and can tell me how hard it is to get the scholarship and what they look for? also, do they not want MDs? and is it bad if you dont’ know any japanese? thanks for any help. good luck to everyone.

  • Mohammed Ahmed Khallaf

    like to introduce myself; my name is Mohammed Ahmed Khallaf. I was born and educated in Assiut , Egypt . I have Bachelor of Science in Entomology with general grade Distinction with Honor (86.2%) from Faculty of Science, Assiut University, Egypt in 2007. Currently I am working in Zoology and Entomology Department, Faculty of Science, Assiut University, Assiut , Egypt as a demonstrator for undergraduate students.

    I will be highly pleased if you kindly accept me as a research student on Monbusho Scholarship or any scholarship. For your kind consideration and anticipation I enclosed my Curriculum Vitae here with.

    It would be a great honor to learn in your lab.

    I am eagerly waiting for your favorable reply.

    Thank you very much.

    Yours sincerely

    Mohammed Ahmed Khallaf

    Department of science

    Assiut University


  • Lars Martinson

    Hello Mohammed,
    I wish you the best of luck in your continuing education! However, I am just a Monbusho Scholarship recipient; I have nothing to do with selecting Monbusho scholars. I would recommend you contact the Japanese embassy in Egypt for information about how to apply.
    Again, best of luck!

  • Flo

    Hello Lars, Can’t thank you enough for putting up this ste to help other Monbusho hopefuls! Do you have any advice on preparing for the interviews? Particularly as a medical person. Thanks again, God bless.

  • Ying

    Hi Lars,
    I’m currently applying for the schlorship myself, and I’d like to know more about what you included in your research proposal. I have been cracking my brains at it for the longest time. I’m planning to focus on International Relations. Would it be too much trouble to take a look at the one you wrote as a guide?

    In my application form though it hasn’t mentioned anything about taking any tests. Were you already fluent in Japanese before you applied? Kanji and all?

    Your help would be greatly appreciated! Thanks! =)

  • Lars Martinson

    Hello Ying:

    My research proposal can be found here:

    And I wrote about the tests and my Japanese level here:

    Good luck!

  • Ying



  • Md. Murshidul Ahsan

    I like to inform you that I’m a student of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine of Chittagong Veterinary & Animal Sciences University of Bangladesh. After completing my Degree at January’2011 I want to study at Japan for Masters Degree by getting Monbusho scholarship. Please inform me the procedure & critaria.

  • mitei kipkirui

    hi, thanks for your information.
    i am a biomedical sciences and technology degree graduate of maseno university,kenya and i would also wish to study masters of public health in monbusho school of medicine. could you please inform me on how to get monbusho scholarships.
    thanks in advance.

  • sei jorden

    This is a great website. It looks like it took a lot of work, but it is extremely helpful! Thanks a lot, great drawings-

  • Md. Abul Hayat

    I am Md. Abul Hayat. I am from Bangladesh.I have passed HSC & SSC exam in 2009 & 2007 respectively with GPA 5 out of 5 (without additional subject).Now I want to carry out my under-graduate study in Electrical engineering.Please inform me how to get Monbusho scholarship in 2010.

  • Lars Martinson

    You should contact the Japanese embassy in your country.


  • Jack White

    Thanks for sharing your efforts on pursuing the Monbusho Scholarship. In fact, I am also walking towards the same road.

    Found an interesting Monbusho Preparation online, with information from hundreds of scholars/alumni. It seems to be the most complete so far:

    Check it out.

    Btw, nice drawing!

  • joynul

    Sir, i am a Bangladeshi Student. i have obtained A+ result in my MS in Soil science programme. iam learning japaneese language in our university.I want to perform myself in Agriculture Ph.D programmes in Japan.So any Scholarship will fulfil my expectstion in studying japan. So,iam politely request japaneese Agricultural professors to provide.i want to Contribute Japan.

  • joynul

    please provide me a scholarship. iam very enthausistic for japan.

  • Lars Martinson


    You should contact the Japanese embassy in your country.


  • Kristyl

    Hi Lars,
    I am so glad I found this site, I am a freshman in college and I am completely obsessed with japanese culture,art, and life. I will be visiting Japan next year on a foreign exchange for the summer, and hope to do so every summer up to my senior year so as to perfect the japanese language. However, I wish to do graduate school (medicine) in Tokyo through this same scholarship program. Could you tell me when the time comes what my first step could be? Thank you so much and all the best.. Gokouun o inorimasu :)

  • Dimitri

    Hi Lars,

    This blog is really helpful. I’ve got a lot of info and inspiration from this. I am a fresh graduate in Mechanical Engineering and I am really interested to study in Japan as there are so many great Engineering Universities there.
    It’s a bit difficult to find out the necessary information about this scholarship. But, I’m lucky I’ve found this blog. Thanks a lot guys. Keep up the good work!