Research Proposal

This page contains the research proposal I submitted with my 2007 Monbusho Research Scholarship application. It is intended to compliment a blog entry I wrote about it, which can be found here. I’m posting it only for instructional purposes, in the hopes that it might be of some help to future applicants as they write their research proposals. But please don’t assume that this is necessarily the “right” way to go about writing/formatting a research proposal for the Monbusho Scholarship, it’s just one way to do it (see these disclaimers).


My research proposal was made up of three pages, but only the second page has graphical elements to it. So to save bandwidth, I’ll just display the first and third pages as text, and only page two as a scanned image.



Page One

1 Field of Study (専攻分野)

Research Theme:

The Japanese Mastery of Line:

An Exploration of Traditional Japanese Ink Brush Techniques



At the age of seventy-three, the great Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai wrote on the subject of his artistic development. He predicted that when he reached the age of 110, his skills would be so great that “every line will surely have a life of its own.”

Hokusai may have been overly optimistic about his own life span, but he still achieved a supreme mastery of line nonetheless. And he isn’t the only Japanese artist to reach these heights. Throughout history the Japanese have used the ink brush to create the world’s greatest line art, in the form of calligraphy, drawings, and paintings.

I have a great appreciation for this school of art because lines play such an important role in my work as well. I am a cartoonist. I believe that comics are a serious artistic medium, and my goal is to create comic books that move people and change the way they see the world. I’ve been drawing comics for fifteen years, and during that time I’ve studied many techniques specific to comic books. This focus on comic book techniques has had a positive influence on my artistic development, but I think it’s important to explore other disciplines as well if I am to further improve the quality of my line work.

It is for this reason that I would like to study traditional Japanese ink brush techniques. I feel confident that through an exploration of the Japanese methods, I can come closer to the ideals of Katsushika Hokusai—of creating lines that are bursting with life.



My exploration of Japanese ink brush techniques will focus on calligraphy and calligraphic styles of drawing. My time will be divided into three main areas:

The first section will be devoted to Japanese Calligraphy, with a focus on the Kaisho, Gyōsho, Sōsho and Edomoji styles. The second will be devoted to Ink Drawings, with a focus on the Suibokuga style. And the third section will be a final project that encompasses all that I’ve learned.

I am a self-motivated, self-disciplined person. I look forward to the guidance and instruction of my advisor, but I will work hard to ensure that I’m not a burden on his or her time. I will also strive to play an active role at my university and in my community, to help promote international exchange.


Page Two


Page Three

Detailed Description of Study (continued from previous page):


Section One: Japanese Calligraphy

The study of Japanese Calligraphy will help me develop a basic understanding of Japanese ink brush techniques, and provide a good foundation for the rest of my studies. This section will be divided into four subsections:

1-A) Preparation and Research: In order to help me put the rest of my studies into a context, I will begin with a brief study of the history of traditional Japanese line art, with a focus on calligraphy. I will also use this time to research extracurricular study opportunities in the community surrounding my university.

1-B~D) Calligraphy: I will begin with the basic style of calligraphy, the Kaisho style [1-B], and then move on to script styles of calligraphy such as Gyōsho and Sōsho [1-C], and finish my exploration with decorative styles such as Edo-moji [1-D].


Section Two: Ink Drawing

Building on the basic brush techniques learned from Section One, I will continue with an exploration of representational line art. I will focus on the Suibokuga style, emphasizing the careful application of line, with little or no use of color or shading. Section Two will be divided into three subsections:

2-A) Preparation and Research: Expanding on the historical study conducted in subsection 1-A, I will continue my historical research on traditional Japanese line art, this time focusing on representational line art. As with subsection 1-A, I will also use this time to research extracurricular study opportunities in the community surrounding my university.

2-B) Basic Composition: In an effort to gain a good understanding of some of the basics of the Suibokuga style, I will begin with a constrained approach to composition. Subject matter will be limited to close-ups of plants and animals, as well as portraiture.

2-C): Advanced Composition: Expanding on what I learn in subsection 2-B, I will continue with more ambitious compositions and subject matter. This will include figure drawings and landscapes.


Section Three: Final Project: Manga Sketchbook (Modeled after Katsushika Hokusai’s work)

3-A) Final Project: In his “Manga Sketchbooks,” Katsushika Hokusai was able to capture the Japan of his day, from the profound to the mundane, the serious to the silly. These are my favorite works of Japanese art, and I often look to them for inspiration. So for a final project, I would like to produce my own “Manga Sketchbook” collection modeled after Hokusai’s work. I will venture out into the community and create line drawings of present day Japan using the techniques I have learned over the previous months. I will try to show what Japan looks like through the eyes of a foreign resident. This sketchbook would be printed and bound in a limited run, and distributed to interested parties, such as international organizations. It is my hope that it might facilitate a dialogue on multiculturalism and to help promote international understanding. 



  • Anonymous

    I just thing you proposal too much personal, you talked too much in the first person looking like a composing rather than a reseach plan, maybe in other coutries a proposal like this wouldn’t have the same success you had. Anybody agree?

  • Lars Martinson

    Thanks for your opinion, Anonymous. This is the first (and so far, only) research proposal I’ve ever written, so it may not be formatted in an ideal way. Potential applicants take heed!


  • John Nash

    Thanks for publishing your experience. It is of greatr help.

  • Flo

    Never seen a research proposal b4. This seems good 2 me (if you’d cnsider the opinion of an amtateur. Is it the same as the study program?

  • peter

    am really pleased to find honest and resourceful persons like you.posting this proposal is of great assistance to somany that’s including me.i’ve never written a proposal b4 but dis serves as a stepping stone.God bless u.

  • Adam

    Your entire site is very useful for those of us wanting to apply for the Monbusho. Thank you very much. Your spongebob comic made me laugh very hard as I had exactly the same discussion in Tokyo before. I’m currently living in Tokyo – do you have any idea how I go about taking the exams etc. to get in? Thanks again, are you enjoying your research?

  • Lars Martinson

    Hello Adam,

    Sorry, I’m not really sure, but the answer to your question MIGHT be somewhere in here:

    And I’m enjoying my research very much, thanks.


  • monbusho research 2008 biomechanical engineering

    this site is very useful to future monbusho research applicants. Of course, different research fields have their own characteristics of research proposals. Your proposal is very specific and detailed. For me, your field “cartoonist” is much more involved in human activities making your proposal too much personal is just fine. Your research plan is outlined well as contrary to some comment. Anyway, Great EFFORT!!!

  • marina

    wowh, in first place thanks for the help, man!
    i’m a spanish art student also and i’m planning my research project.In my case i’m gonna make aproject about animation in japan, but i still dont know how to make it an specifically project, i mean, i just want to study animation tactics there and also the japanese way of seeing things.
    I just dont know how to do it!
    i founded yet the university and the teacher i want, but i find it so so hard….
    do you think that can i just propose it like i wanna study animation there cause you are amazing? (of course well said, with respects, with study planinngs and so one) that’s because i don´t know if i have t be more specific in that, like for example i want to study the animation of X person, or something.
    my project is basically focused in three parts
    1 observation and theory (examples, one)
    2 skills and materials
    3my own animation

    that is a little bit like your project, but in you think that is possible to be accepted?
    and another question.The staff about the teacher contact: do i have to contact and send my project to “my future teacher”?
    and, when? before or after sending it to the embassy???
    everything is so confusing!!!

    im sorry if bored you.
    hanks for any reply.

    your friend Marina, from Madrid, Spain

  • Lars Martinson

    Hey Marina,

    Okay, again I’m no expert on the Monbusho in general; I’m just one guy that applied and got one. So please don’t think of me as an ultimate authority on it or anything. But here are my thoughts:

    Did you do your undergrad in animation? If not, it might be hard to get a Monbusho scholarship in that field. Also, art-related grants are harder to get than those related to science or medicine, so it might be an uphill battle for you. (Though I got an arts related grant, so obviously it’s not impossible).

    You should be careful not to sound too much like an “otaku”; I’ve heard that they aren’t so interested in funding people who are just fans of Japanese pop culture, so you should make sure you emphasize the academic aspect of your proposal, and exactly what you hope to accomplish.

    I think you should start contacting professors just as soon as you have an almost final version of your research proposal done. I wrote more about contacting professors here:

    Good luck!

  • marina

    wowh! thanks for the information, that page of universities is reallu helpfull!!
    I am graduated in fine arts, i explain my situation: in my university we touch every stuff, photo, sculpture, design, paint, illustration…so is not especific so, what i wanna do is to make my speciallization there in japan.
    well, in fact the monbusho scholarships are not publisher yet for 2009-2010, so i think i’m being quite cautiuos with it, i mean, i have many time to do it, but many things to do….
    But the question is, in that pages and links, how do i get the specific teacher’ adress? cause i can´t find them! Do i have to write the university asking for a list or something?
    so u think is better to ask as many universities as i can, dont u?
    ok, i’ll be following that steps, organize my mind, create the pre-project, and then send it to every university wich has this field of study…
    sincerelly, you are very helpfull for me, imagine! i even didn`t founded any page like this in spanish!

    thanks Lars, thanks a lot.

  • Aggrey Ogolla

    its a good proposal. thanks and keep it up

  • Australian Asshole

    This is the ONLY Monbusho research proposal I have found online to date – absolutely invaluable. Thanks!

    I have a couple of questions though:
    1) Now that you have been in Japan studying for a while, has it changed your outlook on your research topic? If you were writing this proposal again, is there anything you would do differently?
    2) My dilemma is that the course I really want to get into is quite individual – I am worried that my proposal may not work well for universities number 2&3 on my list. Obviously I am going to tailor it to the uni I really REALLY want to get into, but would you suggest keeping my timeline more broad when it comes to subjects to be studied in case they are very different between universities? Or just zone in on uni number 1?

    Thanks again for the awesome advice so far – it’s really helped.

  • Lars Martinson

    Hey “A.A.”,

    To answer your questions:

    1) Now that you have been in Japan studying for a while, has it changed your outlook on your research topic? If you were writing this proposal again, is there anything you would do differently?

    Yes, my studies have had a dramatic impact on how I view my research topic. I’ve come to realize just how shallow my understanding of it was when I wrote my proposal. Once I got here and started talking to my advisor about the specifics of my course of study, they changed quite a bit.

    As for if I would do anything differently with the research proposal itself, not really. I actually figured it would change once I got here, and saw it almost more as a symbolic gesture to those who would be reviewing my application. I wanted to demonstrate to them that I had given the matter a great deal of thought, and had a plan in place for when I got here. Since my research proposal helped me to get the scholarship, I figure it did its job, so there’d be no reason to alter it now, even though what I would actually do in Japan changed quite a bit.

    2) My dilemma is that the course I really want to get into is quite individual – I am worried that my proposal may not work well for universities number 2&3 on my list. Obviously I am going to tailor it to the uni I really REALLY want to get into, but would you suggest keeping my timeline more broad when it comes to subjects to be studied in case they are very different between universities? Or just zone in on uni number 1?

    This is just one guy’s opinion so please do take it with a grain of salt, but I would keep it fairly specific. If it gets too broad, the people reviewing your application might not think you have a plan in place, they might think you just have a vague idea. But it’s a difficult balancing act, I’ll admit…

    Anyway, good luck to you!

  • Sharon de la Rama

    Thank goodness there are people like you! The things that are posted here really helped a lot especially when I don’t have a clear understanding of what is info is being asked by the application form.
    This really made things easier.
    Thank you very much.

  • Kamila

    Thank you for sharing this with us. But I also think the proposal was too personal, I dont know.
    It’s very hard for me to make a proposal so personal like you did, ’cause I’m used to write stuff like an article. I’m having a very hard time to do it.

  • Faustin SIAPO

    I red your proposal and i found it great. I would like to know if there’s a methodology in writing a research plan. I’m planning to enter a professionnal graduate school . If you have some advices helpful websites it woul great. Thanks!

  • nooshin

    Thanyou for your great help
    my field is far different from yours . I study control engineering and I hope I can possibly get this scholarship. but the thing is that I live in Iran and so you know somehow finding information is such a difficult task. I hope you can possibly help me if you know anyone in my field???
    that would be great

  • Love this page and have been using it a lot to prepare my MEXT application. If you’ve studied in grad school, you’d have a more formal outlook on ‘research proposal’ – but as you said it got the job done and it’s great that you’re sharing.

    I’d like to apply for art but would rather get a degree… so I’m applying for a PHD program which – not yet speaking any Japanese – may prove difficult to get into…

  • Shia

    Hey, Larry! Great job you did here. :-) By the way, did you major in when you were in Japan? Did you pursue a degree there? Thank you!

  • Lars Martinson

    I was there on a non-degree research scholarship, studying East Asian calligraphy.

  • André Martins

    I would like to express my gratitude. This webesite helped me a lot on my journey to the monbusho preparation. I am a Composer, so i may enroll in japanese traditional arts as well.

    Let´s hope it goes well. The examinations will begin in 12 days.

  • Jairu


    I am sure that many of us (newbies) first time candidates to the monbukagakusho grant highly appreciate your help.

    I want to congratulate you because yes throught this type of work you are helping on the international relationship between Japan and other cultures.

    One question I have regarding the “Present Field of Study” You did not paste it here? I am not sure if I missed it.

    I am working on finishing the three main questions:

    Present Field of Study:
    meaning to present my experience on the field and what I will be researching about? or present as what I am working on or studying if I was in college still?

    Research Theme: Explain in details my theme with examples of how I will conduct my work with a good time line description very clear and planned.

    And the last one, describe my goal and how I will achieve it?

    Please any feedback will help. Thank you again for everything!

  • Lars Martinson

    Hello Jairu,

    “Present Field of Study: meaning to present my experience on the field and what I will be researching about? or present as what I am working on or studying if I was in college still?”
    When I applied in 2007, the application didn’t have a “present field of study”, but yeah, I’d think you’d put what you’re currently studying.

    “And the last one, describe my goal and how I will achieve it?”
    Sorry, I don’t understand your question.


  • Jairu


    Thank you very much for your prompt answer, I know you will be updating your site today Friday so I am lucky =)

    Here is the 2011 form with the questions I am trying to properly answer:

    I think all I want to understand is what exactly are they asking for.

    I look forward to your reply thank you again.

  • 戦争

    I’m really glad to have found your web page. I’m really worry about the form “field of study and study program”.
    About what Jairu said, the 2010 form has 3 parts
    1-Present field of study (I think I’ll write about my degree and the thesis I did to graduate from university, so it has to do with my research proposal in Japan)
    2-Your research theme after arrival in japan:clearly explain the research you wish to carry out in Japan(this part is what you post here).
    Here the part you didn’t understand in the last comment
    3-Study program in Japan:(Describe this in detail and concretely-particularly about the ultimate goal of your research in Japan). I’m not a native english speaker so :D, I think I have to write about what Japan is doing about my reserch topic, the last advance in that field… so I should read papers and get more information about what is going on in Japan about my research.

    I’ll appreciate if you can give your opinion one more time :) . Thanks in advance.

  • Lars Martinson

    Hello Jairu & 戦争,

    It’s been more than two years since I applied for a Monbusho, and obviously I’m not an official representative for them, so really your guess is as good as mine as to what they’re looking for.

    Good luck to you!


  • Jairu


    I finally finished the application and the research proposal. I found this website very useful for people applying for first time to the monbukagakusho grant =>

    Very very useful.

    I was reading about your experience searching for a professor, and completely agreed. I just submitted my application (last week) I am waiting for any news, for example the date to go for the exams and interview.

    However I am already looking for information about the institutions and professors.

    The only concern I have is, how should I contact the professors? just prepare an email and let them know that I am applying for the monbukagakusho grant, with a research subject (Linux cloud computing and virtualization solution) then explain the professor that I am interested in research about this topic in his/her lab?

    Or should I contact international student office on the university?

    Any suggestion is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you in advance,

  • Lars Martinson

    All of my thoughts about contacting professors can be found here:

    For anything not written there, your guess is as good as mine.

  • Lars, your series of articles are of great help not only for those seeking to study in japan, but in other places as well. Currently applying your wealth of experience to an art research/study scholarship in Italy. Thanks for all your help!

  • Lars Martinson

    Great! Best of luck to you!

  • bjoinks

    Hi Lars,

    Been reading your post about your monbugakusho and it really inspired me! I came from the Graphic Arts industry too and Ive been hearing things that the scholarship grants doesn’t prioritize Art related scholarships that much. But since you shared this beautiful step by step help on achieving this, you really inspire me :) I know as of the moment scholarships for 2012 will be closed but I will really prepare for this. Wish me luck! :) Will keep in touch! Thank you so much for this!

  • Pat Savage

    Cool site! Wish I saw this before I applied myself:)

    I will be receiving a MEXT fellowship to study the relationship between music and migration in Japan at the Tokyo University of the Arts with Prof. Yukio Uemura starting this October. I ended up writing my research proposal in a completely different style that was more like a scientific research proposal with hypotheses, methods, references, etc. Both ways seem to have worked as far as getting the scholarship, so it seems like the key is to have a well-thought out plan, regardless of what format that plan is in.

    Did you ever catch any flak for putting your proposal online? I’d be interested in sharing mine with others, but I’m worried it might be frowned upon…

  • Lars Martinson

    Hey Pat:
    No, I’ve never gotten any flak about putting my proposal online whatsoever.

  • neo rio

    Is the MEXT totally mentoring-research based? There seems to be other , traditional programs, like MBA, dental that are attached. How would these programs change the proposal/applicaation?
    The website for the traditional programs is:

  • bart

    hello Lars,
    Great proposal, and outline for how you got the mext scholarship!
    My question is though, did they require a transcript of your school grades? In your case, I assume you’ve graduated a while back and working already when you applied. So do they still concern about your grades from your undergraduate studies? And do you know how much are they basing ur chances on grades? I have a B-, and I am very worried. Thanks!

  • Lars Martinson

    I’m pretty sure they require a transcript (it’s been a couple years since I applied now, so I don’t really remember). As for how concerned they are with your grades, I have no idea.
    Good luck!

  • Rui

    Hello Lars,
    This might be a silly question but I just wanna make sure. Are we allowed to change the format of the application forms (font size, font..etc) Coz I found this .doc format of the application forms and I was thinking of just typing in my proposal instead of writing it. Thanks!

  • Lars Martinson

    I’m sure changing fonts/font sizes would be fine, as long as it looks neat and conservative.

  • Wendy

    Thank you so much for the help. Am writing my first proposal and your introduction has been of great help. It has even made me interested in your field of study… however am more focused on animation. Thank you so much….!!!!

  • Ever

    Thanks Lars! This site has been really helpful for me too. You are great man, If I get the Scholarship I promise I will share my experience like you to help others!

  • Deenee

    Thanks Lars! Helpful lot, I’m currently struggling for Monbukagakusho Scholarship too! Wish me luck and again thank you so much :)

  • Thank you for this example.
    I’m writing my research plan now for Japanese university. I was wondering whether yours was accepted. I mean, to me it looks perfect, however I remember reading that these things are supposed to be written in 3rd person. So I wonder since you wrote it from 1st person, did the accept it?
    Personally I find it hard to write in 3rd person lol.

  • Laura Masmia Putri

    Hi Lars.

    it’s mia here.

    i have been looking for any information that could guide me in filling the monbusho application especially the research program.
    and this is the only source i got.
    but too pity that i have just found you right now. i have been submitted my application last week. compare to yours, mine was not that detail. feeling so depressed right now knowing that my application will be useless..
    hiks..hiks..hiks… T.T

    well, the point is that i want to thank you for the great information. will use this as the guide for the next year monbusho scholarship.. wish me luck lars.. wana be in japan no matter what. i also love japan. alot. as you do.

    hope that you dont mind if i ask you some question about the monbukagakusho scholarship later..

    thanks alot

  • jamie reed

    Hello Pat, I am applying for MEXT and am hoping to go to Tokyo University of the Arts. I would love to see your proposal, if it is at all possible so I can use this site and another reference to make my own. Thanks for your help!