Sabbatical in Japan?

I know I mention this a lot, but I’m a college mathematics professor. I’d like to take a sabbatical in the next few years. Since I’ve been a student of Japanese for well over half my life, I figure that’s the best place to look. Besides, a number of incipient trends in higher education resemble the Japanese model (e.g. starting math classes by having everyone work on an intentionally difficult problem that they haven’t seen how to solve yet).

Yes I did Google, and I found the JET Program. That looks like my best bet, but since I’m 40, I’m a little worried that I’m outside of the target demographic (the FAQ says there’s no age requirement but it’s clearly a twentysomething-oriented program). I also found the Kansai Gaidai University Visiting Professor Program, but I can’t tell from the site whether I’d be eligible (plus I’m not sure I’m ready to tackle Kansai dialect!), but I intend to e-mail them anyway and ask.

I know a number of you work and/or live in Japan. I know it’s a longshot but I thought I might get lucky if I asked. Have you heard about any sabbatical programs or programs geared towards foreigners teaching in Japan on a temporary basis?

I’ve never taken the JLPT but I’d estimate that my kanji is around N2, my grammar is N3, and my listening comprehension is… an ongoing focus. :no_mouth:

I’m hoping for anything between one and nine months. At least three months would be ideal. Then I could legally open a Japanese bank account and finally access Amazon JP’s streaming library!



That sounds like an amazing plan! Especially the “visiting professor” option.

Unfortunately I can’t give you any input but maybe @Naphthalene has some thoughts and/or ideas?


Well, the main difficulty would be the visa. Long story short, my university has a couple of programs but it’s for Japanese people or Japanese residents (so people who do not need a visa).
The JSPS (the main funding body in Japan for research grants) has programs to invite people over, but, at the professor level, it is limited to 60 days. You could attempt the “up to one year”program, though (or the two year program). Both are for post docs, in my mind, but I think that’s the closest match.
The website is pretty hard to navigate, though. The main guidelines are here.

Edit: Ah, the “L” program (invitational, not a post doc position) is up to 10 months. I had 2 months in mind because the person who applied with me couldn’t stay longer, but that’s the minimum.
I guess that’s a good match for you, but it’s quite competitive.


Do you know if a special visa is required? Or would a tourist visa be sufficient? (I imagine that there is no salary or other payment so a tourist visa might be fine?) Tourist visa are 3 months for many nationalities, and for a few nationalities (e.g. for Germans) they can be extended to 6 months even.

Oh, and there is a „student“ visa as well (e.g. for language learners, not for university students despite the name) but I don’t know the exact requirements.

I wonder if you could apply for a Fulbright?

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It depends. I know someone who came with the “designated activities” visa (so the “none of the above/other” category of visa).
Anyone who comes with a JSPS program will get the “researcher” or “professor” visa (the latter is in the case the candidate is expected to teach classes as well).

That used to be fine (I used to invite people that way), but the applications are closed because of covid. The short term business visa (up to 90 days) works though. I’m in fact inviting someone this way right now.


Can I get an invitation? :eyes:

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If you are a researcher and can travel on your own budget, you can always contact someone you’d like to do research with and propose a small project. Then they will be able to invite you. You can also join a conference that takes place in Japan, then the organizers will be the ones inviting you.
(In all those cases, “inviting” just means that they are the ones filling the Japanese side of the visa application)


And also taking legal and financial responsibility for anything you do over there. :wink:


Small pseudo-update: one reason I’m looking into sabbaticals is that a colleague/friend of mine in science is doing the same in Europe to learn about the history of her discipline. It turns out she didn’t apply for any particular program at another school. She’s just touring and researching on her own. I haven’t read her proposal yet (which was enthusiastically approved), but I think it’s a mixture of budgeted travel funds and out of her own pocket.

I’ve been pursuing the suggestions you’ve replied with and I thank you all. In case those don’t work out, I’d welcome any advice/suggestions on places to travel and things to do along those lines. I might be able to swing a similar history-of-math sort of sabbatical, but my main interest really is the Japanese educational system and how I might syncretize Japanese educational advances with ongoing initiatives at my school.

I think my options are limited because I’m a community college prof and because I don’t have a Ph.D., but at least I’ve learned from years of math classes that “limited” ≥ 0.

I hadn’t thought of this at all! The word “Fullbright” sounds well out of my weight class but I’m thinking about it and trying to concoct ideas!

I e-mailed some colleagues at my school who have some professional connections to that end and I’m waiting to hear back. Sadly, the beginning of the schoolyear is chaotic evil for everyone, so I might have to follow up in person soon. This sounds like the best thread for me to pull at right now, so I’ll see if it goes anywhere!


Hiya! Current (20-something) JET here!

Just to chime in: yes, many of us are early-to-mid twenties, but I know of at least two other JETS who are in their mid-thirties in the program. Obviously no one who applies has any sort of guarantee on getting in, youngin’ or otherwise, but I would say don’t let the demographic discourage you if you think it would otherwise be a good option.

JET wants folks who are willing to yeet themselves across the world for Cultural Exchange and English Education.There may be perks to doing that while young (like the ability to push through terrible sleep habits, lol) but there’s also a lot to be said for the stability of someone with a little more life experience under their belt.

So yeah, I wouldn’t let the age thing stop you if you’re interested. It’s 20-something heavy, but definitely not solely so.


I second this comment… I am finishing my first year in JET and soon to be 40.
It was a big career change for me but definitely worth it. Even if it is just a stepping stone to get to Japan then you can look at other options.
All the teachers in my high school vary in age from young to very old. So you wont feel out of place.
The only downsides are that the application process is very long and drawn out (I think applications are being accepted around this time of year), and you don’t have much choice of where you will be in Japan (you give your preference but its not guaranteed).
Good luck on whichever route you take!


As an ALT (non-JET), I know people who are ALTs with kids of school age who seem to at least be in their mid-30s. Mid-20s is definitely the expected demographic however, but I definitely wouldn’t let that stop you from applying anyway. Plus, you’ll probably have a lot more interesting stories you can tell the students over us younger ALTs.

I wouldn’t worry about this, as you’re unlikely to face the toughest aspects of the dialect in your everyday life. Tokyo-ben is the standard for the whole country, so anything official will be just as understandable.


This was a big part in why I never bothered applying to JET a second time, the first time was exhausting. I went with a private company with a much, much easier and shorter application process. The downside is that the pay is worse, but I imagine if you’re a college professor doing this kind of job on a year off, pay can’t be a huge factor. Plus private dispatch companies typically offer a lot more time off than JET, which I’ve heard expects you to turn up to school during school holidays.


Yeah it was very exhausting. I wouldnt have done it a second time!
I worked over the summer vacation but I was allowed to use nenkyu if I wanted. Thankfully my school is very accommodating for when I want to take time off.


Yeah, the application process is definitely long. When I applied last year, I think it opened very late September and closed in mid-November? It’s a very short application window, so best to do as much as you can in advance.

And yeah, you have to be open minded about your placement. Honestly I’m super happy with mine, but I know folks who didn’t quite get what they were hoping for. It definitely requires flexibility.

If you do apply to JET, keep us updated! Maybe we’ll see you over here ;3

Edit: And don’t worry about Kansai-ben! It’s definitely a bit different, but the thing you’ll hear the most is the use of hen/hin instead of nai, and so long as you know what that means it shouldn’t trip you up too badly.


Thank you all very much! I was kind of worried because I know age is a really big deal in Japan, but traveling to Japan and engaging with the culture and putting my language skills to the test has been a major item on my bucket list for decades. I’ll take another look at that application and get started on it!


Time to study some sangaku. :eyes:

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You got this! 頑張って,ね!

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