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About Alumni Associations

What is a Japan alumni association?

Many former students apparently feel that it is difficult to maintain their connections to Japan after they return to their own country, or are concerned that with little opportunity to use Japanese after their return, they may lose the Japanese language skills acquired in Japan. How can you go about alleviating such concerns? One way is to join a Japan alumni association.

These associations of former foreign students to Japan have been established with aims that include the following: to strengthen the bond between those who have studied in Japan, create opportunities to build personal networks and help enhance the standing of current and former foreign students in their own countries.

There are currently 205 Japan alumni associations in 111 countries around the world (those known to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs through overseas diplomatic establishments, etc., as of December 2018). They have been established through the efforts of former foreign students and act as an important place for international exchange between each of the countries in which they exist and Japan. Because they are of extreme importance to Japan, the Japanese government continues to support and provide cooperation for their activities. Support includes the partial subsidization of related expenses through Japanese diplomatic establishments located abroad.

What kinds of activities are Japan alumni associations involved in?

There are many events and activities hosted by Japan alumni associations. Here are some examples:

1) Creating and maintaining a network among former foreign students
The most fundamental activity of the Japan alumni associations is to foster friendship among former foreign students.
They serve as an arena for the exchange of information regarding the conditions upon students' return to their home country, the formation of personal networks and for providing mutual assistance. Activities include the arrangement of meetings for the exchange of information or for the formation of personal networks as well as the publication of bulletins and newsletters.
2) Nurturing and supporting prospective students
The members utilize the knowledge gained through first-hand personal experience and provide prospective foreign students and students scheduled to depart for Japan with information and advice related to living and studying in Japan. Concrete examples include the hosting of presentations about studying in Japan and the holding of pre-departure orientation meetings for those selected for Japanese Government Scholarships.
3) Introducing Japan

Japan alumni associations hold various events to introduce Japan to people of their own countries. They play an important role in enhancing the understanding of Japan and fostering friendly relations between their countries and Japan. Such activities include the following:

  • i) Events to introduce or popularize Japanese cultural arts such as flower arrangement and the tea ceremony
  • ii) Japanese film screenings
  • iii) Lectures and seminars that utilize the specialized knowledge former students have gained through study in Japan.

An area of great concern to foreign students who are currently studying in Japan is perhaps related to their treatment and employment upon their return to their respective countries. Exactly how effectively the experience of studying in Japan can be applied is indeed a major concern.
The establishment of Japan alumni associations by former students such as yourselves and their activities as described above will undoubtedly become a great source of encouragement for future foreign students. The activities of the Japan alumni associations are not only those meant for former foreign students, but are also activities that will benefit future foreign students as well.

What is the history and geographical distribution of Japan alumni associations?

There are currently 205 associations of former foreign students in 111 countries around the world. In terms of region, Asia contains the largest number of such associations because of the large number of foreign students that go to Japan to study.

Distribution of Japan alumni associations by region

In terms of history, the oldest of these associations is one founded in Thailand in 1951. It was followed by the establishment of Japan alumni associations in Southeast Asia as well as East Asia by the 1970s, and later expanded to South Asia in the 1980s. The 1990s saw their founding in Central and South America as well as in Africa. You can see that the establishment of Japan alumni associations has been spreading around the world over time.

1951 Thailand
1963 Indonesia
1970s Southeast Asia: Singapore, the Philippines, Malaysia, etc.
1973 Korea
1974 Hong Kong
1986 India
Around 1990 Regions outside Asia (Central and South America, Africa)

What kinds of people join Japan alumni associations?

Although all the members are, of course, 'former foreign students,' membership tendencies differ according to the association, often depending on how the associations came to be established or the particular regional or national circumstance.

For example, there are some Japan alumni associations that are characterized by the diversity in their members' backgrounds, with members who now work in various fields such as politics, business, industry, government and academia. This is typical of Japan alumni associations found in Southeast Asia. The wide range of backgrounds is probably due to the fact that those who studied in Japan as undergraduates go on to different professions after graduation.

Another type of Japan alumni association is that primarily comprised of members involved in specialized research at universities and research institutes. An example is the Japan alumni association in Pusan, Republic of Korea. It is likely that organizing such associations was made easier by the ties that the researchers were able to maintain - with each other as well as with Japanese universities and research facilities - through their specialized fields.
Because there are a great number of people in China and the Republic of Korea who choose to study abroad in Japan, it tends to be difficult to bring all of these students together under one alumni association. Former students currently employed in educational and research positions presently seem to be the backbone of the Japan alumni associations in these countries.

Finally, in those countries where there are a limited number of former foreign students to Japan, the Japan alumni join the alumni associations of those who have undergone training in Japan through programs offered by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) or the Association for Overseas Technical Cooperation and Sustainable Partnerships (AOTS). Although these are not associations of former foreign students, the nature of their activities is the same as at other Japan alumni associations in that they are applying the studies and training they have received in Japan in their home countries.

Although the ways that Japan alumni associations are set up may differ according to country or region, they all share one thing in common: involvement in activities that will not only improve the domestic standing of former foreign students, but also promote the understanding of Japan.

What are Japan's expectations for members of the Japan alumni associations?

We expect from you, the former students in Japan:

  1. to use what you have learned in Japan to make your dream come true
  2. to build and fortify a bridge between your country and Japan in order to foster mutual understanding and friendship

It is our sincere hope that after you complete your studies in Japan and return to your own country, you will become a bridge that will enable enhanced friendship between your country and Japan through participation in a Japan alumni association.

If you are from a country or region where there are unfortunately no Japan alumni associations at present, we hope that you will be motivated to organize one upon your return.