My Time at the MIRAI Programme


In November, I was fortunate enough to be part of Japan’s MIRAI Programme, an exchange programme giving students across Europe the chance to partake in a fully-funded week-long trip to Japan. Although those with some understanding of Japanese might translate ‘mirai’ as ‘future’, here it stands for the Mutual-understanding Intellectual Relations Academic-exchange Initiative. Run by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the MIRAI Programme endeavours to promote friendship between Europe and Japan, aiming to increase the understanding of future generations in all things Japan. I spent a week in Tokyo as a ‘diplomatic visitor’, surrounded by 30 students from across Europe. The experience was invaluable and something I cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in Japan.

I cannot recommend enough to anyone interested in Japan

It’s difficult to pick just one or two highlights from visit. My week in the crazy city of Tokyo was certainly the busiest of my life, with a packed itinerary containing a mix of lectures, tours and state visits, but also cultural experiences, Japanese food, and opportunity to see everything Tokyo has to offer. 

A stand-out moment was on my final day, when the trip culminated in a presentation about my time in Japan to the Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan and a team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Of course this was beyond daunting, but, after such an amazing week, it was easy to discuss my favourite moments, and highlight differences between the UK and Japan. 

My trip was focused on the theme ‘Economy and Business’, which defined the tone of most of the activities. I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, attend economics lectures at Hitotsubashi University, visit several start-up businesses through a programme with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, and even attend talks at the United Nations University. These activities taught me so much about Japan, but also the UK, as I saw a myriad of similarities and differences between the two countries. 

I saw a myriad of similarities and differences between the two countries

In just a week in Japan I learnt so much about the unique Japanese culture, both confirming and questioning my preconceived ideas. As one of the most iconic images of traditional Japanese culture, a visit to Mt Fuji was more impressive than I could have imagined. Its beauty, heritage and symbolism was evident, and an opportunity to learn about its religious and cultural value was eye-opening. I was lucky enough to visit on a clear day, seeing the mountain at its best. A bucket list moment for sure! 

My hosts, a team from the Japan International Cooperation Centre (JICE), displayed a huge amount of pride in their traditional culture, something that perhaps Brits often lack. I was honoured to try on Yukata (summer kimonos), take part in a traditional tea ceremony, visit several Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples, and try a variety of Japanese food. It was such an amazing opportunity to experience a culture so different from my own. 

Although I hate networking as much as anyone, the MIRAI Programme gave me the chance to meet such an amazing group of people from across the world. I have already taken part in talks and calls as an alumni of the program, making it so easy to stay in touch and maintain connections. The program also allowed me to gain diplomatic experience, something that is pretty hard to come by normally. Most importantly though, I gained such a deep insight into Japan as a country, now having an understanding of the history, culture and economy far greater than I had before I left. 

The MIRAI Programme gave me the chance to meet such an amazing group of people from across the world

It is perfect for anyone with an interest in diplomacy, international economics, environment, or science. The programme is split into four strands, each with a focus in one of the above areas. MIRAI caters for all academic backgrounds; as a History student, the ‘Economy and Business’ strand wasn’t an obvious choice, but a great fit nonetheless. 

I would highly recommend applying for the MIRAI programme if you have any interest in Japan, in one of the above areas, if you enjoy travelling, or if you are thinking of studying abroad in Asia. Any student over 20 can apply, even if you have recently graduated. As long as you can show some interest in Japan, you stand a chance; UK students in particular are sought after as fluency in English is highly respected in Japan. The application process is really simple and doesn’t contain multiple rounds, any virtual interviews or situational judgement tests. And with the program being fully-funded, it’s accessible to anyone. 

If you are interested, look out for the application in September on the ‘Embassy of Japan in the UK’ website. It really is a life-changing experience and one that I cannot recommend enough.

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One thought on “My Time at the MIRAI Programme

  • Hi, I really want to apply for this program but I am not sure how legitimate it is since I am barely finding anyone online speaking about it. Could you provide me some sources please?


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