• Kyodo

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The number of foreign students in Japan as of May 2020 fell 10.4% compared with a year earlier, to 279,597, a survey has shown, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to cancel or postpone their study plans.

The decline came after the number of foreign students enrolled at universities, Japanese-language schools and other educational institutions in the country totaled 312,214 in May 2019, marking the highest level on record and the seventh straight year of growth.

By country and region, the number of Chinese students studying in Japan stood at 121,845 as of May 1, 2020, down 2.1% from the same date the previous year, according to the Japan Student Services Organization.

Vietnam ranked second at 62,233, down 15.2%, followed by Nepal at 24,002, down 8.8%, the survey found.

The number of students from South Korea dropped 13.9% to 15,785, while those from Taiwan were down 26.0% at 7,088.

As part of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga's government imposed a temporary ban on all new arrivals of foreign nationals in December last year.

The government currently looks at each student's case individually and no detailed policy or future plan has yet been announced.

Before December, however, Japan had allowed foreign nationals including those intending to stay for over three months, such as students and technical interns, to enter with some conditions in place.

Of the educational institutions, Japanese-language schools suffered the biggest margin of decline in foreign student numbers in the reporting year, down 27.4% at 60,814, according to the survey.

The number of foreign students at universities fell 10.9% to 79,826, while those at graduate schools were down 0.1% at 53,056.

Vocational schools, however, saw an increase of 1.0% to 79,598.

At Kai Japanese Language School in Tokyo's Shin-Okubo area, the number of foreign students has more than halved from its usual capacity of around 200 during normal times.

School President Hiroko Yamamoto said it is a "shame" that foreign students who are always curious and can become a great asset to Japanese companies "are giving up on Japan and moving to South Korea and other countries.

"I suspect it will take time for Japan to bring those students back," Yamamoto said.

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