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Startup Frontier HOKKAIDO: Two Types of Startup Visas Available in Hokkaido


Miho Tanaka


May 24, 2022


02:09 PM

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Did you know that Hokkaido offers two types of startup visas? Most of us know about the standard 1-year startup visa offered across multiple cities in Japan – Hokkaido is also one of these cities to offer this 1-year startup visa. In addition, Hokkaido has been developing a second type of startup visa through an industry-academia collaboration and offers a 2-year startup visa for those graduating from Hokkaido University.

1-year startup visa

As everyone planning to start a startup in Japan is aware of, the 1-year startup visa is available in multiple prefectures and cities in Japan, and Hokkaido is one of them. This visa is provided under the Ministry of Economic, Trade and Industry (in short, METI), and the process is as follows.


  1. Send business plans to the prefecture / city that you’re targeting to apply for a visa
  2. Brush up your business plans in collaboration with prefecture / city members
  3. Finalize your applications and submit officially (Hokkaido accepts applications via mail)
  4. Interview
  5. Result
  6. Receive an approval letter from governor of municipality
  7. Apply for Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) or Change of Status at immigration bureau

Focus industries

Each municipality and city has different industry focuses. The verticals that Hokkaido focuses on include:

  • Businesses which promote growth and industrialization in the fields of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries to support local communities
  • Businesses which promote the development of food-related industries that utilize regional resources
  • Businesses which promote Hokkaido tourism and help to elevate tourism in Hokkaido to that of an advanced region in the tourism industry
  • Businesses which promote developing manufacturing industries which generate added high values
  • Businesses which promote the creation of industries that correspond to market size and shifts in market needs
  • Other businesses deemed necessary by the governor

Hokkaido accepts applications from those currently living outside of Japan and is able to process these applications remotely, which means that anyone is eligible without needing to physically visit or already be living in Hokkaido!

2-year startup visa for students graduating from Hokkaido University

There is a 2-year startup visa available to students graduating from top universities in Japan, but this visa scheme is not well-known yet. Hokkaido is one of the first municipalities to actively promote and offer this 2-year startup visa for students!

Ecosystem building via industry-academia collaboration

According to a report on the progress of ecosystem building in Hokkaido & Sapporo City by the Cabinet Office of Japan last year, Hokkaido is accelerating the industry-academia collaboration among universities and research institutes. The following universities have been actively involved in the Hokkaido startup ecosystem and, as of today, have contributed to the creation of a combined number of 79 startups!

  • Hokkaido University
  • Sapporo City University
  • Future University Hakodate
  • Hokkaido Information University
  • Otaru University of Commerce
  • Hokkaido Research Organization

In addition, HOKKAIDO STARTUP FUTURE CREATION (HSFC) plays an important role in acting as a platform to build startups in collaboration with 15 universities and 4 technical colleges based in Hokkaido and is currently managing programs to grow entrepreneurs, expand the startup environment, and build ecosystems around academia.

Acceleration program by Open Network Lab HOKKAIDO

It is critical for young talents to acquire industry specific knowledge and get access to mentors to gain expertise in building new businesses from the ground up. Open Network Lab HOKKAIDO has been running acceleration programs for early stage startups since 2018, and the focuses for the years 2022 to 2023 are:

  • Primary Industry
  • Space Industry
  • Bio & Healthcare

Funding opportunities available in Hokkaido

Seed financing is crucial for early stage startups. One of the support systems created under “Startup Frontier HOKKAIDO” is a GAP fund that enables student startups to develop their products in the very first stage.

Sapporo City is the first government-designated city in Japan that created the “Sapporo Innovation Fund" (fund size ¥750 million), a public-private partnership regional fund specializing in the field of healthcare and biotechnology.

Last but not least, Sapporo City launched a subsidy program last year to provide startup establishment support – if eligible, a large portion of set-up costs can be covered.

Let Sapporo City guide your startup journey today 🚀

Connect with Miho and set up a consultation to discuss how to get support for your Japanese startup and more.

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