I'm currently on a Masters program in Japan, and I also didn't have any experience with research at all when I had to write a research plan, which made me very stressed.
As someone without research experience, how should I deal with this
There is no other way. You'll have to write your own research plan and contact your potential advisor.
It is pretty hard to write a research plan when you have no clue, but here is what I did:
- Find something you would like to research that can actually be done at the lab you pretend to go. Read about previous publications on the laboratory's homepage, read about your potential advisor's areas of interest. You should know how to justify why you chose that lab as your potential advisor will probably ask you during email exchange.
- Now that you have something that can be done at where you want to go, you'll have to justify why you chose that theme. Try to write about the potential applications of [your research theme] or how that will save the world or make everybody happy. Being able to strongly justify why your research is important is also essential.
- Describe concretely which approach you will take to tackle [your research theme]. Of course you might have no idea, but you should at least have a hint from the point you researched the stuff that can be done on the lab. Write a rough schedule of about how much time your research will take (literature review, experiment designs/simulations, analysis, time for writing up your thesis etc).
- Your research plan should have at least introduction, objectives, methodology (possibly with a schedule), and references. Include references from japanese authors if possible.
Remember that there is some flexibility, and once you are here you might find other research themes that are also interesting and/or more feasible than the one you initially planned.
Contacting your potential advisor is also a very important step. Professors from prestigious universities receive a LOT of emails and yours may just be easily ignored depending on your attitude. Depending on the university's guidelines, you'll have to first introduce yourself to the university's international office ("Kokusai-ka" or 国際課), which will then contact your potential advisor.
You should be very humble and polite. Of course they might not expect it from an international student, but it will give you a positive image. Overdo it and you'll look desperate.
In the first email, apologize for the sudden contact, introduce yourself, write up which university you're coming from, from which major. Say that you've read [potential advisor]'s articles about [research theme] and that you're interested in doing research under his/her guidance, and ask if that is possible (the lab may be full capacity). Do NOT attach anything in the first email, it's suspicious and will look rude (like you're pushing something for them to do for you).
If you are lucky, you might receive a reply within 2 weeks. If it is positive, you may be asked to send your research plan, academic transcript, TOEFL or JLPT certificate and possibly be asked some questions via email or Skype. At this stage you will probably be fine.
In case your first option gets rejected, write another email from scratch for other potential advisors (read his/her papers, etc - they suspect when the email looks like it had just one or two names changed, it suggests that you send the same email for many other places and conveys that you are desperate).
In any case, be prepared not to receive any reply at all. I tried contacting over 15 potential advisors/laboratories and got replies from 3 of them. I got rejected from one because the lab was full, and from another one because I didn't have a JLPT certificate.
Is there any taught master program in Japan?
I'm currently in a taught masters program in STEM field. We have many lectures, tests, appointments, seminars, etc. pretty much like undergrad, except that grading is mostly done by assignments instead of tests. Of course, it will depend on your university and department.