I have recently decided to enter a grad school in one of the Japanese universities (namely, TiTech). It seems that the general recommendation is to start as a non-degree research student first and prepare for entrance exam while being a research student. After reading this question, I still don't understand what is expected from a research student. On one hand, it is a first step before doing a masters degree, on the other - I find the explanation very confusing. After all, the word "reasearch" in "research student" is there for a reason, right?
My question is - do I have to come up with a research proposal before contacting my potential academic supervisor? I have found a professor doing a research in field I am interested in (inductive and abductive logic programming in AI), but the problem is that this is not something you can get experience with in undergraduate studies. It doesn't come up in an undergraduate curriculum, so I have only a general understanding of the topic. Starting a novel research (if that's what research student should do) without some background will be very hard. Yet I cannot get this background unless I get at least an Ms in AI first.
This is especially worrying given my background. I graduated from my university 10 years ago and was employed all this time as a software engineer. I have a good GPA (4.99 out of 5), and I lived and worked in Japan for 6 years and got a JLPT N2 certificate. However my bachelor thesis was about image processing, not about AI, and in any case it is not particularly relevant after so many years in industry.