Study abroad? Highlights of Japanese University! | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

Study abroad? Highlights of Japanese University!

By Guidable Writers Jan 20, 2018

This post is also available in: Russian Spanish Indonesian

In recent years, the number of foreign students studying in universities in Japan has been soaring.


Although there are many reasons for Japanese universities to attract foreign students, one of the most important factors is the recent government schemes to support students from abroad. The government has given many universities sanction to give lectures for graduate degrees only in English. As a result, more foreign students can graduate from Japanese universities without learning the Japanese language first.


Another reason for international students to choose to study in Japan is the importance of the Japanese economy.  Japan is still the third largest economy in the world by GDP. In addition, Japan is home to some of the world’s most advanced technologies, as can be seen from the number of Japanese Nobel Prize laureates. These factors attract many students, especially from elsewhere in Asia.


Japan is also the origin of manga comics, cosplay, ninja, samurai, martial arts and many other aspects of modern culture, as well as having its own fascinating traditional culture. These days young people from the West are more familiar with Japan and its culture, which makes them more comfortable to choose Japan for their graduate degree.


Another reason to choose Japan is the cost of the universities are surprisingly reasonable. Students pay relatively cheap fees for universities in Japan compared to universities in other advanced countries like USA, Canada or UK.


Additionally, the crime rate are low in Japan. Japan is one of the safest countries to live in. This is another factor which motivates students to choose Japan. International students can focus on their studies as well as enjoy their private life, without having to worry too much about personal safety living in an unfamiliar country.


Where to start

Jasso (Japan Student Service Institution) is a good place to start looking into it if you would like to go to university in Japan. Their website contains information on Japanese schools (universities, colleges, and Japanese language institutes). It also contains details of events about studying in Japan, scholarships for international students, follow-up services for foreign students who studied in Japan in the past, and resource facilities to study in Japan.


Completion of lower education is essential to apply for universities in Japan

In Japan, mandatory education starts from the age of six or seven years old.  It starts with six years of elementary education, followed by three years of junior high school. Thereafter many students go to high school for three years. High school is not compulsory in Japan, but to go to university, native Japanese students need to have completed high school first. Students from abroad applying for Japanese universities need to have completed 12 years of the equivalent education which is recognized in Japan in their native country.

In addition, some Japanese universities still require foreign students to take the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU) to prove their Japanese language ability.  Information about the EJU available is on the Jasso website.


The figures

In Japan, universities are run by the national, prefectural or private sectors. According to 2015 government statistics, there are 86 national, 89 prefectural and 604 private universities. And 610,802 students go to national universities, 148,766 students go to prefectural universities and 2,100,642 students go to private universities. 73.4% of the total number of university students go to private universities. As you can see, the private sector dominates university education. There is a wider selection of private universities to choose from.


Timing of enrollment

The academic year of Japanese universities is divided into two semesters. The spring semester which starts from March and the Autumn semester starts from September. Most Japanese universities adopt a school year starting from April and ending in March. However, in recent years, more universities are starting their school year in September for international students as well as March to meet their demand. You need to look into the starting date of individual universities.


The fees

The fees of public universities are usually the same, or very similar. The exam fee is 17,000yen, The entrance fee is 282,000yen, the annual lesson fee is 535,800yen, and other fees like facility costs and research costs is up to 110,000yen per year.


The fees of private universities are much more expensive in comparison. The entrance fee is around 250,000yen, an annual lesson fee is around 800,000-900,000yen on average and the other costs depend on the subjects. These prices are not for subjects in medicine and medical studies, which are usually much more expensive.


The fee for university and other costs like living expenses, accommodation costs and leisure costs are important things to consider before deciding which universities you are going to apply for.


For example, if you choose to go to a university in the countryside, the living cost will be less than their urban city counterparts, but universities in rural areas are less attractive culturally and in terms of entertainment (that’s why you would spend less money on leisure).

Pros and Cons of national universities and private universities


The location

  • Private universities – often very good, in town or city center
  • National universities – Not necessarily good, could be outside a town, maybe in a countryside or rural area


The campus

  • Private universities – modern, fashionable, better shops and canteens
  • National universities – old, basic


The number of universities

  • Private universities – Many in convenient and easily accessible places
  • National universities – One or two in the prefecture, not necessarily easy to access by public transportation


The cost

  • Private universities – Costly
  • National universities – reasonable


The  number of students in a research seminar

  • Private universities – 20 to 30 students
  • National universities – 5 to 9 students


Availability of government scientific research fund

  • Private universities – Not common
  • National universities – Common for students to receive government funding


Facilities for research

  • Private universities – need more funding
  • National universities – Well-funded and equipped

After graduating

  • Private universities – good job search support, wider connections of people
  • National universities – more post-graduate courses are available, but  professional connections are not so good


If you would like to do scientific research on a particular subject in university, choosing a national university might be the best choice. They have fewer students for each professor in his/her research seminar and they have much better facilities for research thanks to the government support. Hard working and motivated international students tend to choose one of the national universities to study. So at a national university, you are sure to benefit from good intellectual knowledge exchange. All Japanese Nobel Prize winners so far graduated from national universities in Japan.


I hope this article will give you some good ideas about Japanese universities.


Written by Miwa Green