Updated March 30, 2022

Finding The Best Universities in Japan for International Students


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Are you interested in studying as an international student in Japan? Finding the best universities in Japan for international students is not hard. The biggest trouble comes from finding the right school for you. Regardless, you still need to prepare to get into these institutions.

Want to understand the nitty-gritty of studying in Japan? Whether it’s courses, exams, or colleges in Japan for English speakers, here’s everything you need to know. We also have tips you can use to make the entire application process much easier.

Should You Go To A University In Japan?

Before you look for details on studying in Japan, we need to get something out of the way. So, should you go to a university in Japan? Should you consider studying in Japan and undergo the process to get there?

Well, it depends on your goals. For a commitment of 4 years or more, you should think carefully about your plans post-graduation and whether a university in Japan will prepare you.

If you're serious about living and working in Japan — or just thinking about studying abroad — studying in Japan can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The process can be worth it regardless of your background in Japanese culture.

Here are some reasons why you may want to study at a Japanese university:

  • Learning Japanese culture
  • Learning from the best colleges in Japan for international students
  • Educating yourself in a safe environment
  • Live in Japan after university

For those looking to study in universities in Japan, learning the culture is a priority. It’s the first reason why you should study there.

Japan is a land of many dualities, with cutting edge technology but the firmest roots in nature. It is a polite society where people value each other, history, and bonds with everything.

Japanese culture is unique. From pop culture like manga, anime, and fashion to its history, food, and even family values. You’ll never find anything like it, regardless of whether you look in the West or in other Asian cultures.

Japan also has some of the best universities in the world. University of Tokyo, Osaka University, and even Kyoto University have global recognition. Many of these universities produce many pioneers in their field.

Japan’s colleges and universities can help you get a leg up if you want world-class education. Japan is still a better solution for students who can’t afford big universities in the West. Even the cheapest universities in Japan give students a competitive edge.

Japan is also a safe country for both domestic and international students. You can walk at night alone and expect people to be on their way home. There will be a koban police box nearby and even services that can drive you home if you’re drunk.

If you wish to live in Japan after, this is also possible if you study in Japan. All you need is a company willing to sponsor your visa. As you learn the language, you can also get a working visa. If any of these reasons look desirable, then studying in Japan is right for you.

A Quick Guide Into The Japanese Education System


Now, let’s get into the details of studying abroad. We’ll be focusing on the basics of education in Japan. Much like most countries, the basic pre-uni education in Japan goes for 12 years. This divides into:

  • Six years of elementary education (小学校, Shōgakkō)
  • Three years of middle school (中学校 Chūgakkō)
  • Three years of high school (高等学校 Kōtōgakkō)

Most international students in Japan go there for university education. Also known as Daigaku (大学 or 大學), university education is your best prospect. There are different types of programs you can take for various degrees.

These include:

  • Associate degree (2 - 5 years)
  • Specialized diplomas (2-4 years)
  • Bachelor’s degree (4 years)
  • Faculty of Pharmacy/Medicine/Dentistry/Veterinary (4-6 years)
  • Graduate School (2-5 years)

The academic year is generally set from April to March of the following year in Japan. Higher education institutions organize into semesters, usually 2 to 3 semesters. Most of them begin their academic year in April, although some begin in the Fall.

The Best Colleges In Japan For International Students

Now that you know the basics of the Japanese education system, it’s time to find the university you want to apply to. This can be daunting with the significant number of universities and colleges available.

There are 780+ universities in Japan, with many of those being private schools. There are also specialized schools and colleges that provide more vocational degrees.

More and more universities are offering programs and courses in English. Regardless, the Japanese language remains vital for academic and professional purposes. You would also need it for daily living, from social to cultural integration.

Several priority universities in Japan offer world-class education. Some of the best include:

  • University of Tokyo
  • Osaka University
  • Kyoto University

If you can qualify and pass the entrance exams, these three universities are your best picks. They can be your gateway towards globalized education in Japan.

University of Tokyo


via Wikimedia Commons

The University of Tokyo ((東京大学) is the most prestigious college in Japan. Known as Todai, it is one of the best research institutes in Asia. Established in 1877, Todai has produced many notable alumni. This includes 13 Nobel Laureates, 2 Fields Medalists, and 15 prime ministers.

The University of Tokyo ranks among the top 10 best global universities. It lists as second only to Harvard in the Mines ParisTech: Professional Ranking of World Universities in 2011. It also ranks as the top university Asia in 2019.

Kyoto University


via Wikimedia Commons

Kyoto University (京都大学) is one of the imperial universities in Japan. Known as KyotoU (Kyodai), it is the second oldest university in Japan. It ranks top two in Japan and among the top 50 higher education institutions globally.

KyotoU has three campuses and as many as thirteen research institutes. It also contains the second biggest library in Japan in the form of the Kyoto University Library.

The university produced six prime ministers, one of which was the PM of Taiwan. It also has as many as 19 Nobel Laureates, boasting the most number of affiliated prize winners in Asia.

Osaka University


via Wikimedia Commons

Osaka University (大阪大学), also known as Handai (阪大), is another of the top universities in Japan. It is a famous public research university with three campuses in Osaka.

The university is a “Designated National University” by the Japanese government. It rivals KyotoU and Todai in its quality of education.

Handai has 11 total Nobel Prize Laureates associated with the university. They also have two Fields Medal winners and one Gauss Prize awardee.

What Are The Cheapest Universities in Japan For International Students

Now that you know the best international universities in Japan, it’s time to talk about cost. Understanding the cost of living in Japan is crucial, especially if you plan to stay for years.

For international students, it can be quite costly to study in Japan. The general cost of living in Tokyo can go upwards of thousands of dollars.

In Japan, the average university costs anywhere between 820,000 yen (~6700 USD) up to as much as 2 million yen (~16,300 USD).

While it sounds ironic, the cheapest universities in Japan are public universities. By government mandate, the cost of higher education in Japan is a universal 817,200 yen, rounded to 820,000 yen. The best universities in Japan are also some of the cheapest.

For example, Tokyo University and Kyoto University charge the same tuition. This includes the base tuition fee, together with faculty fees.

Some prices fluctuate for medical and science degrees. These expenses attribute to the cost of laboratory experiments and research.

Private universities charge more, going as high as 2 million yen per semester. Admission fees tend to stay consistent at around 200,000 yen. The cost of tuition, however, goes up. They also split the cost at half per semester.

Apart from university fees, you would also need to consider the cost of living where you’re going. Your monthly cost should be between 100,000 yen (820 USD) to around 150,000 yen (1230 USD). This will include rental fees, food, and other side expenses.

When And How To Apply For International Colleges In Japan


Applying to colleges in Japan is the biggest hurdle that you need to overcome. General requirements are easy to fulfill. Regardless, Japanese universities are notorious for the difficulty of their entrance exams.

The first step is to pick the university of your choice. Many different universities specialize in certain subjects.

For example, Tohoku University is famous for its engineering program. Todai and Handai also have fantastic science and research programs.

Once you pick your university, go to their portal and fill up the application form. There is no central platform for university applications in Japan. The only way to apply is to visit their specific websites.

You would also need to fulfill their initial requirements, which includes:

  • Complete application form
  • Proof of payment for the application fee (if required)
  • High school diploma (for bachelor’s degree, must be 12-year formal schooling)
  • Bachelor’s diploma (for master’s degree)
  • Copy of valid passport and/or government ID
  • Transcript of records
  • Letter(s) of recommendation
  • Personal statement
  • Motivation letter

Depending on the program, the institution may expect more documents from you. It’s also important to have the documents translated from English to Japanese.

Admission Exams In Japanese Universities

Once you complete the requirements, there will be several exams you need to pass. The most common examination you need to pass is the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU).

The EJU tests the capabilities of an international student to take Japanese instruction. It also tests their academic skills in general. Topics in the exam include:

  • Sciences
  • Japanese culture and history
  • World history
  • Mathematics

While there are universities in Japan with English programs, these have limited numbers. They tend to be too few and far between. Regardless of taking English programs, you still need to complete other language requirements.

For example, some universities need to prove your English skills. You can prove your proficiency through results from:

  • PTE

You can give your Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) results to prove your Japanese skills.

Applying Before Deadlines

Japanese universities have specific intake deadlines. This depends on the program and system you’re applying for.

There are two to three intake periods for every semester: spring and autumn. For spring intake, most applications go around November. Autumn intake for universities starts in April.

There is a spring, summer, and fall intake for schools with three semesters.

Spring intake starts around October to November. Summer intake begins around April. Finally, autumn intake starts in June or July too.

Once you finish your applications, you will need to confirm your enrolment. Wait for an acceptance letter before you start your visa application.

Apply for a student visa in Japan and work towards getting health insurance. If you’re confident, world towards a scholarship grant.

Tips For Studying In International Universities In Japan

Like most courses abroad, applying for international universities in Japan is intensive. You can do several tips to make the best out of the process.

For starters, it’s important to work on your Japanese proficiency. It is ideal to start years before you apply for Japanese higher education.

Studying early will open more programs for you and simplify most of the process. It also simplifies daily living in Japan once you start your studies.

If you’re looking to take advantage of Japanese programs, seek as much financial help as possible. Many programs provide scholarships, together with support programs for international students. These include:

You would also want to secure a place to live in. Most Japanese universities provide dormitories that international students can use. However, if you want more freedom, you can find housing in Japan. It’s best to coordinate with your chosen university to get more help.

Research on the local laws and regulations. For example, jaywalking is strictly frowned upon. Foreigners would also need to carry identification (Zairyu) all the time if they’re in Japan. These small things can help make your potential stay much easier.

The Bottom Line

Finding the best universities in Japan for international students take diligence. Knowing what academic programs you want to study and where you want to live are half the battle. Consider if you’re ready to study in Japan and prepare everything you need.

Japan is a wonderful country to study in. University life in Japan is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to learn from the best. Immerse yourself in a unique culture that you will love forever.

Learn more about Japan today. From studying to getting jobs, Japanese living is fantastic and worth the effort.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.