For admission to a Japanese university, foreigner students need to pass the unified EJU exam and confirm their Japanese proficiency. A motivation letter, academic essay, and recommendations will also come in handy. However, this can be done only after a year of bachelor's study in their home country or a Japanese preparatory program — it is impossible to enroll at a Japanese university after the 11th grade. Read more about the admission process and requirements of Japanese universities below.

For more information on higher education and universities in Japan, read our separate articles.

Cost of education in Japan

ProgramMin. ageDurationMin. cost per yearAvg. cost per yearMin. language level
University preparation18+1-2 years4,332 USD/course5,331 USD/courseN5-N1 / A1-C1
College15+2-3 years1,563 USD2,133 USDN2-N1 / B2
Bachelor's18+4-6 years3,571 USD6,198 USDN2-N1 / B2
Master's22+2 years5,900 USD7,600 USDN1 / С1
MBA22+1-2 years3,571 USD29,989 USDN1 / С1
Law school18+4-6 years3,571 USD7,997 USDN2-N1 / В2
PhD24+3 years3,571 USD4,768 USDN1 / С1
Additional expenses

ExpenseAverage cost
JLPT language exam14-25 USD
EJU exam191 USD
Registration fee113-200 USD
Student fee1,879 USD
Translation of documents into Japanese33 USD
Rent786 USD/month
Dormitory219 USD/month
Utilities147 USD/month
Internet31 USD/month
Travel61 USD/month
Meals400 USD/month
Insurance23 USD/month
Study materials153 USD/year

The prices listed in the table are given for reference. For exact amounts, visit the official website of your chosen university.

Admission to Japanese universities

Options for admission to Japaneese universities

How to choose a university

When choosing a university in Japan, you should pay attention to several main criteria.


Your decision should highly depend on your specialty. Japan is one of the best destinations to study engineering and technology. For example, the University of Tokyo is ranked 17th in the world in this area[1]. Moreover, there are many international companies in Japan that specialize in technology, innovation, and robotics — Sony, Mitsubishi, Canon, Casio, Toshiba. Students of Japanese universities have an opportunity to intern at these companies and get a permanent job after graduation.

Of course, these are far from all of the areas in which Japanese universities lead. For example, Kyoto University is ranked 25th in the world in the field of natural sciences. Japan is also the third largest economy in the world and a dominant trading power[2]. The areas of economics, business, and maritime trade are well developed at Japanese universities.

When choosing a university, refer to subject rankings. They will help determine how strong your specialty is at a particular university. QS and THE offer such ranking lists.

International rankings

Japanese universities are annually ranked high in world rankings. According to QS, the University of Tokyo is 23rd in the top 100 best universities in the world, Kyoto University is 33rd, and Osaka University is 71[3].

However, you should not blindly trust international rankings. Most often, these are dry statistics and survey results that do not objectively reflect reality. Moreover, the position of universities differs from ranking to ranking because they are based on different criteria. For example, QS pays more attention to the reputation of the university and opinion of students and professors, while ARWU evaluates scientific achievements and research activities.

Moreover, regional universities rarely make it into the rankings. This is due to the small number of international students, a relatively short history, and other factors. However, even regional universities in Japan receive good funding from the state. Therefore, they have developed infrastructure no worse than top universities, and foreign specialists teach their programs.

More about international rankings

Tuition fees

It is a lot cheaper to study at national universities, given that they are fully funded by the state. The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are the most popular national universities in Japan. On average, the cost of studying here is 5,465 USD per year.

State universities are under the control of prefectures. As an example, these include Hokkaido University, Okayama University, Nara Prefectural University, and others. The average tuition cost for international students is about 6,198 USD per year.

The most expensive place to study are private universities. The average tuition cost is 7,331 USD per year, with some programs reaching 53,314 USD / year. The most popular are Keio University, Waseda University, and Sophia University.

Programs in English

If Japanese is not your forte or you are unsure as to whether your language level is sufficient for admission, look for universities that offer English-language programs. In total, Japan offers about 500 programs in English. They are more common among master's and PhD programs, but options can also be found in bachelor’s programs. For example, Waseda University has 5 bachelor’s and 10 master's programs in English. But, the University of Tokyo is better to consider for those who are fluent in Japanese. There are only two English-language bachelor’s programs offered here.

Scholarships in Japan

The Japanese government actively attracts foreign students to the country through generous scholarships. Most options are available for bachelor’s and PhD students.

You can check the availability of scholarships and grants on the official website of universities in the Scholarships and Financial Aid sections. You can also refer to the Ministry of Education of Japan list, or the website of the JASSO international student assistance organization.

Other criteria

It is also worth paying attention to less obvious, but important factors:

  • Location of the university, prefecture, and city. This will affect admission requirements and the cost of groceries and housing. For example, a month in Tokyo requires 926 USD, in Osaka — 793 USD, but in small Kobe — about 600 USD.
  • Dormitory conditions. Major Japanese universities provide dorm rooms, but the cost and living conditions can vary greatly. For example, a hostel costs about 333 USD per month at the University of Tokyo, at Osaka University — about 167 USD/month, and at Kobe University — 27 USD/month.
  • Professors. This point is especially important for future master’s and PhD students. Before admission, they need to find a research supervisor among the faculty instructors. Pay attention to the courses taught by professors, their academic interests, and topics of scientific publications.

This criteria list can be endless. When choosing a university, think about what is most important to you. Based on your preferences, narrow down the options until you find the ideal university.

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Top universities in Japan

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Requirements for admission to Japan

It is impossible to enter a Japanese university after the 11th grade. In this case, you have the choice to:

  • Complete one year of bachelor’s study in your home country.
  • Complete a preparatory program in Japan. They are mainly aimed at improving Japanese proficiency, but sometimes they teach general education subjects and prepare for the EJU unified exam.
  • Enroll at a college of technology. Foreigners with 11 years of high school education are accepted immediately to the 3rd year. After graduating from college, you can enroll in a 3-year bachelor's degree in a related specialty. Sometimes, you do not need to take the unified exams. Specify the admission conditions after college on the official website of your chosen university.

In most cases, foreign students entering a Japanese university must pass a unified exam — EJU (Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students) and / or JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test).

Each university independently chooses the format for entrance examinations. In addition to EJU and JLPT, this can be:

Additional documents may be required:

  • Motivation letter. Clarify your achievements, goals, and dreams in detail. It is also important to explain why you decided to study in Japan and at the chosen university.
  • Recommendations. Most often required for master's and PhD programs, recommendation letters allow the commission to evaluate you through the eyes of others. As a rule, they are usually written by university professors or, if applying for an MBA, employers.
  • English proficiency. Even programs in Japanese may require IELTS 6.0 or TOEFL 95.
  • Standardized test scores. GRE / GMAT scores may be required for admission to Japanese master’s, MBA, and PhD programs.

Entrance exams

All foreign students entering Japanese universities must pass the EJU Unified Examination (Ryugaku shiken), the purpose of which is to assess the Japanese proficiency and academic abilities of the applicant.

The exam consists of four sections. Students choose one or more sections, depending on the requirements of the university:

SectionSubjectsMax. scoreLanguage
Japanese as a foreign language-450Japanese
Natural sciencesPhysics / Chemistry / Biology200Japanese or English
Japan and the worldCritical thinking, General knowledge200Japanese or English
MathematicsBasic / Advanced200Japanese or English

EJU centers are located not only in Japan, but also abroad.

Examinations are held twice a year: in June and November. Registration is required two to three months in advance.

Some universities, such as Kobe University, accept foreign students without the EJU, instead conducting internal examinations. Clarify whether or not you must take the EJU on the official website of your chosen university.

Also, you need to pass the JLPT (Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken) for admission to Japanese programs. The minimum level for admission is N2-N1.

The exam takes place twice a year: in July and December. Applications must be submitted two to three months in advance. Applicants can take it at any of the centers located around the world.

Document legalization

Japan is a member of the 1961 Hague Convention. Therefore, you must obtain an apostille for your educational documents.

In addition, all documents must be translated into Japanese or English and notarized.

Application deadlines in Japan

The enrollment period at Japanese universities takes place three times a year — for the autumn, spring, and summer semesters.

Application deadlines for most universities in Japan:

Spring semesterOctober-November
Summer semesterFebruary-April
Fall semesterJune-July

Exact deadlines may vary depending on the program and level of study. Verify them on the official website of your chosen university.

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Preparatory programs — Foundation in Japan

Secondary education in Japan lasts 12 years. Foreign applicants who have finished the 11th grade can make up for the missing year through the Foundation preparatory program. They are offered by universities, private language schools, and academies of additional education.

For admission, you will need a high school diploma with a transcript, and sometimes a motivation letter or academic essay. The language requirements for Foundation programs are lower than those for universities — it is enough to speak Japanese at the N5 level (Elementary).

Courses begin in April and October. The application deadline is November and April, respectively.

A full list of available Foundation programs at Japanese universities and colleges can be viewed here.

Documents for admission:

  • Completed application
  • Motivation letter
  • Health declaration form
  • Diploma with grade transcript
  • JLPT N5 certificate
  • Passport copy
  • 5 3x4 passport photos
General admission process

StageSpring semesterSummer semester
Submit documents and pay the administrative feeAugust-NovemberFebruary-April
Receive acceptance letters and make an enrollment decisionNovember-DecemberMay-June
Verification of immigration documents by the universityDecemberJune
Receive an eligibility certificate from a university to stay in JapanBeginning of March (following year)Beginning of September (following year)

How to enroll in a bachelor’s program

It is not possible to enter a Japanese bachelor's program after the 11th grade, given that the Japanese go to school for 12 years. To resolve the academic difference, you can complete one year of bachelor’s study in your home country or enroll in a preparatory program at the chosen university.

In Japan, there is no unified application system for entering universities. Therefore, documents must be submitted directly to the university. This can be done online on the university’s official website or by post.

Foreign applicants need to pass the unified EJU exam and JLPT N2-N1. Also, some universities may require confirmation of English proficiency — IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 80-90.

Documents for admission

  • Completed application
  • Passport copy
  • Passport photos
  • High school diploma with transcript + grades for 1st year of university study
  • JLPT N2-N1 certificate
  • EJU or other entrance examinations required by the university
  • Registration fee payment receipt

Additional documents, depending on the university:

Depending on the chosen university and program, requirements may vary. Verify them on the official website.

Documents must be translated into Japanese or English and notarized. They must also have an apostille.

Admission to a Japanese college of technology

Foreigner students who have completed the 11th grade in their home country can enter a Japanese college of technology — kosen. These institutions specialize in applied education. Programs last 5 years, but, as a rule, foreigners immediately enter the 3rd year. Upon graduation, they receive an associate's degree.

The main condition for admission to a kosen is at least 11 years of education. In addition, foreigner students must pass the unified EJU exam and JLPT N2. Many colleges also require you to write an essay or pass an oral exam in Japanese.

Documents for admission

Documents must be translated into Japanese and notarized. They must also have an apostille.

How to enroll in a master’s program

To enroll in a Japanese master's program, you need to pass the EJU, JLPT, or university entrance exams. In addition, some programs require standardized test results — GMAT or GRE. Specify the admission requirements on the official website of your chosen program.

One of the most important requirements for enrollment is a plan for a future master's thesis. The applicant must decide on a research topic and choose a supervisor among the program faculty. He needs to submit a research proposal and get consent from the supervisor to work on it.

The language requirements for master's programs are higher than those for bachelor's programs. You need to know Japanese at the N1 (Advanced) level. For admission to English-language programs, you will need IELTS 7.0 or TOEFL 90-100 results.

Some universities require you to write an academic essay and pass an oral interview in Japanese. These tests determine the language level and education of the applicant — whether or not it corresponds to the level of Japanese bachelors.


Pre-Master’s are common programs in Japan. They prepare applicants for graduate study. Admission requirements are lower than those for regular master’s programs. You need a bachelor's degree and Japanese proficiency at the N3 level (in some cases — N4).

Admission takes place in April and October.

Documents for admission

  • Completed application
  • Passport copy
  • Passport photos
  • Bachelor's degree with grade transcript
  • JLPT N1 certificate
  • IELTS 7.0 / TOEFL 90-100 for English-language programs
  • Motivation letter
  • 1-2 recommendation letters
  • Academic essay (optional)
  • Research proposal
  • GRE / GMAT results

Documents must be translated into Japanese or English and notarized. They must also have an apostille.

MBA programs in Japan

For admission to MBA programs in Japan, you will need a bachelor's degree and proof of English proficiency, given that most programs are instructed in this language.

Documents for admission:

  • Bachelor's degree with grade transcript
  • IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 80 / 550
  • JLPT N1 (if necessary)
  • Motivation letter
  • 1-2 recommendation letters from professors or employers
  • Resume with 2-3 years of work experience
  • GMAT / GRE, 600 minimum score
  • Passport copy
  • Passport photos
  • Proof of financial solvency

Admission takes place twice a year: in April and September.

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How to enroll in a PhD program

For admission to a PhD program, you must provide a research proposal and find a future supervisor. The admissions committee and future supervisor may request an academic resume and list of scientific publications. In addition, many universities conduct interviews with PhD applicants.

Applicants must also pass the EJU or internal entrance exams of the university. GRE results may also be required. For English-language programs, you need IELTS 6.0 / TOEFL 100+. To study in Japanese — JLPT N1.

Documents for admission

Some universities may require:

  • Master’s thesis
  • Scientific publications

Documents must be translated into Japanese or English and notarized. They must also have an apostille.

Scholarships in Japan

Education in Japan is tuition-based for both local and foreigner students. However, students may be exempted from tuition fees if they experience financial difficulties — for example, in the event of parental death or a natural disaster.

In addition, there are many scholarship programs available to students in Japan.

Government scholarship — MEXT

The Japanese Ministry of Education annually offers 7 types of scholarships to students of Japanese universities. They fully cover the cost of tuition, registration, and other university fees, along with a one-way flight and sometimes Japanese courses. MEXT scholarship recipients receive monthly payments.

You can apply for a government scholarship through your university or embassy. Applicants are interviewed and take written exams in Japanese, English, and the subjects of their chosen specialty.

MEXT scholarship programs

Type of scholarshipAgeGeneral requirementsMonthly paymentDuration
Young Leaders ProgramUp to 40Complete a bachelor's or college degree in administration or business1,613 USD1 year
For bachelor’s studentsUp to 25Enroll in a bachelor’s program at a Japanese university

780 USD

5 years
For vocational college studentsFinish 12 years of high school and go to a vocational college in Japan3 years
For kosen studentsComplete 11 years or more of school and enroll in a Japanese college of technology4 years
For master’s and PhD studentsUp to 35Continue studying in the same field960 USD2 years

View the complete list here.

JASSO scholarship

JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization) — a non-profit organization that annually provides scholarships to foreign students of Japanese universities, colleges, language schools, and preparatory courses. Funding is available for all levels of education.

Scholarship amount — from 30000 to 320 USD.

General requirements:

  • Recommendation letter from an educational institution
  • Student may not be a MEXT or other scholarship recipient
  • Familial funds sent to the student must not exceed 600 USD per month
  • Sponsor's annual income must not exceed 33,321 USD
  • High GPA in the year preceding the scholarship

Municipal scholarships

Governments and international organizations of various Japanese prefectures also establish their own scholarships for students of local universities and colleges. The main requirement is residence in the territory of a particular city or region. Additionally, recommendation letters from the university, an interview, or a written exam may be required.

Examples of local scholarships

Type of scholarshipLevel of educationPaymentDuration
Kitami scholarship for international studentsBachelor’s, master’s, PhD1,333 USD/year1 year
Otawara scholarship for international studentsBachelor’s67 USD/month1 year
Shinjuku scholarship for international studentsBachelor’s, master’s, PhD1,599 USD/year1 year

View all of the options in this brochure.

Private grants

Many organizations also set up private foundations to provide financial assistance to foreign students. Most often they can be found through special aggregators, such as the JASSO organization website.

Examples of private grants

ScholarshipLevel of educationGeneral requirementsQuota

Monthly payment

Iizuka Takeshi Scholarship FoundationBachelor’s, master’s, PhDEnroll at a university in the Tochigi prefecture5333 USDFor the entire period of study
Kajima IkueikaiMaster’sStudy architecture or construction at the University of Tokyo, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Osaka University, and others.16666 USD2 years
Atsumi International FoundationPhDAttend a university in Tokyo or the Kanto region161,666 USD1 year

Japanese student visa

To study in Japan for more than 90 days, you need to apply for a student visa. It is valid for the entire period of study. If you wish to pursue graduate study after finishing a bachelor’s program, you must extend your visa through the migration service.

Registration is carried out jointly with the chosen educational institution. To get a Japanese student visa, you need to:

  • Enroll in a university or college and pay for tuition
  • Submit an application to the Japanese Immigration Service for a certificate of eligibility. This is done by the university or college, which acts as your guarantor
  • Receive a ready-made certificate and an invitation letter by mail
  • Apply for a visa at a Japanese consulate

Japanese student visas are issued 4 times a year: in April, July, October, and January. Registration is free and takes from 3 to 4 months.

Required documents:

  • International passport with copies of active pages
  • 2 completed application forms
  • 2 passport photos
  • Original certificate of eligibility with a copy
  • Invitation letter from an educational institution
  • Proof of financial solvency at the rate of 13,328 USD per year.

The list of documents may vary depending on the university. Additional documents may include a motivation letter, copies of educational documents, and proof of Japanese proficiency.

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