Secondary school in Japan starts from grade 7 and lasts until grade 9. Grades 10 to 12 are dedicated to high school and are not mandatory to attend.
Students who graduate from grade 9 may choose not to continue their studies, but more than 95% prefer to go to high school to prepare for university. However, getting admitted to a university is quite difficult due to the limited number of seats and high competition. In addition, not only the results of entrance examinations are taken into account, but also the student’s behavior during studies in high school, as well as community service. High school graduates pass the national test and go to universities.
Subjects in high school are divided into three categories: compulsory, moral education and additional disciplines. Compulsory subjects include Japanese language and literature, arithmetics, social and natural sciences, music, visual arts, arts and handicrafts, computer science, and physical education.
Most students also participate in various clubs. Usually they are divided into two large groups: sports (swimming, football, kendo, judo, tennis, etc.) and cultural (English, calligraphy, mathematics, science, etc).

In Japan, there are also Juku (Cram Schools), which help students to prepare for exams and memorize material passed in a regular school. Students can spend up to 12 hours a week in such schools, especially during the final exams and national tests before entering the university.
Education in Japan is of high quality and recognized world-wide. The QS international ranking has included five Japanese universities in the list of top 100 universities in the world. Japan is the 9th most popular destination for training[0]. Over 140,000 international students from 170 countries around the world study here. Japan is a renowned leader in innovation and technology, providing students with unique opportunities for theoretical and practical training. The Land of the Rising Sun also attracts foreigners with its mysterious culture, amazing cuisine and unique architecture.
  • International Rankings. Japanese universities occupy high spots in the lists of the top world universities. For example, THE (Times Higher Education) included two universities in the top 100: Kyoto University ranks 36th and Tokyo University 65th[1]. Five Japanese universities made it into QS list of top hundred universities: Tokyo University (22), Kyoto University (33), Tokyo Institute of Technology (58), Osaka University (71) and Tohoku University (82)[2].
  • Japanese culture is one of the main reasons why international students choose Japanese universities[3]. More than 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites are located here: Himeji Castle, Mount Fuji, which is considered the symbol of Japan, Itsukushima Shrine and many others. Japanese cuisine, hot springs, sakura blossom and holiday festivals - students from all over the world come here to plunge into the culture of Japan.
  • English language programs. In order to study in Japan, it is not mandatory to learn Japanese. More than 800 educational programs of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral studies are taught entirely in English. Moreover, while studying, students can additionally study Japanese and, with a little effort, obtain sufficient language proficiency by the end of their studies.
  • Center for Science and Technology. Japan is considered the most technologically and scientifically developed country. Japanese scientists have made a huge contribution to the development of the automotive industry, optics, robotics and electronics. Also, more than 50 largest world companies (Global 500)[4] are located here, many of which are recognized leaders in their respective fields. This opens up unique study, internship and subsequent employment opportunities for students.
  • Mandatory preparation for university. In case a student's home country has 11-year secondary education system, he or she must complete the 12th grade before entering a Japanese university. That can be an extra year of college or university in a home country or a long-term language course in Japan with the addition of Japan's general education program.
  • High barrier of entry. In order to enroll in a Japanese university, all high school graduates must pass national exams (nyūgaku shiken). Of all applicants, only half successfully pass the tests. Another obstacle will be high competition - the number of seats in universities is limited, and the number of people wanting to study grows bigger every year.
  • Japanese language. Despite the fact that the student can choose a program taught in English, most residents of Japan do not speak English. For everyday communication and a comfortable life outside the university, students will have to learn Japanese.
  • The cost of training. The average tuition cost at a Japanese university is not high compared, for example, to British and American universities. However, studying in some other countries like France or Germany is much cheaper. Students pay about 930000 JPY annually. In addition, Japanese universities have a one-time registration fee of 219000 JPY and additional costs for medical insurance, textbooks, and equipment.
  • Gender inequality. According to OECD, Japan ranks third among the countries with the largest gender pay gap: it is almost 25%[5]. In 2018, a big scandal broke out[6] when the largest medical university[7] of Japan admitted evaluating male students’ entrance tests higher than females’ in order to "ensure more men become doctors".

Cost and Structure of Education in Japan


ProgramMin. ageDurationMin. costAvg. costMin. language level Exam
Summer Camp6+2 months.187000 JPY/month386000 JPY/monthN5/A1 +-
Language school16+6 months – 2 years17000 JPY/week23000 JPY/weekN5/A1 +-
Secondary school12+6 yearsFree (state)350000 JPY (private)N2-N1/B2-
Foundation18+1-2 years570000 JPY/year616000 JPY/yearN5-N1/A1- C1JLPT
College15+2-3 years770000 JPY/year860000 JPY/yearN2-N1/B2JLPT/IELTS
Bachelor’s18+4-6 years817000 JPY/year890000 JPY/yearN2-N1/B2JLPT/IELTS
MBA22+1-2 years535800 JPY/year1700000 JPY/yearN1/C1JLPT/IELTS
Master’s22+2 years817000 JPY/year930000 JPY/yearN1/C1JLPT/IELTS
Doctoral24+3 years880000 JPY/year950000 JPY/yearN1/C1JLPT/IELTS
In general, there are six types of higher educational institutions in Japan:
  • Universities;
  • Junior colleges;
  • Colleges of technology;
  • Professional training colleges;
  • Japanese language institutes;
  • Graduate schools.
ExpensesAverage cost
Exams30000 JPY
Registration fee~ 5000 JPY
Down payment218500 JPY
Flight85300 JPY
Rent70800 JPY/month
Food63000 JPY/month
Insurance16500 JPY/month
Learning materials190000 JPY/year

The options for admission to universities in Japan

Education in Japan

Foundation - Preparatory programs in Japan

In order to enroll in a Japanese university, applicants must graduate from the 12th grade of high school. Students from countries where the school lasts for 11 years can complete one year of the university in their country or take preparatory courses in Japan.
Such courses take from 1 to 2 years. Education starts in April or in October (if the course takes 1.5 years).
UniversityDurationCityCost
Tokyo University of Social welfare2 yearsTokyo960000 JPY
Kyoto Seizan College
  • 12 months
  • 18 months
Kyoto
  • 650000 JPY
  • 975000 JPY
  • Osaka International University1 yearOsaka570,000 JPY
    Chiba Institute of Science1 yearChiba600000 JPY
    Nanzan University1 yearNagoya680000 JPY
    A complete list of available courses can be found here.
    Training is conducted in Japanese, so all applicants must know Japanese at least at the level of N5 (A1).
    The general admission process is as follows:
    StepDeadline (beginning in April)Deadline (beginning in October)
    Submission of documents and payment of the first administrative feeAugust - NovemberFebruary - April
    Verification of school certificates by the universityNovember - DecemberMay - June
    The University sends letters of admissionNovember - DecemberMay - June
    Validation of immigration documents by the UniversityDecemberJune
    Sending eligibility certificates authorizing the stay in JapanEarly March (of the following year)Early September (of the following year)
    Acquiring a visa Mid-MarchMid-September
    Arrival to JapanEnd of March - the beginning of AprilEnd of September - the beginning of October
    Payment of the second administrative feeEarly AprilEarly October
    • Application;
    • Motivation letter in English or Japanese;
    • Medical certificate;
    • Notarized translation into Japanese of the certificate of completed secondary education and transcripts with grades;
    • Language certificate (if any);
    • Copy of the passport;
    • Passport photos;
    • Sponsorship letter from a person financing the study;
    • Sponsor’s annual income certificate;
    • Sponsor’s bank statement;
    • Eligibility certificate application (filled out by the contact person or sponsor at the Japanese Immigration center);
    • Copy of the ID card or residence permit of the contact person (if any).
    The contact person is a resident of Japan (or a foreigner temporarily staying in Japan, who oversees the delivery of the applicant's documents to the university. In the absence of such an intermediary, you must contact the university admission committee, which organizes the reception of documents directly.

    Submission of documents lasts from August to October-November (if studies begin in April next year) or from February to April (if studies begin in October next year).

    The curriculum consists not only of Japanese classes but also subjects in the chosen field. In humanities programs, students study English, mathematics, geography, history, political science, and economics. In science programs, students study English, mathematics, physics, biology, and chemistry. The program is designed to prepare students for the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) and the entrance examination EJU (Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students) before entering the university.

    College - Vocational education in Japan

    In Japan there are three types of colleges:
    College typeDurationDegree
    Junior2 - 3 yearsAssociate’s degree
    College of technology5 years (3 years)Associate’s degree
    Professional2 - 3 yearsDiploma / Advanced diploma (professional degree)
    • Junior colleges mainly provide training for students in the humanities, healthcare, and pedagogy. Graduates can either enter universities to continue their studies or seek work.
    • Сolleges of technology are higher education institutions offering a five-year program for 9th-grade graduates. As a rule, foreign students begin their studies immediately from the third year, skipping the first two years. Such colleges train highly qualified specialists who are versed in the latest technical developments. Graduates of technology colleges obtain an associate degree. They can also continue their studies for an additional two years, after which they have the opportunity to obtain a bachelor's degree by passing a special exam.
    • Professional colleges organize specialized higher education courses for high school graduates (12th grade). The training here is carried out in the following areas: medicine, technology, culture and general education, business, hygiene, education and social well-being, fashion and home economics, agriculture. After completing the courses, students with a specialist diploma can find a job or go to university for undergraduate programs. In addition, students can choose to undergo two additional years of study in order to receive an advanced diploma and be able to immediately apply for master's programs.
    • Passport;
    • Application;
    • Notarized translation into Japanese or English of the certificate of completed secondary education and transcripts with grades (if the student enters after graduating from high school);
    • Transcript with grades for the previous year of study (if the student enters after grade 9);
    • Letter of recommendation;
    • Language certificate.

    Bachelor’s in Japan - Undergraduate

    Japanese universities can choose the type of entrance examinations that suits them the most:

    • Selection based on the documents provided;
    • Academic ability testing;
    • Interview;
    • Short essays;
    • JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test);
    • EJU (Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students);
    • National Central Testing for University Admission;
    • Other qualifying tests and exams.
    EJU is a special exam designed for international students to test their Japanese proficiency level and academic ability. EJU centers are located not only in Japan but also abroad.
    Exams are held twice a year: in June and in November. It is necessary to apply from two to three months in advance.

    Students should choose the sections and subjects that the university requires:
    SectionSubjectsPointsLanguage
    Japanese as a foreign language-Writing 0-50, reading and listening 0-400Japanese
    Natural sciencesChoose two: physics, chemistry, biology0-200Japanese or English
    Japan and the world-0-200Japanese or English
    MathematicsChoose one: basic or advanced course0-200Japanese or English
    Please note that the sections "Natural Sciences" and "Japan and the World" are mutually exclusive.
    Students may need to pass the EJU several times, but only the results for the last two years are considered valid and only the results of one session can be submitted (that is, you can not, for example, take points for one discipline from last year's exam, and for another discipline from the current). The points received are announced one month after passing the exam.
    JLPT or Nihongo Nōryoku Shiken is a test created to determine the level of Japanese language proficiency among international students. It is held twice a year: in July and December. Applications, as in the case of EJU, must be sent two to three months in advance. Applicants can take it at any of the centers located around the world.
    The exam has five difficulty levels (N5-N1), each one corresponding to certain written and oral skills level.
    Conventionally, JLPT levels can be compared with the CEFR system:
    LevelCERFJLPT
    BeginnerA1-
    ElementaryA1 - A2N5
    Pre-IntermediateA2+N4
    IntermediateB1N4 - N3
    IntermediateB1+N3 - N2
    Upper-IntermediateB2N2
    Upper-IntermediateB2+N1
    AdvancedC1-
    The test consists of three parts: vocabulary and hieroglyphics, listening, reading and grammar. The student only needs to choose the correct answer from the above ones; writing in Japanese is not required.
    • Application;
    • Passport;
    • Passport photos;
    • Motivation letter;
    • Academic essay;
    • Notarized translation into Japanese or English of the certificate of completed secondary education and transcripts with grades;
    • Language certificate;
    • Letter of recommendation;
    • The results of an EJU or another entrance exam.
    Undergraduate programs normally last for 4 years. Students that specialize in medical fields (medical business, dentistry, veterinary medicine) study for 6 years.
    The academic year begins in April and ends in March of the following year.

    The curriculum consists of theoretical studies, lectures, seminars, laboratory work, master classes, internships, and research. At the end of their studies, students usually write and defend a scientific thesis. Bachelor graduates have the right to seek work or apply for master’s.

    Master's and Doctoral - Graduate/Postgraduate in Japan

    Master's and doctoral programs are organized by graduate schools, which can be either independent educational institutions or part of universities.
    Studies usually last for two years. Please note that an important condition for admission is the conformity of the specialty studied in the bachelor's degree with the chosen direction of the master’s degree.
    In order to be able to enroll in a master's course, students must fulfill one of the criteria:
    • Completed undergraduate studies at a Japanese university;
    • Completed 16 years of study (including high school) in another country;
    • Be 22 years old, have a bachelor's degree (or its equivalent) or higher.
    Many Japanese universities, unlike European ones, also arrange entrance examinations when they enroll in graduate school (see the previous section).
    • Application;
    • Language certificate;
    • Notarized translation into Japanese or English of the bachelor’s degree and transcripts with grades;
    • Grade Point Average (GPA);
    • Motivation letter;
    • Recommendations;
    • Resume/CV;
    • Research proposal;
    • Scientific publications (if any).
    Some universities may put forward additional requirements, for example, results of GRE in specialized subjects or a letter from a professor who agreed to act as a supervisor.
    Subjects are divided into three categories: basic, research and electives. The first three semesters are devoted to the study of theory, and the last semester is devoted to writing a research paper (thesis). At the end of the training, students pass the final exams and defend their work.

    Doctoral studies - Postgraduate in Japan

    Doctoral studies take 3 years on average. For admission, students must have a master's degree and pass the entrance tests. In addition, students usually should contact the future supervisor in advance by sending a letter with the goals and objectives, explaining the relevance of the work, as well as a detailed outline of the planned study.
    Students that fulfill one of the following criteria can apply for doctoral programs:
    • Received a master's degree, a professional degree or the equivalent at a Japanese university;
    • Completed 16 years (including high school) of study in another country and engaged in research activities for at least 2 years;
    • Be 24 years old and has a master's degree or equivalent.
    • Application;
    • Language certificate;
    • Notarized translation into Japanese or English of the bachelor’s diploma and transcripts with grades;
    • Grade Point Average (GPA);
    • Motivation letter;
    • Recommendations;
    • Resume/CV;
    • Theses paper done during the master’s (or equivalent);
    • Research proposal;
    • Scientific advisor information;
    • Scientific publications (if any).
    Some universities may have additional requirements, such as GRE results for core subjects.

    An academic career in Japan consists of the following steps:

    • Researcher (Jokyō);
    • Lecturer (Kōshi);
    • Associate Professor (Junkyōju);
    • Professor (Kyōju);
    • Senior Professor (Meiyo Kyōju).
    Classes are usually taught by professors, associate professors, and lecturers, while lab work and workshops are usually led by researchers. All posts can be either permanent or temporary. The latter include the word "tokunin" in the title.
    In Japan, there are no strict requirements for obtaining each title/position - universities can set the criteria on their own. The basic requirements are a doctoral degree and knowledge of English at C1+ level.

    Scholarships and grants in Japan

    Education in Japan is not free for both foreigners and local residents. However, there are categories of students who are exempt from tuition fees:

    • Master’s and doctoral students who are not able to pay for tuition at the university due to economic circumstances, but differ in outstanding academic merit;
    • Students who are unable to pay for tuition due to the death of the person who was a sponsor of training;
    • Students who are not able to pay for tuition due to a natural disaster (flood, hurricane) that occurred during the previous year;
    • Students who are unable to pay tuition due to any other difficult circumstances.
    For foreign students many grants and scholarships are available:
    State scholarships in Japan (Monbukagakusho: MEXT). The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology offers seven scholarships to applicants:

    Type of scholarshipAgeRequirementsPayments / month Duration
    Young Leaders ProgramUp to 35Administrative and business fields, bachelor’s or college graduates242000 JPY1 year
    For Bachelor students17 - 25Students in the humanities and natural sciences117000 JPY5 years
    For students in Master’s and doctoral programsUp to 35Graduates of Bachelor’s or Master’s programs that continue to study at the university144000 JPY2 years
    For students of pedagogical directionUp to 35Graduates of Bachelor’s or college with 5 years of experience (in Japan or home country)144000 JPYUp to 1,5 years
    For students of Japanese studies18 - 29Students who have completed Bachelor’s in Japanese studies at a foreign university117000 JPY1 year
    For students of professional college17 - 25Students who have previously completed 12 years of secondary school117000 JPY3 years
    For students of a technology college17 - 25Students who have previously completed 11 years (or more) of secondary school117000 JPY4 years
    Each scholarship, in addition to tuition, includes the full cost of two tickets to Japan (round-trip), as well as a full exemption (for the period of the scholarship) from additional registration fees at the university. You can apply for financial assistance through the university or the Japanese Embassy. Next, students need to go through an interview and pass written tests for knowledge of Japanese and English, as well as subjects of their chosen specialty. Please note that students who receive a MEXT scholarship cannot receive any other scholarships.

    Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately-Financed International Students. JASSO (Japan Student Services Organization) is a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to foreign students studying at Japanese universities, higher schools, research centers, colleges, and preparatory courses.
    Basic requirements:

    • Letter of recommendation from an educational institution;
    • The funds sent to the student by the family should not exceed 90000 JP /month;
    • The annual income of the sponsor of training should not exceed ,00,000 JPY/year;
    • GPA of 2.30 or more in the year preceding the year of the scholarship application.
    The scholarship size is from 30000 to 48000 JPY.
    Local scholarships from the government or international companies are entirely dependent on the municipality of the prefecture, the university, and sponsoring organizations. The main requirement is the residence in the territory of a particular city or district. Additionally, letters of recommendation from the university or participation in events for foreigners organized by the municipality may be required.

    Scholarship typeCityExtra RequirementsPayments Duration
    Kitami scholarship for international studentsKitamiA university or college student living in Kitami200000 JPY/year1 year
    Otawara scholarship for international studentsOtawaraStudent lives in Otawara; letter of recommendation from the university10000 JPY/month1 year
    Shinjuku scholarship for international studentsTokyoStudent living in Shinjuku who has already studied for one year at the university and plans to study for at least another year240000 JPY/year1 year
    Private grants. Many organizations also set up private foundations to provide material assistance to foreign students.

    OrganizationExtra RequirementsPayments Duration
    Iizuka Takeshi Scholarship FoundationInstitutions of Tochigi Prefecture, Bachelor’s, Master’s, and doctoral students45000 JPY/monthFor the duration of the study
    Ishidsu Shun Memorial ScholarshipMedical students at 37 universities in eastern Japan100000 JPY/month2 years
    Kajima IkueikaiMaster's degree in architecture or engineering at the University of Tokyo or Tokyo Institute of Technology100000 JPY/month2 years
    A full list of all possible scholarships and the exact conditions for their receipt can be found here.

    Student Visa for Study in Japan

    The choice of a Japanese visa depends on the duration of study.
    • A short-term (tourist) visa is issued for 15, 30 and 90 days. A 15 and 30-day visa is enough to take an orientation language course and get acquainted with the culture of Japan. This visa does not give the right to request a work permit but is suitable for a tourist visit to the country. A 90-day visa is suitable for those who come for the whole summer and plan to undergo more serious language training.
    • A student visa is issued for a period of six months. When applying for long-term language courses, students usually get a visa for 1 year and then renew for another year. You can live in Japan with this type of visa for more than two years only if you enroll in an educational institution. A student visa is issued 4 times a year: in April, July, October, and January. A visa for applicants entering a college (Shugaku) and a visa for university students (Ryugaku) can be issued for a period of 4 years at a time, this is enough for the entire time of the study. In case the student enters the master's program or MBA, the visa is extended, and if the graduate finds a job, the employer submits documents for a work permit.
    A guarantor, an educational institution that enrolled an applicant, is managing the process of obtaining a visa for students. In addition to colleges and universities, Japanese language schools also have this right. As a rule, employees collect and submit all the necessary documents to the Embassy or Consular Section of the Embassy of Japan at the place of registration of the student. A visa is prepared in about 3-4 months. The consular registration fee is not charged.

    • Passport;
    • International passport;
    • Two applications;
    • Two passport photographs;
    • Certificate of completed secondary education or a diploma;
    • The flight booking confirmation;
    • Program of stay.

    Work while studying in Japan

    A student visa allows students to work part-time (up to 28 hours a week) and full-time up to 8 hours a day during the break. The average minimum wage is 800 JPY/hour but may vary in different prefectures (for example, in Tokyo, the minimum wage is 958 JPY/hour). Typically, students receive about 59000 JPY/month.
    Most often, students can find work in the service or teaching sector, in any case, an important requirement will be fluency in Japanese.

    Immigration opportunities

    After graduation, foreign students can stay to work in the country. In order to have the right to stay in the country for the purpose of work, it is necessary to exchange a student visa for a work permit after employment. Often, while studying, students would get an internship at a company in which they want to continue working after graduation, and when it happens, they are ready to sign a contract.

    • Two copies of the visa application form;
    • International passport;
    • Passport;
    • Two passport photographs;
    • Japanese university degree/diploma;
    • Eligibility certificate.
    To obtain Japanese citizenship it is necessary:
    • To live in the country for at least 5 consecutive years (time spent in Japan on a student visa is not taken into account);
    • Be over 20 years old (or other legal age established in the alien’s home country);
    • Confirm that there is no criminal record, as well as any other violations of the law (even one speeding fine can affect the decision of the commission);
    • Obtain and present a certificate of the National Pension System of Japan;
    • Confirm the ability to provide for yourself;
    • Abandon home country citizenship;
    • Sign a document stating that the foreigner was never a member of political or other organizations that planned to destroy or called for the destruction of the Japanese state and constitution.

    Prospects and job opportunities in Japan

    Japan is one of the countries with the lowest unemployment rate in the world - only 2.3% (average rate - 5%)[8]. The minimum wage is 874 JPY/hour. The availability of jobs at the moment is 1.57, that is, 100 potential candidates for 157 vacancies.
    Japan - General information
    RegionEastern Asia
    CapitalTokyo
    LanguageJapanese
    CurrencyYen
    Population127,253,075
    Statistics - Education
    Indicator
    Popularity rating in the world7
    Ranking of universities in the world4
    Academic Reputation 10
    Employer Reputation 9
    Quality of teaching 3
    International Faculty 34
    International Students 36
    Citations per Faculty 11
    Statistics - Universities
    Universities in top 100 5
    Universities in top 200 8
    Universities in top 500 15
    Universities in top 1000 41
    Universities in top 5000 278
    Cost of living in Japan
    Expenses - USD/Month.Min.Med.
    Accommodation 291 493
    Food 321 470
    Transportation 71 275
    Communications and utilities 97 126
    Clothing 23 88
    Sports and leisure 47 147
    Total8501,599
    Accommodation in Japan USD/Month.
    Shared room outside of centre294
    Shared room in city centre498
    1 bedroom apartment outside of centre429
    1 bedroom apartment in city centre694
    Location on map