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Thinking of studying in Japan? Read our guide to find out everything you need to know about Japanese universities and student life, and what steps to take next. Known for making things smaller, faster and first, Japan was until recently the second-largest economy in the world (it’s now third, behind the US and China).

Its economic strength is at least partly due to the strong research and development industry that underlies successful international brands such as Nissan, Toyota, Panasonic, Canon and Sony – as well as producing robots for every need imaginable. Unsurprisingly, an excellent higher education system lies behind all this innovation.

Universities in Japan

If you consider Japan to be your study destination, the homeland of the bullet train, Nintendo Wii, instant noodles and karaoke, you’ll be pleased to know Japan wants you too.The government is keen to attract more international students, and has set a target of having 300,000 foreign students in the country by 2020 (it reached the 100,000 mark in 2003). As a result, universities are focusing on making life easier for foreign students, from the application process all the way through to finding a job after graduation. One thing that will certainly help to attract international students is the introduction of more courses taught partly or entirely in English. Other schemes to attract more overseas students include:
Hiring special staff to support international students.
Allowing students to start courses in September (instead of April, which is when Japan’s academic year usually starts).
Recruiting more teaching staff from outside Japan.
Increasing exchange programs with universities in other countries.

Aware that living and studying in Japan is expensive compared to many countries, the government has also introduced additional financial support for foreign students. Various university scholarships and grants are available through the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO).

There are approximately 780 universities in Japan, of which about 80% are private. There are also specialized schools and colleges that provide more vocational types of degree.

The nation’s strongest global ranking is currently claimed by the University of Tokyo, which ranks joint 28th in the QS World Rankings 2018, up to six places from the previous year. Close behind are Kyoto University (joint 36th) and Tokyo Institute of Technology, with a further 40 Japanese universities ranked among the world’s best.

from the previous year. Close behind are Kyoto University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, with a further 36 Japanese universities ranked among the world’s best.

University of Tokyo

This University, or “Todai”, continues to be Japan’s highest entrant in the overall world rankings and has a very strong global reputation across a wide range of disciplines. Featured in 39 out of 46 subjects, in the QS world ranking list 2017, the University of Tokyo performs very well, ranked among the global top 100 for every one of these subjects. Most impressively, it appears in the world’s top 10 for modern languages, physics and astronomy, pharmacy, chemistry, mechanical engineering, and chemical engineering.

Kyoto University

Based in Japan’s old capital city of Kyoto, this is the second highest-ranked university in the country, up to one place to rank joint 36th. It also has a strong presence in the QS World Ranking by subject, featuring among the world’s best in 35 out of 46 Subjects, covered in 2017. Of these, it ranks within the world’s top 50 for 18 subjects, including biological sciences, several branches of engineering, materials sciences, modern languages, and physics & astronomy.

Osaka University

Located in the third most populous city in Japan, the Osaka University, also known as “Handai”, is ranked 63rd in the latest QS World University Rankings. It holds a strong reputation across a number of research fields, featuring among the world’s best for 29 subjects in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017, featuring in the global top 50 for chemistry, biological sciences, chemical engineering, physics and astronomy, dentistry and materials sciences.