Conditions and Costs for Studying Abroad in Japan for International Students 2024-2025

The island nation of Japan lies south of the Asian mainland in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of a chain of four main islands and a number of secondary islands. Almost sixty percent of its area of over 378,000 square kilometers belongs to the centrally located and largest island of Honshū, which is also known as the Japanese heartland. Hokkaidō lies to the north and Shikoku and Kyūshū to the southwest.

Studying in Japan - in the land of volcanoes

As the Japanese islands lie above four tectonic plates, seismic activity of varying intensity interrupts the lives of the Japanese at regular intervals. All the islands are mountainous to mountainous and rich in volcanoes. Around forty of them are still active. These include Mount Fuji, the highest peak in the island state at 3,776 meters.

Due to the volcanic activity, the population in Japan is centered on just under a quarter of the total area. Eight million people live in the capital city of Tokyo alone, and almost 36 million if the metropolitan area is included. Tokyo would therefore be the most populous city in the world. The total Japanese population is 128 million.

Subarctic to subtropical - the climate in Japan

The climate in the "Land of the Rising Sun" varies greatly. On the North Island, it is subarctic with extremely cold and long winters, which are very snowy in the northwest. Summers, on the other hand, are hot and dry. The south of the island has a subtropical climate, making it humid and humid in summer. Different monsoons characterize the Japanese climate all year round and bring heavy rainfall and winds. On the south-western islands there are frequent typhoons in late summer and tsunamis on the coasts.

Economy and culture

The monarchy of the Japanese island state is the oldest in the world. It can be traced back to the sixth century BC. Currently, the emperor-like Tennō Akihito presides over the parliamentary monarchy with a lower and upper house.

Japan's economy is strongly characterized by exports and ranks fourth in the world. The most important export sectors include mechanical engineering, the automotive industry and electronics. The service sector also plays an important role in Japan. The country is also increasingly characterized by research and the development of high technologies.

The majority of Japanese people are Buddhists or follow Shintōism, a natural religion practiced almost exclusively in Japan. Many Japanese are even followers of both faiths. Studying in Japan is a particularly good way to gain an insight into cultural traditions, some of which are thousands of years old.

Higher education in Japan

Within the Japanese tradition, the topic of education is of great importance. Among other things, the Japanese rely on intensive early childhood education. Their children therefore learn their first kanji characters in kindergarten. The school years that follow are considered to be among the most demanding in the world, yet 97% of pupils complete secondary school. More than half of them go on to attend university.

Japanese university culture emerged after 1868 during the so-called Meiji Restoration: with the increasing interest of the Japanese in Western culture and the political opening of the country, nine Imperial Universities were founded. They were modeled on Berlin's Humboldt University: the ideal of free, self-sufficient research closely linked to teaching. Japan recruited highly paid foreign experts to teach Western knowledge and modernize the tradition-conscious country.

Today, Japan has

over 750 universities (Daigaku)

400 junior colleges (Tanki Daigaku)

60 technical colleges (Kôtôsenmongakkô) without university status.

Private educational institutions play the most important role: they make up three quarters of the higher education landscape in Japan and their number is constantly growing. Private universities are usually more internationally oriented and often specialize in certain subject areas. The public universities are financed by the Ministry of Culture and Science Mombu-Kagaku-shō and administered by the state and regional authorities.

Just over three million people study at Japan's universities. International students studying abroad in Japan make up only a small percentage of this figure: In 2009, it was around four percent, of which over 90 percent came from the neighboring Asian countries of China, South Korea and Taiwan. Among German students, Japan is still considered something of an insider tip, with only around 450 of them finding their way to Japan each year.

The biggest barrier to international students studying abroad in Japan seems to be that most universities only offer courses in Japanese. Many foreigners have therefore so far only taken part in language courses. Studying in English in Japan is currently only possible at a few universities. The majority of English-language courses are only offered as part of a few exchange programs or at universities with a particularly international focus.

Quality assurance at universities in Japan

One of the Japanese government's current goals is to encourage more international students to study in Japan. The number of foreign students is to be tripled by 2020. To date, 13 selected universities such as the University of Tokyo and Ritsumeikan University are taking part in the Global 30 project initiated for this purpose. The Japanese government is also supporting science and research centers in further expanding their international contacts. And it encourages international institutions to establish themselves in the country.

Three bodies check and guarantee the quality of Japanese universities:

the Standards for Establishing University (SEU),

the Establishment-Approval System (EAS) and

the Quality Assurance and Accreditation System (QAAS).

Nevertheless, there are major differences between the universities in Japan: On the one hand, there are some renowned top universities with highly qualified lecturers, the best equipment, individual support and a large budget for scholarships and travel funds. On the other hand, there are also mediocre universities that only offer short courses.

If you decide to study in Japan, you will quickly realize that oral participation is less important at Japanese universities than in Germany. Exams are primarily used to test the knowledge acquired. In the professional world, it is not so much the subject or the final grade that is important, but rather the reputation of the university attended and soft skills. Career changers from other disciplines have good chances if they show loyalty and commitment to the company.

Japan's study system

Japan's academic year is usually divided into two semesters: from April to September and from October to March. After the end of the Second World War, the Japanese education system was restructured along the lines of the US model. Since then, it has been classically divided into undergraduate and postgraduate studies.


The first stage of study in Japan lasts three to four years and ends with the professional bachelor's degree Gakushi. It begins with a general education phase, which is followed by two to four semesters of in-depth study. In the final phase, students complete a written thesis. An exception is made for all medical subjects, which comprise six years of undergraduate studies and lead to so-called professional doctorates. Most Japanese students enter professional life directly after completing their Bachelor's degree. As a rule, they sign the subsequent employment contract before the end of their studies.


Those who want to go into more depth or work in science and research later on can supplement their bachelor's degree with a postgraduate course. These initially end after two years with the written thesis and the Shushi degree. This degree is roughly equivalent to the German Master's degree or the Magister, Diplom or first state examination.

The Shushi gives access to the three-year doctoral program and the Hakase, in which students conduct independent research. In some cases, they replace the written doctoral thesis with a corresponding list of publications or many years of university activity. In exceptional cases, very talented students have the opportunity to complete their doctorate directly after their Bachelor's degree. In this case, the doctoral program takes about five years.


The numerous Japanese colleges offer teaching at a non-university level. They are aimed at young people between the ages of 17 and 22. At the public and private junior colleges, they can take two to three-year short courses with a strong practical focus.

By contrast, studies at the purely state-run technical colleges take five years, as teaching begins in the last three years of upper secondary school. The colleges award associate degrees with diplomas or certificates. The recognition of these degrees in Germany is very difficult, as there is no equivalent in the German study system.

Requirements for studying in Japan

In order to be admitted to study in Japan, you must take the central University Entrance Examination Center Test. This entrance exam is very demanding, so that often less than 20 percent of participants pass at the first attempt. Those who fail usually try again after a year of preparation. The Japanese call these candidates ronin, in reference to samurai who have become masterless.

Many universities expect further examinations in addition to the University Entrance Examination Center Test. For Japanese students, the performance required in the application phase is usually higher than later in their actual studies. After passing the university entrance examinations, this enormous pressure to perform usually falls away.

Another general requirement for admission to a degree course in Japan is at least twelve years of schooling. This corresponds to the (technical) Abitur in Germany. If applicants have only completed ten or eleven years of schooling, they must first complete one to two years of university preparatory courses.

A four-year undergraduate degree or equivalent is generally required for a Master's degree in Japan. The maximum age for this is 35 years. The general minimum age is 22 for a Master's degree and 24 for a doctorate. In addition, written confirmation from a supervisor is often required. The universities also require applicants to submit their most recent written work. Some universities hold individual oral examinations. A university committee then decides on the admission itself.

Studying in Japan - requirements for international applicants

To study in Japan, international applicants must also take a standardized admission test, the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU). This is organized every year by the Association for International Education, Japan (AIEJ) in Tokyo and Osaka. Additional language and subject-specific tests are also held at each university. For students already enrolled at an international university, these tests are usually somewhat easier.

Admission for one or more semesters abroad in Japan is usually much easier. Short-term students (tokubetsu kenkyuusei) usually only have to take a language placement test. Nevertheless, the criteria for admission vary from university to university. Always check with the respective Ryugakusei Center (student secretariat) before applying.

Language certificates for studying in Japan

Most state and private universities require international applicants to provide proof of sufficient knowledge of Japanese. This applies in particular to full-time study in Japan. The corresponding Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) has four levels of difficulty. As a rule, applicants only need to achieve the first level, i.e. they must

about 2,000 Japanese-Chinese kanji characters and

and 10,000 vocabulary words


Various schools and universities offer one to two-year Japanese courses. Those interested can take the JLPT test at the adult education center in Düsseldorf.

There are also a number of foreign universities in Japan where classes are usually taught in English. These universities require proof of good English language skills via standardized tests such as the TOEFL or IELTS.

Studying in Japan - costs

The amount of tuition fees at Japanese universities varies greatly. They vary depending on the type of institution (private or public), the chosen subject and the length of study. Private universities and highly practice-oriented subjects such as medicine and engineering are the most expensive. Private universities charge an average of around 800,000 yen (approx. EUR 7,300) per year, while public universities charge around 500,000 yen (approx. EUR 4,500).

The cost of living in Japan is quite high compared to Europe. Housing is extremely expensive, especially in the metropolitan areas. The cheapest and therefore most sought-after accommodation is student halls of residence. Rooms can be rented from around EUR 350 plus a one-off move-in fee and deposit. Shared flats are rather unusual in Japan. It is more common for single people to rent an apartment, which can cost the equivalent of EUR 600 to 900 for a small room. There is usually a deposit of three to six months' rent, part of which is retained by the landlord as a fee.

Funding opportunities for studying in Japan

In order to keep the expected high costs of studying in Japan within reasonable limits, applicants should find out about funding opportunities in advance. Both Japanese and German organizations offer scholarships. The Japanese Ministry of Education offers research and language scholarships to German students of all disciplines. The application and pre-selection for these so-called Monbushô scholarships is handled by the DAAD, the final selection by the Ministry itself.

Another popular address is the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, which approves further scholarships. In addition, individual Japanese universities award full or partial scholarships, which are usually easy to obtain due to the low number of foreign applicants. It is important to allow sufficient application time and ideally to start preparing about a year before the planned stay.

Another option is the Auslands-BAföG. The application is also worthwhile for those who do not receive BAföG in Germany, as the assessment limits for BAföG abroad are higher. The duration is usually one year with funding of up to EUR 4,600 for tuition fees and additional grants for living costs and flights. Students who are not eligible for funding can alternatively take out a student loan to study in Japan.

A student visa does not include a work permit. It is therefore not possible to look for a job while studying in Japan.

Visa and entry requirements in Japan

A student visa (college status) for studying abroad in Japan is issued by the Japanese consulate or embassy. A passport valid for at least six months and a certificate of enrolment from a Japanese university are required for entry. The processing time for a visa is usually six to eight weeks. As a rule, students need a guarantor for this, which can also be provided by the university. As foreigners are generally required to have a passport in Japan, you should always carry your passport and identity card with you.