How to Study in Japan for International Students (4 Steps) (2023)

Japan – the Land of the Rising Sun – is a prominent country in East Asia. Apart from its rich cultural heritage, the country is also known for its high quality of education. It has some of the best universities in the world, with the University of Tokyo listed at number 22 by the World University Rankings.

Other universities included in the top 100 list are Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Osaka University, and Tohoku University.

With its many prominent schools, Japan has spawned the interest of many students who wish to pursue a global education. If you have already set your sights on Japan, then read on to learn more about how you can study in universities in Japan as international students.

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How to Study in Japan as International Students

To study in Japan, here are some necessary steps that you need to take:

  1. You should know the cost of studying in Japan before you start your preparation. This is vital since many international students apply to Japanese universities and get accepted, but can’t afford to study in Japan. Also, knowing how to reduce the cost of studying in Japan is crucial for international students.
  2. Next, you will need to familiarize yourself with the general application requirements and prepare to meet those requirements. The major ones are language requirements and application requirements.
  3. Now, you will need to apply to different Japanese universities after you are done preparing to meet the requirements.
  4. After you get accepted, you will need to get a student visa.

1. Cost of Studying in Japan

The tuition fee for Japanese universities can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000 a year. The cost of living, on the other hand, will depend on where you are plan to live. Of course, residing in the city would cost you more. For example, Tokyo housing rentals cost as much as $4,000 per semester, compared to just $2,000 in the rural areas.

Apart from housing rentals, you also need to factor in other expenditures such as food, transportation, and utilities.

2. General Application Requirements for Studying in Japan for International Students

If you wish to study in Japan as an international student, then you need to be meet all the following requirements for international students:

General English Requirements (Undergraduate)

Although Japanese is the primary medium of instruction in universities, they teach English courses as well. As such, English proficiency tests are required from international applicants who don’t have English as their primary language.

The desired scores will depend on the school and the degree you wish to take. The admissible digits usually range from 79 to 90 for the TOEFL and 6 to 6.5 for the IELTS. As for the Cambridge English exam, a grade of B to C would do.

In schools such as the University of Tokyo, the English test score requirement is 6.5 for IELTS. Its TOEFL requirement is at the higher end of the spectrum at 90. It also prefers a “C1 Advanced” certification for Cambridge English test takers.

As for Tohoku University, the acceptable IELTS band is 6.0 and 79 for TOEFL. As for the Cambridge English Test, the minimum requirement is a Grade B. This denotes independent knowledge of the English language.

Because of the varying requirements, it is important to check your school’s official website regarding its preferred English test scores.

General English Requirements (Graduate)

The English requirements for post-graduate degrees are essentially similar to that of undergraduates. Again, it ranges from 79 to 90 for the TOEFL, 6 to 6.5 for the IELTS, and Grade B to C for the Cambridge English test.

Again, you must check your school’s official website for their exact requirements on English proficiency tests.

Application Requirements (Undergraduate)

If you wish to pursue a baccalaureate degree in Japan, you will need to complete and submit the following requirements:

  • Certification of secondary schoolings, such as an International Baccalaureate or its equivalent
  • Entrance exam
  • English proficiency test (scores mentioned above)
  • Application form

In some universities such as the University of Tokyo, you may be asked to submit other documents such as 2 evaluation forms and an essay.

The application fees usually range from $45 (JPY 5,000) to $89 (JPY 9,800). These can be paid through an online payment gateway or bank deposit.

Application Requirements (Graduate)

If you wish to apply for a Master’s degree, you need to have finished at least 2 years of undergraduate schooling. In other words, you must have completed at least a total of 16 years of studies outside Japan.

To apply for a doctorate, you should be 24 years or older. You should also have a master’s, professional master’s, or a Juris Doctor degree from a university in Japan or another country.

Some universities may also require applicants to pass the entrance exam.

Apart from these basic requirements, post-graduate students need to submit an application form, certification of baccalaureate studies, and 2 letters of recommendation.

The application fees for graduate studies can cost up to $273 (JPY 30,000).

For more info about all the necessary graduate school requirements, visit the admission portal of your preferred university.

Preparing to meet the application requirements and even go above is a critical step of studying in Japan for international students. Definitely take your time in studying for standardized exams and getting your GPA up as well.

3. Application Procedure for Studying in Japan

Japanese universities, like other western universities, start schooling in September. The schedule for application – and its corresponding deadlines – will depend on the school and the degree you wish to take. International students who want to study in Japan need to follow the application procedure, apply, and get accepted.


In premiere schools such as the University of Tokyo, prospective baccalaureate students need to start with the application procedure exactly a year before. For example, if you want to study this September, you should have started applying in September of last year.

As for Osaka University, the first step of applying is to take the entrance examination. The deadline for admissions in the Spring semester was May the year before.

Given the varying dates between universities, make sure to check your school’s website for the application schedules and deadlines.


The application period for graduate students, on the other hand, is usually done a few months before the semester. For the University of Tokyo summer semester (September start of the classes), the application deadline is set for June of that year.

If you wish to study in Japan during the winter semester (start of classes in April), the application window is open in November of the year before.

As for Kyoto University, the application process usually starts about a year before. If you want to commence your studies this October, then you need to start applying by November the year before. As for the winter semester (April), the application period starts the March year before.

Given the differences in application schedules amongst universities, it is always best to check your university’s website for the official schedule.

4. Visa Application

Once you have gotten accepted to your university of choice, you need to set your sights on the visa application process. This is the final step of studying in Japan for international students and is the easiest step. You first need to apply for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE), which is given by the Ministry of Justice to applicants who meet the conditions for landing in Japan.

Once you have this, you need to submit the COE together with the following documents required by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

  • Visa application form (2 copies for Russians and Georgians)
  • 1 photograph taken within the last 3 months (2 pieces for Russians and Georgians)
  • Certificate of Admission (from the university)
  • Chinese family register (as applicable)
  • Temporary residence permit or certificate (for an applicant without a family register)
  • Valid passport

Other requirements may be needed according to your nation of origin. As such, you need to visit the website of your country’s Japanese Embassy for other additional documents.

Remember that the student visa duration varies accordingly. The length of stay can range from 3 months to 4 years and 3 months. You may need to apply for a visa extension as necessary.

With that being said, you can only extend your visa as long as you are an enrolled student at a Japanese university. Your visa will be forfeited if you are no longer studying (graduated, dropped out, etc.)

Congratulations! Now that you have your student visa, you are all set to go to Japan. What you need to do now is to buy your airplane tickets. Of course, you need to make sure that your living arrangements are already in place before you fly to Japan.

Remember, the Japanese put a high premium on education. So good luck and study well!

I hope that this article was helpful. If you are interested, visit theScholarships Page!

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