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Study in Japan

Graduate programs in Japan

As the industrial and technical hub of Asia, Japan has been at the forefront of progress in many areas – from the bullet train to robots to telecommunications, Japan’s major cities often seem light-years ahead of the rest of the world. As an ambitious postgraduate student, then, is there anywhere more exciting in the world to continue your studies?

In Tokyo, Japan’s capital, you will find over 100 universities sitting alongside Michelin starred restaurants and skyscrapers in what has been called the ‘most liveable megapolis’ in the world. Tokyo is also the biggest metropolitan area on the planet, has the highest number of Fortune 500 companies (51 of anywhere), and is at the forefront of finance, publishing, broadcasting and transportation.

Clearly, choosing to study for a graduate program in Japan will offer you far more than just an academic education.

Population: 127,817,277

Education overview

The Japanese academic year runs from April to March. The country has around 780 universities, a number of which are world-leading. The most prominent include:

  • The University of Tokyo (also noted as the best university in Asia*)
  • Kyoto University
  • Tokyo Institute of Technology
  • Osaka University
  • Tohoku University

There are two options for postgraduate study in Japan:

  • Masters programs – two years
  • Doctoral programs – five years

All universities have different requirements for graduate programs, but as a general rule students must have completed 16 years of formal education (including an undergraduate degree), or 18 years for medical and dental courses.

Approximately 80% of Japan’s universities are private – there are five times more private universities than public.

Immigration and visas in Japan

Postgraduate students looking to study overseas at university in Japan should obtain a Certificate of Eligibility and a visa, which should be applied for directly from the Japanese embassy in their home country. 

Applicants will need the following:

  • The Application for Certificate of Eligibility
  • Two passport photographs
  • Letter of acceptance from university

It is advised that you apply for your Japanese visa within plenty of time in order than it can be sufficiently processed.

Life in Japan

Student life in Japan will vary depending on where you choose to study – living in Tokyo, for example, is likely to be extremely expensive, and you will find the choice of restaurants, cultural attractions and job opportunities to be plentiful. If you live in the countryside or in the suburbs your day to day life will be much quieter, and you may have more opportunities to take part in sports – something that is an important part of Japanese culture.

Many international students choose to travel whilst studying abroad, and Japan offers many opportunities for this – from bustling Tokyo to historical Kyoto to the many islands that the country is made up of, broadening your cultural horizons in easy in Japan.

Japan also has a National Health Insurance (NHI) system, which you must join if you are in the country more than one year.

Working in Japan

If you want to work in Japan after the completion of your postgraduate course you need to change your status from College Student so the authorities are aware you are there for the purpose of employment. You can find information on how to do this on the Ministry of Justice Immigration Bureau website.

Main industries in Japan that you could pursue, amongst others, include telecommunications, electronics, textiles and chemical industries.
As a foreign student, the Japanese government may also be able to offer you support in finding work within a Japanese company.


The cost of accommodation in Japan varies depending on where you decide to study – whether you are in the centre of a city, for example. Tokyo is by far the most expensive place in Japan.

There are two main types of accommodation for students:

  • University accommodation – on campus dorms
  • Private accommodation – house and flat rentals

The overwhelming majority (76.8% in 2010) of international students in Japan live in private houses rather than university halls, and these can be found through estate agents, local government or the international student office of your university. It is extremely likely that you will choose this housing option as a postgraduate student.

Climate in Japan

The climate of Japan varies largely depending on where you are. As a general rule, spring months are March to May, summer is June to August, autumn is September to November and winter is December to February.


The main method of transport in Japan is via road, but there are multiple railways companies operating across the country, connecting major cities - the country’s transport systems are advanced.

There are also 176 airports, and numerous waterways that connect the country’s many islands.


The currency in Japan is the Yen (¥).

What to do next

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Universities and cities in Japan