Higher Education in Japan


Japan is a long, narrow chain of islands that stretch somewhat like a bow in a north-westerly direction in the Pacific Ocean on the eastern edge of the Eurasian continent. It lies at about the same latitudes as Northern Africa, Southern Europe and the U.S. mainland. Japan covers a total land area of about 378,000 square kilometers and stretches 2,500 km from north to south. It comprises four main islands: Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, plus the Ryukyu Islands (Okinawa) and many other smaller islands. Honshu is divided into five regions, which are, from the north, Tohoku, Kanto, Chubu, Kinki and Chugoku. Nearly 127 million people live in this limited area.

The climate is generally mild, but seasonal changes are distinct. Spring and autumn are usually quite pleasant, but in summer (July – August) seasonal winds blow from the Pacific making it hot and humid, and in winter (December – February) seasonal winds blow from the continent making it quite cold. Apart from Hokkaido, rainfall is high around the month of June known as the rainy season. As ranges of mountains run lengthwise along the center of Honshu, there are also pronounced regional differences in climate. Hokkaido and the Japan Seaside of Honshu have heavy snowfalls in winter.

Japanese dishes consist mainly of rice, together with vegetables, fish or meat, but Western and Chinese meals are also popular. Currently, a wide variety of cuisine from all over the world is available. Tap water is safe to drink throughout the country.


Education in Japan comprises six years of elementary school, three years of lower secondary school and three years of upper secondary school. There are five different categories of higher education institutions for international students – the graduate schools, the universities, the colleges of technology, the junior colleges and the professional training colleges and they can be categorised based on their administration into national, local public and private. The academic year in higher education institutions follows the semester system:

April – September;
October – March.

Vacations vary according to universities and faculties, but there are usually three vacations in a year:

Summer:         late July – early September;
Winter:            late December – early January;
Spring:            February – March

Japanese Language Institutes

Higher education institutions in Japan conduct almost all courses in Japanese language with only a few offering courses in English. It is important, therefore, that international students wishing to study in Japan have an adequate knowledge of the Japanese language. Many international students study the language in Japan for six months to two years before applying for admission to higher education institutions.

Japanese language institutes are intended to teach the Japanese language to non-Japanese speakers. For international students aiming to be admitted to higher education institutions in Japan, many Japanese language institutes offer preparation courses for JLPT, EJU (including Mathematics, Science and Japan and the World), and university admission exams.

(a) Japanese Language Institutes for International Students from Countries Who Have Completed 12 Years of Formal Education

Preparatory Japanese Language Programs offered at Private Universities and Junior Colleges

Some private universities and colleges offer preparatory Japanese language courses in a manner similar to that of Japanese language institute. Students planning to further study in university may choose to study at its Preparatory Japanese Language Program and gain admission through its recommendation. Students can also apply for admission into other universities. Preparatory Japanese Language Programs offered at Private Universities and Junior Colleges are also known as “Bekka” in short.

(b) Japanese Language Institutes for International Students from Countries Where Formal School Education is Less Than 12 Years

University Preparatory Courses

In principal, one must have completed 12 years of formal education to apply for admission to a higher education institution in Japan. Malaysian students who have completed 11 years of primary and secondary education and wish to apply for admission to higher education institutions in Japan, can meet the requirements through one of the following ways:

– Complete 12 years of formal school education by accumulating an additional 1 or 2 years of schooling at a higher education institution in Malaysia such as a diploma programme in home country.
– Study in a specific course called “university preparatory courses” for 1 year ~ 2 years at one of the designated Japanese language institutions recognized by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

List of University Preparatory Courses for International Students without 12 Years of Education System  ( Authorized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Japan ).



Regular undergraduate programmes at universities take four years. Faculties of Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary Sciences and Pharmacy course take six years (Note: some Pharmacy course takes 4 years). Most universities require at least 124 credits (medicine and dentistry departments require at least 188 credits, veterinary science department requires at least 182 credits and pharmacy requires at least 186 credits) for graduation.

Graduate Schools

Graduate schools offer Master’s programmes (two years) and Doctorate programme (five years). Generally, the doctorate programme is divided into the first phase (two years; applicable to the above-mentioned master’s programme) and the second phase (three years). However, the duration of study for the doctorate programme in medicine, dentistry and veterinary science (enter upon after completion of the six-year undergraduate courses in medicine, dentistry or veterinary science) is four years. Some universities offer doctorate programmes covering the full five years while others offer only the final three years.

University Degree Courses Offered in English

Some universities offer special courses aimed at obtaining degrees or short-term study programmes in English. A list of universities offering such courses is available from



Choosing a Japanese Language Institute

Preparatory Japanese Language Programs offered at Private Universities and Junior Colleges

Information on Preparatory Japanese Language Programs Offered at Private Universities and Junior Colleges can be obtained from “Special Courses for Foreign Students in Japanese Private Universities” directory compiled by the Federation of Japanese Private Colleges and Universities Associations http://www.shidai-rengoukai.jp/s_courses/english.html.

Japanese Language Institutes

It is important to choose a Japanese language institute that is publicly notified by the Ministry of Justice in Japan as the status of “Student” visa is not granted for studying at Japanese language institutes which are not recognized by the Ministry of Justice in Japan.

Programme Objectives There are various courses, such as courses to acquire Japanese language proficiency in general, Japanese language proficiency for business, preparatory education for admission to universities, and courses for self improvement.
Class Composition Are the students placed into different classes according to their knowledge of Japanese, so that each student can study based on his or her level of ability? Is there a placement test for this purpose?
General Foundation


Does this Japanese language institute offer classes for general foundation subjects (such as English, mathematics, physics, chemistry, science and liberal arts )?
School Environment Is the location satisfactory and accessible?
Accommodation Is accommodation available or assistance provided?
Guidance on Education and Personal Life Is there counselling on further education and everyday life problems?
Performance of


Which universities did the graduates gain admission?  How are the students’ performance at Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)?
Quality of Education and Fees Charged Are the tuition fees appropriate for the quantity and quality of lessons, instructors and facilities?
Admission Criteria Is admission based on documentation alone or is there an interview?
Schedule of Lessons Full-time or part-time course?
Ratio of Students by National Origin Does the school give special considerations to students from countries using Chinese characters and those from countries not using Chinese characters.

In general, transfer between Japanese language institutes is not permitted. Choose the school carefully by gathering as much information as possible by browsing the school’s website, studying the school prospectus or talking to current students or graduates of the school.

Choosing a College/University

Select a College/University based on the following criteria:

–   Content of classes and research
–   Suitability of programme
–   Special programme for international students
–   Entrance examination
–  Support systems for international students
–   Career paths of graduates
–   Scholarships and financial support
–   Student housing
–   Research facilities
–   Location
–  Tuition and expenses

There is no official university ranking in Japan. In order to choose the university that best suits one’s needs, one should carefully investigate the characteristics and features of the departments or the courses. One should not decide on a school solely on the basis of its name or reputation. It is advisable to take the entrance examinations of several schools to enhance one’s chances of gaining admission.

Although international students at present tend to concentrate in schools located in Tokyo area, other regions offer various advantages, such as lower prices and rents than Tokyo, fewer students and unique curricula, closer ties with the local community, abundance in greeneries, clean water and fresh air.


Bachelor’s Degree Courses

Students are required to meet one of the following requirements:

①  Students who have completed 12 years of schooling in countries other than Japan;
② Students who are 18 years of age or older and have successfully passed an academic qualification examination that is equivalent to the completion of 12 years of schooling in countries other than Japan;
③ Students who are 18 years of age or older and have completed studies at  international schools in Japan that are recognized as equivalent to high schools in countries other than Japan;
④ Students who have completed 11 years or more of education courses that are designated by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in countries other than Japan;
⑤ Students who are 18 years of age or older and hold an International Baccalaureate diploma, German Abitur qualification or French Baccalaureate qualification or who meet the GCE A level course requirements specified by individual university;
⑥ Students who are 18 years of age or older and have completed 12 years of education at international schools in Japan that are accredited by any of the following international accreditation organizations: the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), Council of International Schools (CIS) or Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI);
⑦ Students who are 18 years of age or older and have successfully passed the Upper Secondary School Equivalency Examination in Japan;
⑧ Students who are 18 years of age and are recognized by the educational institutions to which they apply for admission, through their individual admission qualification examinations, as having an academic ability that is equivalent to a high-school diploma or above;
⑨ Students who satisfy any one of the admission qualifications specified in the School Education Act, other than those outline above.

Master’s Degree Courses

Students are required to meet one of the following requirements:

①  Japanese university graduates;
② Students who have been conferred bachelor degree through Japan’s National Institution for Academic Degrees and Quality Enhancement of Higher Education (NIAD-QE);
③ Students who have completed 16 years of education in foreign countries;
④ Students who have completed a programme with the standard study period of three years or more at universities or equivalent educational institutions in countries other than Japan and received equivalent to a bachelor’s degree;
⑤ Students who have completed 16 years of education at education institutions in Japan recognised as having overseas undergraduate programmes;
⑥ Students who have completed designated professional training college courses;
⑦ Students who are recognized as having academic abilities equivalent  to university graduates in an individual entrance qualification examination conducted by a graduate school, and have reached 22 years of age.

Doctorate Degree Courses

Students are required to meet one of the following requirements:
① Students with a Japanese master’s degree or a Japanese professional degree;
② Students who have been awarded with an overseas degree equivalent to a master’s degree or professional degree;
③ Students who have completed graduate programmes at educational institutions recognized as having an overseas graduates programmes and who have obtained a degree equivalent to a master’s degree or professional degree;
④ Students who have graduated from universities and have been involved in research at universities or research centers (including overseas universities and research centers)  for more than 2 years, and recognized as having academic competency equivalent to a master’s degree by the graduate school,
⑤ Students recognized as having academic competency equivalent to master’s degree or professional degree holders in an individual entrance qualification examination conducted by the graduate school, and have reached 24 years of age.


The exam comprises the following components. Admission process and requirements vary with schools. It is best to visit the school websites for details. 

Bachelor Degree Courses:

① Document screening
② A test on academic ability
③ An interview
④ A short essay
⑤ Other competency and aptitude tests
⑥ Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU)
⑦ Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT)
⑧ National Center for University Entrance Examinations.

Document screening, Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students and Japanese Language Proficiency Test can be taken overseas. Many schools also have a special entrance examination for international students.

Regular Master’s or Doctorate Degree Courses:

① Document screening
② Test on academic ability
③ Interview
④ Short essay
⑤ Oral test on the major field



The Japanese currency is the Yen . There are four types of bill (¥1,000, ¥2,000, ¥5,000 and ¥10,000) and six coins (¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥50, ¥100, and ¥500). All the main currencies can be changed at banks that handle foreign exchange. Exchange rates are the same at all banks.

Payments are usually made in cash in Japan, although most stores accept credit cards. Checks are not commonly used.

Tuition & Fees

The following table shows the average cost for the first year at universities, junior colleges, special training colleges and Japanese Language institutes. From second year onward, students pay approximately 70% of these figures, as admission fee is paid only in the first year.

Average Cost of First Year of Education (Unit: yen)

Graduate schools  
National 817,800
Local Public 900,248
Private 704,082 – 1,442,526
National 817,800
Local Public 931,235
– Arts & Science 1,107,764 – 1,651,260
– Dentistry 4,188,745
– Medicine: 4,860,960
– Pharmacy: 2,064,036
Junior Colleges
Private 1,043,429 – 1,376,285
Professional Training Colleges
Private 1,042,000 – 1,487,250
Japanese Language Institutes
One-year course 400,000 – 850,000
18-month course 642,000 – 1,075,000
Two-year course 932,000 – 1,280,000

Living Expenses

Japan is known to be one of the most expensive countries in the world. The monthly living expenses in Japan range from ¥65,000 in Shikoku to ¥87,000 in Kanto. The average monthly living expense in Japan is ¥82,000.


The national government, local governments and universities run residences for international students, but places are limited. About 75% of international students live in private accommodation. When looking for a private accommodation, one can inquire at a real estate agency in the chosen area or at the school office.

Japanese customary practice requires the tenant to pay not only the rent but also a non-refundable key money equivalent to one to six months’ rent, called “rei-kin” (kenri-kin) in Japanese (payable to the landlord, amount differs in each district). The landlord also keeps a returnable deposit equivalent to one to two months’ rent called “shiki-kin” (hosho-kin) in Japanese, as security in case the tenant should fail to pay the rent of the room. Part of “shiki-kin” will be paid back to the tenant when tenancy ends. In addition, the tenant has to pay a commission equivalent to one month rent to the estate agent.


In Japan, a medical insurance system is available to reduce the burden on medical cost. Foreigners who stay in Japan for a period of more than 3 months have to subscribe to the “National Health Insurance”. Please register for the National Health Insurance at the nearest local city/ward/town/village municipal offices and pay the insurance premium. The insurance premium has to be paid monthly once registration is completed. The premium varies according to local councils and one’s income. However, in most cases, the premium is about ¥20,000 per year.

Once registered with the National Health Insurance, the student will only need to pay 30% of the total medical bill. When receiving treatment for injuries or illnesses, one has to present the insurance card to be eligible for the discount. Take note that the medical cost for treatments not covered by the insurance scheme has to be paid in full at one’s own expense.


There is no centralised application office. Students are required to apply to the individual institutions.

Japanese Language Institutes

Most institutes select students based on documentation; some schools also hold an interview.

One-year and two-year courses begin in April, and 18-month courses begin in October. The deadline for application differs with school, but generally it is October to December of the previous year for courses beginning in April, and April to June for courses beginning in October. Some schools run courses beginning in July or January.

Degree Courses

In general, higher education institutions in Japan announce their application procedures from June to August every year for courses beginning in April the next year. Certain university departments allow students to commence programmes in the second semester (in September or October).


Status of Residence

For universities, junior colleges, colleges of technology, professional training colleges, preparatory Japanese language programs offered at private universities and junior colleges , exchange programs (within 1 year), Japanese language institutes (not including professional training colleges), duration of stay are as follows :

4 years and 3 months, 4 years, 3 years and 3 months, 3 years, 2 years and 3 months, 2 years,1 year and 3 months, 1 year, 6 months or 3 months.

Visa Application

A foreign applicant can apply for a visa at a Japanese Embassy or Consulate outside Japan. One may also get Certificate of Eligibility for the Status of Residence (COE) issued by a regional immigration bureau in Japan through a proxy such as the school or guarantor before applying for visa. This will, in principle, make visa issuance procedures easier and faster.

A “Temporary Visitor” visa to stay in Japan for 15 days, 30 days or 90 days is required for the purpose of taking an entrance examination. Students are required to submit the examination voucher (jukenhyo) certifying that they are going to take an entrance examination. If the student completes the registration for a school during the valid period of stay, they can apply to change their status of residence to “Student”.

If an international student is a national of a country under the Visa Exemption Arrangements, such as Malaysia, he/she is not required to apply for a visa.


Approximately 75% of international students in Japan work part-time. They earn about ¥ 50,000 per month on average. Please do not forget that one is in Japan to study. To work part-time, one must first obtain from the nearest regional immigration bureau the “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted”. Upon obtaining this approval, one may work part-time under the following conditions:

* The part-time work does not affect your studies;
* The earned income is meant to supplement your academic cost and necessary   expenses and not for saving or for remittance overseas;
* The part-time work engaged in is not in adult entertainment businesses※prohibited by law;
* Not more than 28 hours a week (up to 8 hours a day during long school holidays);
* The part-time work is done while the student retains student status at an educational institution.

※A person entering Japan for the first time and is granted “Student” status with the permitted period of more than 3 months may apply for the “Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted” at the port of entry upon the issuance of permission of landing.

※International students may be subject to punishment and deportation if they work without appropriate authorization, work more hours than permitted, or work outside the permitted scope of their status of residence.

The most common part-time jobs available for international students are food and beverage, sales and marketing, teaching/research assistant, language instructor, home tutor, cleaning, translation/interpretation, hotel receptionist/service staff.


Two categories of financial assistance are available extensively for eligible international students in Japan.

① Tuition Exemption/Waiver Programme
② Scholarship Programme

Scholarship programmes available for international students in Japan include the Japanese government (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-Japan – MEXT) scholarships, Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students, and other scholarship programmes offered by local governments, international organizations and private companies, etc. In addition, some schools offer their own scholarship programmes.

For further information on study in Japan, Malaysian students can contact

Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO) Malaysian Office
A-7-5, Northpoint Offices, Mid Valley City
No. 1, Medan Syed Putra Utara
59200 Kuala Lumpur
Tel       : +603-22870812 /0813 / 0814Email   : enquiry@studyinjapan.org.my
Web     : www.studyinjapan.org.my, www.jasso.go.jp


Updated by:
Ms Wee Hui Bieh AFMSA, Nov. 2018

Information verified by:
Japan Student Services Organisation (JASSO) Malaysian Office.

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