With some of the globally acclaimed universities in the world, Japan provides an ideal environment for international students. Not only is Japan at the forefront of technological advancement and innovation, but education standards in the country are constantly making higher highs, bringing in industry professionals and skilled academics from all around the world.

Studying in Japan is all the more enticing thanks to highly affordable tuition fees and quality research and educational facilities. The country provides a safe environment for expatriates and a blend of culture, cuisine, and language. If you have also been contemplating the idea of moving to Japan for your higher studies, read along to find out everything you need to know to apply to a world-class university in the country.

Can International Students Apply to a University in Japan?

Not only do universities in Japan accept international students, but the top universities in the country that rank high in global lineups readily accept international students. From free study programs to scholarship-supported education, higher education programs fit perfectly well for aspiring industry professionals worldwide. International students who meet all the requirements and demonstrate competency to follow a program of their choice can apply to Japanese universities.

In an attempt to make Japanese education more public-facing, most of these top universities have now started offering programs that are taught in English. This just takes away the hassle of having to learn an entirely different language just to follow a program students prefer. The current international student body of over 200,000 students in Japan follows undergraduate, graduate, and Ph.D. programs across disciplines.

What are the Entry Requirements to Study in Japan?

Application procedures at reputed universities abroad can be very competitive. There are multiple aspects of the application that one needs to think through to ensure that it fulfills all the legal, academic, and other requirements required by the particular university and the country you are planning to transfer to, in this case, Japan. Being a holder of a valid passport and a valid study permit to support your stay in the country are some of the country’s requirements.

One of the most common requirements many universities in Japan expect from international students is their success in the Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students (EJU). Sapporo International University and Tohoku University are two such universities that require applicants to have sat for the EJU among other requirements listed on their respective requirements pages. In addition, applicants are also expected to have completed 12 years of education, a motivation letter that explains why they’ve applied, language certifications like TOEFL iBT or IELTS, and other Japanese Proficiency tests.

Steps on How to Apply to Japanese Universities

It’s always best to be informed about a university’s application and admissions process before applying. Here’s a step-by-step approach to applying to a Japanese University.

Step 1. Pick a course and a university to apply to

Based on your academic history, you might have already narrowed down your choices of a preferred program to follow by now. However, if you haven’t, you must have an understanding of what you are looking for before applying. It can help to explore the course outline or curriculum that is generally made available on a university’s web page relevant to the course of your choice. For example, the University of Tohoku’s syllabus for the International Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering undergraduate and graduate programs is clearly outlined on the “curriculum” page of their official website.

When you have narrowed down an educational pathway that interests you, the search for a good university becomes so much easier. Your preference can depend on several factors including the location of the university, tuition fee university rankings, research and education facilities, global recognition, and most importantly, international student-friendliness. Official websites of universities could be a very useful tool at this stage. Check out the University of Tokyo, Tohoku University, and Kyoto University which are some of the best universities in the country. It’s recommended that you narrow down your choices only to a few universities at this stage, including both competitive and relatively easier ones to enter. Make it a point to take note of the application deadlines, so you are well-prepared and on time to submit a strong application.

Step 2. Ensure to meet all the requirements

After having brought down the list of best-fitting universities to a few, it’s time to extend your search based on the requirements of each university. Course requirements may change from program to program and university to university, which is why it’s important to check the official websites of the universities you are planning to apply to. Some of the common legal and academic requirements were listed in the previous section of this article. At this stage of the process, you will have to eliminate a few of the universities that you’ve chosen if you find that you do not meet all the requirements that are demanded.

Step 3. Prepare your documents and work on qualifying exams

Most universities in Japan usually have similar requirements regardless of the program that you’ve chosen. This gives you the advantage of preparing for your application and getting your documents ready. For undergraduate programs, many universities require students to take the EJU examination. The dates for the exam are usually in June and November, and therefore, students need to take the exam in the previous year when applying. As per the university’s specifications, you will have to take four subjects in the Japanese language for the EJU examination. Ensure that you select all the required subjects properly, or else your application to the university will be turned down. The EJU application is different from the university application, and changes cannot be made once submitted. Therefore, it’s best to fill out the application for the EJU examinations ahead of time in the year before your expected enrolment.

In addition, you could also prepare other documents that might be required in the admissions process. It might be a good time to start working on a statement of purpose, otherwise known as the motivation letter. Other documents like certificates of previous academic qualifications, transcripts, passport-size photographs, copies of your travel documents, a letter of recommendation, and a personal statement might also be required at your disposal when applying.

Step 4. Pay the application fee

By this step of the process, you might have already further brought down the list of preferred universities to a very few. Once all documents have been scanned and prepared to be submitted, it’s time to begin the application process by paying the application fee most universities in Japan charge. The application fee is due on all applicants and cannot be refunded under any exception. It’s also up to the applicant to handle all the transfer/ handling fees that might be incurred. Information about the application fees and related guidelines can be obtained from the official university websites. For example, you can check out details on the application fee at the official website of the International University of Japan.

Step 5. Fill out an application form

Japanese universities mostly use online platforms for students to apply. For example, applicants to Kyoto University can fill out the university’s online application form and submit it, along with the required documents and proof of having settled the application fee. To find the relevant platform to apply through visit the respective university’s course page.

It is important to note that application deadlines may vary drastically from university to university which is why it is important to stay up-to-date about the application window of each of the individual universities that you are applying for. Look out for any amendments they might make each year. All that goes without saying that you will not enjoy any exceptions if you fail to submit your application within the specified time frame, which is why it is important to plan ahead of time regardless of the intake you are applying for.

Step 6. Await a response from your university

The admission procedures applicants to each university go through might be different from each other. Once you have successfully applied, it’s time to sit back and await word back from the university. If you are accepted, generally, you would be notified of the subsequent screening steps before finally being enrolled as a student.

General Admission Documents

1. Completed Application Form

Education systems in some countries have a standardized application form for all universities. However, in Japan, universities have their unique application forms, usually filled out online. Even within the same university, different programs might require you to submit entirely different application forms. In some cases, multiple universities might be hosting their application forms on a third-party platform like The Admissions Office. It’s best to follow through the relevant course page to find where your application needs to be submitted. You will also need to submit proof of settling the application fees at the time of applying.

2. Standardized Test Scores and Certificates

It is a requirement of most Japanese universities that students have at least 12 years of education completed at the time of enrolment. It’s generally best practice to ensure that you have all the standardized test scores from your previous educational institutions which could include the SAT, ACT, and EJU test scores. Since most top universities around the world prioritize students’ academic performance, the general rule is the higher you score, the better.

3. Language Proficiency Tests

Depending on the program you have applied for, you might be required to take a language proficiency test. While some universities like Tohoku University might require only the EJU test results when applying for Japanese-taught programs, others might require additional certifications. For English-taught programs, most universities like the University of Tohoku accept the TOEFL iBT and IELTS tests as standard proof of English language proficiency. It is best to check the requirements page of the relevant university before investing your time and money in preparing for a language proficiency test. It is also important to be aware of the period of validity of the language proficiency tests that you take.

4. Recommendation Letters

Applicants to both undergraduate and graduate programs require one or a few recommendation letters from non-related referees, preferably from previous educators. For example, Hokkaido University requires recommendation letters from both an educator and the embassy to apply for their scholarship programs. In most cases, the structure for the recommendation letter is provided to you on their website, and applicants are required to get it filled out by an acceptable referee.

5. Transcript of Records

The transcript of records handed to you by an educational institute contains information about your overall performance and course grades. It could include information like the GPA and credit points which are crucial contributing factors in the admissions process. Ensure that you submit all records to the university from your previous educators at the time of applying.

6. Motivation Letter and Personal Statement

The motivation letter and the personal statement might be the reason that distinguishes your application from someone whose application has been turned down. That’s to say, you must focus on giving it your time and careful attention before submitting it. The motivation letter explains in detail why you’ve applied to a specific program, choosing the specific university, and the country Japan in particular. It should also include a personal profile and information on your commitment to return to your home country once you have completed the program. The personal statement could be a questionnaire answering questions about your personal life, career goals, and other related information.

Optional Materials / Documents to Consider

1. Proof of Funds

Some universities in Japan might ask for proof of funds to support your stay in the country when applying. Even though the Japanese Immigration Bureau is responsible for ensuring that all visitors to the country can manage their expenses including tuition and living costs, some universities might require you to produce proof of available funds.

2. Other Qualifications

While it’s encouraged to submit only the required documents at the time of sending in your application, it’s not always the case. If you find that a previous qualification of yours like an International Baccalaureate or an Advanced Placement test may help with your application, you may attach it to your application form.

Key Facts Applying to Japanese Universities

1. Applicants must have completed 12 years of education

Admissions into the first two years of an undergraduate program called the junior division in Japan, or any other professional training college requires students to have completed at least 12 years of education at the time of enrolment. If you are applying to a college of technology, it would suffice to have 11 years of education at an institution abroad. Master’s programs generally require 16 years of education during admission.

2. Taking the EJU exam

The Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students is often a mandatory contributing factor to the success of an application to a Japanese university. The examination can be taken in 18 cities across 14 countries around the world outside of Japan. Students may also visit Japan on a temporary visa to sit for the exam that usually takes place in June and November of each year.


With a unique education system and a reputation for a vibrant cultural environment, Japan is home to some of the best universities in the world. Affordable living and tuition costs, high standards of education, research, and other facilities are some of the reasons why you should consider applying to a university in Japan.


Hopefully, this article on how to apply to universities in Japan helped you understand everything you need to know before applying to a Japanese university.  There is so much more to learn about studying in Japan, from the various top universities to scholarship opportunities on the Study in Japan page. Additionally, you can check out the Available Programs in Japan for International Students to learn more about studying abroad.

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hi! I am Hyun, and I am the founder at Global Scholarships. I've received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College and a $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for my undergraduate degree and was offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. You can read more about my scholarship journey here. If you are interested, you can follow me on Linkedin where I regularly write about scholarship opportunities.

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