Japan – one of the world’s wealthiest countries – is one of the smartest too. Ranking 5th in school test ranking – and 6th in IQ ranking – it is safe to say that Japanese schools produce some of the world’s brightest students.

Fortunately for the rest of the world, prestigious Japanese universities are now open. With 100+ of its universities placed in the World University Rankings, there is no shortage of excellent institutions to study in Japan.

Although the country is notorious for its high cost of living, foreign students may easily offset this by studying at cheap universities. In this article, we will look at the cheapest universities in Japan for international students.

What Are the General Requirements to Study in Japan?

For prospective students applying for an undergraduate degree, they must show proof of basic education (high school certificate) spanning at least 12 years. Entrants also need to be 18 years of age upon admission.

Apart from these basic requirements, applicants should also provide a copy of his/her valid passport – as well as proof of proficiency in Japanese (JLPT) or English such as IELTS or TOEFL as for English-taught programs.

As for graduate students, a bachelor’s or master’s degree is required. Other documents that may be needed include letters of reference and proof of financial support. Remember that the set of required documents differ if you are applying for a master’s or a doctorate program.

Check Also: Available Programs for International Students 

Do Universities in Japan Offer English-taught Programs?

Yes. While most universities usually concentrate on Japanese-taught programs, some institutions in Japan offer English-taught programs. One is the University of Tokyo, which is lauded as the best university in Japan. Here, students may take several graduate degrees in English.

Another good option is Hokkaido University, which offers many Master’s programs in English.

Affordable Universities in Japan for International Students

1. Kyoto University

Kyoto University was founded as an imperial institution in the year 1897. Apart from being the second-oldest university in Japan, it is also heralded as the second-best institution in the country. Kyoto University is one of the cheapest universities in Japan for international students, with a tuition fee of around JP¥ 535,800 a year.

The university – which has 2 campuses in Kyoto and 1 in Uji – is home to almost 23,000 students. It also has a foreign community of more than 2,000 students (11% of the total population).

At Kyoto University, students may take undergraduate degrees in Integrated Human Studies, Letters, Law, Education, Science, Economics, Medicine, Engineering, Agriculture, and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The same programs are available at the graduate level, with the addition of Human & Environmental Science, Energy Science, Asian & African Studies, Informatics, Bio-studies, Global Environment Studies, Government, Management, Law, and Public Health.

2. Tohoku University

Founded in 1907, Tohoku University is renowned as the third Imperial University in Japan. It’s also ranked among the best in Japan.

Currently, Tohoku University has 4 campuses in the Sendai area. The Faculties of Letters, Law, Education, and Economics are housed in the South Kawauchi campus, while Medicine and Dentistry are in the Seiryo branch. On the other hand, the Colleges of Science, Agriculture, Pharmacy, and Engineering are housed on the Aobayama campus.

This cheap university in Japan has a large student population of more than 17,000 – 12% of which come from outside Japan.

3. Nagoya University

Nagoya University (NU), founded in 1871 as the last Japanese imperial university, is regarded as one of the country’s best.

NU’s undergraduate faculties are organized according to the studies of Medicine, Law, Engineering, Letters, Science, Economics, Agriculture, Education, and Information Culture.

The same courses are offered at the graduate level, with the addition of specializations in Science, Mathematics, International Language Culture, International Development, and Environmental Studies.

Currently, NU serves as home to more than 15,500+ students. It also has a bustling foreign student community, corresponding to 11% of the total enrollment rate.

4. Osaka University

Founded as the Kaitokudo in the year 1724, Osaka University, one of the affordable universities in Japan, is a designated national institution. It was an imperial university in 1931 before it was renamed as such in 1947.

The university, ranked 7th in Japan, currently has 3 campuses in Suita, Minoh, and Toyonaka. These branches house the school’s 11 undergraduate and 16 graduate faculties.

Osaka University is one of the many Japanese schools to offer an English-medium undergraduate program. Launched in 2011, this project has helped attract many foreign students. They currently represent 12% of the university’s 22,000+ substantial population.

5. Kyushu University

Founded in 1903, the former Imperial University is located in Kyushu, Fukuoka. To date, Kyushu University is regarded as the 8th-best university in Japan. This prestige has helped attract many foreign students, representing 13% of the university’s 18,000+ enrollees.

This cheap university in Japan for international students is known to offer undergraduate programs in the fields of Interdisciplinary Science & Innovation, Education, Law, Letters, Sciences, Economics, Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmaceutical Science, Design, Engineering, and Agriculture. It also offers a handful of graduate programs in the mentioned fields and Humanities, Socio-cultural Studies, and Human Environment studies.

6. University of Tsukuba

The forerunner of the Tokyo University of Education, the University of Tsukuba was formally established in 1973. Since then, it has become one of Japan’s finest – even placing 10th in the recent World University rankings.

Based in Ibaraki, Japan, the university specializes in Medicine, Mathematics, Engineering, Technology, and Science. The university also offers Humanities, Social Science, and Art & Design programs.

The University of Tsukuba has one of the highest percentages of foreign students – corresponding to 20% of its 16,000+ enrollees.

7. Kobe University

Known in Kansai as Shindai, Kobe University is one of the most affordable universities in Japan for international students. It was founded in 1949 and is considered one of the largest in the country. It has 15,000+ students and an international community of about 8%.

Kobe University specializes in several undergraduate degrees, such as Law, Economics, Letters, Human Development, Intercultural Studies, Business Administration, Medicine, Science, Engineering, Agriculture, and Maritime Science.

Kobe University also offers graduate programs in Humanities, Health Science, System Informatics, and International Cooperation Studies.

8. Chiba University

Chiba University, also known as Chiba-dai, was founded in 1949. Located in the Chiba Prefecture, it is home to the Undergraduate Faculties of Letters, Education, Law & Politics, Science, Medicine, Pharmaceutical Science, Nursing, Engineering, and Horticulture.

Apart from these fields, Chiba University also offers MA/Ph.D. programs in Social Science, Humanities, and Education.

Ranked 21st in Japan, Chiba-dai has a medium-sized community of 13,000+ students. 5% of these are foreign nationals.

9. Sophia University

Sophia University is a private research university based in Tokyo, Japan. Founded by the Jesuits in 1913, this cheap university in Japan is one of the top-rated Japanese institutions to offer classes in both Japanese and English. Such has attracted many foreign enrollees, which equate to 11% of the school’s 13,511 students.

Sophia’s undergraduate programs are organized according to the Faculties of Theology, Humanities, Human Sciences, Law, Economics, Global Studies, Science & Technology, and Liberal Arts. It also has 10 graduate schools that offer a total of 29 programs.

10. University of Yamanashi

The University of Yamanashi, or Nashidai, is a relatively young national university, having only been established in 2002. As such, it only has a small student population of less than 5,000 – with foreigners corresponding to 4% of the total.

Nashidai is already listed as one of Japan’s best despite this young age. The university makes this possible with its prestigious undergraduate programs in Education, Medicine, Engineering, and Life & Environmental Sciences.

This affordable university in Japan also offers competitive graduate programs in the areas of Nursing, Education, and Integrated Life Science.


We hope this article on the cheapest universities in Japan for international students was helpful. Learn more about studying abroad by reading valuable articles at the Study in Japan page! If you are looking for courses, check out the Available Programs in Japan for international students!

About the Author: Hyun Lee

Hyun is the founder at Global Scholarships. He has received a full-tuition scholarship at Birmingham-Southern College as well as $1,000 Burger King Scholarship for his undergraduate degree and has been offered a fully funded scholarship consisting of tuition, living stipend, and health insurance for computer science Ph.D. program at North Carolina State University. Read more about his scholarship journey here.

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