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Want to Study in Japan? Here's a Comprehensive Guide to Top Universities in Japan for Prospective Indian Students
Whenever the question over pursuing higher education in Japan pops up, another relevant question is raised by someone or the other: "Isn't Japan an incredibly expensive place to study?" Well, going by my personal experience, I would say that's a common misconception attached to attaining higher education in Japan.

After the US and China, Japan is the third-largest economy in the world with a strong research and development infrastructure that empowers Japan's world popular brands such as Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Sony, among numerous others. All this innovation can be largely attributed to the robust higher education system of Japan.

If you as an Indian student fancy studying in the land of the bullet train, instant noodles and karaoke bars, here's my comprehensive guide on the top universities in Japan.

Selecting a Japanese university for pursuing higher education is least on the priority list of Indian students as they generally prefer studying in traditional educational hubs such as the US, UK and Australia. While over 10,000 Chinese students enrol themselves in Japanese Universities each year, the number of Indian students currently pursuing higher education in Japan is insignificant in comparison.

What discourages Indian students from choosing Japan as their overseas higher education destination is the cost factor. However, if compared to American or European universities, the cost of studying in Japan works out more or less the same, with just a slight variation in the cost of living.

The government of Japan has also recently stepped up efforts to attract more and more foreign students by setting a target of having 300,000 foreign students in the country by 2020. One thing which has lately been attracting foreign students towards Japan is the introduction of more courses in the English language.

Being aware that the cost of living in Japan is comparatively higher than other countries, the Japanese government has introduced various programmes for providing financial support to the students. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) jointly provide various scholarship programmes and grants for the benefit of foreign students.

Japan currently has approximately 780 universities, of which almost 80 per cent are private. Apart from that there are various specialized schools and colleges that provide vocational types of degrees.

While compiling a list of the best universities in Japan, the foremost name that appears is that of the University of Tokyo, which ranks at 23rd in the QS World University Rankings 2019, a jump of six places from last year. Closely following at the 35th place is the Koyoto University followed by the Tokyo Institute of Technology at the 58th spot. Notably, 41 Japanese universities are ranked amongst the world's best.

However, since it would be difficult to cover all the Japanese university in this bog, I am going to focus on the top 6 universities of Japan that are most suitable for foreign students looking to study in Japan.

University of Tokyo

Abbreviated as "Todai" or "UTokyo", the University of Tokyo is the most prestigious university of Japan which was established in 1877 as the first imperial university. Todai has a serious global reputation for offering quality education across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Tokyo has an impressive alumni list which includes 15 Prime Ministers of Japan, 9 Nobel laureates, 3 Pulitzer Prize winners, and 5 astronauts. The university enrols around 30,000 students in its five campuses including 2,100 international students. It is among the select Japanese universities that have been assigned additional funding under MEXT's Top Global University Project for enhancing Japan's global educational competitiveness. UTokyo ranks among the world's top 10 universities for offering courses in mechanical engineering, modern languages, chemical engineering, physics and astronomy; and chemistry. Also, if you want to study civil engineering in Japan, Todai is a great option.

Kyoto University

Another imperial university, the Kyoto University, is located in Japan's old capital city of Kyoto. Since it is the second highest-ranked university of Japan, the list of top universities in Japan would remain incomplete without the mention of Kyoto University. It is also one of Asia's leading research-oriented institutions. Much like UTokyo, the alumni list of Kyoto University includes 18 Nobel laureates, the most from any Asian university. Abbreviated as "Kyodai", the university was established in 1897 under the imperial university system and has three campuses. Kyodai offers courses across various disciplines including chemical engineering, biological sciences, civil engineering, materials sciences, modern languages, and physics.

Osaka University

Osaka University is Japan's third top university. It currently holds the 67th place in the 2019 QS World University Rankings. Founded in 1931, Osaka University is Japan's sixth oldest university which is popular for offering courses in chemical engineering, dentistry, natural sciences, and physics. MEXT has classified the Osaka University as the leading institution in its Top Global University Project. The Japanese ministry had also selected the university as a Designated University Corporation in 2018. Prominent scholars and scientists have either attended or worked at the Osaka University including Nobel Laureate in Physics Hideki Yukawa. An all-English four-year undergraduate degree programme was started in 2011 by Osaka University's School of Human Sciences. Also, the university's Graduate School of Letters offers an English-language programme in Global Japanese Studies for graduate students.

Tokyo Institute of Technology

Also known as Tokyo Tech, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, is located in the Greater Tokyo Area of Japan. It is the largest institution for higher education and research dedicated to science and technology, which makes it one of the best places to study in Japan, especially if you intend to pursue your higher studies in science and technology. Established in 1881, Tokyo Tech is divided into 6 schools, having over 40 departments and research centres. The institute boasts of a large faculty of 1,100 renowned scholars and dedicated teachers. In the academic year 2015-16, the institute enrolled 4,734 undergraduate and 1,464 graduate students. In the 130 years since its inception, the Tokyo Institute of Technology has given the world numerous scientific researchers, engineers, and world leaders such as former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan. 

Waseda University

Waseda University, or "Sodai" for short, is a private research university based in Tokyo. The university though established in 1882, got its present name in 1902. In 2015-16, the university was ranked 212th in the QS World University Rankings. It is another Japanese university that has been assigned additional funding under the MEXT's Top Global University Project. Many notable alumni have graduated from this university including seven Japanese Prime Ministers and many CEOs including Nobuyuki Idei, former CEO of Sony; Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of UNIQLO; Takio Fukui, the former CEO of Honda; Norio Sasaki, the former CEO of Toshiba, to name just a few. The Waseda University Library is one of the largest libraries of Japan that currently holds 4.5 million volumes and 46,000 serials. Waseda University is regarded as one of the most prestigious universities of Japan and often ranked alongside its main rival, the Keio University.

Keio University

The Keio University, "Keio" or "Keidai" as short, is a private university, also located in Tokyo. Originally established as a school for Western studies in 1858, it is known as the oldest institute of modern higher education in Japan. The university runs at least 30 research centres located across its five campuses. Having celebrated 150 years of its founding in 2008, the university continues to transform Japan into a modern nation through contributions in education, research, and medicine. Keio also runs a high school named "Keio Academy of New York" in the United States. Just like the other universities discussed in this blog Keio also has an impressive list of alumni comprising Japanese Prime Ministers and prominent politicians of the country.

Cost of Living in Japan

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is home to hundreds of colleges and universities, including the highest ranked University of Tokyo. Although Tokyo has been ranked amongst the most expensive cities to live, in the annual Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Tokyo is not ridiculously expensive, unless, of course, you become over indulgent and start travelling in taxis or dining at Aragawa (one of the most expensive restaurants in the world). Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) recommends setting aside a budget of roughly $900 per month towards the cost of living in Japan which works out to around $11,000 per annum. This should cover all your basic expenses including food, rent, travelling expenses and other living costs. With the percentage of foreign students remaining well below the targets, the government offers a range of scholarships and grants to foreign students. The Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho) Scholarship is one such example. However, to obtain this scholarship a student needs recommendation from his or her university or the local Japanese embassy.  

Admission Procedure

Please note that for seeking admission in Japanese universities, the students need to take an entrance examination instead of submitting a GPA (grade point average) or other assessment grades. The standardized test for international students is called the 'Examination for Japanese University Admission for International Students' (EJU). It is a test designed to gauge the academic skills of students in the fields of mathematics, science, and 'Japan and the world'. Clearing the EJU is mandatory for seeking admission in at least 95 per cent national, 65 per cent public, and 44 per cent private universities. Apart from the EJU, some universities also ask foreign students to take an additional examination. Although test centres have been established across Asia where students can appear for the EJU, in most cases students must travel to Japan to appear for these institution-specific tests. The fees for the tests ranges from $67 to $125 depending on how many subjects a student is appearing for. The tests are conducted twice a year. Apart from the entrance exam, a student is also required to furnish an application form, academic transcripts, proof of finances to cover the tuition fees, valid academic references, a valid passport, and two passport-sized photographs.  

Visa Norms

If a foreign student intends to study in Japan for more than three months, he or she must seek a student visa. For this you must first obtain a Certificate of Eligibility, which is applied on your behalf by the university where you are seeking admission. Once this certificate is issued, you can apply for a visa with the local Japanese embassy or consulate. The documents required along with the visa application are: a) The Certificate of Eligibility (in original); b) a photocopy of the Certificate of Eligibility; c) a valid passport; d) a completed application form; e) a recent passport-sized photograph. If a student wants to work in Japan while studying, he or she must apply for 'Permission to Engage in Activity Other than that Permitted by the Status of Residence Previously Granted'. This permission entitles you as a student to work up to 28 hours a week during term-time and eight hours a day during holidays. This permission can be applied at an immigration bureau upon arrival in Japan.

Tuition Fees

The tuition fees in Japanese universities, contrary to common belief, are almost at par with the universities of the UK or the US, ranging from $4,760 to $15,340 annually.

Food for Thought

Japan has produced the highest number of Nobel laureates than any other Asian country, and the second highest than any other country in the world since 2000. Studying in a country like Japan will open an unparalleled opportunity for you as a person to explore a different and unique culture. You will become independent, more responsible, and more mature. Remember, learning doesn't just happen in the classroom. Meeting people from different cultures around the world and making friends with them is also a part of growing up.

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