Like most other developed countries, higher education in Japan is possible after you complete 12 years of education. This includes 6 years of elementary school, 3 years of middle (junior high) school, and 3 years of high school. Once you have finished your 12 years, you are eligible to attend an upper education institution. Schools in Japan start in April when the sakura flowers are blooming. Depending on the school, it may be possible to start school in September as well. Currently, the percentage of Japanese students continuing their education is relatively high. This may be due to the fact that many times higher education is required when finding a job. In the Japanese education system, there are different types of upper education institutions; which I will introduce below.

Universities offer a 4 year program for students to earn their bachelors degree


The most prevalent and well-known type of an upper education institution is a University. This includes 4 years of undergrad, and more years for those to continue to their Master’s degree and PhD. Most famous and international companies in Japan require at least a bachelor’s degree from a University when they are hiring. In Japan there are broadly 3 types of universities; national, public-private.

National Universities tend to be bigger institutions maintained by the state. These universities typically have a large budget and have a lower tuition than the other universities. The most famous national university in Japan is the University of Tokyo.

Public Universities are supported by the prefecture that it is located in, funded by the taxes of those living there. Like national universities, tuitions are relatively low, and students who live in that prefecture pay a lower rate than those who live somewhere else.

Private Universities is the most expensive of the three. Since they do not acquire funding from the state, students are required to pay a higher rate. These universities usually have state of the art facilities and distinctive characteristics. Some well known private schools include Waseda, Sophia, and Keio.

Senmon-gakko schools offer courses in fashion, hair styling, and elderly care

専門学校 (senmon-gakko) are specialized schools that usually offer a two year program for students. Many times these schools are vocational, offering courses for fashion, hair-styling, elderly care, and many more. There is an endless list of the types of senmon-gakko, and there may be something for everyone. There are also schools that offer general courses like business. Compared to universities it is fairly easy to attend these schools. Many times depending on the school, there is no entrance exams or interviews. Currently, there are over 3,000 senmon-gakko in Japan with over 200 of them located just in Tokyo. In addition, tuition for these schools are tolerably low compared to other upper education institutions.

Short-Term Universities

Short term Universities, also known as junior colleges usually offer a two to three-year program for students. Unlike senmon- gakko you are required to general education classes in addition to their main subject of study. Most short-term Universities offer liberal arts programs, and once you graduate you can receive an Associate’s degree. These universities are more expensive than senmon-gakko but tend to be cheaper than 4-year universities.

Once you graduate from a short-term university you can receive your associates degree


There are different types of schools that offer different courses for each student. If you are deciding on completing high education in Japan, there will be a program that will meet your needs. If you are curious about different schools check out Schoolynk to learn about different programs and the experiences of past students.