Asia has been ascending as a global power in recent decades, its growing economy rivaling Europe and North America. It is of no surprise that students who are seeking to study abroad are also interested in learning more about Asia. In the region, Japan is one of the top countries in which international students study. For instance, according to the latest data published by the Institute of International Education, the top three countries in Asia where most American students study in are China, Japan, and India.

The Japanese government is also spearheading programs to internationalize Japanese universities. In 2014, the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports launched the Top Global University Japan project to provide financial support to 37 universities in the country which are spearheading the internationalization of Japanese education. These are some of the most suitable universities in Japan for international students, since these universities align their vision with goals for the internationalization of Japan. Some of these goals include:

  • “increasing the ratio of international students in the total student population;”
  • “increasing] the number of subjects taught in foreign languages;” and
  • “increasing] the number of students enrolled in degree courses conducted in foreign languages only.”

As of the latest data published in 2019 by the Japan Students Services Organization (JASSO), Japan has 298,980 international students. In the same year, JASSO also released a list of the 30 major universities in Japan that had the highest number of international students. These are some of the best universities in Japan for international students because they have established structures and policies for accepting foreign students and high-quality of education that are competitive with international standars.

Universities in Tokyo

Waseda University, Tokyo University of Social Welfare, and The University of Tokyo take the three top spots on the list of universities with the highest number of international students. Other universities in Tokyo on the list are: Keio University (14th), Tokyo Institute of Technology, Meiji University (15th), Sophia University (19th), Toyo University (20th), Nihon University (22nd), Takushoku University (25th), Hosei University (27th), and Tokyo International University (28th).

A part of the Japanese government’s Top Global University initiative, Waseda University published that some of its concrete goals for 2023 include: further supporting diversity in their student body where 1 in 5 students are international, developing new collaborative programs with overseas universities, and developing a ‘residential learning experience for Japanese and international students’ through their residence facilities.

Meanwhile, the University of Tokyo articulates its vision for internationalization as ‘features’ of a Global Campus Model, with world-class, innovative research as the top priority. The university also seeks to promote ‘comprehensive education reform in the era of globalization’ and to enhance the content and variety of English degree programs being offered.

Keio University‘s vision for internationalization is also centered on becoming a world-leading research university. Their priority is to “strengthen collaborative ties with the international community through active joint research, co-supervision of students, and academic exchange, and pursue interdisciplinary, international, and cutting-edge research.” Keio University is driven by its pursuit of knowledge that contributes to society and solving critical issues in the world. Thus, the university aims to publish more foreign-language papers and collaborative papers co-authored with international researchers.

Universities in the Kanto Area

Several universities in the Kanto area have high numbers of international students. Included in the list are the University of Tsukuba (7th) and Nihon Wellness Sports University (9th), which are both in Ibaraki, Josai International University (24th) and Chiba University (30th) in Chiba, and Yokohama National University (29th) in Kanagawa.

The University of Tsukuba is less than an hour away from Tokyo and is one of the Top 10 universities in Japan. The university is focused on what they call “creating a Transborder University,” by establishing partner universities and affiliated institutions from all over the world. As of February 2019, the University of Tsukuba is already a partner university of Utrecht University in the Netherlands; University of California, Irvine in the US, and Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Malaysia; to name a few.

Similarly, Chiba University is a stone’s throw away from the capital. From Tokyo Station, it takes only approximately 40 minutes to get to Chiba University’s Nishi-Chiba, Matsudo, and Kashiwano-ha campuses while it takes 60 minutes to get to the Inohana campus. For 2023, some of the university’s goals are to have 700 subjects that are taught in English, for 50% of their student intake to study overseas, and to accept 3,000 overseas students.

Universities in the Kansai Area: Kyoto and Osaka

Eighth and ninth on the list of universities in Japan with the highest international student population are Ritsumeikan University and Kyoto University, which are both in Kyoto. Other universities in the Kansai area on the list are Doshisha University (18th) in Kyoto, and Osaka University (6th), Kobe University (21st) and Kansai University (26th), which are all in Osaka.

Ritsumeikan University has set high targets for its internationalization. By 2023, Ritsumeikan University aims to accept 4,500 international students annually. What perhaps sets Ritsumeikan University apart is its thrust to develop “Student Activities Beyond Borders.” This includes “promoting international matches and tournaments, global interaction through academic, art and culture, and sports activities.”

As for Kyoto University, its targets are strongly aligned with research, which is what the university is known for. The university intends to maintain its high global ranking by boosting the number of multinationally authored academic papers authored not only by its faculty but also by students. The university is also working on establishing more joint degree programs with other universities.

Other Areas: North, Northeast, Central, and Southern Japan

Here are other universities with high student populations all across Japan:

  • Northern Japan: Hokkaido University (11th) in Hokkaido
  • Northeastern Japan: Tohuku University (12th) in Miyagi
  • Central Japan: Nagoya University (13th) in Aichi
  • Southern Japan: Japan University of Economics (4th) and Kyushu University (10th) in Fukuoka; Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (5th) is in Kyushu, Hiroshima University (16th) in Hiroshima

Note that most of the universities listed righ above rank high on the list, such as the Japan University of Economics in Fukuoka (4th) and Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Kyushu (5th). This proves that high-quality education and suitable universities in Japan for international students are not just concentrated in popular destinations such as Tokyo and Kyoto. Several options are available for foreign students who are interested in the multifaceted culture of Japan.

For more information about JASSO’s Annual Survey of International Students in Japan, check out their website here. To learn more about the Top Global University Japan project of the Japanese government, check out their official website here.


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“Result of an Annual Survey of International Students in Japan 2018.” JASSO, Jan. 2019,

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Top Global University Project. (n.d.). Retrieved from