a student standing in front of a traditional Japanese torii gate, with cherry blossom trees in the background and a large university building in the distance

5 Top Universities in Japan That Teach in English

Are you looking to pursue higher education in Japan or perhaps teach academic subjects at a high level? If so, you’ll be happy to know that several English-taught universities offer top-quality education.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to the top English-taught universities in Japan, including Tohoku University, the University of Tokyo, Sophia University, Hokkaido University, and Osaka University. We’ll explore the programs they offer, their reputations, and job opportunities for both students and teachers.

Key Takeaways

  • Top English-taught universities in Japan include Tohoku University, the University of Tokyo, Sophia University, Hokkaido University, and Osaka University.
  • These universities offer prestigious degree programs entirely taught in English, undergraduate courses entirely taught in English, and English-taught degree courses and programs for undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Japanese universities have a solid reputation for providing high-quality teaching and cutting-edge research programs, with each of these universities having unique strengths and areas of expertise.
  • Many job opportunities await students with English and Japanese skills, and the learning environment in Japan is known for being culture-rich, high-tech, clean, and safe.

Five Top Japanese Universities That Teach English

  1. Sophia University: One of the top English universities in Japan, Sophia University offers undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs entirely taught in English. It was the first university to offer English-taught programs in Japan and is recognized for its academic excellence and outstanding research results in natural sciences, humanities, social sciences, etc. The university is located in Chiyoda, Tokyo, and collaborates with other top universities worldwide​.
  2. University of Tokyo: Known as Todai, the University of Tokyo is one of Japan’s premier institutions that provide undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs entirely taught in English. The university has a strong reputation and is recognized for its outstanding research. It has produced many world-class individuals who have made significant contributions globally. The university offers a program called PEAK, which can be completed within two years for further advancement​.
  3. Tohoku University: Located in Sendai, Miyagi, Tohoku University is a prestigious institution that offers undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs entirely taught in English. The university is known for its high-quality education and was the first university in Japan to accept women and international students. It offers a range of courses through its Future Global Leadership program (FGL) in various fields, such as environmental studies, law, politics, mechanical and aerospace engineering, international relations, biomechanics, social sciences, molecular chemistry, and molecular biology.​​
  4. Hokkaido University: Hokkaido University offers undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. degree programs entirely taught in English, focusing on environmental science, integrated science, life science, veterinary science, etc. The university is recognized for its contributions to material sciences, chemistry, earth, and ocean sciences and was the first university in Japan to award bachelor’s degrees to students. It is one of Japan’s top national research universities and welcomes students from across the globe annually​​.
  5. Osaka University: Osaka University, established in 1931, offers undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. programs entirely taught in English. The university has a strong reputation for excellence in academics, particularly in fields such as chemical engineering, physics, astronomy, natural sciences, and dentistry. It offers various undergraduate and graduate programs taught entirely in English, including mathematics, information sciences, macromolecular science, engineering, physics, biology, and biological sciences​.

Reputation and Recognition

Suppose you’re interested in pursuing higher education in Japan. In that case, it’s worth noting that several universities in the country have established a strong reputation for providing world-class teaching and research programs. These universities have consistently been recognized as top-performing institutions not only in Japan but also on a global scale.

UniversityRanking in the world
Tohoku University79
University of Tokyo81
Sophia University651-700
Hokkaido University139
Osaka University81

For example, if you want to study or teach science and technology, consider the Tokyo Institute of Technology, the country’s largest higher education institution dedicated to these fields. It is ranked #3 in Japan and #11 in Asia, and #81 worldwide. It has six schools and more than 40 departments and research centers.

Their reputation for academic excellence, cutting-edge research, and diverse international student demographics make them ideal choices for students seeking high-quality education. The ranking methodology used to evaluate universities in Japan is based on several factors, including academic reputation, research output, internationalization, and student experience.

The top English-taught universities in Japan have consistently scored high on these metrics, which are indicators of their overall excellence. As such, they have become top destinations for international students seeking a challenging and rewarding academic experience in a culturally rich environment.

Becoming a Professor at Japanese Universities

For those considering an academic career in Japan, numerous opportunities are available, particularly in institutions that offer programs entirely taught in English, as this suggests a certain degree of openness to international faculty.

The career track to becoming a college professor in Japan appears similar to that in the United States, with stages including assistant, associate, and full professor positions.

However, it’s essential to note that language proficiency in Japanese often proves crucial for effective communication with students and administrative staff and participation in committees and staff meetings. Besides, having a significant publication record and strong connections within the university can also be advantageous.

As for employment conditions, contracts have become more common compared to permanent employment. Typically, these contracts can last up to five years, with the possibility of annual renewal. In some instances, an initial contract of 2-3 years may be offered, which can then be extended to total five years. Yet, this information is based on anecdotal evidence and may not apply to every institution or academic department in Japan.

Given these considerations, prospective faculty members should contact the universities or departments they’re interested in for more specific information regarding open positions and employment conditions. This proactive approach will ensure that individuals can gather the most accurate and up-to-date information about academic career opportunities in Japan.

Job Opportunities for Students After Graduation from English Universities in Japan

English language proficiency is highly valued in Japan, and universities that offer English-taught programs provide students with a unique advantage in the job market.

Many companies in Japan require English-speaking employees, and graduates from English-taught programs have an advantage over those who do not have the same level of proficiency.

Furthermore, studying in Japan allows for cultural immersion, which is a valuable experience for any student. Navigating and understanding different cultures is an essential skill in the global workplace.

Additionally, universities in Japan offer programs that focus on specific areas of expertise, such as Hokkaido University’s chemistry and earth and ocean science programs and Osaka University’s dentistry and natural science programs. Pursuing a degree in one of these areas of expertise can lead to unique job opportunities and career paths.

For international students, another popular job in Japan is teaching English. Graduates will already have a degree, familiarity with the language and culture, and a high level of English, making them perfect for the role. Researching a Japanese-government teaching program like JET is an excellent place to start.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the cost of living for international students in Japan?

As an international student in Japan, you can expect to pay similar to a single Japanese person’s average cost of living. That’s around 100,000-150,000 JPY per month for accommodation, food, and other expenses.

Are there any specific language requirements for international students to enroll in English-taught programs at these universities?

International students must meet language proficiency requirements to enroll in English-taught programs at top universities in Japan. Admission requirements vary but typically include academic transcripts, personal statements, and letters of recommendation.

What percentage of international students are enrolled in these universities?

In 2021 there were 2.93 million students enrolled in universities in Japan. 242,444 of those were international students. This means around 8% of students in Japan are international students, although this number may vary depending on courses and universities.

What is the average class size for undergraduate and graduate courses?

For example, 81% of undergraduate classes at Waseda University have 50 students or less, and 43% have 20 students or less. The English language classes can be as small as four students.

What extracurricular activities are available for students at these universities?

Sports groups offer various options, including but not limited to tennis, baseball, soccer, American football, rugby, volleyball, track and field, swimming, and dance. Traditional Japanese sports like judo, kyūdō (archery), or aikido are also available, as well as winter sports groups for snowboarding and skiing.

For students interested in cultural activities, there are music clubs (ranging from orchestras and choruses to bands), photography and film clubs, volunteer groups, and English Speaking Societies (ESS) to improve members’ English proficiency.