Japan - Country Commercial Guide
Education and Training

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-01-15

Capital:  Tokyo
Population:  125,507,472 (July 2020 est.)
GDP:  $4,883,791,000,000 (2019 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency:  Yen (¥)

Language:  Japanese

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:
Japan has 31,903 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook:

22% of the population in Japan is under 24 years old. 


During the 2019/20 academic year, Japan had the eighth largest population of international students studying in the United States.  17,554 Japanese students studied in the United States, a 3.0 percent decrease from the previous year.[i]

Japan was the top country of origin for students to the United States from 1994 to 1998. Since then, Japan has fallen to the eighth place due to various circumstances, including its challenging economic conditions, low birth rate, and business recruitment cycle.  Additionally, many countries, such as Australia and China, have increased their Japanese students’ recruiting efforts.  Japan’s downward trend bottomed out in the 2015/16 academic year.  The United States remains the most popular destination for Japanese studying abroad.  The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that in 2019, Japanese students studying in the United States contributed $682 million to the U.S. economy.

The market for study abroad programs under the international exchange agreement between Japanese universities and U.S. partner universities will continue to grow.c Short-term programs are the most popular choice among university students.

Government of Japan Priorities and U.S. Embassy Support

The Government of Japan (GOJ) continues to focus on internationalizing Japan’s education system.  In 2014, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) began to provide funding support to help the designated 37 “Top Global Universities” internationalize.  For the list of the schools, please refer to the “Top Global Universities” website: https://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-tgu/selection.html. 

In 2018, MEXT and the American Council on Education (ACE), in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Institute for Innovative Global Education, launched the U.S - Japan Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) initiative.  The U.S.-Japan COIL initiative aims to increase global learning experiences through virtual classrooms and platforms where Japanese and U.S. students work together on subject-specific projects.  MEXT has selected 13 Japanese universities to disseminate COIL educational methods, led by Kansai University.  The COIL methods will be cost-effective and long-lasting solutions to support the Japanese education system’s global learning goals.  Please refer to the ACE website for more details. https://www.acenet.edu/Programs-Services/Pages/Communities/US-Japan-COIL-Initiative.aspx

In December 2019, the GOJ approved MEXT’s supplementary budget, approximately US$2.2 billion, for the Global Innovation Gateway for All (GIGA) school project.  MEXT will fund the GIGA project in two key elements:

  1. Establish high speed and extensive internet network capacity connecting Japanese schools by 2020;
  2. Provide personal computers (PCs)/tablets for all elementary and secondary school pupils by 2023.

The GOJ will allocate budgets to local governments for GIGA-related public school projects.   Private schools will administer their own projects with 50% of the central government funding support. In addition to MEXT, the GIGA project is supported by other GOJ agencies, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and the Ministry of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications.  MEXT and METI aim to leverage the GIGA project to boost Japan’s “Five-Year ICT Advancement Project,” which started in 2018 that will be completed in 2022.  The GIGA project demonstrates the GOJ’s determination to modernize the Japanese school systems with advanced education technologies and solutions.

The U.S. Embassy in Japan initiated the TeamUp campaign to increase student mobility by promoting strategic partnerships between American and Japanese colleges and universities.  The TeamUp RoadMap is a web-based, step-by-step guide for creating partnerships in Japan.  Please visit http://teamup-usjapan.org/ for more information. 


Academic Level



% Total

% Change






Graduate Education










Optional Practical Training





Japanese students total





Higher Education


Community College



% of Total

% Change






World total





(Source: The Institute of International Education (IIE), 2020 Open Doors Report)


It was a relatively slow decline by 3.0 percent between 2018/19 and 2019/20; Japan remained the 8th ranking to the U.S. for higher education.  Japan ranked the third country of origin for community colleges in 2019/20, according to the “Community College Data Resource.”

Secondary Education

The secondary school-organized student trips (7-10 days) are a Japanese tradition.  The educational travel sector has excellent market potential as the demand for overseas school trips is increasing.  The short-term programs have served as teasers boosting Japanese students’ interest in longer-term plans in U.S. universities/colleges.

The market for U.S. boarding schools is a niche opportunity.  A steady number of wealthy families can afford to pay boarding school tuition and prepare their children for further learning.  There are increasing numbers of independent educational consultants available, with a few specialized in boarding schools.  The U.S. Commercial Service in Japan supports U.S. boarding schools through fairs with invited local agents and consultants.  It’s recommended to partner with Japanese consultants/agents and participate in educational fairs to expand in Japan effectively.

Intensive English Programs

Japan is the second leading country of origin for students studying in Intensive English Programs in the United States, following China.  12,814 Japanese students participated in Intensive English Programs in the U.S. during the 2019 academic year, a 0.4 percent increase from the previous year.  According to the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS), which comprises 40 study abroad agents, Japan has high ratios of agent usage of the English study market.  JAOS’ survey shows that about 60 percent of their clients who decide to study in the U.S. choose Intensive English Programs, including non-academic studies.

Professional Training Services

Improving English skills is critically important to Japan’s globalization efforts.  However, Japan’s decade-long economic stagnation since the 1990s continued to strain organizational fundings for professional training, which contributes to decrease executive education abroad.


The GOJ promotes Japan’s internationalization and globalization, and supports study abroad, human resource development, and people-to-people exchange.  There are opportunities for U.S. universities, particularly in short-term programming to Japanese students.

It is essential to understand the English proficiency levels of Japanese students.  U.S. institutions need to consider this condition for relaxed TOEFL score requirements and customize programs for Japanese students.  The ability to offer conditional acceptances will be valuable in attracting students.  Please also note that Japanese and U.S. academic calendars do not align. S hort-term (1-2 months study abroad) programs are the most popular in Japan because it makes the best use of summer/spring breaks.  There are opportunities for U.S. institutions to market attractive short-term programs to Japanese students, such as demonstrating any direct benefits with future career success gained from studying in the U.S. (e.g., internship and volunteering experiences for enhanced resume buildings).  Japanese universities and education agents also seek immersion programs of English learning and cultural experience – in sports, music, dance – with U.S. institutions.

U.S. institutions need to customize their programming to meet the Japanese academic calendar.  It begins in April and ends in March the following year, with the first term running to around July 20.  Japanese students exams are given at the end of each grading period. There are typically three breaks in a Japanese academic year, which are the following:

  • The summer break: late July – late August for secondary schools; late July – late September for higher education
  • The winter break: late December – early January
  • The spring break: late March – early April for secondary schools;  February/March – early April for higher education

Japanese institutions also seek one-semester to one-year study exchange programs with partner U.S. universities.  Establishing partnerships with Japanese universities is an effective way of entering the Japanese market.  Japanese universities continue to look for U.S. universities to establish bilateral student exchange programs.  They recognize the challenges in maintaining balanced two-way student numbers but are interested in discussing creative ways to foster the exchanges. 

Short-term (7-10 days) educational travel programs for high schoolers have great market potentials.  Many Japanese high schools want unique study abroad programs, such as STEM-related travels, including scientific field trips, sustainable development goals (SDGs) related topics, interaction with faculties/students, and businesses/lab visits.  It’s strongly recommended to customize the programming to meet a Japanese school’s needs (e.g., SDGs, STEM, art, entrepreneurial studies, robotics, music, sports, leadership).  Additionally, it helps to prepare information on homestay availability, exchange programs with local U.S. schools, and any other special events that the U.S. host may provide.

Digital Marketing Strategies

In 2019, LINE ranked the most popular social media among teenagers in Japan (88.7%), followed by Twitter (66.7%) and Instagram (58.2%), according to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC).  LINE originated from Japan and is widely used for messaging among friends/families.  Instagram is one of the fastest-growing applications in Japan.  Zoom is often applied in online classes, and Japanese students are familiar with its features.  Digital advertising via video content has become more prevalent in Japan.  YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok are popular for video streaming among young users.  Japanese students routinely visit Facebook searching for educational information.


  • Tokyo EducationUSA EXPO in September 2021 (TBD): The U.S. Embassy Tokyo will host the EducationUSA EXPO in cooperation with EducationUSA, the Japan-U.S. Educational Commission (Fulbright Japan), U.S. College Alumni Network of Japan (USCANJ), KagakushaNet and Eiken Foundation of Japan. http://americaexpo.jp/for-us-institutions/
  • Osaka EducationUSA EXPO in September 2021 (TBD): The U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe, and other constituent posts will host the EducationUSA Expo in various locations in Western Japan.  There is no fee to participate in this public event. http://americaexpo.jp/for-us-institutions/
  • Western Japan College Fair in fall 2021 (TBD): The U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe will endorse the Western Japan College fair, organized by the Canadian Academy and Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin in fall 2019.  The fair will feature about 100 Japanese and foreign universities, including U.S. universities, and attract international school students and local high schoolers.


U.S. Commercial Service (CS) Japan Contacts

Kazuko Tsurumachi, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Tokyo, Japan

Email:  kazuko.tsurumachi@trade.gov

Phone Number: +81/3 3224 5049


Tetsuko Fujioka, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Osaka-Kobe, Japan

Email: tetsuko.fujioka@trade.gov

Phone Number: +81/6 6315 6078


[i]Source: The Institute of International Education (IIE), Open Doors IIE Open Doors / Japan (opendoorsdata.org)

U.S. Commercial Service – Tokyo, Japan

Email:  kazuko.tsurumachi@trade.gov

Phone Number: +81/3 3224 5049


Tetsuko Fujioka, Commercial Specialist

U.S. Commercial Service – Osaka-Kobe, Japan

Email: tetsuko.fujioka@trade.gov

Phone Number: +81/6 6315 6078



[i]Source: The Institute of International Education (IIE), Open Doors IIE Open Doors / Japan (opendoorsdata.org)