Japan Education and Training

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

Last published date: 2022-03-25

Capital: Tokyo

Population: 124.69 million (July 2021 est.)

GDP (Purchasing Power Parity): $5.225 trillion (2019 est., in 2017 dollars)

Currency: Japanese yen

Language: Japanese


UNESCO Student Mobility Number

Japan has 32,365 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.


CIA World Factbook:

22% of Japan’s population is under 25 years old.



During the 2020/21 academic year, Japan had the eleventh largest population of international students studying in the United States. There were 11,785 Japanese students studying in the United States, a 32.9 percent decrease from the previous year.[i] UNESCO’s data indicates that 46 percent of the Japanese students that studied abroad traveled to the United States as their education destination. Trailing behind the U.S. are Australia, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Canada.

From 1994-1998, Japan was the top country of origin for international students in the United States. Since then, Japan has dropped to eleventh place due to various circumstances, including challenging economic conditions and a low birth rate. Additionally, many countries, such as Australia and China, have increased their recruiting efforts to attract more Japanese students. Japan’s downward trend reached its lowest point in the 2015/16 academic year. Despite this, the United States remains the most popular destination for Japanese studying abroad. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that in 2020, Japanese students studying in the United States contributed $584 million to the U.S. economy.

Government of Japan Priorities and U.S. Embassy Support

The Government of Japan (GOJ) continues to focus on globalizing Japan’s education system. Since 2014, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has provided funding support to the designated 37 “Top Global Universities”  that are driving internationalization. For the list of schools, please refer to the Top Global University Japan’s link: https://tgu.mext.go.jp/en

In 2018, MEXT and the American Council on Education (ACE), in partnership with the U.S. Embassy and the Institute for Innovative Global Education (IIGE), launched the U.S.-Japan Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL) initiative. This COIL initiative aims to increase global learning experiences through virtual classrooms and platforms where American and Japanese students can work together on subject-specific projects. The COIL method is considered a cost-effective and long-lasting solution in enhancing an international exchange experience and collaborating academically in a virtual environment, even in a post-pandemic environment.  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 at approximately $2.2 billion, for the Global Innovation Gateway for All (GIGA) school project. In 2021, Japan’s goal of “one device per one student” has been largely reached. The second phase of the GIGA project is specifically targeted at the development of a national ICT education infrastructure.  The main pillar of this phase is “cloud by default,” i.e., the establishment of high speed and large capacity IT network connections to each school. 

In conjunction with the next revision of textbooks in 2024, MEXT aims to implement “digital textbooks” at all elementary schools in Japan.  In addition, MEXT is looking to develop a “smart school scheme,” in which all academic and administrative data can be more effectively utilized to help students, teachers and parents enter into what is being called “Society 5.0”.

The TeamUp RoadMap is a web-based, step-by-step guide for creating partnerships in Japan.  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. Please visit https://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), 2021 Open Doors Report)

In the 2020/21 academic year, Japan’s ranking decreased from 8th to 11th place in terms of overall higher education.  Japan has dropped one place since last year’s ranking and ranks 4th with community colleges. 

Secondary Education

Secondary school organized student trips (lasting 7-10 days) are a Japanese tradition. The educational travel sector has excellent market potential, as demand for overseas school trips will resume in the coming years. Short-term programs have served as teasers boosting Japanese students’ interest in longer-term plans at U.S. universities/colleges.

The market for U.S. boarding schools is also a niche opportunity. A steady number of wealthy families can afford to pay boarding school tuition and prepare their children for further learning. The U.S. Commercial Service in Japan supports U.S. boarding schools through fairs with invited local agents and consultants. The U.S. Commercial Service in Japan recommends partnering with Japanese consultants/agents and participating in educational fairs to expand in Japan effectively.

Intensive English Programs

Following China (25%) and Saudi Arabia (18%), Japan is the third leading country of origin for students studying in Intensive English Programs in the United States. During the 2020 academic year, 5,285 Japanese students participated in Intensive English Programs in the U.S., marking a 56.6 percent decrease from the previous year. According to the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS), which comprises 40 study abroad agents, Japan has a high ratio of agent usage for the English-studying market. JAOS’ survey shows that about 60 percent of their clients that decide to study in the U.S. choose Intensive English Programs, including non-academic studies. 

Professional Training Services

Although, improving English skills is critically important to Japan’s globalization efforts, the allocation of financial resources and incentives have not followed. Japan’s decade-long economic stagnation since the 1990s continues to strain organizational funding for professional training; Japanese firms have been cutting costs and funding fewer employees for executive education programs abroad.



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

It is essential to understand the English proficiency levels of Japanese students. U.S. institutions need to consider relaxed TOEFL score requirements and customize programs for Japanese students. The ability to offer conditional acceptances will be valuable in attracting students. It is also important to note that Japanese and American academic calendars do not align. Short-term (1-2 months study abroad) programs are the most popular in Japan because they make the best use of summer/spring breaks. There are opportunities for American education institutions to market attractive short-term programs to Japanese students, such as demonstrating direct benefits with future career successes gained from studying in the U.S. (e.g., internship and volunteering experiences for enhanced resume building).  Japanese universities and education agents can also seek immersion programs of English learning and cultural experiences in sports, music, and 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. Japanese students take exams that are given at the end of each grading period. There are typically three breaks in a Japanese academic year, which are the following:


Summer break

Winter break

Spring break

Higher Education

late July - late Sep.

late Dec. -  early Jan.

Feb./March - early April

Secondary Education

late July -  late Aug.

late Dec. -  early Jan.

late March - early April

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

Short-term (7-10 days) educational travel programs for high schoolers have great market potential. Many Japanese high schools want unique study abroad programs, such as STEM-related travel, including scientific field trips, sustainable development goals (SDGs) related topics, interaction with faculties/students, and businesses/lab visits. It is 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.



In 2020, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication (MIC) released a survey report [ii]that LINE ranked the most popular social media among teenagers in Japan (93.7%), followed by Instagram (69.0%) and Twitter (67.6%). 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.



  • EducationUSA Virtual Fair Japan in April, summer, and fall 2022 (TBD):  EducationUSA Japan is organizing several virtual fairs in 2022.  Depending on the Covid-19 situation in Japan, the EducationUSA Virtual Fair will be held as a hybrid fair.  For more information, please visit:  https://educationusa.state.gov/find-event.
  • Kanto Plain College Fair in fall 2022 (TBD): The fair is the premier private sector international college fair held in Japan.  The program consistently attracts more than 100 universities from around the world and mainly targets international school students.
  • Western Japan College Fair in fall 2022 (TBD): The fair is organized by the Canadian Academy and Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin in fall 2022. The fair will feature about 100 Japanese and foreign universities, including American universities, and attract international school students and local high schoolers.
  • The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) “TABS Fair in Tokyo” in fall 2022: https://www.boardingschools.com/





Kazuko Tsurumachi, Commercial Assistant

U.S. Commercial Service - Tokyo,  Japan

Phone: +81/3-3224-5049

Email:  Kazuko.Tsurumachi@trade.gov


Tetsuko Fujioka, Commercial Assistant

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

Phone: +81/6-6315-6078

Email: Tetsuko.Fujioka@trade.gov


Source: The Institute of International Education (IIE), Open Doors https://opendoorsdata.org/fact_sheets/japan/

Source: The Institute for Information and Communications Policy (IICP) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC)  https://www.soumu.go.jp/main_content/000765135.pdf