Japan - 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: 2020-03-09


Capital: Tokyo
Population:  125,507,472 (July 2020 est.)
GDP: 5.443 Trillion (2017 est., Purchasing Power Parity)
Currency:  Yen (JPY)
Language: Japanese 

UNESCO Student Mobility Number:  
 Japan has 31,732 students studying abroad according to UNESCO.

CIA World Factbook:
21.96% of the population in Japan is under 24 years old.  


During the 2018/19 academic year, Japan had the eighth largest population of international students studying in the United States. According to the IIE Open Doors  report, 18,105 Japanese students studied in the United States, which was a 3.5 percent decrease from the previous year.  There has been a rather moderate decrease in Japanese students studying in the U.S. since 2012/2013.  On the other hand, 8,467 U.S. students studied in Japan in 2017/2018, which was a 12.4 percent increase from the previous year.  This increase should stimulate and enhance partnerships between Japanese and American institutions, which should also lead to rising numbers of Japanese students studying in the United States.       

Japan used to be the top country of origin for students to the United States from 1994 to 1998. Since then, Japan has fallen to eighth place due to a variety of circumstances including challenging economic conditions, Japan’s low birth rate, the recruiting cycle of Japanese companies, and a surge of students from other countries. Japan’s downward trend has shown signs of bottoming out as of the 2015/16 academic year. The United States remains the most popular destination for studying abroad. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that in 2018, Japanese students studying in the United States contributed $656 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. Short-term programs are the most popular among university students. 





Academic Level




Graduate Education






Optional Practical Training



Japanese students total













Higher Education

It was a relative slow decline by 3.5 percent between 2017/18 and 2018/19 and Japan stayed the 8th ranking to the U.S.  Occupational Practice Training (OPT) is popular among Japanese students same as other Asian countries.

Community Colleges








Japan's Rank







Japanese students














Total No. of International Students







(Source: IIE Open Doors: Community Colleges Data Source)

Meanwhile, community colleges in the United States constantly attract Japanese students. Japan is steadily sending more than 5,000 students to community colleges in the United States since 2010/2011.  Japanese students make up about 5-6% of the total international students who studied at community colleges in the U.S., although down from Japan’s No.1 ranking in 2006/2007, when there was  a total of 11,031 students. 

The globalization of Japan is one of the pillars of Prime Minister Abe’s growth strategy. Prime Minister Abe announced the intent to double the number of bilateral exchanges between U.S. and Japan by 2020. More specifically, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) has set a goal to send abroad 120,000 Japanese university students and 60,000 Japanese high school students annually by 2020.  Clearly, these goals have not been achieved and there is more to do.

Japan’s education reform continues to move forward; however, English reform’s been stagnant given MEXT decided to postpone introduction of private English tests for the National Center Test for Japanese universities admissions.  Because of differences in the English exam fees as well as the limited number of locations where the exams would be given, students and educators are concerned that the system would be disadvantageous to lower-income students and those living in remote areas.  National universities such as Kyoto University, Osaka University and Nagoya University announced that they wouldn’t use private English tests for now.  The Japanese government is aiming to start the private English exams in 2024.   

Started in 2014, MEXT has been providing financial support to 37 “Super Global Universities” through 2023 to help those schools internationalize. For the list of the schools, please refer to the Super Global Universities website: https://www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-tgu/selection.html

In addition to the programs that provide funding directly to Japanese universities, MEXT has launched several initiatives for supporting study abroad.  Started in 2013, MEXT has been taking a lead on “Tobitate!”, a public-private partnership student study aboard program. This program aims to send approximately 10,000 high school students and university students overseas by 2020 and offers financial support donated by private sectors to selected students. MEXT will maintain this program and continue to send students after 2020.   Please refer to the introductory video that describes “Tobitate!”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGFbGZG5UqM

TeamUp campaign is an Initiative funded by the U.S. Embassy Tokyo to increase student mobility by promoting strategic partnerships between U.S. and Japanese colleges and universities. The TeamUP RoadMap is a web-based, step-by-step guide for creating partnerships, and also has a matchmaking function. http://teamup-usjapan.org/

Secondary Education
Secondary school organized student trips (7-10 days) are a typical Japanese tradition. The educational travel sector has great market potential as the demand on overseas school trips are increasing. The short-term programs have been acting as teasers to boost the number of Japanese students to consider a longer-term program in U.S. universities/colleges.  According to MEXT statistics, the number of high school students participated in educational travel programs (less than 3 months) marked 42,793 and the students who studied abroad (more than 3 months) marked 4,076, which was the highest number in recent years’ surveys and showed the steady growth of the market.  Notably, the U.S. is the most popular destination for high school students who studied abroad.  1,151 out of 4,076 studied in the U.S., 937 in Canada, 704 in New Zealand and 522 in Australia.  1,918 schools (851 public schools, 1,029 private schools and 38 national schools) were sending institutions.  

MEXT aims to send 60,000 high school students overseas in 2020.  This growing market segment shouldn’t be overlooked as it’s not reflected as Japan’s statistics in IIE Open Doors.  There are 48 schools offering International Baccalaureate degree programs in Japan (https://www.ibo.org/about-the-ib/the-ib-by-country/j/japan/), including Canadian Academy and Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin.  These two schools also organize a large-scaled college fair to promote foreign universities to their students.  Please see “events” for details.  

The market for U.S. boarding schools is a niche opportunity. There is a steady number of wealthy families, who can afford to pay boarding school tuitions and are interested in making their children better prepared for further learning. In recent years, there have been increasing numbers of independent educational consultants to meet the needs of families who are looking into international school and boarding school options. Working closely with your partner agents would be the most effective way to tap into this market. There are only a few agents that specialize in boarding school programs in Japan. It is very challenging for new schools to reach out on their own in the market. CS Japan regularly supports U.S. boarding schools through fairs to invite local agents and consultants such as for the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) and Linden Educational Services. To build connections with recruiting agents/consultants, CS Japan recommends participating in such events.   

Intensive English Programs






Japan's Rank





Japanese students





Change from the previous year (%)





(Source: IIE Open Doors: Intensive English Programs)

(Source: IIE Open Doors: Intensive English Programs)

Japan is the second leading country of origin for students studying in Intensive English Programs in the United States, following China. 12,305 Japanese students participated in Intensive English Programs in the U.S. during the 2018 academic year, which was a 0.4 percent decrease from the previous year  It’s been steady with about 10,000 students annually enrolling in Intensive English Programs in the United States since 2012.  Further, this segment strongly contributes to pulling up the number of Japanese students who study in the United States.  

According to the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS) which is comprised of 40 study abroad agents, Japan has a high proportion of families that choose to use agents to learn about opportunities for English study. 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.  Although Japanese universities intend to send students to partner institutions’ academic programs, due to low English proficiency skills, most of Japanese students start studying in Intensive English Programs. 

Professional Training Services
While the concept of globalization and improving English skills is regarded to be important, the allocation of financial resources and incentives have not followed. This makes it challenging for working professionals to truly invest in the time and energy in learning and/or improving their English skills. This is coupled with Japan’s decade long economic stagnation since the bubble burst in the early 90’s. Japanese firms has been cutting costs and funding fewer employees for executive education abroad. 


The Japanese government is promoting measures to facilitate study abroad participation from the viewpoint of global human resource development, importance of personal interchanges with foreign universities, and globalization of the traditional insular Japanese society. There are potential opportunities for U.S. universities that market short-term offerings to Japanese students.

It is crucial to understand the English proficiency skills of Japanese students. U.S. institutions need to take this condition into consideration for relaxed TOEFL score requirement and customize programs to 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. 

Short-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 program to Japanese students, such as showing the direct benefits in relation to future career success encourages students to study in the United States. Service learning and/or volunteer activities to enhance resume buildings can be compelling reasons to enroll in a program. Some Japanese universities and education agents are looking for immersion into the English and cultural experience with native speakers while playing sports, music, dance and making friends in the U.S. colleges and universities.

US higher education institutions need to customize short-term programs to meet the Japanese academic calendar, which begins in April and ends in March. Exams are given at the end of each grading period. There are usually three breaks in Japanese schools during the academic year: the summer break (generally early August through mid-September), winter break (generally late December through early January) and spring break (generally late February through end of March).

One-semester to one-year study exchange programs with partner U.S. universities are also very popular in Japan. Partnering with Japanese universities is an effective way of entering the Japanese market. In recent years, many Japanese universities are looking for bilateral student exchange partners. Japanese universities are aware of difficulties in maintaining balance in terms of number of students in two-way exchange programs and they are interested in discussing new ways of facilitating student exchange. 

Short-term (7-10 days) educational travel programs for high schoolers have great market potentials. Many Japanese high schools are interested in a unique study abroad programs, such as STEM-related programs including scientific field trips, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related topics, interaction with faculties/students and companies/lab visits. The key to success would be tailored short term programs (SDGs, STEM, art, entrepreneurial studies, robotics, music, sports, leadership, etc.,) specifically for high school student travel. Information on homestay availability, exchange programs with local schools and other special programs students can join would be helpful. Additional resources such as the availability of Japanese guides at attractions would be welcomed.  


Tokyo EducationUSA EXPO in September 2020 (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 2020 (TBD): The U.S. Consulate General, Osaka-Kobe, and other constituent posts 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/

Kansai College Fair on 9/10/2020:  Organized by the Canadian Academy and Osaka International School of Kwansei Gakuin in September 2020The fair will feature about 100 Japanese and foreign universities including U.S. universities and attract international school students and local high schoolers. 

Kanto Plains College Fair on 9/11/2020:   Organized by Hiroo Gakuen High School and is the premier private sector international college fair held in Japan.  The program consistently attracts more than 100 universities from around the world.

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) “Boarding School Fair in Tokyo” in fall 2020: http://www.boardingschools.com/

Linden Educational Services “World Boarding Schools and Summer Camp EXPO in Tokyo” in fall 2020: 


U.S. College Alumni Network of Japan:  http://www.uscanj.net/
Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT): http://www.mext.go.jp/en/
A list of existing exchange agreements at higher education level: http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/koutou/shitu/1287263.htm
Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO): Japanese institutions offering programs in English: http://www.jasso.go.jp/en/index.html
JAFSA, Japan Network for International Education: https://www.jafsa.org/en/
Fulbright Japan: http://www.fulbright.jp/eng/index.html
EducaitonUSA Tokyo: https://educationusa.state.gov/centers/educationusa-tokyo


Kazuko Tsurumachi, Commercial Assistant 
U.S. Commercial Service – Tokyo, Japan

Tetsuko Fujioka, Commercial Assistant 
U.S. Commercial Service - Osaka-Kobe, Japan