Cost of University in Japan vs the USA

person from behind carrying a beige backpack looking at the red gate of a shrine in Japan.

One common misconception about Japan is that it’s an expensive country. In truth, the Japanese economy has been more or less stagnant for over 30 years. Consequently, the cost of university in Japan vs the US (United States) and some other countries, is significantly cheaper.

In this article, we will give examples of the cost of university in Japan vs the US and compare the two. Read on if you want to learn more!

Two 1000 yen bills with a five coins laying  on top, used to simulate the cost of going to university in Japan vs the US.

The cost of going to university in Japan

The cost of studying in Japan varies greatly depending on whether one enrolls in a private, public, or national university. It also depends on the field of study. Therefore, the following numbers are estimates and can vary with time and location.

National and Public Universities in Japan

Many of the most prestigious and famous universities in Japan are the national universities. (国立大学, kokuritsu-daigaku). For example, the famous Tokyo University with a world ranking of 28, and Kyoto University with a world ranking of 47 as of 2024. However, due to fierce competition, it can be hard to secure a spot and pass the university exams to enter.

Public universities in Japan (公立大学, kо̄ritsu-daigaku), such as the Osaka Metropolitan University often times don’t rank as high, but they are also easier to get admitted to.

Standard tuition fees for both public and national universities in Japan are set by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and there is no difference in price between the faculties. Some universities in Japan may add a fee for facilities and materials, but the overall sum is about the same regardless of which public or national university and faculty you choose.

The average price for the first year in 2023 was:

Admission fee: 282,000 yen (*one time fee – first year only!)
Tuition fee 535,800 yen
Total 817,800 yen (5,565 USD)

*All price conversion rates in this article are counted in February 2024.

Private Universities in Japan

The cost of going to private universities in Japan (私立大学, shiritsu-daigaku) isn’t regulated by the government, and therefore the price varies heavily, depending on faculty and location. Science, engineering, and medicine tend to come with a larger price tag.

Here are some examples of average prices for 2023 received from (JP only):

HumanitiesScience & TechnologyMedical & Dentist
Admission fee234,763 yen256,208 yen1,013,054 yen
Tuition fee758,854 yen1,071,560 yen2,896,848 yen
Facilities fee157,246 yen190,565 yen883,026 yen
Total1,150,863 yen
(7,832 USD)
1,518,333 yen
(10,338 USD)
4,792,928 yen
(32,635 USD)
*as of February 2024

private universities cost more than national and public ones, and therefore, it is recommended to take the price difference into consideration when choosing where to study. Furthermore, because of the heavy fluctuation in prices, it is recommended to find price information directly from the university homepage.

The cost of going to University in the US

The prices for studying at a university in the US vary by state and whether it’s a public or private university. Private universities tend to be about 50-100% but can be up to 4 times more expensive than public ones.

It’s also worth mentioning that studying in the US as an international student, one is considered to be an “out-of-state” student, and this is often about twice as expensive in comparison to an “in-state” student according to U.S. News data. As most of our readers are international students, we are calculating the average annual price for the tuition fee for out-of-state students.

Studying in some states is cheaper than in others. For example, the average annual tuition fee in Florida for out-of-state students is 8,700 USD for public universities and 17,560 USD for private ones. In Pennsylvania, public ones are 18,150 USD and private ones are 24,900 USD according to studyportals P.V

These prices do not factor in additional fees like material fees, enrollment fees, and so on, but unlike in Japan, those fees are also negligibly small in comparison.

Comparing the cost of University in Japan vs the US

Now that we have an idea of the cost of university in Japan vs the US, let’s compare the two. According to our research, the general cost of university in Japan vs the US is cheaper. The cheapest alternative in Japan (national and public universities) cost a total of about 5,565 USD for the first year, and 3,657 USD from year 2 and onwards. This is about twice as cheap as the cheapest alternatives in the US that we could find.

Private universities, on the other hand, are a bit more costly, but not as expensive as private universities in the US (unless you are studying medicine).

students sitting at a desk studying at a university in Japan.

Other costs to consider

Moving abroad to study comes with many more costs than just the tuition and enrollment fees. It is in one’s best interest to also consider rent, utility fees, health insurance costs, as well as food and other daily necessities.

Luckily, all of this is cheap for students in Japan! The rent for student dormitories is very cheap, with prices that often stoop as low as 15,000 yen (100 USD) / month outside of areas like Tokyo. The national health insurance costs about 2,000 yen (13.70 USD) / month, and buying food is generally cheap in Japan too, especially if you make good use of the school lunch cafeterias and half-price bentos (lunch boxes).

Why it’s worth studying at a University in Japan

If you have the opportunity and economy to study abroad. We recommend giving Japan a chance! Not only is the cost of university in Japan vs the US cheaper, but it’s also good for your career and a life-changing experience that you will remember for the rest of your life. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, many universities in Japan provide education in English too (e-track). If you want to learn more, check out our schools page!

For more information about school life in Japan and learning Japanese, follow our blog!


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