nc127
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Hello there,

I will be starting my first year studying Japanese and my university has quite a long list of possible partner universities to study during our year abroad. It includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Waseda, Sophia, Keio, Doshisha, Hokkaido, Nagoya, Osaka, Meiji, Yokohama...the list goes on. I think there are about 30 options or a little less.

I know it may seem too early to be thinking about this, but I've been told that the first year counts towards your JP university choices. I also know that a few of these are highly regarded universities. Doesn't this mean that some are harder to get into than others?

Are there any particular Japanese universities that I should aim for? Do some universities offer experiences that others might not?

I would appreciate anyone's opinions on their year abroad in Japan!
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Quick-use
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(Original post by nc127)
Hello there,

I will be starting my first year studying Japanese and my university has quite a long list of possible partner universities to study during our year abroad. It includes Tokyo, Kyoto, Waseda, Sophia, Keio, Doshisha, Hokkaido, Nagoya, Osaka, Meiji, Yokohama...the list goes on. I think there are about 30 options or a little less.

I know it may seem too early to be thinking about this, but I've been told that the first year counts towards your JP university choices. I also know that a few of these are highly regarded universities. Doesn't this mean that some are harder to get into than others?

Are there any particular Japanese universities that I should aim for? Do some universities offer experiences that others might not?

I would appreciate anyone's opinions on their year abroad in Japan!
Out of those, I'd say the ranking for Japanese language learning + pastoral care would be as follows:

1. Sophia / Doshisha / Seikei (if your university offers it) <-- These are truly and utterly the best for improving your Japanese and for taking care of you while abroad.
2. Hokkaido (exceptional location of Sapporo albeit excruciatingly long winter)
3. Yokohama / Waseda / Keio. <-- Waseda and Keio are alright for Japanese teaching and their pastoral care can be OK. Waseda's location is great but Keio's isn't ideal... On the upside, both have amazing reputations in Japan (much like Sophia). Yokohama has pretty decent location and everyone I know who's gone here has had a pretty awesome time. Yokohama's also considered extremely prestigious.
4. Nagoya, Osaka, Meiji, Tokyo <-- Have absolutely no idea about these. I have Japanese friends who have gone here but don't know any exchange students. Your experience as an exchange student will be completely different to that of a Japanese student's, so that's why I can't comment too much. What I can say, however, is that they're not particularly well known for their established exchange programmes, so it's probably a safe bet to say they're average or below.

Complete last. Kyoto University. <-- Never, ever go here.

When you go on your year abroad, whatever you do, do not choose Kyoto University. It has one of the absolute worst exchange programmes and you'll find that your level of Japanese actually gets worse.

For exchange, the best are Seikei University > Sophia University = Doshisha University > International Christian University = Kwansei Gakuin University > Hokkaido University = Yokohama National University > Waseda University = Kyushu University = Keio University = Ritsumeikan University > all others.

I have no idea about Tokyo University, admittedly. Kyoto University is the absolute worst. 100% would not recommend.

The problem is that even though certain Japanese universities might have an excellent reputation in Japan, their exchange programme could be very bad. In other words, although Kyoto University is considered the second best, if not the best, university in all of Japan, it has one of the absolute worst exchange programmes. It's so bad that Edinburgh doesn't allow its students to do exchange there unless they're already fluent in the language. So many bright Edinburgh students were going to Kyoto and coming back worse than when they went. :confused: Kyoto, for some bizarre reason, forces its students to take GCSE-level courses in English...

To add more detail I can say that Seikei is the best of the best due to its exceptional accommodation and intensive one-on-one courses. You'll literally be studying intensive Japanese with a tutor all to yourself every single day. Needless to say, all those that go to Seikei come back extremely, extremely competent in Japanese. That said, first con is that the university itself is super east of Tokyo and would take 30+ mins by train to get to central locations like Shinjuku and Shibuya (unlike Sophia which is in the heart of the city). Second con is that Seikei's domestic rankings are sub-par.

Second would be either Sophia or Doshisha. Both have exceptional pastoral care (Sophia offers one-on-one mental health counselling every single week if need be), exceptional language courses and equally exceptional locations. Both also have some of the best domestic rankings. For some people, a con would be that unlike Seikei (which barely has any exchange students), both have many international students. Not thaaat much though and it definitely doesn't take away from the 'authentic' Japanese university experience (I speak from experience). Many small universities with low numbers of international students heavily struggle with extremely important things like pastoral care which both Sophia and Doshisha excel at.

Moving on, I've heard good things about Kyushu but only know 1 person who went there. Hokkaido is a great university with an excellent location in central Sapporo; but, the drawback is that although the university is famous, its exchange programme is OK / average and Hokkaido has a very, very long winter. Waseda's exchange programme is OK but nothing spectacular. Keio's is average and its location isn't great in Tokyo... Ritsumeikan's exchange programme is fine but location isn't ideal unless you like the countryside and don't mind not being close to the city centre. Kyoto's transportation system is generally quite bad...

Wherever you go, you want to feel that your Japanese is improving, that you're receiving support and that you're making a good investment. Your main priorities are improving your Japanese, enjoying life and taking care of your health.

Personally, I went to Sophia University in Tokyo by recommendation of a close senpai. When I was there I undertook extremely intensive 3 hour-long Japanese language classes from 9.15am to 12.30pm with tests and homework everyday 5 days a week for 1 semester. In my 2nd semester, I was in regular classes with Japanese students for lectures and tutorials on courses like modern Japanese literature or American Victorian literature, politics and philosophy all of which were conducted in Japanese. Each lecture/tutorial was 1 hour 30 minutes long of just constant non-stop extremely advanced Japanese and all of the course material/secondary reading (on Darwinism, for example) was in Japanese and most of the novels I read for my Modern Japanese Lit class had never been translated before so I was reading around 2 dense novels on a weekly basis. I also had to write weekly essays for each subject in Japanese of about 1500 words long, never mind the end of term essay for each course that was triple the length. Even all of my exams were in Japanese where I had to write essays on Social Darwinism or discuss how examples of some modern Japanese texts were political critiques of the Second World War and the Japanese regime at the time.

Sophia University was also amazing for pastoral care. For example, counselling, doctor visits, literally anything. Other universities might end up just saying 'try your best' even if something serious happens. :confused: Pastoral care should not be overlooked when considering where to go on exchange.

I mostly chose Sophia because of all the glowing recommendations from my senpais and the fact that it was in central Tokyo (amazing location). I was a little worried about being homesick, so it was a good choice by me because I already had quite a few friends in Tokyo. :fluffy: I'm actually considering going back to do a PhD here someday, just because of how magical my previous experience was. I'm also, admittedly, still in contact with a few professors, including the vice-president of the university... :hat2:
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Tanabata
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(Original post by Quick-use)
Out of those, I'd say the ranking for Japanese language learning + pastoral care would be as follows:

1. Sophia / Doshisha / Seikei (if your university offers it) <-- These are truly and utterly the best for improving your Japanese and for taking care of you while abroad.
2. Hokkaido (exceptional location of Sapporo albeit excruciatingly long winter)
3. Yokohama / Waseda / Keio. <-- Waseda and Keio are pretty average for Japanese teaching and their pastoral care can be OK. Waseda's location is great but Keio's is pretty bad... On the upside, both have amazing reputations in Japan (much like Sophia). Yokohama has pretty decent location and everyone I know who's gone here has had a pretty awesome time. Yokohama's also considered very prestigious.
4. Nagoya, Osaka, Meiji, Tokyo <-- Have absolutely no idea about these. I have Japanese friends who have gone here but don't know any exchange students. Your experience as an exchange student will be completely different to that of a Japanese student's, so that's why I can't comment too much. What I can say, however, is that they're not particularly well known for their established exchange programmes, so it's probably a safe bet to say they're average or below.

Complete last. Kyoto University. <-- Never, ever go here.

When you go on your year abroad, whatever you do, do not choose Kyoto University. It has one of the absolute worst exchange programmes and you'll find that your level of Japanese actually gets worse.

For exchange, the best are Seikei University > Sophia University = Doshisha University > International Christian University = Kwansei Gakuin University > Waseda University = Kyushu University = Hokkaido University = Keio University = Yokohama National University = Ritsumeikan University > all others.

I have no idea about Tokyo University, admittedly. Kyoto University is the absolute worst. 100% would not recommend.

The problem is that even though certain Japanese universities might have an excellent reputation in Japan, their exchange programme could be very bad. In other words, although Kyoto University is considered the second best, if not the best, university in all of Japan, it has one of the absolute worst exchange programmes. It's so bad that Edinburgh doesn't allow its students to do exchange there unless they're already fluent in the language. So many bright Edinburgh students were going to Kyoto and coming back worse than when they went. :confused: Kyoto, for some bizarre reason, forces its students to take GCSE-level courses in English...

To add more detail I can say that Seikei is the best of the best due to its exceptional accommodation and intensive one-on-one courses. You'll literally be studying intensive Japanese with a tutor all to yourself every single day. Needless to say, all those that go to Seikei come back extremely, extremely competent in Japanese. That said, first con is that the university itself is super east of Tokyo and would take 30+ mins by train to get to central locations like Shinjuku and Shibuya (unlike Sophia which is in the heart of the city). Second con is that Seikei's domestic rankings are sub-par.

Second would be either Sophia or Doshisha. Both have exceptional pastoral care (Sophia offers one-on-one mental health counselling every single week if need be), exceptional language courses and equally exceptional locations. Both also have some of the best domestic rankings. For some people, a con would be that unlike Seikei (which barely has any exchange students), both have many international students. Not thaaat much though and it definitely doesn't take away from the 'authentic' Japanese university experience (I speak from experience). Many small universities with low numbers of international students heavily struggle with extremely important things like pastoral care which both Sophia and Doshisha excel at.

Moving on, I've heard good things about Kyushu but only know 1 person who went there. Hokkaido is a great university with an excellent location in central Sapporo; but, the drawback is that although the university is famous, its exchange programme is OK / average and Hokkaido has a very, very long winter. Waseda's exchange programme is OK but nothing spectacular. Keio's is average and its location isn't great in Tokyo... Ritsumeikan's exchange programme is fine but location isn't ideal unless you like the countryside and don't mind not being close to the city centre. Kyoto's transportation system is generally quite bad...

Wherever you go, you want to feel that your Japanese is improving, that you're receiving support and that you're making a good investment. Your main priorities are improving your Japanese, enjoying life and taking care of your health.

Personally, I went to Sophia University in Tokyo by recommendation of a close senpai. When I was there I undertook extremely intensive 3 hour-long Japanese language classes from 9.15am to 12.30pm with tests and homework everyday 5 days a week for 1 semester. In my 2nd semester, I was in regular classes with Japanese students for lectures and tutorials on courses like modern Japanese literature or American Victorian literature, politics and philosophy all of which were conducted in Japanese. Each lecture/tutorial was 1 hour 30 minutes long of just constant non-stop extremely advanced Japanese and all of the course material/secondary reading (on Darwinism, for example) was in Japanese and most of the novels I read for my Modern Japanese Lit class had never been translated before so I was reading around 2 dense novels on a weekly basis. I also had to write weekly essays for each subject in Japanese of about 1500 words long, never mind the end of term essay for each course that was triple the length. Even all of my exams were in Japanese where I had to write essays on Social Darwinism or discuss how examples of some modern Japanese texts were political critiques of the Second World War and the Japanese regime at the time.


Sophia University was also amazing for pastoral care. For example, counselling, doctor visits, literally anything. Other universities might end up just saying, 'try your best' even if something serious happens. :confused: Pastoral care should not be overlooked when considering where to go on exchange.
Hello again, Quick-use!

I hope you're doing well.

You're the most resourceful user regarding the year abroad in Japan, so I was hoping you could tell me a bit more about the fees involved. For example, in the case of universities located in England, it says that the fees are only £1385 for the year abroad, which seems odd to me since some of the universities in the list, such as Waseda, are known to be very costly universities. Are those the only fees required for the programme? I understand accommodation and transport fees are not included, but I would really appreciate it if you could give me some insight about the financial aspects of the year abroad regarding the programme and visa, for example, is it necessary to provide a proof of a certain amount of funds/bank statement to apply for the student visa?

Thank you so much for your help, as always!
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artful_lounger
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(Original post by Tanabata)
Hello again, Quick-use!

I hope you're doing well.

You're the most resourceful user regarding the year abroad in Japan, so I was hoping you could tell me a bit more about the fees involved. For example, in the case of universities located in England, it says that the fees are only £1385 for the year abroad, which seems odd to me since some of the universities in the list, such as Waseda, are known to be very costly universities. Are those the only fees required for the programme? I understand accommodation and transport fees are not included, but I would really appreciate it if you could give me some insight about the financial aspects of the year abroad regarding the programme and visa, for example, is it necessary to provide a proof of a certain amount of funds/bank statement to apply for the student visa?

Thank you so much for your help, as always!
Generally destinations offered as study abroad locations by your course provider will be part of a bilateral exchange agreement, so students exchange "both ways" between the universities - thus, the student from each respective university pays tuition fees only to their "home" university, and the fees for the host university are dealt with by the terms of the bilateral agreement. Of course it might vary :dontknow:
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Tanabata
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(Original post by artful_lounger)
Generally destinations offered as study abroad locations by your course provider will be part of a bilateral exchange agreement, so students exchange "both ways" between the universities - thus, the student from each respective university pays tuition fees only to their "home" university, and the fees for the host university are dealt with by the terms of the bilateral agreement.
Hello, artful_lounger!.

Thank you so much for clarifying that, it is reassuring that there are no other fees involved. Would you happen to know if the same applies for the student visa? Because usually, in the case of Japan, obtaining a student visa requires a bank statement of around 1,500,000 JPY, but I am not sure if it is waived in the case of the exchange programme.
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(Original post by Tanabata)
Hello, artful_lounger!.

Thank you so much for clarifying that, it is reassuring that there are no other fees involved. Would you happen to know if the same applies for the student visa? Because usually, in the case of Japan, obtaining a student visa requires a bank statement of around 1,500,000 JPY, but I am not sure if it is waived in the case of the exchange programme.
I wouldn't know about that - Quick-use is who would be best to answer that!
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All of the answers above are brilliant. My response will definitely not have as much substance, but I would firstly recommend researching which areas of Japan you would prefer to live. I was hell bent on living in Kyoto for my year abroad given my interest in traditional Japanese culture and history. I subsequently based all of my choices around how easy it would be to get to Kyoto. Similarly, I wanted to avoid Tokyo, so made sure not to choose any universities within that region.

If you do not mind where you live, have a look at the way that the exchange program is structured and see whether it lines up with your goals: Do you want to study the language intensively in classes? Would you prefer to study certain aspects of the culture? Would you prefer to be in an area of Japan with fewer English speakers?
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(Original post by Tanabata)
Hello, artful_lounger!.

Thank you so much for clarifying that, it is reassuring that there are no other fees involved. Would you happen to know if the same applies for the student visa? Because usually, in the case of Japan, obtaining a student visa requires a bank statement of around 1,500,000 JPY, but I am not sure if it is waived in the case of the exchange programme.
I think universities are quite lenient regarding this. As long as you can provide evidence that you'll be financially secure during your exchange, it should be fine. For example, I was able to show that I'd be receiving the JASSO scholarship + bursaries from SAAS etc.
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nc127
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Quick-use I apologise for such a late reply, getting settled into university has kept me quite busy (as you can probably imagine). I really appreciate the time it would have taken to give such a lengthy and useful response, so thank you for your help!

I was definitely stuck in the mindset of ranking the universities based on their domestic ranking, rather than the quality of their exchange programme, so thank you for bringing that up also. Seikei is not a partner university, unfortunately, but Sophia does sound amazing! I just wonder how much I would enjoy being in the middle of Tokyo haha

I will definitely look into Yokohama as well.

(Original post by forest3261)
All of the answers above are brilliant. My response will definitely not have as much substance, but I would firstly recommend researching which areas of Japan you would prefer to live. I was hell bent on living in Kyoto for my year abroad given my interest in traditional Japanese culture and history. I subsequently based all of my choices around how easy it would be to get to Kyoto. Similarly, I wanted to avoid Tokyo, so made sure not to choose any universities within that region.

If you do not mind where you live, have a look at the way that the exchange program is structured and see whether it lines up with your goals: Do you want to study the language intensively in classes? Would you prefer to study certain aspects of the culture? Would you prefer to be in an area of Japan with fewer English speakers?
I actually hadn't given much thought about which area of Japan I would prefer to live in! I also don't have much of a clue about what the different programmes offer (I didn't consider the classes being different) but I would much prefer a university with an exchange programme that doesn't completely baby us in English since improving my Japanese is ultimately my biggest goal. I will have to look into that too, thank you.

Other than that, I am quite used to city living (though I suppose Japanese cities aren't quite the same) so I would have no issue living and studying somewhere on the more rural side. Kyoto does sound nice but I am definitely wary about Kyoto University's exchange programme now

Thank you both! I will have to spend a few hours on the weekend having a proper look at the university locations whilst keeping Quick-use's ranking in mind.
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Quick-use
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(Original post by nc127)
Quick-use I apologise for such a late reply, getting settled into university has kept me quite busy (as you can probably imagine). I really appreciate the time it would have taken to give such a lengthy and useful response, so thank you for your help!

I was definitely stuck in the mindset of ranking the universities based on their domestic ranking, rather than the quality of their exchange programme, so thank you for bringing that up also. Seikei is not a partner university, unfortunately, but Sophia does sound amazing! I just wonder how much I would enjoy being in the middle of Tokyo haha

I will definitely look into Yokohama as well.
No worries! Hope you're settling in well.

Definitely do not prioritise domestic Japanese rankings for your year abroad. That said, universities that offer some of the best exchanges are generally very well regarded. I understand the reluctance regarding Tokyo; I was the exact same. I had an excellent time, though. Mostly because of Sophia and the fact that I stayed at an all-male and Japanese frat-house in Tokyo. My level of Japanese skyrocketed!

If you're not keen on Tokyo, cities like Yokohama, Sapporo, Hiroshima and any in the Kansai region are absolutely wonderful. Hokkaido University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Yokohama National University, Doshisha University (in central Kyoto), Ritsumeikan University (outskirts of Kyoto) etc are all extremely prestigious with great exchange programmes.

One thing I would say, however, is that as a city Kyoto can be quite inconvenient because everything is so far apart and the transport system is lacking... The city is also full-to-the-brim with tourists which can take away from the 'authentic' experience. But, Doshisha is known for its phenomenal exchange programme. Ritsumeikan, too, as it has some very advanced language and cultural courses; just a few gripes about Ritsumeikan would be that their pastoral care is apparently quite bad (from what I've heard), and since the location is in the outskirts, it'll take you half an hour or so to get to central Kyoto and more for other cities. However, not being in central Kyoto might be a huge pro as the outskirts consist of mostly nature and wildlife with some beautiful scenery.

Moving on, Hiroshima and Sapporo are very, very different cities but both equally charming and wonderful. Hiroshima truly is a hidden gem that's super low-key and peaceful. Sapporo is also utterly, utterly amazing. Cons would just be that Hiroshima is pretty far south-west (very far from Tokyo and a little far from the Kansai region), and Sapporo has a painfully long (and extreme) winter...

Apologies for spamming this thread!

cleveland71 - the posts of this thread might be of relevance to you and your son. :hat2:
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cleveland71
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No worries! Hope you're settling in well.

Definitely do not prioritise domestic Japanese rankings for your year abroad. That said, universities that offer some of the best exchanges are generally very well regarded. I understand the reluctance regarding Tokyo; I was the exact same. I had an excellent time, though. Mostly because of Sophia and the fact that I stayed at an all-male and Japanese frat-house in Tokyo. My level of Japanese skyrocketed!

If you're not keen on Tokyo, cities like Yokohama, Sapporo, Hiroshima and any in the Kansai region are absolutely wonderful. Hokkaido University, Kwansei Gakuin University, Yokohama National University, Doshisha University (in central Kyoto), Ritsumeikan University (outskirts of Kyoto) etc are all extremely prestigious with great exchange programmes.

One thing I would say, however, is that as a city Kyoto can be quite inconvenient because everything is so far apart and the transport system is lacking... The city is also full-to-the-brim with tourists which can take away from the 'authentic' experience. But, Doshisha is known for its phenomenal exchange programme. Ritsumeikan, too, as it has some very advanced language and cultural courses; just a few gripes about Ritsumeikan would be that their pastoral care is apparently quite bad (from what I've heard), and since the location is in the outskirts, it'll take you half an hour or so to get to central Kyoto and more for other cities. However, not being in central Kyoto might be a huge pro as the outskirts consist of mostly nature and wildlife with some beautiful scenery.

Moving on, Hiroshima and Sapporo are very, very different cities but both equally charming and wonderful. Hiroshima truly is a hidden gem that's super low-key and peaceful. Sapporo is also utterly, utterly amazing. Cons would just be that Hiroshima is pretty far south-west (very far from Tokyo and a little far from the Kansai region), and Sapporo has a painfully long (and extreme) winter...

Apologies for spamming this thread!

cleveland71 - the posts of this thread might be of relevance to you and your son. :hat2:
Thanks so much for tagging me. Great info. I sincerely hope it becomes extra relevant, once he hears back from these unis!
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