Differences between American and Japanese Universities




Hey everyone! Today I’ll be talking about the major distinctions between American and Japanese higher education systems. I’ve had the chance to study at both Ohio State and ICU these past few years, and besides the obviously language usage, I noticed that my college life in Japan has been drastically different from my home university.

Pictured from Left to Right: ICU vs OSU.

Tuition Costs 

Something that I noticed right away as I started living in Japan is the vast difference in tuition costs. In Japan, most universities don’t base tuition fees on if you are an international student or not, with most students paying the same costs. The International Christian University is the most expensive university in Japan–this is mostly due to the fact that it was recently rated the #1 Private university in the country. With this being said, it is STILL cheaper to attend three semesters at ICU than compared to a large public university such as Ohio State.

Many of my Japanese friends were shocked to see the amount of money it takes to even cover year at a normal US college. A reason why tuition may be cheaper in Japan than the US is due to the lack of scholarships available to students. At ICU, eligible students are able to receive a stipend of 800000yen (USD$8000) for the entire academic year depending on the scholarship; however, you are able to only obtain the funds for one year. If a student is still unable to afford the university’s fee, they are still able to apply for a tuition reduction.

In the states, however, many students are forced to take loans or work multiple student jobs in order to afford college. Below is a sample of Ohio State’s tuition and board fees.


It’s equivalent to the cost of a mid-sized car!

Course load 

Getting into university isn’t a walk in the park–students study for hours on end to pass their university’s entrance exams, however, after they are accepted, many Japanese students view college as their “spring break of life”. A majority of classes don’t require attendance and additionally, in order to receive credits, some may only require you to write a final report. Most of the stress that students go through during these years is finding an internship or job for when they graduate.

In comparison, the work required of students in American colleges is completely different. Depending on the level, a 3-credit hour course at Ohio State may require students to take three midterms, followed by a final. This isn’t including the fact that there are usually group presentations and daily assignments.

Extra-curricular Activities 

Lastly, it seems that Japanese students take extra-curricular activities more seriously than American students. There are two different types of groups at Japanese universities: サクラ (Circle) and 部 (teams).

I’m currently involved in the circle, “The Clumsy Chorus”. Being that it is a circle, it is for the most part less intensive than joining a “Bu”. We have practice twice a week, which is considered not to be a lot, and the group has a more relax attitude. People join clumsies to make friends and have a good time while singing. Bu, on the other hand, are more rigorous.

Thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with my blogs so far!