8 Things You Need to Know About Studying in Kyoto, Japan | Top Universities

8 Things You Need to Know About Studying in Kyoto, Japan

By Stephanie Lukins

Updated October 23, 2023 Updated October 23, 2023

Sponsored by Kyoto University of Advanced Science

Located in the Kansai region on the island of Honshu, Japan lies the traditional city of Kyoto.

With a history spanning over a thousand years, the city is home to 17 World Heritage UNESCO sites, over 2,000 ancient shrines and temples, peaceful Zen gardens, bustling food markets, wooden teahouses, and narrow cobbled alleyways adorned with cherry blossom trees.

Kyoto’s many charms attract millions every year who want to get a real feel for the beauty and spirit of both modern and traditional Japanese arts and culture.

But that’s not everything! If you’re considering embarking on the study experience of a lifetime to Kyoto, there are a few more things you need to know about studying here.

Kyoto is one of the best student cities in the world

Over the last 12 years, Japan has been considered one of the safest countries in the world, and since 2017, the combined metropolitan area of Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe (also known as Keihanshin) has been ranked a top 20 student city in the QS Best Student Cities.

Kyoto offers the experience of city life without all the chaos you might expect in Tokyo. It’s also much safer than other cities, making it a great place for students to enjoy a safe, urban lifestyle and culture.

It’s also a pretty affordable city for students, with the average annual rent costing 582,360 JPN yen (US~$5,365) and reasonable tuition fees.

One in 10 people living in Kyoto are students

This makes Kyoto home to approximately 150,000 students from all over the world – so you definitely won’t be on your own when you study here.

The buzzing student atmosphere sees students getting involved with and enjoying everything that Japanese life has to offer – from all-night karaoke bars, to manga and animations, gaming and entertainment centers.

For those who enjoy a hike, jog, walk, cycle or swim, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Kyoto is surrounded by mountain ranges, leaving you to get out and explore to your heart’s content. The Kamogawa river is also great for cooling off in during the hot summer months.  

English isn’t as widely spoken as you might think – but don’t let that put you off!

The people of Kyoto are known to be very helpful and welcoming wherever they can be. Of course, taking the time to learn the basics of Japanese is common courtesy and shows respect for the country you’re in.

And when it comes to studying in English in Kyoto, there are plenty of opportunities to do that. Kyoto University of Advanced Science  provides in-depth, career oriented engineering programs led by top academics in their respected fields.

In September 2020, students will have the opportunity to enroll in a new and innovative English-taught graduate degree program in the Faculty of Engineering, while the undergraduate equivalent is scheduled to run the year following. 

Speaking of universities…

Kyoto has a world-renowned reputation for higher education and fostering innovation

With around 50 universities, Japanese language schools and vocational institutes all offering a rich selection of study options, each with their own unique curriculum, it’s no wonder Kyoto is considered the university capital of Japan.

And what’s more, out of 28 Japanese Nobel Laureates, 19 are associated with Kyoto – impressive, right?

Come rain or shine, make sure to pack for every season

Cherry blossom in Kyoto

While summers tend to be hot and humid, winters can be cold – but that doesn’t matter when you’re living in Kyoto as hundreds of unmissable (and unforgettable) events, activities and experiences occupy the yearly calendar.

In the springtime, students can take in the wonders of Japan’s famous cherry blossom flowers, and during the summer you can attend a number of cultural festivals and religious events. If simply relaxing is more your thing, Lake Biwa is Japan’s largest lake and is a great leisure spot.

For those who prefer cooler conditions, Fall is a great time to hike and admire the red and orange hues of the Japanese maple trees, while winter is the best season to enjoy a hot spring. A trip to Arashiyama, Kameoka and Tango in Kyoto Prefecture are a must.

It’s a high-tech hotspot for world-leading industries – so grad employment opportunities are plentiful

Kyoto’s passion for design and all things futuristic has seen a large number of leading high-tech Japanese companies setting up their headquarters here – many of which frequently feature in the Forbes’ Top Companies list.

Many of these companies are seeking graduates who have the specialist skills to come in and work across various departments and taskforces. In 2018, the number of international students who changed their visa status to work in Japan after graduating hit a record high – 93.2 percent of them registered, with engineers, accountants and language-related roles with translation and interpretation the most popular job descriptions.

400 Shinto shrines and 1,600 Buddhist temples survive in the city

Fushimi Inari Taisha

Image credit: Yukitaka Iha on Unsplash – Fushimi Inari Taisha

Kyoto once served as the Imperial Capital of Japan for more than 1,000 years. After years of upheaval, it is now considered the cultural capital of Japan where visitors can get a real insight into ancient Japanese tradition, history, religion and culture, as modern geishas walk the cobbled alleyways and imperial palaces, shrines and Buddhist temples quietly watch over the city.

… and when it comes to food, you’ll be spoilt for choice

Japanese cuisine

From Michelin-starred restaurants to affordable sushi and noodle joints, Kyoto’s refined, high quality international cuisine (vegan and halal options included!), will definitely give your taste-buds a trip.

For starters (no pun intended) you should make your way to Nishiki Market, otherwise known as ‘Kyoto’s Kitchen’, a lively retail market where shops and restaurants line the streets. You’ll have the opportunity to experience Japanese cuisine like never before, so don’t be shy when it comes to trying the samples either – getting to know what it’s all about is part of the fun when it comes to dining in Kyoto! 

And if you’re spending your New Year celebrations here, be sure to look out for Washoku’, a famous traditional Japanese dietary culture which was recognized on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity 2013 list.

Lead image credit: Su San Lee on Unsplash – Kiyomizu Dera, Kyoto, Japan

This article was originally published in June 2020 . It was last updated in October 2023

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