Universities in Japan: the Main Differences

  • Japanese Universities might be almost the same as the other universities in the world. Students are attending classes, doing research, writing papers, and joining many activities. But there are some customs that are different in Japanese universities. Most of them revolve around the relationships between senior-junior and professor-student.

    Kohai and Senpai

    In Japan, a senior is called sempai and junior is called kohai. The system of kohai – sempai actually comes from the Japanese culture. In original Japanese system, the sempai is usually obligated to mentor kohai. Sempai is also sometimes seen responsible for kohai. In contrary, kohai should really respect sempai. The relationship between kohai and sempai usually will last for a long time and is not a temporary relationship. However, in the modern age, especially if the university is already internationalized and has many foreign students, the culture of kohai – sempai is fading. People just have casual relationship with their seniors.

    Student and Sensei

    In Japan, a teacher or professor is called sensei. Sensei in Japan is a figure that is very respected by the student. Students have to be very polite and cannot act as friend of their Sensei. If you have a particular sensei in Japan that became your advisor, it means that he is the one who is really responsible for you. If you have a particular problem, your sensei will most likely know, and sometimes, if you make any wrongdoings, for example, fight with another student, somebody can report it to your sensei. So, sometimes, sensei is more than a professor or a teacher.