Based in a 25-story building close to the Imperial Palace in the center of Tokyo, the Hitotsubashi School of International Corporate Strategy’s (Hitotsubashi ICS) motto is “the best of two worlds.” It’s a school that lives that motto every day, residing at the intersection of a few dichotomies: the new with the old, most obviously, but also Eastern and Western business cultures, and the global view and the local.
In its current iteration, the business school dates to 2000, though the School of International Corporate Strategy’s parent university was founded in 1875. While deeply embedded in Japan — its professors and graduates are among the country’s business elite — it has a global view, as a member of GNAM, a network of 30 business schools, and links across Asia and beyond. Over 90% of Hitotsubashi ICS MBA candidates take advantage of its Global Network Weeks, intensive courses in cities around the world.
Hitotsubashi ICS’s MBA is the top English-language MBA in the country, and because it is a state-run business school, the costs are hugely subsidized. A full-time MBA costs just ¥Y535,000 per year, which is just under US$5,000. You read that right. A highly ranked, established, English-language, full-time MBA for $5,000.
Class sizes are small at around 40, and women make up 50%. Because there is no commercial incentive to grow or cut costs, the school says it can concentrate on delivering a quality experience better than its profit-driven competitors. MBAs can be one or two years long, and students can take another degree in the second year, or do a mix of internships, overseas trips, and research.
Twenty percent of MBAs are Japanese, and most of the international contingent hails from all over Asia with a handful from Western countries sprinkled in. About 30% of the student body comes from China. Westerners in the MBA tend to have an interest in Japanese culture and/or have jobs that involve dealing with Japanese clients or customers.
Hitotsubashi ICS isn’t afraid to do things slightly differently, offering unusual courses such as Urban Resilience and Creating Knowledge For The Future, while one course on the culture of Japan — studying its history going back a thousand years and taking in samurai principles and tea ceremonies — is a core subject. Design thinking also is part of the core, and the first year ends with a Wise Leadership capstone project.
The school’s deep connection to Japanese business means that it has strong links with most of the major corporations, including the likes of Uniqlo, Sony, Rakuten, and cutting-edge international ones such as Tesla.
Professor Yoshi Fujikawa, MBA Program Director
Our full-time MBA is premium, bespoke, and boutique: premium, because it is world-class; bespoke because it is highly customizable to each student; and boutique because the small staff-to-student ratio means we can focus on the student’s learning experience.
Because we are heavily subsidized, we don’t need to grow class sizes, and we can focus on quality. Each student is assigned to an academic who develops a close relationship with them that goes beyond academics and involves getting to know each others’ families. We manage the school like a big extended family. Because of this, we forge strong relationships that continue well after the program has finished.
Matthias Mühlbauer, MBA 2019
I was working at PWC when I got a three-month secondment to Tokyo, and I loved the city. I decided to do my MBA here because I wanted to expand my horizons and understand the Asian way of doing business.
The small class size at Hitotsubashi ICS means you create strong professional and personal bonds based on trust, which are really important to work in this part of the world. The professors are very well-connected with the business elites, so we get really well-informed classes about events in real-time.
The class has people from so many Asian countries that it is a fantastic way to understand the communication styles of people from different cultural backgrounds. I’ll spend my second year at Yale, then I plan to get a job focused on Asia.