Japanese universities are becoming regionally more powerful, but they still have a long path ahead to rank among the top universities in the world. What they need is the support of elite, exchange, informational and city diplomacy to appeal to the world's best and brightest.

In 2015, universities in China outranked Japan for the first time, five years after China overtook Japan as the world's second-largest economy. The signature focus for Japan in the second decade of the 21st century has been globalization, including how to internationalize college and university campuses. But the tactics have been piecemeal, anything but broad-minded or strategic. And there aren't enough Japanese students in love with their passports.

According to Open Doors 2017, China accounts for 10 times the number of Japanese students in the United States. Japanese student numbers in the U.S. dropped by 2.6 percent from the 2015-2016 academic year to 2016-2017. Japan makes up just 3 percent of the total while two countries, India and China, combine for 40 percent.