Best universities in Japan

Find the top universities in Japan using Times Higher Education’s rankings data

三月 24 2020
Tohoku University, Japan, Rankings, University

Tohoku University has taken first place in the 2020 Times Higher Education Japan University Rankings.

The rankings, now in their fourth year, were produced in partnership with Japanese education company Benesse.

The Japan University Rankings are calculated based on four broad “pillars” (resources, engagement, outcomes and environment) covering 16 performance indicators. They differ from the THE World University Rankings in that they are more focused on what institutions offer students rather than on research data. Click here to read the full methodology for the Japan rankings.

This year THE used responses from seven questions from the 2019 and 2020 Japan Student Surveys to find out what students think of the teaching at their universities. The results were taken from more than 71,000 responses from 278 universities across Japan. More information on the survey and the questions included can be found in this document created last year to introduce the survey.

Japan is a country that successfully maintains ancient traditions alongside its identity as a nation of technological innovation. This contrast can also be seen in the country’s higher education institutions as they develop their research output and international outreach while preserving Japan’s culture and values.

Top five universities in Japan

Scroll down to view universities in the top 150

1. Tohoku University

Many of Tohoku University’s facilities are built around and within the ancient war grounds of the city of Sendai.

In 1913, Tohoku became the first university in Japan to admit female students after the appointment in 1911 of its first president, Masataro Sawayanagi, the vice-minister of education. Tohoku was also the first university in Japan to admit foreign students. 

In 2009, Tohoku University was one of 13 universities selected by the Japanese government to contribute to providing higher education at an international level, and the university introduced a series of degree programmes that are predominantly taught in English.

2. Kyoto University

Kyoto University is spread across three campuses in Yoshida, Uji and Katsura. It is one of Japan’s oldest universities and is consistently ranked highly in Asia.

Kyoto has about 22,000 students, 10 faculties, 19 graduate schools, 13 research institutes and 21 research and educational centres.

The university was initially made up of colleges in law, medicine, letters, and science and engineering. Within two years, the university opened a library and a hospital. Later, it established faculties in economics, agriculture and humanities, and the first graduate school was launched in the mid-20th century.

The institution has produced a number of successful researchers, including 10 Nobel prizewinners, two Fields medallists and one Gauss prizewinner.

=3. The University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo became the first national university in Japan when it was established in 1877.

It provides courses across the academic spectrum and currently has 10 faculties, 15 graduate schools, 11 affiliated research institutes (including the Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology), 13 university-wide centres, three libraries and two institutes for advanced study. 

Students are taught at three main campuses in Hongo, Komaba and Kashiwa but there are facilities associated with the university throughout Japan. The university has a slightly unusual course structure in that students follow a liberal arts education at one campus during their first two years before transferring to another campus to study their chosen major.

The campuses are in close proximity to many of Tokyo’s cultural attractions including Yanesen, a town of temples, and Ueno Park, with its museums and cherry blossoms. The campuses also have good transport links to the centre of the capital.

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=3. Tokyo Institute of Technology

The Tokyo Institute of Technology is a national research university located in the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan. 

It is the largest institution for higher education in Japan that is dedicated to science and technology education. The university is organised into six schools within which there are over 40 departments and research centres. 

One Nobel prize laureate attended the university – Hideki Shirakawa, co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2000.

5. Kyushu University

Kyushu University has maintained its fifth place position from last year’s ranking. 

The university has international students from all over the world. The number of foreign students continues to rise year-on-year. 

There are 7.5 million items in the Kyushu University Museum including documents, archaeological artefacts and an insect collection of more than 4 million specimens.

Student experiences of studying in Japan

Why I chose to study at Osaka City University
The study experience at Tohoku University
Foreigners in Japan: student stories
Tokyo’s tiny medical school defied my expectations
Learning new things at Kobe University
Studying at Hiroshima University: an international perspective
Student life at a medical university with a high staff-to-student ratio
Studying at a Japanese university: the experiences of two British students
The cost of studying at a university in Japan
A day in the life of a student in Japan

The best universities in Japan 2020: the top 150

Japan Rank 2020 University Prefecture
1 Tohoku University Miyagi
2 Kyoto University Kyoto
=3 The University of Tokyo Tokyo
=3 Tokyo Institute of Technology Tokyo
5 Kyushu University Fukuoka
6 Hokkaido University Hokkaido
7 Nagoya University Aichi
8 Osaka University Osaka
9 University of Tsukuba Ibaraki
10 Akita International University Akita
11 International Christian University Tokyo
12 Hiroshima University Hiroshima
13 Waseda University Tokyo
14 Keio University Tokyo
15 Kobe University Hyogo
16 Hitotsubashi University Tokyo
17 Nagaoka University of Technology Niigata
=18 Kanazawa University Ishikawa
=18 Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Tokyo
20 Sophia University Tokyo
=21 Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) Oita
=21 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Tokyo
23 Chiba University Chiba
24 The University of Aizu Fukushima
25 Ochanomizu University Tokyo
26 Kyoto Institute of Technology Kyoto
27 Kumamoto University Kumamoto
28 Okayama University Okayama
=29 Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology Tokyo
=29 Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) Tokyo
31 Yokohama National University Kanagawa
32 Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) Aichi
33 Ritsumeikan University Kyoto
34 Toyota Technological Institute Aichi
35 Shibaura Institute of Technology Tokyo Tokyo
=36 Kanda University of International Studies Chiba
=36 Yokohama City University Kanagawa
38 Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) Fukuoka
39 Tokyo University of Science Tokyo
40 Fukuoka Women’s University Fukuoka
41 The University of Electro-Communications Tokyo
42 Tokyo Metropolitan University Tokyo
43 Nagasaki University Nagasaki
44 Tsuda University Tokyo
=45 Doshisha University Kyoto
=45 Kwansei Gakuin University Hyogo
=47 Akita University Akita
=47 Rikkyo University Tokyo
=49 Gakushuin University Tokyo
=49 Osaka City University Osaka
51 Kobe City University of Foreign Studies Hyogo
52 Shinshu University Nagano
=53 Meiji University Tokyo
=53 Niigata University Niigata
55 Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine Hokkaido
56 Nagoya Institute of Technology Aichi
57 Osaka Prefecture University Osaka
58 University of Fukui Fukui
59 Tottori University Tottori
60 Chuo University Tokyo
61 Ehime University Ehime
=62 Kansai Gaidai University Osaka
=62 St Luke’s International University Tokyo
64 Toyo University Tokyo
=65 Nanzan University Aichi
=65 Yamagata University Yamagata
=65 Yamaguchi University Yamaguchi
68 Hosei University Tokyo
69 Tokushima University Tokushima
=70 Future University Hakodate Hokkaido
=70 Utsunomiya University Tochigi
=72 Aoyama Gakuin University Tokyo
=72 Kansai University Osaka
=72 Kochi University of Technology Kochi
=75 Gifu University Gifu
=75 Kindai University Osaka
=75 Soka University Tokyo
78 Gunma University Gunma
79 University of Toyama Toyama
80 Saga University Saga
=81 Kagoshima University Kagoshima
=81 Shimane University Shimane
83 Saitama University Saitama
84 Shizuoka University Shizuoka
85 Akita Prefectural University Akita
86 The University of Kitakyushu Fukuoka
87 University of Shizuoka Shizuoka
88 Ibaraki University Ibaraki
89 Kochi University Kochi
90 Nagoya University of Foreign Studies Aichi
=91 Iwate University Iwate
=91 Nagoya City University Aichi
93 Juntendo University Tokyo
94 Mie University Mie
=95 Aichi Prefectural University Aichi
=95 J. F. Oberlin University Tokyo
97 Musashi University Tokyo
98 Kagawa University Kagawa
99 Sapporo Medical University Hokkaido
=100 Ryukoku University Kyoto
=100 Showa Women’s University Tokyo
101-110 Dokkyo University Saitama
101-110 Hamamatsu University School of Medicine Shizuoka
101-110 Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) Ishikawa
101-110 Kitasato University Tokyo
101-110 Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Kyoto
101-110 Kyoto Sangyo University Kyoto
101-110 University of Niigata Prefecture Niigata
101-110 Seinan Gakuin University Fukuoka
101-110 Shiga University of Medical Science Shiga
101-110 Tokyo University of Agriculture Tokyo
111-120 University of Hyogo Hyogo
111-120 Kitami Institute of Technology Hokkaido
111-120 Kyoto Prefectural University of Medicine Kyoto
111-120 Meiji Gakuin University Tokyo
111-120 University of Miyazaki Miyazaki
111-120 Nagoya University of Commerce & Business Aichi
111-120 Nara Women’s University Nara
111-120 University of the Ryukyus Okinawa
111-120 Seikei University Tokyo
121-130 Fukuoka Institute of Technology Fukuoka
121-130 Fukushima Medical University Fukushima
121-130 Hyogo College of Medicine Hyogo
121-130 Japan Women’s University Tokyo
121-130 Jikei University School of Medicine Tokyo
121-130 Kogakuin University Tokyo
121-130 Konan University Hyogo
121-130 Nara Medical University Nara
121-130 Nihon University Tokyo
121-130 Toyama Prefectural University Toyama
121-130 University of Yamanashi Yamanashi
131-140 Aichi Medical University Aichi
131-140 Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts Kyoto
131-140 Fukushima University Fukushima
131-140 Kyushu Sangyo University Fukuoka
131-140 Muroran Institute of Technology Hokkaido
131-140 Nippon Medical School Tokyo
131-140 Osaka Medical College Osaka
131-140 Teikyo University Tokyo
131-140 Tokyo International University Saitama
131-140 Tokyo Woman’s Christian University Tokyo
141-150 Chiba Institute of Technology Chiba
141-150 Chukyo University Aichi
141-150 Fukuoka University Fukuoka
141-150 Meijo University Aichi
141-150 Otaru University of Commerce Hokkaido
141-150 Shiga University Shiga
141-150 Tamagawa University Tokyo
141-150 Tokai University Kanagawa
141-150 Tokyo City University Tokyo

See the full results of the Japan University Rankings


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