The best universities in Japan

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

March 30 2017
University of Tokyo students walking on campus

Times Higher Education's first Japan University Rankings reveal the best institutions in the nation after THE analysed 406 universities and ranked 150 of them.

The rankings, which were produced in partnership with Japanese education company Benesse, are based on the teaching and learning environments that each university offers students. 

The Japan University Rankings are based on four broad “pillars” (resources, engagement, outcomes and environment) and have a different methodology to the THE World University Rankings. Click here to read the full methodology.

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

Top five universities in Japan

Scroll down to view universities in the top 150

1. 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 topic.

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.

2. 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 University 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 to admit foreign students. 

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

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3. 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 highly ranked in Asia.

Kyoto has about 22,000 students at undergraduate and postgraduate levels and has 10 faculties, 16 graduate schools, 13 research institutes and 21 research and educational centres.

The university was initially constructed 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.

=4. Nagoya University

In recent years, Nagoya University established three goals to help transform it into a globally recognised institution. The goals were: to increase international collaboration, to promote human interaction and to implement more English language education.

It may have been these perspectives that helped Nagoya University achieve fourth place in the Japan University Rankings.

Nagoya has nine faculties and 13 graduate schools and pays particular attention to research in the sciences.

The university has produced six Nobel prizewinners in science, the third highest tally in Japan behind Kyoto University and The University of Tokyo.

=4. Tokyo Institute of Technology

With a history spanning more than 130 years, the Tokyo Institute of Technology is one of country’s leading institutions for science and technology. It is the only university outside the National Seven Universities group to feature in the top five of the ranking.

Founded in 1882, the university’s main library, situated on the Ookayama campus, is the largest science and technology library in Japan.

Admission to the university is highly selective and considered to be one of the most difficult university admissions processes in Japan. Owing to this, the university has a relatively small student body with under 10,000 students enrolled. 

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

The best universities in Japan 2017: the top 150

Rank University name Prefecture
1 University of Tokyo Tokyo
2 Tohoku University Miyagi
3 Kyoto University Kyoto
=4 Nagoya University Aichi
=4 Tokyo Institute of Technology Tokyo
6 Osaka University Osaka
7 Kyushu University Fukuoka
8 Hokkaido University Hokkaido
9 University of Tsukuba Ibaraki
10 Waseda University Tokyo
11 Keio University Tokyo
12 Hiroshima University Hiroshima
13 Kobe University Hyogo
14 Hitotsubashi University Tokyo
15 International Christian University Tokyo
16 Chiba University Chiba
17 Nagaoka University of Technology Niigata
18 Sophia University Tokyo
19 Kanazawa University Ishikawa
20 Akita International University Akita
21 Okayama University Okayama
22 Ritsumeikan University Kyoto
23 The University of Aizu Fukushima
=24 Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) Oita
=24 Tokyo Metropolitan University Tokyo
26 Kumamoto University Kumamoto
27 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Tokyo
=28 Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) Fukuoka
=28 Nagasaki University Nagasaki
30 Niigata University Niigata
=31 Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Tokyo
=31 Tokyo University of Science Tokyo
33 Yokohama National University Kanagawa
34 Meiji University Tokyo
35 Doshisha University Kyoto
36 Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology Tokyo
37 Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) Aichi
38 Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) Tokyo
39 Ochanomizu University Tokyo
40 Kwansei Gakuin University Hyogo
41 Yamaguchi University Yamaguchi
42 University of Fukui Fukui
=43 The University of Electro-Communications Tokyo
=43 Yamagata University Yamagata
45 Shinshu University Nagano
46 Kanda University of International Studies Chiba
47 Osaka City University Osaka
48 Fukuoka Women's University Fukuoka
49 Saitama University Saitama
50 Aoyama Gakuin University Tokyo
51 Gunma University Gunma
52 Yokohama City University Kanagawa
53 Utsunomiya University Tochigi
54 Kindai University Osaka
=55 Chuo University Tokyo
=55 Nanzan University Aichi
57 Kansai University Osaka
=58 Akita Prefectural University Akita
=58 Shibaura Institute of Technology Tokyo Tokyo
=60 Kyoto Institute of Technology Kyoto
=60 Nagoya Institute of Technology Aichi
62 The University of Kitakyushu Fukuoka
63 Saga University Saga
=64 Ehime University Ehime
=64 University of Toyama Toyama
66 Iwate University Iwate
67 Nihon University Tokyo
=68 Akita University Akita
=68 Gakushuin University Tokyo
=68 Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) Ishikawa
71 Shizuoka University Shizuoka
=72 Gifu University Gifu
=72 Ibaraki University Ibaraki
74 Kagoshima University Kagoshima
75 Tokushima University Tokushima
=76 Toyo University Tokyo
=76 Toyota Technological Institute Aichi
78 Osaka Prefecture University Osaka
79 Tokyo University of Agriculture Tokyo
=80 Kochi University Kochi
=80 Ryukoku University Kyoto
82 University of Hyogo Hyogo
83 Seikei University Tokyo
84 Tottori University Tottori
85 Tokai University Kanagawa
=86 Mie University Mie
=86 University of Yamanashi Yamanashi
88 Kyoto Sangyo University Kyoto
=89 Kanagawa University Kanagawa
=89 Kansai Gaidai University Osaka
91 Kitasato University Tokyo
92 Hamamatsu University School of Medicine Shizuoka
=93 Oita University Oita
=93 Shimane University Shimane
95 Fukushima University Fukushima
96 Meijo University Aichi
=97 Kagawa University Kagawa
=97 Seinan Gakuin University Fukuoka
=99 Nagoya City University Aichi
=99 Tamagawa University Tokyo
101-110 Aichi Prefectural University Aichi
101-110 Meiji Gakuin University Tokyo
101-110 University of Miyazaki Miyazaki
101-110 Muroran Institute of Technology Hokkaido
101-110 Musashi University Tokyo
101-110 Reitaku University Chiba
101-110 Senshu University Tokyo
101-110 Toho University Tokyo
101-110 Tohoku Gakuin University Miyagi
101-110 Tsuda College Tokyo
111-120 Fukuoka Insitute of Technology Fukuoka
111-120 Fukushima Medical University Fukushima
111-120 J. F. Oberlin University Tokyo
111-120 Konan University Hyogo
111-120 Sapporo Medical University Hokkaido
111-120 Tokyo University of the Arts Tokyo
111-120 Tokyo Gakugei University Tokyo
111-120 Tokyo Woman's Christian University Tokyo
111-120 Toyama Prefectural University Toyama
111-120 Wakayama University Wakayama
121-130 Asahikawa Medical University Hokkaido
121-130 Chiba Institute of Technology Chiba
121-130 Chukyo University Aichi
121-130 Hiroshima City University Hiroshima
121-130 Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Kyoto
121-130 Kyushu Sangyo University Fukuoka
121-130 University of Nagasaki Nagasaki
121-130 Nagoya University of Commerce & Business Aichi
121-130 The University of Shiga Prefecture Shiga
121-130 St. Luke’s International University Tokyo
121-130 Tokyo Denki University Tokyo
131-140 Kobe Gakuin University Hyogo
131-140 Kogakuin University Tokyo
131-140 Kurume University Fukuoka
131-140 Miyazaki International College Miyazaki
131-140 Nara Women's University Nara
131-140 Osaka Institute of Technology Osaka
131-140 Shiga University of Medical Science Shiga
131-140 Sojo University Kumamoto
131-140 Takasaki City University of Economics Gunma
141-150 Asia University Tokyo
141-150 Hiroshima Institute of Technology Hiroshima
141-150 Iwate Prefectural University Iwate
141-150 Kansai Medical University Osaka
141-150 Komazawa University Tokyo
141-150 Meikai University Chiba
141-150 Miyagi University Miyagi
141-150 Osaka Kyoiku University Osaka
141-150 Ryutsu Keizai University (RKU) Ibaraki
141-150 Tokyo International University Saitama

See the full results of the Japan University Rankings

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