Best universities in Japan

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

March 28 2018
University of Tokyo students walking on campus

Kyoto University and The University of Tokyo are in joint first place in the 2018 Times Higher Education Japan University Rankings.

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

The Japan University Rankings were calculated based on four broad “pillars” (resources, engagement, outcomes and environment). They differ from the THE World University Rankings as 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, for the first time, THE also carried out a student survey on a trial basis to find out what students think of the teaching at their university. While the results did not feed into the main rankings this year, they will be published later in the year. 

Japan is a country that successfully maintains 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

=1Kyoto 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.

=1. 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 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.

3. 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 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.


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4. Tokyo Institute of Technology

With a history spanning more than 130 years, the Tokyo Institute of Technology is one of the 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 rankings.

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. Due to this, the university has a relatively small student body with under 10,000 students. 

5. Kyushu University

Kyushu University is a new entry in this year’s top five, moving up two places from last year’s number seven spot. 

The university has international students drawn from all over the world including Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Oceania, North America and Asia. The number of international students continues to rise year-on-year. 

There are 7.5 million items in the Kyushu University Museum including documents, animals, 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


The best universities in Japan 2018: the top 150

Rank University name Prefecture
=1 Kyoto University Kyoto
=1 The University of Tokyo Tokyo
3 Tohoku University Miyagi
4 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 Keio University Tokyo
11 Waseda University Tokyo
12 Akita International University Akita
13 Hiroshima University Hiroshima
14 Hitotsubashi University Tokyo
15 Sophia University Tokyo
16 International Christian University Tokyo
17 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Tokyo
18 Kobe University Hyogo
19 Chiba University Chiba
20 Kanazawa University Ishikawa
=21 Nagaoka University of Technology Niigata
=21 Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) Oita
23 Ritsumeikan University Kyoto
24 Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) Fukuoka
=25 Okayama University Okayama
=25 Yokohama National University Kanagawa
27 Rikkyo University Tokyo
28 Doshisha University Kyoto
29 Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Tokyo
30 Tokyo University of Science Tokyo
31 Kwansei Gakuin University Hyogo
32 Ochanomizu University Tokyo
33 Kanda University of International Studies Chiba
34 The University of Aizu Fukushima
35 Meiji University Tokyo
=36 Kumamoto University Kumamoto
=36 Tokyo Metropolitan University Tokyo
38 Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) Aichi
=39 Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) Tokyo
=39 Yamaguchi University Yamaguchi
41 Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology Tokyo
42 Kyoto Institute of Technology Kyoto
=43 Nagasaki University Nagasaki
=43 Osaka City University Osaka
45 Kansai University Osaka
46 Yokohama City University Kanagawa
47 Yamagata University Yamagata
48 Shibaura Institute of Technology Tokyo Tokyo
49 Kindai University Osaka
50 Aoyama Gakuin University Tokyo
=51 Chuo University Tokyo
=51 Niigata University Niigata
53 Hosei University Tokyo
54 Shinshu University Nagano
=55 The University of Electro-Communications Tokyo
=55 Tsuda College Tokyo
57 University of Fukui Fukui
58 Akita University Akita
59 Nagoya Institute of Technology Aichi
60 Nanzan University Aichi
61 Gakushuin University Tokyo
62 Fukuoka Women’s University Fukuoka
63 Saga University Saga
64 Gunma University Gunma
65 Osaka Prefecture University Osaka
66 Toyo University Tokyo
67 Utsunomiya University Tochigi
=68 Kagoshima University Kagoshima
=68 Toyota Technological Institute Aichi
70 Saitama University Saitama
71 Ibaraki University Ibaraki
72 Shizuoka University Shizuoka
73 Iwate University Iwate
74 Meiji Gakuin University Tokyo
=75 Kansai Gaidai University Osaka
=75 Tottori University Tottori
=77 University of Miyazaki Miyazaki
=77 Nagoya City University Aichi
=79 Ehime University Ehime
=79 University of Toyama Toyama
81 The University of Kitakyushu Fukuoka
82 Nihon University Tokyo
83 Kobe City University of Foreign Studies Hyogo
=84 Kochi University of Technology Kochi
=84 Seikei University Tokyo
=86 Akita Prefectural University Akita
=86 Dokkyo University Saitama
=88 Musashi University Tokyo
=88 Ryukoku University Kyoto
=88 University of Shizuoka Shizuoka
91 Kagawa University Kagawa
92 Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Kyoto
93 Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT) Ishikawa
=94 Konan University Hyogo
=94 Tokyo University of Agriculture Tokyo
96 Kyoto Sangyo University Kyoto
97 Gifu University Gifu
98 Tokyo Woman’s Christian University Tokyo
99 University of the Ryukyus Okinawa
=100 Aichi Prefectural University Aichi
=100 Nagoya University of Foreign Studies Aichi
101-110 Fukuoka University Fukuoka
101-110 Future University Hakodate Hokkaido
101-110 University of Hyogo Hyogo
101-110 Juntendo University Tokyo
101-110 Kochi University Kochi
101-110 Otaru University of Commerce Hokkaido
101-110 Seinan Gakuin University Fukuoka
101-110 Tokai University Kanagawa
101-110 Tokushima University Tokushima
111-120 Fukushima University Fukushima
111-120 Kanagawa University Kanagawa
111-120 Kitasato University Tokyo
111-120 Meijo University Aichi
111-120 Mie University Mie
111-120 Muroran Institute of Technology Hokkaido
111-120 Nagoya University of Commerce & Business Aichi
111-120 Oita University Oita
111-120 Shimane University Shimane
111-120 Toyama Prefectural University Toyama
121-130 Aichi University Aichi
121-130 Fukuoka Institute of Technology Fukuoka
121-130 J. F. Oberlin University Tokyo
121-130 Reitaku University Chiba
121-130 Senshu University Tokyo
121-130 Soka University Tokyo
121-130 Tamagawa University Tokyo
121-130 Tohoku Gakuin University Miyagi
121-130 Tokyo Denki University Tokyo
121-130 University of Yamanashi Yamanashi
131-140 Chiba Institute of Technology Chiba
131-140 Chukyo University Aichi
131-140 Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts Kyoto
131-140 Fukui Prefectural University Fukui
131-140 Kogakuin University Tokyo
131-140 Miyazaki International College Miyazaki
131-140 University of Nagasaki Nagasaki
131-140 University of Niigata Prefecture Niigata
131-140 Showa University Tokyo
131-140 Showa Women’s University Tokyo
141-150 Fukushima Medical University Fukushima
141-150 Hamamatsu University School of Medicine Shizuoka
141-150 Hiroshima City University Hiroshima
141-150 International University of Health and Welfare Tochigi
141-150 Japan Women’s University Tokyo
141-150 Komazawa University Tokyo
141-150 Prefectural University of Hiroshima Hiroshima
141-150 Sapporo Medical University Hokkaido
141-150 Shiga University Shiga
141-150 Shiga University of Medical Science Shiga
141-150 Toho University Tokyo

See the full results of the Japan University Rankings

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