Best universities in Japan

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

March 27 2019
University of Tokyo students walking on campus

Kyoto University has taken first place in the 2019 Times Higher Education Japan University Rankings.

The rankings, now in their third 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 has also used responses from seven questions in the Japan Student Survey to find out what students think of the teaching at their university. The survey was completed by 37,000 students from more than 400 universities across Japan. Most information on the survey and the questions included can be found here

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 cultures and values.

Top five universities in Japan

Scroll down to view universities in the top 150

1. 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.

2. 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.

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 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. Kyushu University

Kyushu University has moved up one place this year, from last year's number five to number four this year. 

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. 

=5. Hokkaido University

Hokkaido University was founded in 1876 and is located in Sapporo, Hokkaido. It is a member of the Imperial Universities, which were established to be the nation's finest institutes of higher education or research. 

There are 14 faculties and 22 graduate schools. The university also offers English postgraduate degree programmes in agriculture, chemical sciences and engineering, engineering, environmental science, life sciences, science and veterinary medicine. 

The university has two campuses in Japan – in Sapporo and Hakodate – and overseas offices in Seoul, Helsinki, Beijing, Lusaka, Bandung, Quezon City and Kamphaeng Saen. 

=5. Nagoya University

Nagoya University is located in Chikusa-ku, Nagoya. 

The majority of students come from the Tokai region but a good portion of students come from all over Japan. There are also more than 1,300 international students from 78 countries. 

The university is one of the most selective in Japan and its entrance exam is considered one of the most difficult. 

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The best universities in Japan 2019: the top 150

Japan Rank 2019 University  Prefecture
1 Kyoto University Kyoto
2 The University of Tokyo Tokyo
3 Tohoku University Miyagi
4 Kyushu University Fukuoka
=5 Hokkaido University Hokkaido
=5 Nagoya University Aichi
7 Tokyo Institute of Technology Tokyo
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 Hitotsubashi University Tokyo
16 Kobe University Hyogo
17 Sophia University Tokyo
18 Kanazawa University Ishikawa
19 Chiba University Chiba
20 Tokyo University of Foreign Studies Tokyo
21 Nagaoka University of Technology Niigata
22 Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology Tokyo
23 Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) Tokyo
24 Okayama University Okayama
25 Ochanomizu University Tokyo
26 The University of Aizu Fukushima
27 Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) Oita
28 Yokohama National University Kanagawa
29 Toyohashi University of Technology (TUT) Aichi
30 Yokohama City University Kanagawa
31 Kyoto Institute of Technology Kyoto
32 Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology Tokyo
33 Ritsumeikan University Kyoto
34 Kanda University of International Studies Chiba
35 Doshisha University Kyoto
36 Tokyo University of Science Tokyo
37 Kwansei Gakuin University Hyogo
38 Osaka City University Osaka
39 Tokyo Metropolitan University Tokyo
40 Nagasaki University Nagasaki
=41 Rikkyo University Tokyo
=41 Toyota Technological Institute Aichi
43 The University of Electro-Communications Tokyo
44 Shibaura Institute of Technology Tokyo Tokyo
45 Niigata University Niigata
=46 Fukuoka Women’s University Fukuoka
=46 Shinshu University Nagano
=48 Akita University Akita
=48 Gakushuin University Tokyo
=48 Osaka Prefecture University Osaka
51 Kobe City University of Foreign Studies Hyogo
52 Yamaguchi University Yamaguchi
53 Chuo University Tokyo
54 Meiji University Tokyo
55 Gifu University Gifu
56 Hosei University Tokyo
=57 University of Fukui Fukui
=57 Tsuda University Tokyo
59 Yamagata University Yamagata
=60 Kansai University Osaka
=60 Tottori University Tottori
62 Gunma University Gunma
63 Saga University Saga
64 Ehime University Ehime
=65 Kagoshima University Kagoshima
=65 Kindai University Osaka
67 Nagoya City University Aichi
=68 Future University Hakodate Hokkaido
=68 Shizuoka University Shizuoka
70 Kansai Gaidai University Osaka
=71 Aichi Prefectural University Aichi
=71 University of Shizuoka Shizuoka
73 Toyo University Tokyo
74 Nagoya University of Foreign Studies Aichi
=75 Meiji Gakuin University Tokyo
=75 Saitama University Saitama
=75 Utsunomiya University Tochigi
78 Aoyama Gakuin University Tokyo
=79 Akita Prefectural University Akita
=79 The University of Kitakyushu Fukuoka
=79 Kyoto University of Foreign Studies Kyoto
=79 Soka University Tokyo
83 Kochi University of Technology Kochi
84 Tokushima University Tokushima
85 Iwate University Iwate
86 Ibaraki University Ibaraki
87 Juntendo University Tokyo
88 Kagawa University Kagawa
=89 University of the Ryukyus Okinawa
=89 University of Toyama Toyama
91 Kyoto Sangyo University Kyoto
=92 University of Miyazaki Miyazaki
=92 Musashi University Tokyo
=92 St Luke’s International University Tokyo
95 Showa Women’s University Tokyo
=96 Hamamatsu University School of Medicine Shizuoka
=96 Mie University Mie
98 Tokyo University of Agriculture Tokyo
99 Dokkyo University Saitama
100 Shimane University Shimane
101-110 University of Hyogo Hyogo
101-110 Kitasato University Tokyo
101-110 Konan University Hyogo
101-110 Nagoya University of Commerce & Business Aichi
101-110 Otaru University of Commerce Hokkaido
101-110 Sapporo Medical University Hokkaido
101-110 Seikei University Tokyo
101-110 Seinan Gakuin University Fukuoka
101-110 Showa University Tokyo
101-110 Tokyo Woman’s Christian University Tokyo
111-120 J. F. Oberlin University Tokyo
111-120 The Jikei University School of Medicine Tokyo
111-120 Kogakuin University Tokyo
111-120 Nara Women’s University Nara
111-120 Nihon University Tokyo
111-120 Oita University Oita
111-120 Toho University Tokyo
111-120 Tokai University Kanagawa
111-120 Tokyo International University Saitama
111-120 University of Yamanashi Yamanashi
121-130 Aichi Medical University Aichi
121-130 Fukuoka University Fukuoka
121-130 Japan Women’s University Tokyo
121-130 Meijo University Aichi
121-130 Muroran Institute of Technology Hokkaido
121-130 Nara Medical University Nara
121-130 University of Niigata Prefecture Niigata
121-130 Reitaku University Chiba
121-130 Ryukoku University Kyoto
121-130 Tamagawa University Tokyo
121-130 Tokyo City University Tokyo
131-140 Chiba Institute of Technology Chiba
131-140 Chukyo University Aichi
131-140 Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts Kyoto
131-140 Fukuoka Institute of Technology Fukuoka
131-140 Fukushima University Fukushima
131-140 Nippon Medical School Tokyo
131-140 Shiga University Shiga
131-140 Teikyo University Tokyo
131-140 Tokyo Denki University Tokyo
141-150 Aichi University Aichi
141-150 Fujita Health University Aichi
141-150 Fukui Prefectural University Fukui
141-150 Kanagawa University Kanagawa
141-150 Kansai Medical University Osaka
141-150 Kyoai Gakuen University Gunma
141-150 Miyazaki International College Miyazaki
141-150 Osaka Jogakuin University Osaka
141-150 Prefectural University of Hiroshima Hiroshima
141-150 The University of Shiga Prefecture Shiga
141-150 Yamaguchi Prefectural University Yamaguchi

See the full results of the Japan University Rankings

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