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
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.
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.
More best university guides
Best universities in Asia
Best universities in Pakistan
Best universities in Taiwan
Best universities in Hong Kong
Best universities in India
Best universities in Singapore
Best universities in China
Best universities in the world
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.
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.
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