Top Ranking National and International Universities in Japan


Among the tens of thousands of universities in the world, the top universities of Japan hold stable positions in the top 200. Here are a look at some of them and key aspects that set Japanese universities apart from others.

Quality education in Japanese universities

Education is valued in Japan, and educational accomplishment is often the prerequisite for success in work and in society at large. Japan, as a nation, successfully maintains ancient traditions together with its identity as a leader in technological innovation. This diversity is also shown in the country's higher education institutions as they advance their research output and global outreach while conserving Japan's culture and values.

Last 2017, an estimate of 2.89 million students enrolled in Japan's universities. Leading in the higher education structure are research universities providing four-year courses or a bachelor's degree. Some also offer six-year programs that lead to a professional degree. There are also different types of public and private four-year colleges available in the country. With an abundance of opportunities for students pursuing a university education, Japan's esteemed universities attract the most students looking to win top employment positions, especially with the government and large enterprises.

The reputation of universities in Japan goes far and wide in the modern world. In the 2020 QS World University Rankings, there are 41 universities from Japan, led by Tokyo University in 22nd spot and Kyoto University in the 33rd spot. Top 20 of QS Asia University Rankings 2019 included four Japanese universities, with the University of Tokyo placing 11th.

※ MEXT Japan, "Overview of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology" (PDF). MEXT. p. 29. 
※ Top Universities, "Study in Japan"

National and international ranking of universities in Japan

As the world globalizes, the world’s educational systems and standards coincide. There are now several global ranks and standards of education. The process may be different, as is the result, but all systems promote and measure the quality of education in hopes of betterment and improvement. The global rankings allow the recognition of efforts made towards brighter societies.

The following universities in Japan have been ranked based on their positions in the overall rankings prepared by QS University World Rankings. These are the five notable global universities located in Japan:

1. The University of Tokyo (National Ranking = 1, International = 22) - Established as the first imperial university of Japan, it fulfilled its role as the symbol of the Japanese quality of education. The university has had a rather stable run be it national or global rankings. Also known as Todai, the university is important to Japan as it is to the world. It has already produced a large number of alumni that serves as CEO in different companies and additionally produced 16 prime ministers of Japan.

※The University of Tokyo Faculty of Law and Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, "History"

2. Kyoto University (National Ranking = 2, International = 33) - Kyoto is recognized as a world-class institution in Asia when it comes to research. Established in 1897, Kyoto University has produced some of the widely-acclaimed researchers, including 11 Nobel Prize laureates. It has proven itself as a worthy contender for students looking to study in Japan, has consistently placed high among popular university rankings.

※ Kyoto University, "Facts and Figures Covering our 122-year History"

3. Tokyo Institute of Technology (National Ranking = 3, International = 58) - More popularly known as Tokyo Tech, the Tokyo Institute of Technology has over 130 years of history and counting, and is the largest institution for tertiary education in Japan dedicated to science and technology. Its state-of-the-art facilities helped gain its reputation as one of the most prestigious colleges in the country.

※Tokyo Institute of Technology, "About Tokyo Tech"

4. Osaka University (National Ranking = 4, International = 71) - Osaka University, Japan’s 6th imperial university, is one of the first universities to be established in Japan. According to Top Universities, aside from its exceptional longevity, the university is also prominent for its high placement in the fields of Dentistry, Chemical Engineering, Physics and Astronomy, and Natural Sciences.

※Osaka University, Introduction to Osaka University, “History of Osaka University”
※ Top Universities, “Osaka University, Overview

5. Tohoku University (National Ranking = 5, International = 82) - Tohoku University, Japan's third national university, is historical for being the first institution to admit female and international students in the country. Tohoku university continues to be recognized as one of the world class-excellent contributors in material science, engineering, and medicine, nurturing exceptional world leaders in cutting-edge research.

※Tohoku University "About Tohoku University"
※ Top Universities, "Global World Ranking Overview"

What sets Japanese Universities apart from other top international universities

There are plenty of reasons why students choose to study in Japan. Aside from its rich cultural heritage, students are attracted to Japan's high educational standards. The country is a leader in the fields of futuristic technology, engineering, and biomedical research.

There have been 28 Japanese (or Japanese born) recipients of the Nobel Prize as of 2019, mainly in the disciplines of medicine, biology, chemistry, and physics. Japan's literacy rate is almost 100% - the highest in the world. This shows how Japanese culture regards education highly.

※The Nobel Prize, "All Nobel Prizes"
※World Atlas, "List Of Countries By Literacy Rate"

In Japan, there are about 780 universities established, 80% of which are private. Some schools and colleges also offer more vocational types of courses.

※ MEXT Japan, "Overview of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology" (PDF). MEXT. p. 29.

Japan offers world-class education but not as expensive. On average, the tuition fees may cost around 535,800 yen or $5,500, almost effectively halved as compared to the $10,000 one may incur studying in the United States. In addition, Japan is home to many scholarships from the government, private organizations, and the universities themselves. Full or partial scholarships are available for students who perform well but need financial support.

※University of Tsukuba, "Why Study in Japan"

Studying abroad is a valuable part of any resume or portfolio. Employers appreciate the skills and knowledge you acquire as an international student. Internationally aware applicants are in high demand. Lots of businesses invest in hiring students with overseas learning experience - particularly if they can understand and speak a second language.


Much of Japan's effort has gone to continually supporting the workforces, be it preserving their health or producing new professionals. Education is both the beginning and end of this, and Japan only continues to create programs in line with this goal in mind. This can be seen through exchange programs, scholarships, and maintaining the quality of education. In the end, Japanese education is not only nationally competent but contends actively in the global stage.


Here to provide a variety of articles from useful information about life, working, and studying in Japan to Japan's charms and attractive qualities.

Our Social Media ソーシャルメディア

Where we share the latest news about Japan in 9 languages!

  • English
  • 한국어
  • Tiếng Việt
  • မြန်မာဘာသာစကား
  • Bahasa Indonesia
  • 中文 (繁體)
  • Español
  • Português
  • ภาษาไทย
TOP/ Study in Japan/ Why Study in Japan/ Top Ranking National and International Universities in Japan

Our website uses Cookies with the goal of improving our accessibility and quality. Please click "Agree" if you agree to our usage of Cookies. To see more details about how our company uses Cookies, please take a look here.

Cookie Policy