As Japan’s oldest university, The University of Tokyo is an institution that has a rich history, intertwined deep into modern Japanese Society. Established in 1877 by the Meiji Government, the University of Tokyo became the forerunner in tertiary education in Japan. Under the 1949 education reforms, the University of Tokyo led the way as Japan became a democratic nation.
As its name suggests, the University of Tokyo is located in Tokyo, Japan. Tokyo rivals London, Paris and New York when it comes to economic and political influence. The largest metropolitan city in the world, Tokyo is home to over 76% of foreign companies based in Japan. The University of Tokyo has five campuses: Hongo, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane, and Nakano. The main campuses – Hongo, Komaba, and Kashiwa – are where most of the students participate in classes and research.
The University of Tokyo is consistently ranked as the best university in Japan. According to Toyo Keizai’s “Truly Strong Universities” ranking, University of Tokyo has been at the top of the list for the since 2008. Globally, Times Higher Education ranks University of Tokyo in the top 50 consistently, coming in at 42nd for 2019. The Center for World University Rankings ranked University of Tokyo as 12th globally. University of Tokyo has a long list of accomplished alumni, including 15 former prime ministers of Japan and 10 Nobel Laureates.
The University of Tokyo offers two programmes targeted towards foreign students, one under the Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK programme) banner, and another called the Global Science Course, which is an undergraduate transfer program. PEAK courses are four years long, and are held entirely in English, with compulsory Japanese language classes. University of Tokyo accepted 61 students out of 322 applicants in 2017. Out of the 61 students, 12 students were Japanese, and the rest were from various countries around the world, including New Zealand, China, Philippines, Vietnam, and Switzerland. GSC courses are different, and will be discussed in detail later.
The University of Tokyo has five campuses. However, Students under the PEAK program have most of their courses conducted at the Komaba campus. The campus has its own train station called ‘Komaba-Todaimae‘ Station, on the Keio-Inokashira line. In addition to the PEAK undergraduate students, first and second year students under the Japanese curriculum, and students studying under the liberal arts program share this campus.
Walking from the station towards Komaba campus, the very first gate you see is the main gate. Right behind the main gate, the clock tower is the first landmark you will see. Rebuilt once after the Great Kanto earthquake, the Clock Tower represents the unity between the University of Tokyo and the First Higher School of Tokyo. Surrounding the tower are Western Oak trees and Olive Trees.
Past the main gate you will come across the Communications Plaza. Designed for regular classes, research, and extra-curricular activities, the Communications Plaza acts as a large student facility which also contributes to the community. The Plaza also has a co-op bookstore, a co-op cafeteria, and a media gallery where art exhibitions are held. In addition, there is a Japanese-style house where students can participate in Japanese tea ceremonies and flower arrangement.
Next up, the 21 Komcee building. This building is one of the newest buildings in Komaba, having been completed in 2011. 21 Komcee reaffirms University of Tokyo’s commitment towards its third major phase of development; to be a driving force in world-class academic research and nurture citizens with a global outlook. The 4500㎡ complex was built as a collaborative effort between New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO) and the University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science, and it was built as part of NEDO’s ‘Demonstration Project for Next-Generation Energy-Conservation Construction’. This state-of-the-art building uses cutting edge technology such as groundwater air-conditioning, radiant air-conditioning, solar power generation, and Artificial Intelligence energy management to ensure that it maintains its status of being a Zero Energy Building.
The largest library on campus, the Komaba Library, holds over half of the 1.3 million books available across Komaba Campus. The Library is available for both the undergraduate students and the graduate students to use. The library staff provide helpful sessions with freshmen students to organize tours and lessons on using the tools available in the library effectively. The library will also provide arrangements to import books and materials that cannot be found in Japan if needed for research.
All international students enrolled in the University of Tokyo have the option to stay near campus. The accommodation, located within a ten minute walk from ‘Komaba-Todaimae’ station, is also within five minutes from campus. Students will be provided furnished private rooms and shared washing and dining facilities.
Degrees Taught in English
At the undergraduate level, the University of Tokyo only offers two different programs in English: the PEAK Program, and the Global Science Course (GSC): Undergraduate Transfer Program. As mentioned earlier, GSC is slightly different as it does not offer a complete degree program; you have to already be a student of a university outside of Japan and then transfer into the University of Tokyo in your third year. Moreover, they only take in students who major in chemistry. As such, we will be focusing mainly on the PEAK program.
The University of Tokyo established the PEAK program as part of becoming a global campus. PEAK offers two degrees under the PEAK scheme: Japan in East Asia and Environmental Sciences. One of the hallmarks of studying under the PEAK program is that students spend their first two years studying a wide variety of subject areas under the liberal arts school. After their first two years in the liberal arts, students will then move on to study more specialized courses based on the program they selected when applying to PEAK.
Japanese language ability is not a pre-requisite for applying to the PEAK program. However, students will be required to study Japanese as a compulsory second language. Through this, PEAK hopes to nurture open-minded individuals who display an appreciation for other cultures as well as a willingness to resolve global issues.
The GSC program caters to student who have completed a portion of their undergraduate studies overseas. Successful applicants will enroll into the faculty of science and continue their undergraduate studies from the third year on. The University of Tokyo awards graduating students a Bachelor of Science upon completion of the course.
The University of Tokyo also offers a long list of graduate degrees in English. Some examples include: International Program in Economics, Graduate Program on Global Society (GSP), Master/Ph.D Program at Frontier Science Research Center, and so on. Almost every single one of University of Tokyo’s Graduate schools’ provides a graduate degree in English.
Historically, the university has been famous for its strength in the sciences. In 2016, it was ranked 8th in world by QS World University Rankings for Chemistry and Physics/Astronomy.
Japanese Language Programs
The University of Tokyo offers Japanese language courses for all international students enrolled into University of Tokyo. Their Center for Japanese Language Education offers four types of course: general courses, Intensive Japanese Courses, Academic Japanese Courses and Short-term Japanese. In addition to the courses listed here, they also offer special themed seminars, which range in duration from single day events to several days.
Under the General courses, the university splits the available courses into two branches; Comprehensive Japanese and Specific Japanese. Comprehensive Japanese. Each have 6 different levels, ranging from introductory to advanced. Classes are held 3 times a week, and are designed so that students will have time for their academic work as well as their Japanese coursework. Specific Japanese covers material such as Kanji, and business Japanese. It is possible to take Specific Japanese courses in addition to comprehensive courses, as classes are held once a week.
This is intended for students who wish to study Japanese for only one semester. As such, the university recommends students to take comprehensive Japanese upon completion of the intensive course. There are several differences between the General courses and the Intensive courses. Firstly, class sizes are much smaller in intensive classes—10 students in each class as compared to 20-30 students in general courses. In addition, the general courses target students who do not have much spare time to study Japanese; for example, they might have prior research commitments. As such, assignments are not given out for general courses. However, Intensive courses are more strict in this regard, and the Japanese class workload is much higher.
Academic Japanese courses are for advanced international students who wish to improve their Japanese to aid their research, and or submission of thesis. Writing academic papers in Japanese is different from conventional international standards, and thus it will prove difficult even for international students who posses a high calibre of Japanese language ability. To prepare students for research, basic conventions such as introducing research objectives, definitions, quoting, and presentation of data are taught. Lessons are only held once a week as the center recognises the importance of time and the students’ heavy work load.
Special Themed Seminars
Sessions are conducted to teach concepts and topics that do not require semester long schedules. Some examples of previous themes include “keigo” and “Presentations in Japanese”
In addition to the courses mentioned above, the University of Tokyo provides Individual Tutoring Sessions, Online Learning portal, and other fun programs.
Under the Individual Tutoring Sessions, students can book consultation sessions for studying Japanese, advice on reference books, help with grammar, speech, and composition editing.
In the Online Learning Portal, students can do revision on language concepts, syllabary, kanji, and much more. It provides an additional avenue through which students can continue to practise even when not in school.
University of Tokyo Scholarships
Japanese Government (MEXT) Scholarship
- Benefits: Exempt from tuition fees, as well as a monthly stipend of ~¥117,000
- Eligibility: Must have completed 12 years of education, as well as be recommended by their respective Japanese Embassies
- Application Period: Late April to Mid July
Monbukagakusho Honors Scholarship for Privately Financed International Students
- Benefits: Monthly Stipend of ¥48,000
- Eligibility: Having taken the EJU, Student has to be enrolling as a regular student in an undergraduate school
- Application Period: No application period, as it is tied to when the applicant attempts the EJU
University of Tokyo Fellowship; The University of Tokyo Special Scholarship for International Students (for graduate students)
- Benefits: ¥150,000 to ¥200,000 monthly research grant
- Eligibility: Self-financed private students, who are enrolled in a graduate school
- Application Period: Only applicable for enrolled students
University of Tokyo Scholarship (for PEAK students)
- Benefits: Monthly stipend of ¥126,000
- Eligibility: Undergraduate students at PEAK, with exceptional merit
- Application period: Information is only available when students enrol into the University of Tokyo
Nihon Chouzai Co, Ltd. – University of Tokyo Scholarship for ASEAN students
- Benefits: Monthly stipend of ¥100,000
- Eligibility: Student has to be from an ASEAN nation
- Application period: Information is only available when students enrol into the University of Tokyo