Tohoku University is one of the best universities in Japan, always ranking high in world university rankings. It ranks as the number 1 university in Japan according to Times University Ranking 2020, while placing 251-300 in its world university ranking. Meanwhile, for QS University World Ranking 2020, Tohoku University ranks number 5 in Japan and 82nd for the world ranking.

Tohoku University is also part of the “National Seven Universities” (国立七大学), also known as “Imperial Universities.” These seven universities are some of the most prestigious institutions in Japan. They are founded by The Empire of Japan between 1886 and 1939 and are some of the oldest higher education institutions in Japan and in Asia. Aside from Tohoku University, the other National Seven Universities are University of Tokyo, Kyoto University, Osaka University, Nagoya University, Hokkaido University, and Kyushu University. Historically, Tohoku University is also the first university in Japan to accept women and international students. 

Tohoku University Graduate School is known for engineering, robotics, and space science, but it also offers a wide range of courses in the fields of Education, Law, Humanities, Medicine, and many more. Check out this page of their website for the list of offered graduate school courses, and this one for the courses taught in English.

Tohoku University, also known as Tohokudai, is located in Sendai City in the Tohoku region of Japan. Tohoku region is next to the northernmost region of Hokkaido, so it’s pretty cold up there. The Tohoku region boasts of ice-capped mountains, scenic fields, and beautiful ocean views. Tohoku is a tourist destination where people go skiing, mountain climbing, or simply visiting the scenic sites.

Stories from Graduate School Students

Getting to Know Tohokudai

There are many ways of getting to know the university you want to study in. You may have encountered them while studying at your undergraduate university, or you know someone who is studying at that university. You may have encountered them when looking for opportunities for further studies in your own country or abroad. 

They may also be world-renowned, such as Harvard or Oxford, or they may have a specific program that is famous around the world. This is the case for Tohokudai graduate student, Shreya Santra from India. She is taking up her PhD in Space Systems Engineering and she tells her story about how she got to know about Tohoku University. She says, “As a space systems student, I was well aware of the Google Lunar Xprize challenge in which the team Hakuto from Tohoku University, headed by Professor Kazuya Yoshida, were one of the finalists.” She adds, “Prof. Yoshida’s Space Robotics Laboratory gained a lot of recognition for their outstanding work and I was eager to be part of this team. I wrote numerous emails to Prof. Yoshida asking for information about PhD opportunities until he finally replied! He gave me links to the International Robotics Program and requirements for the application.”

Shreya in the IRP lab. Photo courtesy of Shreya Santra.

Since then, Shreya got accepted at Tohokudai and was even able to get a scholarship from the Japanese government’s MEXT Scholarship program. To know more about MEXT, you can check out my other article on their master’s scholarship here.

Exploring the Beauty of Tohoku

One of the benefits of studying in Tokudai is that the campus has lush greens and has easy access to nature. Aditya Saha who’s also from India is a graduate student in the Department of Finemechanics. He says, “I personally chose Tohokudai because I preferred living in Sendai living near the scenic beauty of the Tohoku region than living in more metropolitan areas like Tokyo or Kyushu.” He adds, “The Tohoku region is the best for going on weekends trips by road or by train. Places like Matsushima, Yamadera, Ogawara, and many other beautiful places are just 40 mins to a few hours away by train. A casual trip along the Hirose river on my bike feels refreshing sometimes.”

From left to right: forrest trails along Bandai-San, the banks of the Shiroishi river, and Geibikei gorge. Photo courtesy of Aditya Saha

When describing his life in the university, Aditya illustrates why he loves the environment in Tohokudai. He says, “A lot of my activity is split between three different campuses of Tohoku University,” he adds, “Most of my classes are held in Aobayama Campus which is on top of a hill. Aobayama is a really nice campus that has a really beautiful road running down its middle lined with trees. But my favorite part is actually a small windy trail that goes down from the hill towards Kawauchi campus. It cuts right through the woods that cover the hill and always changes depending on the season or weather. Kawauchi Campus is just right below Aobayama Campus and houses the University’s main library and most of the clubs and sports facilities. Needless to say, this is a pretty lively campus. My favorite spot here is a small space in a park right across the road from Hagi Hall. It’s a really nice place to relax and has the best autumn colors on campus. Katahira Campus is Tohokudai’s oldest campus and the best spot here without contest is the small park in the center of campus. It is one of the best places to enjoy hanami (a pick-nick under cherry blossoms trees in spring) during April.”

A photo of a park in Katahira Campus. Photo by Aditya Saha

Advice from Shreya and Aditya

Pursuing further studies abroad has its own advantages and challenges. Here’s what the two Tohoku University Graduate School students have to say to the next graduate students of Tohoku University. 

In choosing your major and university, Shreya advises to be diligent in your research. She explains, “It is very important to decide what is the subject that you are most interested in and what you can contribute to the field. Do detailed scouting of the research institutes and universities working on the topic and contact them. Try to find if the programs are supported by any scholarships. In my case, I really wanted to pursue my PhD related to Space Robotics and made a list of the top laboratories in this field. There were Universities from Japan, Germany, Russia, and USA on the list.” She continues, “I then shortlisted the graduate program that provides scholarships and university recommended MEXT scholarship was the first choice. I highly recommend applying for the MEXT scholarship as the scholarship amount is very good and the research labs in Japan are outstanding.”

For Aditya, he emphasized the importance of finding a social circle and activities outside the school. He says, “There are quite a few circles and communities in Sendai that make the transition to settling in much more enjoyable,” he adds, “Look for groups like TUFSA on Facebook as they conduct a lot of social gatherings and events to help newcomers feel more comfortable. The Mori group is an organization of elderly Japanese members who are dedicated to helping new foreign students learn Japanese culture and daily life. They are amazingly helpful.” He continues, “But when you want some time to yourself, places like the banks of the Hirose river are great for some quiet introspection.”

A photo of Aditya (bottom) and his friends.

If you are interested in studying at Tohoku University Graduate School, I hope this article, and Shreya and Aditya’s insights helped you. Good luck with your pursuit of further studies and see you in Japan!


Tohoku University Graduate School

Tohoku University English Programs

Go Further! Pursuing Further Studies in Japan through the MEXT Master’s Scholarship.

Tohoku University: Tuition, Living Expenses, and Scholarships

QS World University Rankins: Tohoku University

THE World University Rankins: Tohoku University