Why study in Tokyo?

Tokyo Tower, a landmark of Japan’s capital

Higher education in Japan includes some of the world’s top-performing institutions, and alongside many of the new government initiatives, is increasingly becoming a prime destination for international students looking to study abroad. With Japan’s largest collection of universities and the exciting and dynamic atmosphere of a capital city, Tokyo is one of the most popular places for international students to study in Japan. The fast-paced, innovative nature of the city has extended to the education sector as well, with the Japanese government investing heavily in its universities; developing English-taught courses, building on-campus dorms, and improving their student support facilities. Although Japan has a large number of national universities, private universities are some of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. Here we take a look at some of the best that Tokyo has to offer. All rankings are taken from the Times Higher Education Japan University Rankings.

#1. Keio University

Keio University Campus

Founded in 1858 by the author Yukichi Fukuzawa, Keio is Japan’s oldest private university. Famed for its highly prestigious reputation, Keio ranks 10th nationally and is the number one performing private university in the country. With an emphasis on the importance of freedom, human rights, and equality, the international outlook at Keio is reflected in its 14 different degree programs available in English. The university educates over 33,000 students across six campuses around Tokyo, of which its main site is located in the central district of Minato.

#2. Waseda University

Waseda University Campus

Keio’s most renowned rival, Waseda University was the second private university to be established in Japan, and ranks 11th nationally and second amongst Tokyo’s private institutions. Located predominantly in Shinjuku, with seven more campuses around Tokyo and other parts of the country, there are over 50,000 students enrolled at Waseda, 5000 of whom come from abroad. Partnered with over 600 institutions in 84 different countries, and offering 50 English taught degree programs, Waseda is not only one of the largest educational institutions in Japan, but also one of the most international.

#3. Sophia University

Sophia University Campus

Formed by three Jesuit priests in 1914, Sophia University was the country’s first Catholic university. The third best performing private university in the capital, Sophia ranks 15th overall in Japan. A long-held pioneer of international education in Japan, Sophia introduced the country’s first entirely English-taught degree program back in 1949. Since then it has continued to be a leading force in Japan’s endeavor to expand its international programs and the diversity of the student body has created a global network of institutions. Made up of nine faculties, 10 graduate schools and 18 research institutions, Sophia’s main campus can be found in the central district of Yotsuya.

#4. International Christian University

ICU Campus

Considered one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in Japan, the International Christian University (ICU) is unique in its commitment to being a fully bilingual campus. Fourth on the list of Tokyo’s private universities, ICU ranks 16th overall in Japan. Founded in 1949, and located in Tokyo’s western city of Mitaka, the university offers 31 different undergraduate majors. With an emphasis on diversity and equality, ICU is dedicated to fostering a multi-cultural community amongst its students.

#5. Rikkyo University

Rikkyo University Campus

Originally founded in 1874 as the St Paul’s School for Boys, the school would go on to become Rikkyo University; one of the country’s leading liberal arts institutions, and the largest Anglican Christian university in Japan. Ranking 27th in the country, and fifth out of Tokyo’s top private universities, the main site can be found in the Ikebukuro district of the city, as well as another campus out in the quieter suburbs of Saitama. Clearly globally oriented, the university offers a variety of international programs for its students.

#6. Tokyo University of Science

Tokyo University of Science

Although it did not receive university status until 1949, the Tokyo University of Science (TUS) has a long history, beginning with its foundation in 1881 as the Tokyo Academy of Physics.  30th overall in the country, and ranking sixth out of Tokyo’s private universities, this institution has the esteemed reputation as Japan’s oldest private school for science education. Built on an ethos of ‘building a better future with science’, the highly relevant and progressive research produced at TUS has made major contributions to the field.


With a deeply ingrained spirit of academia and innovation, it is clear that Tokyo is a city abundant with high performing educational institutions. The private universities ranked here all have their own unique character, and various approaches to the principles and ethos that guide the education of their students. This multiplicity of character, combined with the impressive and long-standing reputations of many of the institutions, shows the important role private universities play in Tokyo’s diversifying and increasingly global academic environment.

For more information:

Ranking of Waseda University in Japan

Meiji University Ranking and Review

International Christian University Ranking and Review