Studying abroad in Japan is a life-changing experience. Because of its unique culture, visiting a globally-appreciated country, like Japan, has been a favorite memory for people all around the world. As a student, whether you’re shopping in Tokyo, hiking Mt. Fuji, or visiting Japanese temples, you will never run out of things to do and people to meet!

Although it’s an amazing experience, you want to make sure you’re going to the right university when you do study abroad. Simply looking at a Japan University Ranking Website just won’t tell you enough information as they can be based on differing methodologies or may not be so relevant for international students. 

Here on SchooLynk, we have compiled a composite 2021 Japan University Rankings based on multiple sources of University Ranking Metrics such as the Times Higher Education 2021 Japan University RankingsQS Japan University Rankings 2021, and the 2021 US News Japan University Rankings. (Make sure you filter ‘for Japan’ when accessing the above three rankings.)  We have also considered the top universities for international students, based on the number of English-speaking programs and interviews with international students from each listed university.

Universities Times Higher Education Ranking (2021)  QS Universities Ranking (2021)  U.S. News Global University Ranking (2021) 
The University of Tokyo 36 24 73
Kyoto University 54 38 125
Tohoku University 201 79 269
Tokyo Institute of Technology 301 56 316
Nagoya University 351 110 310
Osaka University 351 72 252
Tokyo Medical and Dental University 401 362 779
University of Tsukuba 401 265 395
Kyushu University 401 124 329
Hokkaido University 501 139 437

Without further ado… here are the top universities featured in the 2021 Japan Univesity Rankings. 

1st. University of Tokyo

The University of Tokyo Kashiwa Campus
The University of Tokyo is the most prestigious university in Japna, and of the top-ranked universities in all of Asia

Established in 1877 with only 4 departments, the University of Tokyo is the oldest and largest of Japan’s national universities. Currently, it is comprised of 10 Faculties, 15 Graduate Schools, 11 affiliated research institutes, 13 University-wide centers, 3 affiliated libraries, and 2 institutes for advanced study. Among the 30,000 students enrolled, about 3,000 students come from abroad.

It is worth noting that the University of Tokyo was ranked 1st nationally and 24th globally by the 2021 QS Top Universities Rankings. The university’s greatest strength still lies in its educational and research excellence. The University of Tokyo actively engages in researcher exchange with overseas institutions, so that outstanding students and researchers can cultivate each other’s skills while working together. In terms of employer reputation, talented graduates have given back to society in a variety of fields with their accomplishments.

University of Tokyo’s English-based PEAK Program: Acceptance Rate
Top Five Things The University of Tokyo Does Best
Study in Japan: Interview with Mizuki from the University of Tokyo PEAK

QS Japan University Ranking: #1
Times Japan University Ranking: #3=
US Now Japan University Ranking: #1

2nd. Kyoto University

A common saying goes: Kyoto University (Kyodai) of the West,  Tokyo University (Todai) of the East 

Ranked as the 2nd best university in the Japan University Rankings and 38th best university in the world by the 2021 QS World University Rankings, Kyoto University is a comprehensive research university with students come from diverse cultural backgrounds who aim to pursue their studies in various fields. In terms of its notable academic research capability, Kyoto University typically ranks 5th in QS World University Rankings by Subject. Of these, it ranks within the world’s top 50 for 18 subjects, including biological sciences, several branches of engineering, material sciences, modern languages and physics & astronomy. The competitive ranking in major rankings may account for the fact that the university has produced more Nobel laureates than any other university in the Asian region.

The university has established its core value as a tradition of academic freedom. For years, the students and researchers at Kyoto University were endowed with a bunch of modern laboratories and testing facilities.

For those who want to understand Japanese culture better, Kyoto, where the university is located, might be an ideal place. Its historic locations are well-known worldwide, of which many have been classified as World Heritage Sites. Moreover, Kyoto also enjoys an abundance of landscapes, where a unique climate allows residents to get closer to nature. Kyoto University has accommodation facilities specifically for international students.

A Day in the Life of a Kyoto University MEXT Research Scholar!

The English Program in Kyoto University Economics Department – An Insider Look

QS Japan University Ranking: #2
Times Japan University Ranking: #2
US Now Japan University Ranking: #2

3rd. Osaka University

Osaka University is conveniently located between Osaka and Kyoto

Located in the traditionally popular city in Japan, Osaka University ranks 72nd in the 2021 QS rankings this year. In the fields of chemistry, biological sciences, chemical engineering, physics and astronomy, dentistry and material sciences, Osaka University shows competitive research capability in the global view. It is worth mentioning that it ranks 3rd in the QS Japan University Rankings 2021.

Osaka enjoys a huge reputation of being an international metropolitan for its prospective trade, politics, and culture. The resultant large and diverse economy in Osaka attracts more businesses pouring into this city than ever. Furthermore, the relatively low prices make studying in Osaka more affordable for foreign students.

It is of utmost importance to choose which university you should further your education or researches. Many factors may influence individuals to make this decision, not only the university’s reputation but also its core competitive ability, its location, and more realistically, its education fee. How to utilize the information around ourselves and make the optimal choice which may become one of the turning points in our lives, is one of the key steps of studying abroad.

Study at Osaka University in English? Master’s and Doctorate Program Edition

Osaka University Ranking and Review

Decoding the Japanese Acceptance Rate Charts: Case of the Osaka University

QS Japan University Ranking: #3
Times Japan University Ranking: #8
US Now Japan University Ranking: #3

4th. Tokyo Institute of Technology

Tokyo Institute of Technology topped 3rd equal in the THE Japan University Rankings 

Featured specialty in science and technology in Japan, Tokyo Institute of Technology ranks 56th globally and 4th nationally in the 2021 QS Japan University Rankings. For over 135 years, the university has a tradition in technical innovation and industrial cooperation, which drives Japan’s development in the field of science and technology. Considering the number of students in Tokyo Institute of Technology (approximately 10,000 students), its campus is rich in international flavor, with 12% are international students — one of the highest percentages in Japan.

Another advantage for students at Tokyo Institute of Technology is that they are prepared with a wide range of career opportunities. The institute provides a great variety of career supportive services, from career counseling and support events.

QS Japan University Ranking: #4
Times Japan University Ranking: #3=
US Now Japan University Ranking: #6

5th. Kyushu University

Kyushu University scored consistently well in the QS, THE, and US Now Japan University Rankings

A leader in education and research not just in Japan but throughout Asia which Founded in 1911, Kyushu University is one of the seven imperial universities of Japan.  This University was reorganized to become a national university corporation in April 2005, has been striving for further progress of education and research. This University also has 8 campuses including the newly built campus in the Ito area.  In October 2006 The Faculty of Engineering moved to Ito Campus, and other faculties will be relocated over the next ten years. Kyushu University is proud to be one of the biggest universities in Japan which allows you to open your mind, your future to a new world. 

In 2021, it was ranked 8th in the QS Japan University Ranking and 36th regionally. Over 10% of the total student population are international students, with its faculty boasting roughly 2,200 full-time members. It also has 11 undergraduate departments and 18 graduate schools with their affiliate research centers. As it is shown by the fact that it runs one of the most highly regarded and advanced medical schools in Asia, the university’s main strengths lie in particularly active and innovative science programs.

QS Japan University Ranking: #8
Times Japan University Ranking: #5
US Now Japan University Ranking: #7

6th. Keio University

keio university
Keio University is especially well-known for its economics department

Back to the formation of a school for Dutch studies in 1858 in Edo (now Tokyo) by founder Yukichi Fukuzawa Keio has a proud history as Japan’s very first private institution of higher learning.  In today’s internationally interdependent world, Keio places great effort upon maintaining the finest teaching faculty and superlative facilities. Building on the knowledge and experience of their predecessors, today’s Keio students not only strive to develop the leadership qualities that will enable them to make valuable contributions to tomorrow’s society but also have risen to the forefront of innovation in every imaginable academic field, emerging as social and economic leaders.

Located in Tokyo, Keio is a prestigious private university ranked 6th in the 2021 Japan University Ranking. It is also the oldest institute of modern higher education in Japan which has ten faculties: Letters, Economics, Law, Business and Commerce, Medicine, Science and Technology, Policy Management, Environment and Information Studies, Nursing and Medical Care, and Pharmacy.

QS Japan University Ranking: #10
Times Japan University Ranking: #14
US Now Japan University Ranking: #12

7th. Waseda University

Waseda University has a friendly rivalry with Keio University as the top private universities of Japan

Waseda University is a comprehensive research university ranking 7th in the 2021 Japan University Rankings. It is based in central Tokyo with over 40,000 undergraduate students in thirteen schools.

With 50 all-English degree programs, students can learn Japanese after they arrive, in parallel to their major studies, and enjoy the most global campus in Japan. . Waseda’s Center for Japanese Language provides comprehensive, customized study programs in eight levels for over 5000 international students, and partnership agreements with over 600 institutions in 84 countries worldwide. Waseda’s Summer Session is a 4-week academic and experiential program for students from any university. This is an opportunity for you and all your friends to study-enjoy summer in Tokyo, Japan. 

As one of the academic excellence, Waseda students enjoy the many benefits of living in one of the greatest global cities, voted the world’s safest, cleanest, most hospitable city, with the best public transport and the most Michelin-starred restaurants – Tokyo. Not only placed in one of the top 3 cities students but also Waseda University engages in a wide variety of activities within its walls and in the outside world, keeping with its founding principles: Independence of Learning, Practical Utilization of Knowledge and Good Citizenship.

QS Japan University Ranking: #9
Times Japan University Ranking: #13
US Now Japan University Ranking: #10

8th. Sophia University

Sophia University is extremely popular for international students due to its English-friendly classes

Started with the mission to build bridges between Japan and the world, and has been a pioneer in international education in Japan, attracting faculty and students from all over the world, Sophia University (Jochi Daigaku) was founded by the Jesuits in 1913. Sophia established the first program in Japan taught entirely in English in 1949, and it continues to lead the Japanese academic world in offering international programs. The University is located in Yotsuya, literally in the heart of Tokyo, and is ranked 8th in the Japan University Ranking for 2021.   

Sophia University offers a Summer session and January session which enable participants to look at Japan from many different perspectives directly experience many aspects of Japanese culture and society and witness the myriad ways in which the cultures of the world are reflected in the maze-like urban landscape of Tokyo. As for the Summer Session, over 11,000 students from around the globe have attended the programs over the years, and many have gone on to pursue exciting careers related to Japan.

QS Japan University Ranking: #28
Times Japan University Ranking: #20
US Now Japan University Ranking: NA

9th. Meiji University

Meiji University is conveniently located in the heart of Tokoy

Meiji University has expanded to become one of the most prominent private universities in Japan, and it is celebrating its 140th anniversary in 2021. Sending out more than 470,000 graduates into the world to date, we have already made a great contribution to society. Meiji University was established as a Meiji Law School in January 1881 by a group of young lawyers barely in their 30’s: Tatsuo Kishimoto, Kozo Miyagi, and Misao Yashiro. Currently, Meiji University consists of nine Undergraduate Schools, nine Graduate School research departments, and four Professional Graduate Schools, providing education for more than 32,000 students. Along, we are promoting advanced research with excellent teaching staff to support international exchange students and academic exchange.

Meiji University is famous not only for Japanese students but also for oversea-students who are ready to learn about Japan, experience Japan. As a result, it is ranked 9th in the Japan University Ranking.

QS Japan University Ranking: #46
Times Japan University Ranking: #53=
US Now Japan University Ranking: NA

10th. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU)

APU offers 90% of its classes in English and Japanese, making it the perfect place to study for international students 

Ritsumekian Asia Pacific University offers undergraduate studies in subjects including liberal arts such as media studies, language subjects, and Japanese traditional arts. It offers special lecture subjects, which are added to and may change every semester. Students select their own classes and are not restricted to classes in their majors.

Not like the other schools placed on the 2021 Japan University Rankings, Ritsumekian Asia Pacific Studies allows you to choose between two undergraduate majors – Asia Pacific Studies (APS) and International Management (APM) – and study under the tutelage of highly experienced faculty from twenty-four countries/regions. The main focus of your studies at APU is not only simply memorizing facts or passively listening to lectures. Rather but also you will begin tackling complex problems our world is facing through discussions and interactive classes alongside students and faculty from a wide variety of cultural, social-economic, and religious backgrounds.

QS Japan University Ranking: #56-60
Times Japan University Ranking: #=21
US Now Japan University Ranking: #NA

11th.Kwansei Gakuin University

Kwansei Gakuin has a unique campus among Japanese universities.
Kansai Gakuin is a prestigious international-themed university in the Kansai region 

Founded in Kobe by the American missionary Reverend Walter Russell Lambuth, M.D, Kwansei Gakuin is one of the most prestigious private schools in Japan and ranks 11th in the Japan University Ranking. It is now a comprehensive and integrated educational institution spread across six campuses: Nishinomiya Uegahara, Nishinomiya Seiwa, Kobe Sanda, Osaka Umeda, Tokyo Marunouchi, and Takarazuka.

Kwansei Gakuin University (KGU) is also an independent institution for higher education, offering Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees in over 35 different disciplines to more than 24,500, including approximately 800 foreign students. The University maintains academic standards that rank among the highest of all Japanese universities and colleges that comprise of 11 undergraduate schools as Theology, Humanities, Sociology, Law and Politics, Economics, Business Administration, Welfare Studies, International Studies, Education, Policy Studies, and Science and Technology, also as well as 14 graduate schools.

QS Japan University Ranking: #61-65
Times Japan University Ranking: #62
US Now Japan University Ranking: #NA

12th.Toyo University

Toyo University entrance

Founded in 1887 year with a spirit of “Independence and Self-Initiative”, Toyo University is home to more than 31,300 students. The university has become as famous to foreign students as it is among Japanese students and ranks 12 in the Japan University Ranking.

With 14 Faculties and Departments and 18 different graduate schools, Toyo University provides not only knowledge and virtue but also self-initiative to each of its students. Toyo University also has extensive student support through Academic Life and Tuition fee, Student clubs and Extracurricular Activities, Sport, Support for Student Life, Application and Notification, Scholarship and Awards, Support for Students with Disabilities, and Toyo net where students can communicate with each other.

QS Japan University Ranking: #71-75
Times Japan University Ranking: #64
US Now Japan University Ranking: NA


…And there you have it! A comprehensive list of the 12 top universities based on the 2021 Japan University Rankings! There are many metrics for gauging university rankings and students should consider a wide range of sources when deciding on what Japanese University to study at.

To see more Japan University Rankings based on different criteria, please see below: 

International Relations: 10 of the Best International Relations Program at Universities in Japan

Business and commerce: The Top 5 Business Schools in Japan to study Business and Commerce

Art Schools: Best in Their Craft: Ranking Art Universities in Japan

Engineering: Japan University Ranking for Engineering Students: 2021 Edition

Interesting read: Why You Shouldn’t Pick a University Based on Japan University Rankings


QS World University Rankings was first released in 2004 and is now regarded as one of the most influential university rankings in the world. 

It compiled using six simple metrics to capture university performance effectively as below:

(the number behind is the weighting of certain metric)

  1. Academic Reputation (40%)
  2. Employer Reputation (10%)
  3. Faculty/Student Ratio (20%)
  4. Citations per faculty (20%)
  5. International Faculty Ratio (5%)
  6. International Student Ratio (5%)

QS World University Rankings 2021
The author has used various sources and rankings to construct the top 2021 Japan University Rankings for International Students