Famed to be both traditional and avant-garde, cultivated with sophistication and uniqueness, Japanese art culture is one spectacular aspect worth study when it comes to pursuing higher education in this country. From the rich history dated from 10th millennium BC to the present day, Japan has been through long periods of minimal contact with the outer world, followed by rapid exposure and influx of new ideas and aesthetic preferences that brought in transformation and innovation to the modern society. Coming to Japan, you will be able to explore a wide range of styles and media, covering ancient pottery and sculpture, calligraphy, fine art, graphic design, animation, film, fashion and jewelry design, landscape architecture, theater, and so much more. Here is our list of 5 best Art Schools in Japan, ranking for its highly-regard reputation, quality of courses and facilities that are offered.

1. Tokyo University of the Arts (東京藝術大学 Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku)

Tokyo University of the Arts

Located in Japan’s most popular city park-Ueno, Tokyo University of the Arts, also known as Geidai (芸大), is the best national art school in the country. Beside Ueno, also has facilities in Toride, IbarakiYokohama, Kanagawa, Kitasenju and Adachi, including two halls of residence: one for both Japanese and international students in Adachi, Tokyo, and the other (for mainly international students) in Matsudo, Chiba. Since 130 years ago, Tokyo University of the Arts has played a vital role in art education and research in Japan by preserving the traditions of Japanese culture and combining them with the ideology and techniques of Western art. Notable alumni of Geidai include Takashi Murakami, Tsuguharu Foujita, Kenichiro Kobayashi and many others. Coming to Geidai, the students will be trained to become superior artists, researchers, and educators while receiving artistic traditions and heritage. The student could also gain access to the international exchange program that spans across 74 universities and institutes around the world. Tuition fee ranges from ¥513,620 to ¥1,016,020 a year, across four main faculties of Fine Arts, Music, Global Art, Film and New Media.

2. Musashino Art University (武蔵野美術大学 Musashino Bijutsu Daigaku)

Musashino Art University

Musashino Art University (武蔵野美術大学 Musashino Bijutsu Daigaku, MAU) is a private university in Kodaira, western Tokyo, founded in 1962 and having roots going back to 1929. It is known as one of the leading art universities in Japan, famed for its sophisticated fine art and industrial design courses. Architecture, fashion, and other fields are later on added to enrich the diverse creative discipline and became renown for its quality of education. Tuition fee is around ¥1,185,000 (application, admission and other fees are not included). The many departments Musashino has included Japanese Painting, Sculpture, Visual Communication Design, Industrial, Interior, and Craft Design, Scenography, Display and Fashion Design, Architecture, Science of Design, Arts Policy and Management, and Design Informatics. Notable alumni include Satoshi Kon, Kenya Hara, Ryū Murakami, Keiichi Tanaami and many others. MAU has exchange agreements with various universities in other countries. It has a graduate school that awards master’s degrees and doctorates.

Not only an explorative place for only students, but MAU is also open for the public to visit. Perfect for art lovers, the Musashino Art University Museum & Library has four areas: the museum, the library, the folk art gallery, and the image library. You can enjoy one of the 10 exhibitions held each year at the museum, and discover traditional Japanese culture at the folk art gallery.

3. Tama Art University (多摩美術大学 Tama Bijutsu Daigaku)

Tama Art University campus

Tama Art University, also known as Tamabi (多摩美) consists of two main campuses – Kaminoge and Hachioji, which both locate in Tokyo city. Rooted in the ideology of the institution, freedom and will are two most important aspects of creative expression in Tamagotchi’s Art University, making it a great educational choice for future artists to take part in and develop their career goals. The university presently aims to foster individuals with an ability to carve out a future for themselves according to their own ideas, while traversing academic boundaries and digging deeper into the matter in hand. Besides focusing on self-talents, Tama Art Unversity also actively contributes its research effort to society through Institute for Art Anthropology and various governmental collaborative projects. Famous alumni include Issey Miyake, Naoto Fukasawa, Yumi Matsutoya, Erina Matsui, and many more. Tuition at Tama Art University varies from ¥1,899,000 to ¥1,930,000 (including admission fee). Students can explore a wide range of art practices include Japanese painting, oil painting, printmaking, sculpture, ceramic, glass and metal works, graphic design, product design, textile design, information design, art studies, integrated design, scenography design, drama, and dance.

4. Tohoku University of Art and Design (東北芸術工科大学 Tohoku Geijutsukouka Daigaku)

Tohoku University of Art and Design

As one of its kind, Tohoku University of Art and Design is established in April 1992 by Yamagata Prefecture and Yamagata City, later on, was turned over to be operated as an entirely private university. This area has a rich history starting with the roots of the original Japanese culture of the ancient Jomon Era over ten thousand years ago, which becomes an advantage for research and applying technology into the practice of the Arts. The school holds on to the principles of art and design research, practical and academical knowledge acquisition, in order to nurture human beings who, while developing their intellectual, ethical and applied potential, find joy in the process of creation, as realized through the unification of art and learning; and to contribute to the improvement of academic culture and the vitalization of industry. Classes are conducted in Japanese across majors such as Fine Arts, Historical Heritage study, Preservation, and Restoration of Cultural Assets, sculpture, crafts, textile, literature, product design, architectural/environmental design, graphic design, film studies or community design. the school also places an emphasis on assisting international students enrolling in Graduate School. Tuition range from ¥1,430,660 to ¥1,515,660 a year. For international students who are fluent in Japanese and enthusiastic of the art: This is the school for you.

5. Kyoto City University of Arts (京都 市立芸術大学 Kyoto Shiritsu Geijutsu Daigaku)

Exhibition in Kyoto City University of the Arts

With a history of 132 years (founded in 1880), Kyoto City University of Arts is the oldest art university in Japan. The university has produced many artists who have gone on to become leading figures in both Japanese modern and contemporary art, as well as having artists known internationally such as alumni Yahoo Kusama. Besides, the faculty of Music itself has produced numerous highly talented musicians who have made an impact at an international level. While continuing to pay attention to mainstream art education, Kyoto City University of the Arts has also taken innovative steps such as sharing the results of their unique education and research with the international community, supporting student careers, developing graduate courses, implementing the archive research center project, and improving the entrance examination system. The support and cooperation of the citizens of Kyoto are crucial to the success of these projects. Coming to the school, international students can take Non-degree Research Students (Kenkyuryugakusei) as well as Master and Doctoral degree. In order to take undergraduate courses, international students are suggested to obtain a proficient Japanese language skill since most of the classes will be taught in Japanese.


And there you have it! A list of the best Art Universities to study in Japan. Although it is tempting to choose a university based on ranking or presitge, it is also important to consider the location and English levels of the particular art school (see Nicole’s advice)! 

Happy studying!