Learn about Japanese universities: Tokyo University

Tokyo University, or "Todai," is probably the most famous Japanese university in the world. But do you really know anything about it besides that fact? Read this article to find out the basics of Todai - how it started and where it is today.


Japan In-Depth

What kind of university is Todai?


The University of Tokyo (東京大学 Tōkyō daigaku), abbreviated as Todai (東大 Tōdai), is a research university located in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan. The University has 10 faculties with a total of around 30,000 students, 2,100 of whom are foreign. Its five campuses are in Hongō, Komaba, Kashiwa, Shirokane and Nakano. It is the first of Japan's National Seven Universities, and is considered the most prestigious university in Japan.


"Todai" or "UTokyo"?

Bi-Yu Wu/Flickr

While the most common nickname for Tokyo University is Todai, the university actually announced that it wanted its English nickname to be "UTokyo."

The University is commonly known as "Todai" in Japanese, an abbreviation of the Japanese characters that make up the Japanese name of the University. The full Japanese name of the University is the four characters that spell out Tokyo Daigaku. Taking the first character of Tokyo (our home city) and the first character of Daigaku (which means university), gives Todai.



Takayuki Miki (三木貴幸)/Flickr

The university was chartered by the Meiji government in 1877 under its current name by amalgamating older government schools for medicine and Western learning. It was renamed "the Imperial University (帝國大學 Teikoku daigaku)" in 1886, and then Tokyo Imperial University (東京帝國大學 Tōkyō teikoku daigaku) in 1897 when the Imperial University system was created. In September 1923, an earthquake and the following fires destroyed about 700,000 volumes of the Imperial University Library.[6] The books lost included the Hoshino Library (星野文庫 Hoshino bunko), a collection of about 10,000 books. The books were the former possessions of Hoshino Hisashi before becoming part of the library of the university and were mainly about Chinese philosophy and history.

In 1947, after Japan's defeat in World War II, it re-assumed its original name. With the start of the new university system in 1949, Todai swallowed up the former First Higher School (today's Komaba campus) and the former Tokyo Higher School, which thenceforth assumed the duty of teaching first- and second-year undergraduates, while the faculties on Hongo main campus took care of third- and fourth-year students.



Richard, enjoy my life!/Flickr

Todai is a research university, so it has several schools and programs for both undergraduates and post-graduates.


Arts and Sciences
Pharmaceutical Sciences

Graduate schools

Humanities and Sociology
Law and Politics
Arts and Sciences
Agricultural and Life Sciences
Pharmaceutical Sciences
Mathematical Sciences
Frontier Sciences
Information Science and Technology
Interdisciplinary Information Studies
Public Policy


Asia and World Rankings

Tim Herrick/Flickr

The University of Tokyo remains the most prestigious institution of higher education in Asia, according to a study released Tuesday, but the editor of the study said Japan is slipping in relative academic prominence and some action is needed to fight competition.


Asia University Rankings 2013 top 100:
1. The University of Tokyo


World University Rankings 2013-2014
23. The University of Tokyo


International population

Homeless Hub/Flickr

In the fall of 2012 and for the first time, the University of Tokyo started two undergraduate programs entirely taught in English and geared toward international students — Programs in English at Komaba (PEAK) — the International Program on Japan in East Asia and the International Program on Environmental Sciences.


Todai is not known as one of the universities in Japan that has a big international population, nor has it been a popular destination for study abroad students coming to Japan. Recently, however, this has been changing. There are students from almost every country in the world studying at Todai, even though the international population is still small. But this doesn't mean you should be discouraged - Todai is a very good university and they are trying to increase the number of international students they have. Why not be one of them?

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

Things to Do

Hotels & Ryokan


Restaurant Search