Imperial Universities (帝国大学)

Imperial Universities are the universities established according to the Imperial University Law promulgated in 1886. As will be described below, while there was only one university, Imperial University was used as the name of the university and after two or more universities were built, it is used as a generic name of a group of universities.

1886 to 1897: Name given to the University of Tokyo (established in 1877) that was the only university in Japan, based on the Imperial University Law

1897: Generic name of the universities established based on the Imperial University Law
Finally, seven universities were built in Japan and two universities were built in other countries.

The Imperial Universities were established as the top-level national higher education facilities and research organizations in Japan. Although there were no 'universities' or 'graduate schools' in those days, the Imperial University consisted of a university with several major subjects and a graduate school for interdisciplinary researches. Each Imperial University developed its organization through incorporating existing institutions of higher education and then reorganized or renamed it or establishing new departments. In addition to the Imperial Universities, single-department colleges and others were established in later years, however the universities continued to lead higher education and research in Japan. The name 'Imperial University' was disused after World War II and the universities became universities that were distinguished or represented each region in Japan.

Up to the Taisho period, honor students for each course of study were awarded an Imperial prize of a silver watch. Gakushikai (headquartered in Tokyo) was organized as a club of graduates in 1886. Graduates of former imperial universities are entitled to participate in the club even today.

Until the end of World War II, the imperial universities (帝国大学) were abbreviated to teidai (帝大). Since the Imperial University Law was abolished after World War II, these universities are now called 'former imperial universities' or 'kyuteidai'. The former imperial universities may or may not include the imperial universities in Keijo (old name of Seoul City in the period of Japan's rule) and Taipei in the former foreign parts.


1. Imperial University (later Tokyo Imperial University. Current the University of Tokyo)

The only university of the time in Japan, 'The University of Tokyo,' established in 1877 was renamed to 'Imperial University' and reorganized by incorporating the University of Tokyo and the Imperial College of Engineering by the promulgation of the Imperial University Law (1886). A graduate school was also established at this time.


2. Kyoto Imperial University (established in 1897, current Kyoto University)
There were loud cries for establishment of a university in Kansai in the period of establishment of the Imperial University.

In 1890, Minister of Education Akimasa YOSHIKAWA (from Tokushima Domain) of the First Yamagata cabinet made efforts to proclaim Ordinance on Education, submitted a draft of University Law to the cabinet meeting and insisted on establishment of local universities and expansion of Koto Chugakko (Higher Middle School, the new name for University Preparatory School).

The first general election of the members of the House of Representatives took place on July 1, 1890 and the first Imperial Diet was summoned on November 25. On February 20 in the following year, 1891, Tai HASEGAWA, a member of House of Representatives (who established Saiseigakusha which was the former Nippon Medical School in 1876) submitted a draft of establishment of a new imperial university, and submitted a 'proposal of establishing a new imperial university in Kansai' to the fourth Imperial Diet in 1892, but it was not established.

Due to an economic boom owing to Japanese-Sino War (July 1894 to April 1895) and reparations obtained from the Empire of China (Qing) by the Treaty of Shimonoseki, Minister of Education Kinmochi SAIONJI of the second Ito cabinet wrote a 'proposal to issue part of the reparations obtained from the Empire of China as the basic fund for building imperial universities' to the prime minister and insisted on establishment of Kyoto Imperial University. In response to this, the budget for the expenses for establishment of Kyoto Imperial University and Kyoto Imperial University Medical College passed in the ninth Imperial Diet in the following year, 1896. In the following year (1897), Kyoto Imperial University was established by using some facilities of the former Third High School (Daisan Koto Gakko) (the former Third High School was moved).
Imperial University' was renamed to 'Tokyo Imperial University.'

Tohoku, Kyushu, and Hokkaido

3. Tohoku Imperial University (established in 1907, current Tohoku University)
4. Kyushu Imperial University (established in 1911, current Kyushu University)
5. Hokkaido Imperial University (established in 1918, current Hokkaido University)
The Imperial Diet was organized in 1890 and a lot of 'proposals' for establishment of imperial universities were submitted to the diet. If drafts of proposals were adopted and became 'proposals,' it meaned that the congress showed its intension to the government under the Constitution of the Empire of Japan, and they were not draft laws and therefore were not legally binding.

Minister of Education Sukenori KABAYAMA of the second Yamagata cabinet that was organized in 1898 at the stage of establishment of Kyoto Imperial University told that he wished to establish imperial universities in the Tohoku and Kyushu regions. He expressed his intension to establish an imperial university in Miyagi Prefecture in Tohoku where the former Second High School (Daini Koto Gakko) existed, but did not mention to the prefecture in which to establish one in Kyushu. The governors of Fukuoka Prefecture where Yahata Iron Factory was located and Nagasaki Prefecture where the Former Fifth High School Faculty of Medicine existed said that 'we are prepared for donating 500,000 yen'. Kumamoto Prefecture where the headquarters of the Former Fifth High School existed offered to provide land.
However, the Imperial Diet expressed their negative views and the establishment of both imperial universities was abandoned because 'even if it is established by donation, operating expenses could not be worked out.'

The opposition party, the Seiyu Party (president Hirobumi ITO), submitted a 'proposal of establishing Kyushu and Tohoku imperial universities' and a 'proposal of establishing Hokkaido imperial university' in the 14th Imperial Diet in 1900. The proposals were passed at the house of representatives special committee, and a request to establish imperial universities in Tohoku, Kyushu and Hokkaido was expressed from the diet to the government. However, the government expressed their negative views because the request was made by the opposition party, the proposal was not legally binding and Japan was in recession in 1900 to 1901. On the contrary, the diet adopted a 'proposal of establishing Hokkaido imperial university' in 1901, and a 'proposal of establishing Tohoku imperial university' in 1902 to appeal to the government.

In 1902, Minister of Education Dairoku KIKUCHI (former president of the University of Tokyo) of the first Katsura Cabinet said that 'imperial universities other than Tokyo and Kyoto Imperial Universities were unnecessary' and proposed a draft of establishment of practical vocational schools. The draft was abandoned due to dissolution of the House of Representatives, but it was decided to establish special higher education facilities in each of the prefectures that offered a large amount of donation, and the Fukuoka College of Medicine, Kyoto University was established based on the Fukuoka Prefectural Fukuoka Hospital in 1903 with a national budget of 1,500,000 yen. After that, Nagasaki Koto Shogyo Gakko (Nagasaki Higher Commercial School) was established in 1905, Sendai Higher Technical School and Kumamoto Higher Technical School were established based on Faculty of Engineering, the Former Fifth High School, in 1906.

When the first Saionji Cabinet was formed headed by Prime Minister Kinmochi SAIONJI who made efforts to establish Kyoto Imperial University and was willing to establish higher education facilities, the budget for establishing Tohoku Imperial University (Sendai City) and Kyushu Imperial University (Fukuoka City) was included in the 1907 budget. Finance Minister Itaya reduced the budget due to a recession after Japanese-Russo War and it was impossible to establish the universities. Minister of home affairs, Takashi HARA (Morioka Domain, Outside the Morioka Castle, from present Hongu, Morioka City, Iwate Prefecture) managed to persuade Toranosuke FURUKAWA (17 years old) who was vice-president of Furukawa Mining and the second-generation owner of Furukawa zaibatsu, to provide the fund to establish the two imperial universities and the establishment of the universities was approved in the cabinet 17 days after the reduction of the budget. Furukawa zaibatsu that built a fortune due to the booming (1904 to 1905) resulted from Japanese-Russo War had pollution problems caused by the Ashio Copper Mine Mineral Pollution and conciliated public opinion by donation to the public.

The headquarters of Tohoku University was established in Sendai City in June 1907, and Sapporo Agricultural School was promoted to the College of Agriculture, Tohoku Imperial University (Sapporo City) in September in the same year. College of Science, Tohoku Imperial University (Sendai City), was newly established in January, 1911 and the headquarters of Kyushu University was established and College of Engineering, Kyushu Imperial University, was newly established (both in Fukuoka City). In April in the same year, the Fukuoka College of Medicine, Kyoto Imperial University, was transferred to College of Medicine, Kyushu Imperial University. Not only the donations from local well-wishers, but also the donations of about 1,060,000 yen in five years beginning with 1907 from Furukawa zaibatsu were used to establish these universities (construction cost: 987,739 yen, office expense: 69,137 yen). The fund for construction of buildings from Furukawa zaibatsu was as follows: 135,519 yen for the College of Agriculture, Tohoku Imperial University, 244,170 yen for College of Science, Tohoku Imperial University, and 608,050 yen for College of Engineering, Kyushu Imperial University.

The third 'proposal of establishing Hokkaido imperial university' was adopted in the diet in 1911, but the government expressed negative views. However, when economic conditions improved during World War I (1915 to 1918), the situation changed and the College of Agriculture, Tohoku Imperial University, was separated from Tohoku Imperial University and Hokkaido University was established in April, 1918, before each imperial university was reorganized from colleges to departments according to the promulgation of the University Law. The 'foundation and expansion plan of high schools in the miscellaneous category' was adopted in the Imperial Diet under the Hara cabinet in the same year, and Faculty of Economics was established in Tokyo Imperial University and Kyoto Imperial University and Faculty of Law and Letters was established in Tohoku Imperial University and Kyushu Imperial University.

The details of establishment of Imperial University in this period were complicated due to the relationship between Imperial Diet and the government, problem of funding and constructing school buildings, and the relations between the predecessor institutions of high education and newly established Imperial Universities; and it was associated with the relationships with Shosuke SATO (last master of Sapporo Agricultural School, first president of the College of Agriculture, Tohoku Imperial University, first president of Hokkaido Imperial University), who was from Morioka Domain like Takashi HARA and a class mate in hanko Sakujinkan Shubunjo (domain school, Sakujinkan Shubunjo). The imperial universities established in this period were named after regions and other Imperial Universities were named after cities.

Since the Imperial Universities were established for political reasons in Sendai City (population 120,000), Sapporo City (population 100,000) and Fukuoka City (population 95,000) which were more thinly populated than Osaka City (population 1,250,000), Nagoya City (population 430,000) in three major metropolitan areas, Hiroshima City (population 160,000), and Kanazawa City (population 130,000), campaigns for establishment of Imperial Universities were carried out in large cities (-> Order of populations (1920) of prefectural capitals and ordinance-designated cities).

Keijo (old name of Seoul City in the period of Japan's rule) and Taipei

6. Keijo Imperial University (established in 1924, abolished due to the defeat of World War II and reorganized to Seoul National University)
7. Taipei Imperial University (established in 1928, parent organization of National Taiwan University)
Nationalism spread after the end of World War I by Fourteen Points (January 8, 1918) and Treaty of Versailles (1919), March First Movement (1919) occurred in Korea in the period of Japan's rule and there is a strong movement on foot to establish private universities in national and U.S.A. missionary groups. Japan became a permanent member of the League of Nations when it was organized in 1920, took an international position, acted upon 'inland territorial expansionism' (assimilationism in the foreign parts) in the period of Japan's rule of Korea/(Taiwan) inland territorial expansionism (1915 to 1937)/Kwantung Leased Territory and established numerous higher education facilities (-> higher education facilities former foreign parts).

Establishment of the Imperial Universities in the foreign parts had implications of suppressing nationalism there, but the numbers of departments and students were limited, professors and most students were Japanese and some national newspaper criticized racial discrimination. While all universities and higher education facilities in the inland (Japan) were under control of Ministry of Education, most schools and universities in the foreign parts, including Keijo Imperial University and Taipei Imperial University, were under control of Taiwan Sotoku-fu, Chosen Sotoku-fu, Kanto kyoku or Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

A lot of universities were established by the University Law in the 1920's.
-> Old-education-system universities

Osaka and Nagoya

8. Osaka Imperial University (established in 1931, current Osaka University)
9. Nagoya Imperial University (established in 1939, current Nagoya University)
Tokyo suffered devastating damage by the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, the population of Osaka City and Nagoya City increased greatly because people moved there from Tokyo (order of populations of prefectural capitals and ordinance-designated cities). A campaign for establishment of Imperial Universities was conducted in prefectures where both the cities are located, but the government budget for establishment of Imperial Universities was not approved due to Showa financial crisis (1927) and the Great Depression (1929) and the two universities were established with donations from local well-wishers to the national treasury. Osaka Imperial University was established based on Osaka Medical College, and Nagoya Imperial University was established based on Nagoya Medical College.

Since the military gained power after Manchurian Incident in 1931, military expenditures took precedence in the finance, local governments were required to bear the expenses for establishment of new Imperial Universities according to precedent of the two Imperial Universities and as a result, no Imperial Universities were established in other areas. However, other higher education facilities were established or restructured.

After World War II

Since many professors (Japanese) returned to Japan from Keijo Imperial University and Taipei Imperial University in the foreign parts due to the defeat of Japan, it was difficult to give sufficient lectures for the length of the course of study though the buildings of the universities remained. With influences of such internal conditions of university organizations and differences of ruling by Japan (-> the period of Japan's rule (Korea), the period of Japan's rule (Taiwan)), the parent organization of Taiwan University was Taipei Imperial University, Seoul National University was newly established in 1946 and Keijo Imperial University was not its parent organization. Japanese was used for lectures before World War II, but it was changed to Korean in Seoul National University and to Chinese in Taiwan University after the war. Fixed number of places were perpared for children of Kuomintang Party members who received education in primary schools, junior high schools and high schools in Japan to study in Taiwan University as a student from overseas, and some professors who were educated in Japanese before World War II taught in Japanese these students who could not speak Chinese well.

In Japan, the Imperial University Law was renamed to National University Law in 1947, the imperial universities in various parts of Japan were renamed and the educational system was maintained, but the names of imperial universities were disused. They were organized to universities under the new system (education system reformation) in 1949 and old-education-system universities were abolished in 1962. The imperial universities on the education system no longer existed.

The universities that were Imperial Universities were called former Imperial Universities. Gakushikai (headquartered in Tokyo) has survived and functions as a common alumni association for seven universities (and graduates from Imperial Universities in the foreign parts). Seven Universities Athletic Meet (abbreviated as Nanataisen or Nanateisen) in which seven universities competed periodically was performed every year. Since there were nine Imperial Universities, they were called 'Kyuteidai,' but it had the same pronunciation as '旧帝大' and the exchange with former Imperial Universities decreased, it became an obsolete word.

Process of establishment

Some Imperial Universities were established by the initiative of the government, the diet adopted a lot of proposals of establishing Imperial Universities and appealed the establishment to the government. However, the proposals were not legally binding, higher education facilities other than Imperial Universities could be established at a relatively low cost, but a large amount of money was required to establish Imperial Universities because they were highly rated. Therefore, it was difficult to establish Imperial Universities soon with a proposal of establishing the Imperial Universities in the diet because it did not have financial prospects.

Recent state


The ratio of students who entered universities according to locations of their high schools is shown below.

The top five regions and the top prefecture in each university were shown with the ratio to the whole.

An internal link was set in the university which the students from the region entered.

Mie Prefecture is included in the Kinki region, not in the Chubu region, but it will be stated if different.

The Kyushu and Okinawa region is designated as the Kyushu region.

Nobel Prize and Fields Prize

In the Nobel Prize natural science field, a majority of Asian Noble Prize winners and 11 of 13 Noble Prize winners of Japanese graduates and 3 of 4 Asian Fields Prize winners were from Imperial Universities or national universities to which former Imperial Universities were reorganized (as of 2008). The prize-winning study may not be performed in the research institute of the university from which a winner graduated. The three Japanese winners of Nobel Prize for literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and the Alfred Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics are from former Imperial Universities as of 2008.

Nobel Prize natural science fields (Asian winners)
Former Imperial Universities (12 persons)
Kyoto University (5 persons): (Kyoto Imperial University) Hideki YUKAWA, Shinichiro TOMONAGA, Keinichi FUKUI
(Kyoto University) Susumu TONEGAWA, Ryoji NOYORI

The University of Tokyo (3 persons): (Tokyo Imperial University) Reona EZAKI, Yoichiro NANBU
(The University of Tokyo) Masatoshi KOSHIBA

Nagoya University (2 persons): Makoto KOBAYASHI (physicist), Toshihide MASUKAWA
Tohoku University (1 person): Koichi TANAKA
Taiwan University (1 person): Yuan Tseh Lee
Other than former Imperial Universities (8 persons)
University of the Punjab (Lahore (Pakistan)) (2 persons): Abdus Salam, Har Gobind Khorana
Madras Presidency College (Chennai (India)) (2 persons): Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Subramanyan Chandrasekhar
Nankai University (Tianjin City (China)) (2 persons): Lee Tsung-Dao, Yang Chen-Ning
Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo (Japan)) (1 person): Hideki SHIRAKAWA
Nagasaki School of Medicine (old education system), attached pharmaceutical special division (Nagasaki Prefecture (Japan)): Osamu SHIMOMURA
Nationality other than Asia (2 persons)
Augustana College (Rock Island, Illinois (U.S.A)) (1 person): Daniel Chee Tsui. Born in Henan province (China), bred in Hong Kong. US citizenship)

St. Joseph College (Yokohama (Japan)) (1 person): Charles Pedersen (half Norwegian and half Japanese.
Born in Busan Metropolitan City (Korea), bred in Yokohama (Japan). Norwegian citizenship)

Other than Nobel Prize natural science field (Asian prize winners other than Japanese are omitted.)
Former Imperial Universities (3 persons)
The University of Tokyo (3 persons): (Tokyo Imperial University) Yasunari KAWABATA, Eisaku SATO
(The University of Tokyo) Kenzaburo OE

Fields Prize (Asian prize winners)
Former Imperial Universities (3 persons)
Kyoto University (2 persons): Heisuke HIRONAKA, Shigefumi MORI
The University of Tokyo (1 person): (Tokyo Imperial University) Kunihiko KODAIRA
Nationality other than Asia (1 person)
Chinese University of Hong Kong (Hong Kong (China)) (1 person): Shing-Tung Yau (Born in Swatow, Guangdong (China), US citizenship)

Trend of quotations of theses
Order by number of quotations of theses (1998 to 2008)

Natural science field/general (4,102 institutions)
The top seven educational institutions regarding 'number of theses' are former Imperial Universities and the top nine educational institutions, except Japan Science and Technology Agency and RIKEN, regarding 'number of quotations of theses' are also dominated by former Imperial Universities. The top three regarding the 'average number of quotations' are Japan Science and Technology Agency, RIKEN, and National Institutes of Natural Sciences, followed by universities, such as Tokyo Institute of Technology and Tokyo Medical and Dental University, other than Imperial Universities, thus Imperial Universities did not have precedence.

Research expenses
The top seven educational institutions with many research expenses among national universities are seven former Imperial Universities. The table below includes Inter-University Research Institute Corporations.

Values in 2005
The 'main research expenses' are the total of research expenses and Grants-in-Aid for scientific research expenses (direct expenses).

Refer to the following items for sources of public research expenses.

List of top organizations with the number of Grants-in-Aid for scientific research expenses
World Premier International Research Center (WPI) Initiative
Global COE program adoption
Top organization of the 21st Century Center Of Excellence Program


The former Imperial Universities published a lot of patents as part of the results of researches.

Number of patents published by domestic university (2007)
Financial statements
The ordinary revenue of the former Imperial Universities is large and ranks higher than national university corporations