Kyoto University

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Kyoto University
Motto None
Established Founded May 1869,
Chartered June 18, 1897
Type Public (National)
Location Kyoto, Kyoto Japan
The Clock Tower, completed in 1925, is the most recognizable structure on the campus of Kyoto University

Kyoto University(京都大学, Kyōto daigaku), abbreviated to (Kyodai, 京大, Kyōdai) is a national coeducational research university in Kyoto, Japan. It is the second oldest university and one of the leading research universities in the country and in Asia. Its predecessor, the Chemistry School (舎密局, Seimi-kyoku), was founded in 1869 to train scientists to support the rapid industrialization of Japan during the Meiji period. After being established as Kyoto Imperial University (京都帝國大學, Kyōto teikoku daigaku) in 1897, its science faculties and research centers continued to collaborate closely with Japanese industry. Since 1913, it has also been the home of the Kyoto School, a loosely-associated group of philosophers who took a significant role in interpreting Buddhist and Asian philosophy for Western thinkers, and Western and Christian thought for Asian scholars.

Renamed Kyoto University in 1947, the school now has a total of about 22,700 students enrolled in its undergraduate and graduate programs, 2,900 faculty members and 2,500 staff. It advocates "traits of liberty" such a free-thinking, self-reliance and dialogue, and conducts significant creative research. Among its alumni are five Nobel Prize Laureates in fields of fundamental natural science. In recent decades the university has developed unique international research centers and an extensive international exchange program. It has also established the Graduate Schools of Human and Environmental Studies, Energy Science, Asian and African Area Studies, Informatics, Biostudies and Global Environmental Studies to study the critical issues of the twenty-first century.


The forerunner of Kyoto University was the Chemistry School (舎密局, Seimi-kyoku) founded in Osaka in 1869, as part of the new Meiji government’s initiative to rapidly industrialize and modernize Japan. The Seimi-kyoku was replaced by the Third Higher School (第三髙等學校, Daisan kōtō gakkō) in 1886, which was transferred in the same year to the university's present main campus.

Kyoto Imperial University (京都帝國大學, Kyōto teikoku daigaku) was founded by Imperial Ordinance on June 18, 1897, the second university to be established in Japan as part of the Imperial University system. The new university took over the buildings of the Third Higher School, which moved to a site just across the street, where the Yoshida South Campus stands today. In the same year, the College of Science and Engineering was founded. The College of Law and the College of Medicine were founded in 1899, and the College of Letters in 1906, expanding the university's activities to areas outside natural science. In July 1914 the College of Science and Engineering was divided into the College of Science and the College of Engineering, giving the University five Colleges. In accordance with the promulgation of the Imperial University Law, the Colleges were reorganized in February 1919 to comprise the Faculties of Law, Medicine, Engineering, Letters, and Science, and in the following May the Faculty of Economics was established. A Faculty of Agriculture was established in 1923. The number of students grew rapidly, and a succession of research institutes was founded.

Did you know?
Kyoto University was founded to train scientists to support the rapid industrialization of Japan during the Meiji period

During its early years, the university presidents were chosen by the Ministry of Education, but the faculty increasingly sought more autonomy. In 1915, the opinions of the Faculties were considered for the first time in the selection of a new president, and in 1919, a system for the election of presidents by the faculty members themselves was introduced.[1] During the period between World War I and World War II, an increasingly militaristic and nationalistic government sought to dominate the university and restrict its policies. The end of World War II and the subsequent U.S. Occupation of Japan restored a liberal atmosphere. In March 1947, the School Education Law brought widespread reforms to the Japanese education system, emphasizing equal educational opportunity and expanding all levels of education, including higher education. In October 1947 Kyoto Imperial University was renamed Kyoto University. In May 1949 the National School Establishment Law was enacted, and the Third Higher School (Dai San Kou) merged with the university and became the Faculty of Liberal Arts (教養部, Kyōyōbu), which opened in September 1949. Kyoto University was reorganized as a four-year instead of a three-year university, and an eighth Faculty, the Faculty of Education, was added.

In April 1953 the Kyoto University Graduate School System was founded to provide a more systematic post-graduate education in the Graduate Schools of Letters, Education, Law, Economics, Science, Pharmaceutical Sciences, Engineering and Agriculture. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was established in April 1954, and in July 1955 the Graduate School of Medicine was created by an amendment of the Education Law. In April 1960, the Faculty of Medicine was divided into the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. In October 1992, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was reorganized as the tenth Faculty and named the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies (総合人間学部, Sōgō ningen gakubu).

In the past two decades, Kyoto University has placed more emphasis on activities at the graduate level, and has established the Graduate Schools of Human and Environmental Studies, Energy Science, Asian and African Area Studies, Informatics, Biostudies and Global Environmental Studies to study the critical issues of the twenty-first century. These new disciplines have mandated the reorganization of long-established and traditional academic domains.

As of 2008, Kyoto University had ten Faculties, seventeen Graduate Schools, 13 Research Institutes, and 29 Research and Educational Centers. Since 2004, under a new law which applies to all national Japanese universities, Kyoto University has been incorporated as a national university corporation. This has led to increased financial independence and autonomy, but Kyoto University is still partially controlled by the Japanese Ministry of Education (文部科学省, 文部科学省; Monbu kagakushō or Monkashō).

Kyoto University Emblem and Color

The emblem of Kyoto University combines the camphor tree that stands in front of the Clock Tower with a logo made from the Chinese characters for "University." The Chinese characters had been used to represent the university since its pre-World War II days as Kyoto Imperial University. The original design of the current emblem was suggested by Mr. Ogawa, a faculty member in the 1950s, and appeared on the university's official letterhead and administrative documents. As the university became increasingly involved in international academic exchanges, the need for an official emblem became evident. Design studies eventually resulted in the present form of the university emblem, which was officially adopted by the University Council on November 16, 1990.

In 1920, the first regatta was held on the Seta River between the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, which were known at the time as The Imperial University of Tokyo and Kyoto Imperial University. Emulating Oxford and Cambridge Universities in England, the two universities chose a dark blue and a light blue for their team colors. The color for the Kyoto University team, chosen by lot, was a dark shade of blue called "nousei," which subsequently became both the school color and the color of the sports association at Kyoto University.

Mission statement

Kyoto University’s stated mission is to sustain and develop its historical commitment to academic freedom, and to pursue harmonious coexistence within the human and ecological community on this planet. It seeks to integrate pure and applied research in the humanities, sciences and technology, and to educate outstanding and humane researchers and specialists who will contribute responsibly to the world’s human and ecological community. This goal has been implemented in the establishment of the Research Institute for Sustainable Humanosphere in 2003 to study the environment, and the Kokoro Research Center in 2007 to study human behavior and consciousness.[2] Kyoto University also promotes its role as an international institution, engaging in foreign academic exchange and striving to contribute to global well-being.


The university has three campuses in Yoshida, Kyoto; in Gokashō, Uji; and in Katsura, Kyoto.

Yoshida Campus is the main campus, with some laboratories located in Uji. The Graduate School of Engineering is housed at the newly-built Katsura Campus.

The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower, the most recognizable structure of the Kyoto University campus, was designed by Goichi Takeda, the university's first Professor of Architecture, and completed in 1925. Art Nouveau Secessionist-style design is evident in all of its elements, and the exterior gives the building an appearance of immense historical significance. The Clock Tower was one of the first university structures to be built with reinforced concrete, using the most advanced technology of the time. The interior of the hall itself was assembled using angle-plates, rivets and steel trusses. In the eight decades since it was opened, the Clock Tower has come to symbolize Kyoto University.[3]

The Kyoto School

The “Kyoto School” is a loosely affiliated group of Japanese philosophers, originating around 1913 with Nishida Kitaro. Kitaro steadfastly encouraged independent thinking among the academics who gathered around Kyoto University as a de facto meeting place. To be formally accepted as a member of the movement, a scholar had to be teaching at Kyoto University or at a nearby affiliated school, share Nishida's basic assumptions regarding metaphysics and the concept of "nothingness," and use the same philosophical vocabulary as Nishida.[4] Although the group was largely informal, traditionally the occupant of the Chair of the Department of Modern Philosophy at Kyoto University was considered its leader. Most members of the Kyoto School were strongly influenced by the German philosophical tradition, especially through the thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger, and all had strong ties to the Buddhist religion. Philosophers of the Kyoto School took a significant role in interpreting Buddhist and Asian philosophy for Western thinkers, and Western and Christian thought for Asian scholars.

Notable alumni


  • Osachi Hamaguchi Prime Minister of Japan
  • Kijuro Shidehara Prime Minister of Japan
  • Tetsu Katayama Prime Minister of Japan
  • Fumimaro Konoe Prime Minister of Japan
  • Hayato Ikeda Prime Minister of Japan
  • Lee Teng-hui President of the Republic of China (Taiwan)


  • Kan Kikuchi
  • Tatsuji Miyoshi
  • Shohei Ooka
  • Yasushi Inoue
  • Sakyo Komatsu


  • Hideki Yukawa physicist Nobel laureate
  • Shinichiro Tomonaga physicist Nobel laureate
  • Leo Esaki physicist Nobel laureate
  • Kenichi Fukui chemist Nobel laureate
  • Susumu Tonegawa biologist Nobel laureate
  • Ryoji Noyori chemist Nobel laureate
  • Heisuke Hironaka mathematician Fields Medal laureate
  • Shigefumi Mori mathematician Fields Medal laureate
  • Kiyoshi Oka mathematician
  • Kinji Imanishi ecologist, anthropologist


  • Nagisa Oshima film director
  • Kiyoshi Miki philosopher
  • Takeshi Umehara philosopher

See also


  1. Kyoto University, History Retrieved December 29, 2008.
  2. Chairperson’s Greetings, Kokoro Research Center.
  3. Chairperson’s Greetings, Kokoro Research Center. Retrieved December 29, 2008.
  4. D.S. Clarke, Jr. "Introduction" in Nishida Kitaro by Nishitani Keiji, 1991.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Carter, Robert. The Nothingness Beyond God: An Intreduction to the Philosophy of Nishida Kitaro. St. Paul, MN: Paragon House, 1997. ISBN 1557787611
  • Franck, Frederick. The Buddha Eye: An Anthology of the Kyoto School and its Contemporaries. (The library of perennial philosophy.) Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom. 2004. ISBN 978-0941532594
  • Geography Institute, Kyoto University. Geographical Languages in Different Times and Places: Japanese contributions to the history of geographical thoughts. S.l: Japanese Commission on the History of Geographical Thought of the 24th I.G.U. congress in Japan. 1980.
  • Goto-Jones, Christopher S. Political Philosophy in Japan: Nishida, the Kyoto School and co-prosperity. London: Routledge, 2005. ISBN 978-0415335676
  • Heisig, James. Philosophers of Nothingness. Honolulu, HI: University of Hawaii Press, 2001. ISBN 0824824814
  • Honjō, Eijirō. The Social and Economic History of Japan. New York, NY: Russell & Russell. 1965.
  • Izumi, Hiroaki. Towards the Neo-Kyoto School: History and development of the primatological approach of the Kyoto school in Japanese primatology and ecological anthropology. Edinburgh: Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh, 2005.
  • Kyōto Daigaku. History of Seventy Years of Kyoto University. 1967.
  • Kyōto Daigaku. In Search of a New Paradigm: Sustainable Humanosphere. Kyoto: Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, 2007. ISBN 978-4901668316
  • Kyōto Daigaku. Kyōto Daigaku no rekishi: jōsetsuten = The History of Kyoko University : Permanent exhibition. Kyōto-shi: Kyōto Daigaku Daigaku Bunshokan, 2006.
  • Nishitani, Keiji. Nishida Kitaro. University of California Press, 1991. ISBN 978-0520073647
  • Waldenfels, Hans. Absolute Nothingness: Foundations for a Buddhist-Christian Dialogue/ New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980. ISBN 978-0809123162

External links

All links retrieved October 5, 2022.


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