Kumamoto University
The Memorial Museum of the Fifth High School

History of High School System Before 1949

In 1872 (the 5th year of the Meiji era), the Meiji Government created a new, modern education system through the Fundamental Code of Education. This system was modeled on the French education system and lasted until the Meiji Government's Education Order was enacted in 1879.

Under the National School Establishment Law in 1886 (the 19th year of the Meiji era), school districts were created nationwide. One result of this law was that five high schools were established in five regions of Japan. The aim of the system was to prepare boys over a period of three years to enter one of the seven Imperial Universities.

The five high schools initially created for this purpose were:
1886 - The First High School (present Tokyo University)
1887 - The Second High School (present Tohoku University)
1886 - The Third High School (present Kyoto University)
1887 - The Fourth High School (present Kanazawa University)
1887 - The Fifth High School (present Kumamoto University)

After 1900, three more high schools were added to accommodate the increased number of students who wanted to enter higher education, as well as to satisfy the demands of other areas in the country that wanted young people in their region to have the opportunity.

The next three high schools established were:
1900 - The Sixth High School (present Okayama University)
1901 - The Seventh High School (present Kagoshima University)
1908 - The Eighth High School (present Nagoya University)

These eight high schools formed the historically famous "number school" system. However, after the eight high schools were formed, many other regions competed to have elite schools. When the numbering system was stopped, names were used like Niigata High School and Matsumoto High School. Thirty-one of these so-called "name schools" were created in Japan.

Graduates of the original eight high schools normally entered one of the seven Imperial Universities. After graduation, many of them achieved high status positions such as prime minister, cabinet ministers, scientists, novelists, or medical doctors and took on many important roles in Japan.

With the educational system reform which was forced by GHQ (General Head Quarter of occupying American army) in 1949 after the World War II, most these high schools were reorganized into new universities (ex. those in the parentheses) as faculties of general education, literature,law, science and so fourth.


  • History of High School System Before 1949
  • Timeline
  • Prominent Professors
  • Prominent Alumni
  • The Fifth High School Structures