The National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) is one of four "Inter-University Research Institute Corporations" set up in Japan in 2004. It consists of five inter-university research institutes:
- the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NAOJ),
- the National Institute for Fusion Science (NIFS),
- the National Institute for Basic Biology (NIBB),
- the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (NIPS), and
- the Institute for Molecular Science (IMS).
In addition to playing a leading role in its respective research field, each institute has a collaborative relationship with NINS with the common goal of creating an interdisciplinary and international research base. An inter-university research institute is a "research institute operated by the research community,” a type of world-class organization unique to Japan.
The inter-university research institute was organized as a core base to provide a place for joint research and extramural use by researchers across Japan. One such institution originated as the Research Institute for Fundamental Physics (Yukawa Hall) in Kyoto University, which was opened to the community in 1953 in response to requests from theoretical physicists throughout Japan.