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Faculty of Letters

With long-standing academic traditions that date back to 1877 when the Faculty of Letters was first established at the University of Tokyo, the Faculty has been contributing to research not only in Japan but also internationally.


A fundamental fact must first be made clear: the Faculty of Letters is not just a place to study literature. Philosophy, religion, history, language, art and social sciences are included among the wide range of subjects that can be studied here.

So, then, why do we call ourselves the “Faculty of Letters”? The reason lies in the fact that all of our 27 departments involve the study of “letters” in some form or another. All of the following items and concepts, for instance, fit into this category: the philosophies the great thinkers have bequeathed to us, government documents of historical significance, archeological relics, and paintings and other visual arts. Another area which belongs in this group is the written word, which literally would be considered a study of “letters.” Even various types of data on social issues can be interpreted in this way. Thus, these objects and concepts, divergent as they are from one another, all fall under the broadly defined category of “letters.”

In essence, the Faculty of Letters is a place where we take these differing varieties of “letters” and explore the meanings behind them, restore the contexts in which they were produced, and consider why they continue to deeply move us. To put it succinctly, one could say that the question pervading everything we do here at the Faculty of Letters is “What does it mean to be human?”

All “letters” are created by human beings, and therefore invite deciphering by others. In this manner, the person viewing the “letters” and the person whose “letters” are being viewed are always intertwined. Unlike in the natural sciences, where the observer and the subject being observed are assumed to be separate, there exists no clear distinction between the two sides with regards to “letters.” Therefore, in most cases, no matter what one may be studying, there is no absolute “correct” answer. Rather, it can be said that there are as many “correct” answers as many perspectives from varying times and places. We lend our ears to the voices of those in locations and ages different from our own, and re-evaluate and improve our understanding while in endless search of the “correct” answers. Therefore what we consider “re‑search” at the Faculty of Letters may involve exactly that.

Departments, often referred to as Research Units, are the basic units on which the curriculum and the system of the Faculty are based. The Departments vary in their areas of study, traditions and characters, and their independence is respected as much as possible. A Department is comprised of teaching staff members (Professors, Associate Professors, Assistant Professors and Foreign Teaching Staff) and students (graduate students, undergraduate students and researchers). There are 27 Departments which can be classified into four broad academic fields. These are (1) Philosophy and Religion, (2) History, (3) Language and Culture, and (4) Psychology and Sociology.

What does it mean to be human? The more one ponders this question, the more intriguing it becomes. We at the Faculty of Letters eagerly await those with whom we can share this open‑ended inquiry.

Type of Degree

Bachelor of Arts


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