• A Message from the Dean

A Message from the Dean

Yutaka OSAWA

The history of the University of Tokyo Graduate Schools for Law and Politics and the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law (hereinafter referred to as the Graduate Schools and Faculty) began in 1877. That year, Tokyo Medical School (Faculty of Medicine) was merged into Tokyo Kaisei School (Faculties of Law, Literature, and Science) to form the University of Tokyo, and the Faculty of Law was established as a department of the University of Tokyo. Since then, although the organizational structure has been modified on occasion, the Faculty of Law has been consistently leading research and education on law and politics in Japan and launching talented people into a wide range of fields, including justice, administration, politics, business, the media and the press, and academics. The Faculty of Law is the most venerable research and educational institution and one of the leading academic departments for studying law and politics in Japan.


This rich history and tradition, together with the human networks and high societal regard that have been nurtured through the history and tradition, constitute priceless legacies of the Graduate Schools and Faculty. The Graduate Schools and Faculty have remained keenly aware of the changing times and constantly have sought to adapt to meet the changes. Even limiting the focus only to the most recent Heisei Era (1989-2019), the various reforms described below provide a representative glimpse into how the Graduate Schools and Faculty have sought to adapt to the changing times.


First, shortly after the advent of the Heisei Era, a major reform was undertaken relating to the fundamental institutional structure. In 1991, chairs, which previously had been situated in the Faculty, were shifted to the Graduate Schools. Till then, faculty members who held positions in the Faculty taught concurrently in the Graduate Schools. This was changed to a system in which faculty members who hold positions in the Graduate Schools teach concurrently in the Faculty. Through this reform, in line with government policy to place primacy on graduate schools, the Graduate Schools became a “unified organization for research and education,” both in name and in reality.


As a subsequent major reform, which flowed from the justice system reform process, in 2004 (Heisei 16, the middle of the Heisei Era), the School of Law, which provides graduate-level professional degree programs, was newly established. As a result, the Graduate Schools are now composed of the School of Legal and Political Studies, which is a graduate school in the traditional Japanese model, aimed primarily at those seeking to enter academic careers in law or political science, and the School of Law, the purpose of which is to produce highly skilled and principled members of the legal profession (lawyers, judges, and prosecutors).


In 2017 (Heisei 29, near the end of the Heisei Era), the courses and curricula in the Faculty were revised substantially in order to respond to the globalization of Japanese society and the diversification of students’ careers. The classification of courses was changed from Department I (Private Law Course), Department II (Public Law Course), and Department III (Political Science Course) to Department I (General Legal Studies Course), Department II (Legal Profession Course), and Department III (Political Science Course). By reducing the credits required for graduation and the number of compulsory subjects, curricula were revised so that students could easily challenge various matters, including studying abroad, giving weight to students’ own interests and autonomy. In connection with these reforms, the category of “foreign language courses” was newly established (with a certain number of credits in foreign language courses required for graduation in Department I), and the category of “research papers” was also newly established (required for graduation in Department III). In addition, as a response to the current situation in which the period of higher education is growing longer, a system for early graduation (at the end of the third year) was introduced for students entering the Faculty in 2018 or thereafter.


In 2017, the Graduate Schools also launched the Program for Advanced Business Law. This program is mainly designed to enhance academic research and education in business law, in order to address legal and political problems associated with implementation into society of the results of the rapid technological innovation that has occurred in recent years. In cooperation with the School of Engineering, the School of Information Science and Technology, the School of Medicine, and other schools and institutes, this Program seeks to address these issues from a comprehensive perspective, transcending the boundaries of the humanities and sciences. This program is included in the World-leading Innovative Graduate Study Program (WINGS), which is entirely administered by the University of Tokyo.


A great strength of the Graduate Schools and Faculty is that each of the more than seventy professors and associate professors is engaged in cutting-edge research on law and politics; and they advance the education they provide by incorporating the results of their research. The large number of professors and associate professors results in diversity in the fields in which they specialize. It goes without saying that the faculty members’ areas of specialization span a wide range of fields of law and politics in contemporary Japan. In addition, fields of specialization include the law and politics of various foreign nations, the history of law and politics, philosophy, and legal and political thought. There are also faculty members who possess rich work experience, and who utilize that experience to enhance research and education by bridging theory and practice. Having such a large group of outstanding professors and associate professors specializing in a wide range of professional fields enables the Graduate Schools and Faculty to cultivate students with multifaceted perspectives, to shed light on problems of contemporary society, and to deeply probe the essence of each problem that may arise.


Another great strength of the Graduate Schools and Faculty is that they are part of the University of Tokyo, which undertakes research and education at the highest level in all of Japan. Complicated problems, which occur at the cutting edge of contemporary society, often span various fields, including the sciences, and thus extend beyond the boundaries of law and politics. Problems relating to technological innovation in the so-called digital revolution are typical examples of such complicated problems. The fact that the Graduate Schools and Faculty are part of the University of Tokyo means that they can undertake integrated research and education across various fields at the highest level in Japan. The abovementioned Program for Advanced Business Law in WINGS is one example of such integrated research and education in practice.


The Graduate Schools and Faculty have many other strengths. These include the Faculty of Law Library, which boasts a world-leading collection in law and politics, and the Center for Modern Japanese Legal and Political Documents (Meiji Shinbun Zasshi Bunko), which holds the largest collection of newspapers and magazines published in Japan in the Meiji and Taisho Eras.


In closing, as the Dean of the Graduate Schools and Faculty, I pledge to endeavor to foster the continuous evolution and progress of research and education, while taking maximum advantage of the many strengths of these institutions.


Yutaka Osawa

Dean of the Graduate Schools for Law and Politics and the Faculty of Law