Division of Department of Integrated Human Sciences Department of Eastern and Japanese Art History

We study the “shape” of works of art to learn more about humans and expression

Art history stands apart from other fields of history because it studies the product of expression, that is, the work of art. New artwork reflects the “shape” of preceding art pieces, and passes it on to those created later. Moreover, a work of art is a means of communication between the creator and the audience. Thinking about the connection between a person and expression can reveal a whole range of insights into history and human nature.
It is hard to translate into ordinary language the information conveyed by an art work – its “shape” – and yet a researcher in art history utilizes his or her senses and knowledge to put this abstraction into words. Here lies the appeal of the discipline. Such an approach requires the researcher to examine the work of art as closely as possible, above everything else. Members of our department travel across the country and abroad to directly observe the objects they study, and our new students learn research methods as they help to prepare for and participate in collective study tours. In that sense, art history is a practical discipline. We hope that everyone who joins us is fascinated by art and is never tired of discovering and appreciating new artwork.

Message from Senior


3rd grade, Humanities and Social Sciences
High school : Yamagata Prefectural Yamagata-Higashi

Recommended book : Jigoku to gokuraku o wakaru hon: “Ano yo” to nihonjin no dōtokukan by Futabasha
Reason : Hell has remained a part of Japanese imagination for centuries. Jigoku to gokuraku o wakaru hon describes that scary place, as well as the promised land of heaven, in a simple, accessible manner. Since the book is filled with color illustrations, just flipping through it can be entertaining.

Highlights of the Faculty of Arts and Letters

As students of the department of Japanese Art History, we start visiting exhibitions and going on excursions to places like the town of Hiraizumi (Iwate) during our second year. It is a very good opportunity to appreciate works of art, since you can directly observe their size and surface texture — in other words, all the aspects that are lost in reproductions. I cannot describe the emotions that fill me when I come face-to-face with works designated as national treasures or important cultural properties. There is holiness about them that makes one forget about their age, and their dignity and aura are overwhelming.
Furthermore, our field trips and excursions are followed by study groups where we work together with graduate students. Listening to other people’s reports gives you access to new knowledge and alternative points of view; it is an opportunity to learn something you were not aware of or could not notice on your own. As you continue studying art this way, your expertise will grow exponentially.

To everyone aiming for the Faculty of Arts and Letters

I had been interested in psychology since high school, so I intended to join that department. The turning point came after I heard a lecture by one of the Department of Japanese Art History professors. Intuitively I realized that art history might be the best subject for me. This is how I joined this department.
One of the great points about the Faculty of Arts and Letters is that you are allowed to learn more about all twenty five specialties before joining a department. I would like to give a piece of advice to both those of you who have already decided on their major, and those who have not. Spend your first year with open minds and do not allow your interests to steer you away from new opportunities. There are many worlds out there that you have yet to discover.