An extraordinary environment for research and the hidden strength in tradition


The Department of Literature at Tohoku University was born from the Tōhoku Imperial University Faculty of Law and Literature, established in Katahira-chō, Sendai in 1922. A creation of the "Taishō Democracy" period that followed the First World War (1914-1918), the Department of Law gathered professors leading the work in modernizing the liberal arts, their lectures attracting the interest of not only students of the humanities, but also students studying education, law, and economics. The foundation of the Faculty of Law and Letters came 15 years after the establishment of Tohoku University in 1907, but from the start it was blessed with a research-friendly environment, particularly in connection with the university library, where students could make full use of its catalog, including such resources as the former library of Kanō Kōkichi (which today remains in the library's possession as the approximately 108,000-book "Kanō Collection" concerned mostly with the humanities).

There were troubled times in the years that followed, as during the Second World War when the very thought of scholarship and research were abandoned, but even in the midst of these difficulties the extraordinary research environment was preserved and brought to fuller completion (for example, in the continuing growth of the library's collections of precious books, like the "Sōseki Collection" of approximately 3000 volumes from the library of Natsume Sōseki). Tōhoku University was relaunched as a university under the new education system in 1949 and the Department of Literature was established. The campus was moved from Katahira to its present location in Kawauchi in 1973, and the university, along with the other national universities, was privatized in 2004. Its traditions, however, together with the university-wide ideal of "research first", were carried forward, and live on in the diverse fields of the Department of Literature and the wealth of opportunities it offers to experience their hidden strength.

Looking out at the world with your feet on the ground
Explore the depths, know the breadth

The Graduate School of Arts and Letters currently offers 25 fields of specialization. Our multifaceted character is well suited to the nature of the humanities and the social sciences, which combine diversity and individuality. We place great importance on small class sizes and provide fields of study that respect the interests and abilities of each student. There is no contradiction in learning specialized knowledge and ways of thinking in depth, on the one hand, and acquiring broad-based basic knowledge in the humanities and fundamental language skills on the other. The unique potential of the humanities as "practical learning" that probes the lives, cultures, and societies of humankind is revealed at the meeting point of deep specialized knowledge and broad basic knowledge. Tohoku University's foundational principal of "knowledge first" connects naturally with the "open door policy," another core tradition. The deepening of learning itself is what guarantees that learning will broaden, and this new breadth deepens learning further.

The Graduate School of Arts and Letters at Tohoku is a place of learning of this kind, with deep roots in regional community and academic fields open wide to world societies. As is seen in the faculty's Tōhoku Cultural Research Institute, the cultures of Tōhoku have been the object of active research and have provided energy and new life to our various fields. At the same time, our faculty includes 5 professors from overseas, international exchange students make up a significant proportion of our student body, and we provide a wealth of opportunities to study abroad at universities connected to us by academic exchange agreements. The GSAL has also become a site of international focus, visited by many foreign scholars and hosting a variety of special lectures and symposia.

Onto the future
Demonstrating the true potential of the humanities and social sciences

The 21st century will almost certainly become a time of increasing computerization and rationalization and ongoing rapid development of science and technology. Because of this, the importance of the humanities and social sciences as "practical sciences" that question the fundamental nature of the lives, cultures, and societies of humankind will become more important. The Graduate School of Arts and Letters will continue to be an institution from which the new faces who will carry forth this "practical science" will emerge. Traditions will be sustained by constant refreshing and renewal. It will be the fresh new faces joining us who will maintain the traditions of the Graduate School of Arts and Letters.

For information on the faculty members in our 25 areas of specialization, please see "Introduction to the departments" and "faculty profiles".