Hosei University traces its history to the founding of Tokyo Hogakusha in April 1880, the thirteenth year of the Meiji era. This was the heyday of the pro-democracy Freedom and People’s Rights Movement. In the same year, activists formed the League for the Establishment of a National Assembly and submitted a petition for the creation of such a legislature to the Meiji government, a milestone in the history of constitutional government in Japan. In terms of legal history, the year 1880 marked the birth of Japan’s modern legal system.
Against this backdrop, a group of young men trained in French jurisprudence, all of them in their mid-20s—Kanamaru Magane (1852–1909), Ito Osamu (1855–1920), and Satta Masakuni (1856–97)—founded Tokyo Hogakusha in Kitakoga-machi in Tokyo’s Kanda-Surugadai district to meet a growing need for professional legal services and law education. Satta had studied directly under the French legal scholar Gustave Emile Boissonade de Fontarabie, who had come to Japan at the government’s request to assist in the drafting of Japan’s legal codes and teach at the Law School of the Ministry of Justice. When the law education department of Tokyo Hogakusha became the Tokyo School of Law, an independent entity, Dr. Boissonade was appointed its director. He devoted himself to the school for 12 years, without compensation, working tirelessly to lay a firm foundation for the institution that was to become Hosei University. The basic principles of modern French juridical thought, rooted in the concept of natural law, continued to guide the philosophy of Hosei University and nourished its spirit of freedom and Progress.
In January 1890, the school introduced a system of correspondence education for “off-campus students,” or kogaisei, by which students could pursue law studies outside the classroom using instructors’ lecture notes. The response was enthusiastic, and by the time the school solicited applications for third-term off-campus students for the 1893 academic year, enrollment had reached more than 8,000. The kogaisei system continued, and in 1947, following World War II, Hosei University established Japan’s first four-year university-level correspondence course under the School of Correspondence Education.
With the promulgation of the Specialized School Order of 1903, the school adopted the name Hosei University and embarked on a new era under the leadership of Ume Kenjiro, known as one of the architects of Japan’s Civil Code.
As this early history suggests, a commitment to jurisprudence rooted in the ideals of liberty and civil rights for all was the bedrock on which Hosei University was built.
In 1904, the university established a special course of intensive study in law and government for students from China. Amid the turmoil of the late Qing dynasty, promising Chinese students were flocking to Japan to study modern law and political science and consider their implications for China’s future. Many of those who graduated from Hosei University returned home and dedicated themselves to building a new China. The significance of their contribution and of this chapter in history needs to be considered from a variety of perspectives, but it is fair to characterize the program as one of the starting points for the school’s emphasis on international exchange.
In 1920, in accordance with the University Order issued that year, Hosei University was accredited as a comprehensive private university. At this time it comprised a Faculty of Law, divided into departments of law and politics, and a Faculty of Economics, consisting of departments of economics and business. There was also a general preparatory course, as well as advanced research programs attached to both faculties. The faculty in charge of the preparatory course included such luminaries as Nogami Toyoichiro, Morita Sohei, Abe Yoshishige, and Uchida Hyakken, who had studied under the great Natsume Soseki. In 1922, the Faculty of Law was reorganized as the Faculty of Law and Literature with the establishment of two new departments, literature and philosophy.
In January 1931, the university adopted its official school anthem, with words by the poet Haruo Sato. Praising the school as a place where “good teachers and good friends come together” in “a pioneering spirit and a culture of sobriety” and an “exemplar of young Japan,” the song eloquently expresses the attributes that made Hosei University special back then—qualities we can still recognize today. The can-do spirit and optimism of those words seemed validated by the successful completion of a flight to Europe by a member of the Hosei University Aviation Research Association (later to become the Aviation Club) in the biplane Seinen Nihon (Young Japan) on May 29, 1931.
Then came the 1943 “student mobilization,” when some 100,000 Japanese university students were sent to fight in both the army and navy in World War II. About 3,500 Hosei University students were drafted, and approximately 600 are confirmed to have lost their lives. On the fiftieth anniversary of the student mobilization, in 1993, Hosei University President Bakuji Ari vigorously lobbied the top administrators of Japan’s private universities to join in a statement of remorse for the complicity of the universities in sending their students off to war with patriotic cheers. In the end, the presidents and chancellors of 270 private universities nationwide signed a joint statement saying, “We feel deeply pained that there was no choice but to consign those worthy young people to their cruel fate.”
In 1951, the year after President Hyoe Ouchi took the helm, Hosei University was incorporated as a private educational institution under the new postwar system. President Ouchi, who presided over the period of development that followed, called on the university to nurture people of “free and independent character” and admonished educators to “refrain from spouting empty theories and be sure to train useful people who will contribute something—if only one brick or beam—to the advancement and development of Japanese civil life.” These are words that continue to guide us today.
At Hosei University, as elsewhere, the 1960s ushered in an era of turmoil that raised fundamental questions about the purpose and relevance of the university. President Akira Nakamura, who led the school during this time, explicitly supported student self-government, but he felt that the student movement had turned self-government into an empty charade, and he took a strong stand against the violence that was ravaging the campus. He presided over the construction of the Tama Campus and the transfer of two of the school’s undergraduate faculties there with the ultimate goal of relocating the entire school, so as to open the way for Hosei’s further growth and development in the face of the sundry regulations governing Japanese universities.
With the relocation of two of its faculties to Tama, Hosei University was able to expand its campus and facilities, add new programs, enroll more students, and hire more faculty. Around the beginning of this century, it embarked on a program of vigorous university reforms under the leadership of President Tadao Kiyonari. Having operated with the same six faculties for a period of about four decades, it expanded swiftly to reach today’s total of 15 faculties.
The history of these programs attests to a common emphasis on freedom, independence, pioneering spirit, internationalism, a commitment to social justice, and a concept of higher education not just as a private matter but also as a public undertaking open to the community. Still, the basic questions raised in the 1960s regarding the impact of rapidly growing student enrollment on the quality of the university’s education and research have never been adequately answered. And systematic, organizational initiatives to encourage self-directed study and nurture independent-thinking citizens have been lacking. To some extent, growth in enrollment and the proliferation of programs may have had the effect of stretching the Hosei “brand” thin and diluting the very attributes that made it special.
Hosei University today is a large-scale private university financed primarily by student tuition and fees. Given the ongoing decline in Japan’s youthful population, it is difficult to see how the school can continue to uphold its commitment to quality if it insists on maintaining quantity in the form of high student enrollment. At the same time, with the weight of government funding for private universities shifting from basic expenditure subsidies to competitive grants, university planners are obliged to take the competitive climate into account. Yet if we allow such concerns to shape all our policies, we will lose what is unique about Hosei University. We must begin to chart our own way forward, leveraging our unique strengths while maintaining educational quality across the board.
Cognizant of these challenges, we at Hosei University made the decision to reformulate our mission statement with the next generation in mind and to draw up a matching vision for reform. Each part of the new mission statement is explained briefly below.
Hosei University has embraced the spirit of freedom and Progress throughout its long history. However the times may change, this spirit never diminishes in value. In any era, individuals and organizations must preserve their freedom and independence from the powers that be, that they may continually question the status quo and work toward the creation of a new society, undeterred by the difficult challenges and constraints of their time.
The builders of a new era are those with the ability to forge new values by thinking for themselves, viewing issues from a variety of perspectives, and arriving at fair, independent judgments. People possessed of such an attitude and equipped with the knowledge and skills to put their ideals into practice are citizens in the fullest sense of the word.
Over history, the word citizen has been used in many different ways. Here, however, we define a citizen as someone who is able to internalize the viewpoints of diverse members of the local and global community from a supranational perspective, who is motivated by an awareness of his or her relationship with the rest of society transcending concerns of personal gain or material consumption, and who is capable of building his or her own role in that society. More than anything else, twenty-first century society has need of such citizens.
Hosei University aims to equip its students to live their lives as free citizens in any part of the world. An environment conducive to active learning is vital for this purpose, and Hosei University will do everything in its power to create such an educational environment.
Only with such a firm foundation can an advanced education be put to good use. It is no service to society to cultivate specialized knowledge in a vacuum, divorced from the good judgment basic to citizenship. Only those who have character and breadth of vision along with specialized knowledge and skills can avoid the pitfalls of soulless erudition and science devoid of humanity as they go through life.
Academic research needs a “pioneering spirit.” Japanese research is no longer a purely domestic undertaking. Japanese researchers cultivate links with institutions and individuals around the world as they address problems of global scope. With an eye to the future, the university will provide resources for scientific inquiry via basic research while supporting research based on practical wisdom to help solve the world’s problems.
Truly cutting-edge research is research carried out with the aim not of securing short-term gain but of helping solve the problems facing the world. It takes the lead through partnerships with other social institutions and stakeholders to blaze new trails and open the way to a brighter future. Hosei University’s “pioneering spirit” is manifested first and foremost in its approach to research.
The basic aim of an education grounded in freedom and Progress and of research approached in a pioneering spirit is the creation of a sustainable global community.
In order to build a sustainable global community, human society must change. That will require further scientific research to elucidate the mechanisms of natural phenomena and ecosystems. But it will also require a shift in our thinking and values, and that means closer interaction and collaboration among the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences to foster integrated knowledge embracing all three branches. Energy policies predicated on ecological biodiversity and natural material cycles, the forging of new values transcending national and regional differences, the rebuilding of local communities, and a deep appreciation of regional cultural diversity—all these things are keys to a sustainable global community.
Natural, social, and cultural sustainability should be the unified goal of education and research worldwide, and Hosei University intends to contribute to the global community by playing a meaningful role in this enterprise.
Note: With regard to personal names, we use Japanese name order for pre-Showa figures (before 1926) and Western order for thereafter.