Liberating the mind and surpassing more than one professional learning is one way to describe the Liberal Arts curriculum. If you are interested in this kind of learning and is striving for general intellectual enrichment, here are five of the best liberal arts universities in Tokyo that you should consider.

A picture of the famous Okuma Statue and Okuma Auditorium
Waseda Campus, Waseda University

Waseda University (School of International Liberal Studies)

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Waseda University is a highly rated university in the center of Tokyo, ranked 208 by QS Top Universities. The School of International Liberal Studies (SILS) of Waseda University was founded in 2004 and is the newest department. The school is also a top-ranked liberal arts department among liberal arts colleges in Tokyo because of its unique educational features.

SILS has introductory courses from 7 different clusters, which nurture students logical and multi-dimensional perspective. This includes:

  • Life, Environment, Matter, and Information
  • Philosophy, Religion, and History,
  • Economy and Business
  • Governance, Peace, Human Rights, and International Relations
  • Communication
  • Expression
  • Culture, Mind and Body, Community

Having over 5,000 international students from 100 countries as well as partnership universities from 84 countries, Waseda is the most global campus in Japan. A majority of these international students are from SILS.

Language learning is also one of SILS’s best features. Classes are all conducted in English, and regular students are required to take highly-academic English classes to brush up their language skills. Non-native Japanese speakers are also required to take Japanese classes based on their proficiency level. Also, SILS offers 23 languages and encourages students to have a second language.

The class size is relatively small with only a maximum of 25 students for every seminar course, allowing everyone to have deep and meaningful discussions with fellow students and professors.

A year-long program is also offered to both Japanese and non-native Japanese students. SILS has 300 affiliated universities from around the world including USA, UK, Canada, and China.

A view of the ICU campus from the top
ICU Campus, International Christian University

International Christian University (College of Liberal Arts)

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As a pioneer of liberal arts education in Japan, ICU applies both its internationalist and Christian ideals in helping cultivate global leaders of tomorrow. What makes ICU’s liberal arts education stand out from all the other liberal arts programs is its mission to assimilate seemingly unrelated subjects together. The liberal arts curriculum in ICU encourages free learning and allows students to choose classes across both arts and sciences.

ICU practice a Japanese-English bilingual education, which trains students to express their ideas effortlessly in both English and Japanese. Students are expected to complete the English for Liberal Arts Program (ELA) and the Japanese Language Program (JL) so that they can master both languages by the time of graduation.

The Exchange Programs with 73 universities in 23 countries, Study Abroad English Programs and the Summer Study Abroad Programs enrich the students’ first-hand experiences with various cultures and indulge students’ academic interest through some volunteer activities. Around 60% of ICU students have experienced such study abroad programs.

As for the educational system of ICU, basic general learning is conducted from the first two years of college and more specialized learning for the remaining two years. This method helps students have more time to explore their interests. Pursuing both a major and minor is also possible. The classes at ICU are small and discussion- and dialogue-oriented, which helps students practice their ability to critically analyze and judge.

Of the 2,800 ICU alumni, many are working for the United Nations and for International NGOs.

A view of the university's campus and logo
Sophia University Campus

Sophia University (Faculty of Liberal Arts)

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Sophia University is one of the top private universities in Japan; ranked 15 at the Times Higher Education Japan Ranking 2018. Similar to ICU, Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts is one of the pioneers of liberal arts education; having over 60 years of history.

The liberal arts curriculum of the Faculty of Liberal Arts consists of one year of general basic learning and three years of specialized learning. During the first two semesters, students have to take “core courses,” where they learn critical thinking, writing, and public speaking skills. From second year onward, students have to select a major from three areas: comparative culture, international business and economics, and social studies and have to take advanced courses from their selected major. These courses are all conducted in English.

Sophia has over 280 partner institutions worldwide and every year, around 500 exchange students come to study abroad at the university.

Many graduates from Sophia University pursue a career at international organizations, non-profit and private organizations.

Rikkyo University's campus filled with greenery
GLAP Campus Building, Rikkyo University

Rikkyo University (Global Liberal Arts Program)

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Rikkyo University is one of Japan’s renowned private universities, ranking 27th in the domestic ranking of Japanese universities’ 2018 World University Ranking by Times Higher Education.  The Global Liberal Arts Program (GLAP) of Rikkyo University was established last 2017 with the principle of Christian values and the ideal of liberal arts.

For the first three semesters, students learn general knowledge about Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences in English through close small group discussions. Students are expected to learn the ability to think critically here as they tackle issues while considering different perspectives, as well as the ability to communicate and express their own thoughts in English. Furthermore, students can receive a bachelor’s degree from only taking these classes.

After three semesters of general studying, students spend a year abroad in one of the university’s partners institution as part of the curriculum. After returning from the program, students need to choose one from Humanities, Citizenship, and Business as their specialized course.

GLAP also has tutorial classes with a maximum of five members. This class is for learning about the habit of independent thought.

Students also need to take Leadership Education subjects together with international students and students from other universities to come up with solutions to problems raised by companies and other communities.

Beautiful Scenery outside Rikkyo University
The scenery outside Rikkyo University

Juntendo University (Faculty of International Liberal Arts)

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Although Juntendo University is known for being an interdisciplinary university that focuses on medical research, the university established a Faculty of International Liberal Arts last April 2015. The university describes its faculty of liberal arts as a place that “cultivates global citizens that can resolve problems with a global perspective by utilizing the spirit of “jin” (benevolence).” Juntendo University’s Faculty of International Liberal Arts puts extra emphasis on the power of thinking. The faculty believes that thinking and understanding a certain problem including its causes and resolutions is crucial than simply attempting to face the problems occurring in the global society, and thinking about others is a mission they fully support.

The faculty has three areas of study: Global Health Services (about global health issues and challenges), Global Society (about problems and solutions for a changing world), and Inter-cultural Communication (about effective communication across cultures). Students have to take introductory courses for each area and from their third year, they must choose one area of interest as a concentration course.

The faculty also uses a “plurilingual approach” and obliges students to take foreign language courses in French, Spanish, or Chinese along with English. Also, the contents of classes are integrated into language learning so students are able to develop skills while in a language-rich environment.

Classes are small class sized and are based on active cooperation.