Graduate School of Arts and Letters, Tohoku University

Division of Historical Studies

The division of Historical Studies is divided into eight specialties. A multidimensional approach is used in a comparison of the East ane West through the study of humanity, culture and society. The specialization of the Science of Cultural Properties collaborates with the Miyagi Prefectural Museum of History and the Comparative Studies of Cultural History works together with the Tohoku University Cultural Research Center to invite specialists from these organizations to act as advisers in their respective fields.

Historical Studies
Japanese History Japanese History
Asian HistoryEast Asian History
European and American History European and American History
Art History Eastern and Japanese Art History
Aesthetics and Western Art History
Science of Cultural Properties Science of Cultural Properties
Comparative Studies of Cultural History Comparative Studies of Cultural History

Japanese History

In our department we study Japanese history from ancient times to modern times. The subjects for study cover a wide range i.e., political history, economic history, social history,history of thought, a history of life styles and so on. In our study program, we concentrate on developing in our students the ability to read historical materials written in old Japanese. After they have developed and obtained this ability, they choose their own topics on which to write a graduation thesis. This program also applies to foreign students. Therefore, at the very least,they must have already learned modern Japanese.

The aim of studying Japanese history is not to establish a national identity as Japanese, but to ascertain objectively the peculiarity and universality of Japanese history in the realm of universal history. We consider Japanese history to be a part of world history, and so we are glad to be joined by foreign students who have a strong interest in learning Japanese history.


Archaeology is a branch of historical studies in Japan. Archaeology covers all the time periods of human history, from the Palaeolithic, Jomon, Yayoi, Kofun, Ancient, Medieval, to Early Modern (Edo period). Our display and storage rooms keep archaeological collections from sites belonging to most of the periods. The Tohoku University archaeological collection consists of about 200,000 specimens, from representative Palaeolithic sites of the archipelago,shell middens and settlement sites of the Jomon age, early farming villages in northeast Japan, ancient political centers and temple relics in the Mutsu province.

Our program is mainly oriented to the research of Japanese archaeology. Students are encouraged to participate in field research as well as first hand analyses of artifacts. We conduct excavations of one or more archaeological sites every year. Our department is equipped with various facilities for scientific analysis, such as X-ray diffraction, microscopes for use-wear, petrography, computerized excavation recording systems, as well as comparative bone collections for shell midden research.

Fluency in both spoken and written Japanese language is indispensable for advanced research in our department. Cooperative field excavations, artifact analyses, investigation of published site reports, and all other study works require language skill, even if archaeology is essentially the study of material objects. Our campus is situated upon the historical site of the Sendai Castle, and the Archaeological Research Center on the Campus is related to our Archaeological department. The Tohoku University Museum, Tohoku History Museum and Tagajo Site Research Institute of Miyagi Prefecture are affiliated with our graduate programs.

East Asian History

This course at our university, because of a shortage of faculty, covers only the Far Eastern part of Asian history, especially Chinese history, and the history of surrounding areas,although the field of what is called Asian history generally covers the whole of Asia. Professor Yasuda lectures and advises on the ancient and medieval history of China (from the Pre-Qin times to the Tang dynasty), Professor Kumamoto lectures and advises on the modern history of China (from the Song dynasty to the Qing dynasty), and a few part-time instructors who belong to other universities, institutes, or other faculties at our university are engaged to teach every year.

Except for materials on the post-Opium War period or the Republic of China, we have almost enough historical materials at the Tohoku University Library to make an evidential study based on them. In order to apply such materials to a thorough examination, students need to be trained in basic research and are required to spend a lot of time reading original texts written in classical Chinese, and should have a wide, extensive knowledge of the literature.

European and American History

Studies on history of Europe and USA and other nations in North and South America. By studying their states, economies, cultures and societies, we discuss what world history is.

Students can study histories from Mycenaean Greece to 21st century Europe. It means that we, as historians, consult with original documents of those ages we choose.Students can also study the relations between Europe and other countries like India, China and the Islamic states.We hope that students have an active interest in history and read many books on different disciplines such as politics, economics, law science, and sociology. They should know the news of the world today, too.

Lectures are given in Japanese. The members of our department are four professors whose main themes are ancient Rome, medieval Britain, late medieval Germany and modern Europe.

Eastern and Japanese Art History

Though the field of art history is very large, we conduct research principally on paintings and sculptures. The professor and associate professor in our department both specialize in Buddhist art and so their classes are mainly in this field.

In contrast to the study of history, which involves understanding documents, in the study of art history, the subject of scrutiny is that of the formative arts. Therefore, research begins by viewing pieces and obtaining an impression of the objects. However, in order to do this, the student must travel from Sendai to Tokyo or Kyoto where many of the collections are located; thus, student must be prepared to travel actively. An ability to speak and read the Japanese language will be required to study effectively in our department.

Aesthetics and Western Art History

This department was founded by Prof. Jiro ABE, who was famous as an aesthetician and as writer of the (Diary of Santaro) in 1923. His studies on Western aesthetics, particularly on Lipps's, Dante's and Goethe's theories, were appreciated by scholars. After him, Prof. Kikuo KOJIMA, specialist on Leonardo da Vinci, developed the field of art history. Prof. Hideho NISHIDA, did research on Kandinsky's first abstract paintings and interpreted them as signifying the Apocalypse. Prof. Hidemichi TANAKA began to edit (Art History) in 1978, one of the most important annual reviews of the history of Western art in Japan, and continued to publish articles on Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Durer, George de la Tour and the problems of the influence of Oriental art on Western art (Giotto, Simone Martini, A. Lorenzetti,and Bellini etc). He organized research of a group of Sistine Chapel paintings by Michelangelo from 1985-94 and published "Michelangelo' s Vision of the World" (Tohoku University Press, 1999).

Every year in November there is an international symposium organized by Prof. Tanaka,(Giotto, Donatello, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, La Tour, Van Dyck, Andre Malraux and Japanese art).

From this department, students go abroad, particularly to Italy, France and England, to study 15th to 18th century Western art.

Science of Cultural Properties

Science of Cultural Properties is a graduate course which is affiliated with the Tohoku History Museum and the Research Institute of the Tagajo fort site of Miyagi Prefectural Board of Education. There are both Master's program and Doctoral Program. Actual research is very closely related to Archaeology, including museum collections and field work activities.Science of Cultural Properties aims at extensive researches of historical and cultural heritage, that is called Bunkazai in Japan. The cultural heritage has been inherited from the past to the present and plays an important role in modern life.

The course contents are flexible and may cover general characteristics, history,conservation, natural scientific analysis, and administrative systems in our society. The course requires fluency in Japanese language. Inquiries may be addressed to Department of Archaeology, as professors there are in-school instructor / advisors of the course in general.Affiliated professors actually teach the course, seminars in the Tohoku History Museum, and excavations at the Tagajo fort site, which was the seat of ancient provincial government.

Comparative Studies of Cultural History

Our department studies culture and history of the Eurasia Continent, especially of China and Russia. In the Chinese sphere, we focus on the history of publication and philology and we conduct our research in comparison with other East Asian countries. For our research on Russia, we study history of the period of socialism.

In order to study Chinese publishing culture and philology a knowledge of modern and classical Chinese is necessary. A knowledge of Russian is also essential to study Russian history. It goes without saying that Japanese and English are also indispensable.

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Graduate School/Faculty of Arts and Letters
Tohoku University
Aoba-ku, Kawauchi 27-1
980-8576 Sendai, Japan