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Top>Research>The founding spirit and ethos of Chuo University


Morikuni Sugawara

Morikuni Sugawara [Profile]

Education Course

The founding spirit and ethos of Chuo University

Morikuni Sugawara
Professor of Japanese Political History, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

A private university which began from a vocational school

When discussing major private universities which currently exist in Japan, the majority were founded during or after the period from 1877 to 1878. This excludes Keio University. As opposed to national universities which were established by the government, private universities were established by a single or multiple founders who proposed a unique educational philosophy and sought to develop professionals required for the construction and growth of modern Japan. Private universities have established a history and tradition based on the ideals of founders. In 1868, the first year of the Meiji Period, Japan had conducted an unequal treaty due to the opening of the country which accompanied the end of the Tokugawa shogunate. As a result, Japan was forced into a low position within an international society that consisted mainly of the advanced modern nations of America and Europe. In order to increase Japan's position in international society, the Meiji government had to hire foreigners and cultivate professionals in various fields which were essential for modernization, or construction of a modern Japanese nation. However, there were an insufficient number of instructors who could cultivate professionals. Therefore, students were sent to study abroad in America and Europe and national universities were established where foreign instructors were hired from America and Europe. Within such a situation, the majority of private universities founded during the Meiji Period came into existence as vocational schools dedicated to individual fields.

Objective of historical compilation

Chuo University was established in 1885 by eighteen founders who created Igirisu Horitsu Gakko (English Law School,) an institution for instruction in British law (British and American law). It is certain that the school was founded because the cultivation of professionals equipped with knowledge in British law was seen as essential for realizing a law-abiding nation, or legal rule which regulated the order of modern society which had been formed by advanced nations in Europe and America. Furthermore, such professionals were considered as essential for realizing modern Japan's international policy goal of achieving equality with the world's leading nations or, more specifically, to realize revision of the unequal treaty. After coming into existence as Igirisu Horitsu Gakko, Chuo University was certified as an authentic university in 1920 due to the university decree issued in 1918. Since then, the university has grown as a new comprehensive university. This is also true of other private universities which possess comparable history and tradition. During this time, the history of Chuo University has been compiled when reaching the milestones of 20, 25, 50, 70 and 100 years after founding. Obviously, the objective of these historical compilation was to examine the founding spirit with which university founders established Igirisu Horitsu Gakko, to trace how that spirit has been passed down through the generations, and to clarify the history and tradition through which our school has grown as a comprehensive university while changing its name from Igirisu Horitsu Gakko to Tokyo Hogakuin (Tokyo College of Law,) Tokyo Hogakuin Daigaku (Tokyo University of Law) and finally to Chuo University.

Founding spirit of Chuo University

Incidentally, the founding spirit of Chuo University that our school has conveyed until now was not a concise expression. While there were not major differences in the interpretation of meaning, a variety of literary expressions were used in explanations of the founding spirit. Therefore, in March 2010, the year which marked the 125th anniversary of Chuo University, our school decided to establish a Special Committee Reviewing the Creation of Drafts for Founding Philosophy. At the first committee meeting, the committee name was changed to Special Committee Reviewing the Creation of Drafts for Founding Spirit. The committee released its final draft in October. Then, from January to February of this year, it was decided that this final draft would be conveyed both inside and outside of our school as a literary expression for explaining the founding spirit of Chuo University in the future.

Needless to say, the number of characters which can be used is limited when publishing text in media outside of the university. Furthermore, variations will occur in the literary expression when explaining that Chuo University is facing the future with aspirations based on our founding spirit. Still, the text of the finalized founding spirit was correctly printed in the University Overview which was created this year. I would like to provide that text below.

Chuo University was founded in 1885 as Igirisu Horitsu Gakko (English Law School) by 18 young attorneys.
The founder's objective in establishing this school was to cultivate outstanding professionals in the practical application of law which was the strength of English law (British and American law). To achieve this objective, the school was to offer instruction in all aspects of English law, write literature on related subjects, and establish a library of related works.
The founding philosophy of the founders emphasized specific demonstration over abstract systems. The philosophy declared that the spread of understanding and legal knowledge related to the outstanding practicality of English law was essential for the independence and modernization of Japan. Therefore, through education which fosters the ability to apply knowledge to practice, the founders sought to reform the legal system of Japan by cultivating legal professionals who possessed noble character and knowledge of English law.
The founders believed that English law was the most appropriate system for transforming Meiji Period Japan into a modern law-abiding nation. Through English law education which emphasized experience and respected freedom, they sought to cultivate professionals needed in actual society.

School ethos of straightforward and steadfast which has existed since our founding

At each private university, there is a climate or school ethos which displays the unique atmosphere of that institution. The school ethos of Chuo University is based on straightforward and steadfast. However, this school ethos was not expressed in these terms from the time of our school's founding. Generally speaking, the Spartan ideal of straightforward and steadfast was an educational policy that was emphasized from around 1907 until the end of the Taisho Period in 1926. In the case of Chuo University, a speech given by the university president at the graduation ceremony in 1914 was printed in the university journal Hogaku Shinpo (Legal Report). An editor at the journal included a caption reading "school ethos of straightforward and steadfast," and the phrase straightforward and steadfast was used to express the school ethos ever since. Still, even thought this expression matches ideals which were generally emphasized in society at that time, upon closer examination, that this expression was seen from the time of initial founding in 1885. Indeed, it is certain that this climate was produced by the founders and students of Igirisu Horitsu Gakko.

A new school ethos which appeared during the war

In that respect, the origin of our university's founding spirit was the school ethos of straightforward and steadfast which was entrenched as a traditional spirit since the Taisho Period. Since then, when speaking at entrance and graduation ceremonies, presidents and chairpersons of Chuo University have stated that straightforward and steadfast express the school ethos of our university. However, as times changed from the Taisho Period to the Showa Period, a changed occurred in the perceived meaning of straightforward and steadfast. That changed concerned how the modernization of modern Japan had actually brought about the establishment of a modern imperial nation. Emphasis was placed on assimilation with ideals which promoted nationalism and totalitarianism which eliminated individualism and formed the Japanese spirit which was symbolized in the national structure of Japan. In 1938, Raizaburo Hayashi, who had served in the three highest-ranking judicial positions in Japan (Minister of Justice, Supreme Court Magistrate and Attorney General), became the first graduate of Chuo University to assume the position of university president. This was an auspicious occasion for the entire university. Considering the wartime system which existed in Japan at that time, newly appointed President Hayashi made the decision to add the phrases "Voluntary Idea" and "Warm and Supportive Atmosphere" to the ideal of straightforward and steadfast.

Although the phrase Voluntary Idea eliminated narrow-minded, self-righteous and intolerant attitudes, it meant that there would be no fascination with or spreading of extreme democratic ideals or right-wing philosophy. The phrase Warm and Supportive Atmosphere was based on Confucius morals featuring the principles of integrity between teacher and pupil, and order between elders and youth. The phrase meant that the faculty, staff and students who are the constituents of Chuo University should share the mutual affection of a large family. A certain professor in the Faculty of Law enlarged upon the ideal of Warm and Supportive Atmosphere to the extent of stating that "since Chuo University is based on family, ethnicity and nationalism, the university must adhere to totalitarianism."

Comprehensive course: Chuo University and Contemporary Japan

In addition to the ideal of straightforward and steadfast, the new principles of Voluntary Idea and Warm and Supportive Atmosphere were extolled as our university's traditional spirit in the time immediately after defeat in WWII in 1945 and in the 1950s. After defeat in the war, if Japan was to journey forward as a new democratic nation, then it was necessary to eliminate slogans which had appeared during the war. However, it is certain that the ideal of straightforward and steadfast was an origin of our university's founding spirit. Therefore, the principles of straightforward and steadfast continued to be discussed as the school ethos of Chuo University even after the war. However, what is meant by the resurgence of the phrase "Warm and Supportive Atmosphere" in recent years? We must not forget the meaning that this phrase held before WWII.

As each university creates historical compilations spanning 50 or 100 years, there is the question of how to pass down the history and traditions of that school. In this respect, the importance of U.I. (university identity) has been recognized and courses in school history have been established at many universities. In 2004, the Faculty of Law at Chuo University established a comprehensive course entitled Chuo University and Modern Japan. This course was renamed Chuo University and Contemporary Japan in 2009. The course encourages students to consider the meaning of studying at Chuo University, an institution that possesses 125 years of history and tradition. Unlike some other universities, the primary aim of this course is not to cultivate affection towards the university. During the course, lectures are given on the founding spirit and school ethos of our university. Although it is fine if students develop an affection towards Chuo University as a result of those lectures, the courses focuses on teaching the relationship between the history and tradition of Chuo University and the growth of modern Japan. Indeed, the course is based on the expectation that graduates will perform in society through the acquirement of knowledge which can be practically applied.

Morikuni Sugawara
Professor of Japanese Political History, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Hokkaido in 1944. In 1969, completed the Master's Program of the Political Science Course, Graduate School of Law, Chuo University. After serving as a Research Associate and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University, assumed his current position of Professor in 1982. In regards to this article, he has written the thesis entitled Chuo University's school ethos which was advocated from before to immediately following WWII (Chuo University History Journal, Issue No. 16, March 2011).