School of Law, Waseda University

LEGAL

Prof. Tatsuhisa Tamura, Dean of  the School of Law

Welcome to the Waseda University School of Law

What it means to learn the law

Studies at the School of Law revolve around the act of learning the law, while at the same time you also need to learn jurisprudence; that is, the principles on which the law is based. Then, what is the law we study here in the first place? This is an extremely difficult question to answer, so let’s just assume that it refers to a system of rules that governs a society. Normally, these rules are specifically defined in statutory law, such as legislation, municipal ordinances and international treaties. Given this, you may suppose that learning the law means getting to know what these rules are—in other words, acquiring the knowledge of these rules. However, there is more to it than just that. There is no doubt that gaining the right knowledge is a necessary, and indispensable, part of learning the law, yet that alone is not enough.

If the law is a system of rules that governs a society, studying the law also involves developing an accurate knowledge and understanding of the social background, as well as the history, culture, and thought of that society. Particularly, students of law in modern Japan need to develop a clear grasp not only of Japanese history, culture and thought but also of those of Western countries. Why is it so? The following may help you to understand. You may have learned in Japanese history lessons at high school that Japan introduced and accepted Western modern law to establish itself as a modern state when opening up to the world during Meiji Era, viewing advanced European countries of the time as models to follow. After World War II and the Pacific War, Japan also established a broad range of new legislation, including the Constitution of Japan, under the sizable influence of American law, which I suppose you have also learned about, such as through politics and economics classes. In this way, ever since the Meiji Era, modern Japan has constantly consulted foreign law, particularly Western law, in considering how Japanese law should be and planning and designing the Japanese legal system. This means that studying the law of modern Japan inevitably involves learning about and accurately comprehending the histories, cultures and thoughts of Western societies from which modern Japanese law is derived.

In this light, there is more to learning the law than just acquiring knowledge about a system of rules that governs a society; it also involves grasping the history, culture and thinking of the society upon which the law is founded.

Characteristics of the Waseda University School of Law’s curriculum

What curriculum, then, does the Waseda University School of Law offer to enable students to study the law—in other words, learn the system of rules that serves to manage our society—while at the same time developing an understanding of the history, culture and thinking of the society upon which the law is founded? What follows concisely describes the characteristics of the curriculum by summarizing four key components:

First, the School places particular emphasis on enhanced introductory education to prepare students for legal education. In their first year, students take Introductory Education (Lectures) lectures on the fundamental theories of law, and participate in Introductory Seminars, where they do exercises in small groups to learn how to search for and quote legal material, write essays and reports, debate, and so on. This gives them a firm grounding as they launch into their studies as beginners of learning law and jurisprudence.

Second, the School offers systematic, scaffolded foreign language education. From the explanation above, it is obvious that learning foreign languages is extremely important for studying law. We have long regarded the specialized legal education provided through Specialized Law Subjects and the language and liberal arts education provided through Foreign Language and General Education Subjects as the two pillars of our education. We maintain this as our educational philosophy.

Third, the School emphasizes small-group instruction. In general, university departments of law have traditionally provided specialized legal education mainly through lectures held in large lecture halls. By contrast, we focus on small-group instruction throughout our curriculum. Students first participate in Introductory Seminars in their first year, as mentioned above. In their second and subsequent years, we offer a broad range of field-specific seminars related to Specialized Law Subjects, as well as General Studies Seminars ( submajor seminars) in language and liberal arts education.

Fourth, the School provides special programs in which students receive intensive legal education with specific themes or goals. At present, there are such two courses. One is the Course on Legal Professions, which supports the learning of prospective legal professionals (judges, prosecutors and lawyers) by providing systematic and effective education in an integrated manner in partnership with Waseda Law School. The other is the Legal Perspectives on Advanced Technology Course (launched in Academic Year 2022), which aims to enable students to learn a wide variety of legal concepts related to science and technology, based on understanding the impacts of advancements in science and technology on human beings and the environment. This course was launched in response to growing public awareness of the roles that law should play in social changes associated with scientific and technological advancements, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchains, while at the same time considering the coexistence of people and nature from an ethical perspective.

How can you apply what you learned in high school to what you learn at the School of Law?

One of the questions high school students interested in studying law at university often ask is: “I am taking many different subjects at high school, but how will these studies link to studying law in university? How can I make the most of them?” It is often easy to imagine continuity and development from subjects taught at high school with fields of higher education taught at other schools. However, “law” is not included in high school subjects, so it is understandable that high school students ask such questions. After everything mentioned earlier about what it means to learn the law, I think by now you know the answer to their questions. What you have learned in various high school subjects such as foreign languages, geography, history, and civics, and of course Japanese, provide the foundation for a clear grasp of the social history, culture, and thought on which law is established. Furthermore, learning jurisprudence, which is the theoretical study of law, requires the ability to think logically, a skill which develops through learning mathematics. In this way, learning these subjects at high school will give you the solid foundation required for studying law at university. It is my wish that you understand this and study hard in high school.

We welcome you to the Waseda University School of Law!

Looking at what I have said above from another angle, one might say that studying law and jurisprudence at university means that you can stand on the same starting line with all the others and begin to learn new things. Japanese people have traditionally tended to draw a sharp distinction between the humanities and the sciences. However, I sincerely hope that those of you who are willing to transcend the boundaries between the humanities and the sciences and seriously study the realities and ideals of law not only in Japanese society but also in the international community, will join us here at the Waseda University School of Law.

Tatsuhisa Tamura, Dean of the Waseda University Faculty of Law and School of Law

 

 

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