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Invitation to the Study of Humanities

The word “humanities” appropriately describes the academic discipline of the Graduate School of Letters and the Faculty of Letters. Then comes the question – what are the humanities? Numerous answers to this have been offered through the ages.

The word “humanities” is the plural form of “humanity,” meaning human nature or humans themselves. Similarly, its equivalent in Chinese characters literally means “study related to humans.” Historically the field dates back to the studia humanitatis that prospered during the Italian Renaissance and was aimed at reversing dehumanization through wide-ranging education based on studies of classical texts in areas such as philosophy and literature from ancient Greece and Rome. The Latin word humanitas means “education” as well as “humanity,” indicating that the two were considered inseparably linked.

Returning to the initial question of what the humanities are, historical consideration suggests that they can be seen as a field of study for acquisition of the knowledge necessary to cultivate humanity. What students learn in this field at the Graduate School of Letters and the Faculty of Letters is necessary for a fulfilling existence, and study of the humanities is also synonymous with the acquisition of knowledge needed to ensure prosperity. However, this does not mean simply cramming in knowledge; although the humanities cover a massive body of expertise from a variety of ages and countries, the purpose of such education is to encourage students to think for themselves, express themselves in their own words and act on their own initiative.

In recent years there has been a growing thirst for practical learning among students. For those whose primary focus is on future careers and qualifications, the humanities may seem less interesting. However, it is one of the most important areas for acquiring the knowledge necessary to live with dignity. Learning about the humanities at the Graduate School of Letters and the Faculty of Letters provides a solid platform for life in the real world after graduation. Students here have the opportunity to acquire basic knowledge and skills and continue their learning in society later.

More than 100 staff at the Graduate School of Letters and the Faculty of Letters are engaged in education and research in a variety of fields. The university’s abundance of literature, documents and data provide students and researchers with comprehensive environments for education and research. Why not come and join us to study the humanities on Hokkaido University’s vast and verdant campus?

Fumihiko Yamamoto
Dean
Graduate School/Faculty of Letters, Hokkaido University

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