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The University of Tokyo (UTokyo) was established in 1877 as the first national university in Japan. UTokyo is known for the excellence of its faculty and students, and many of its graduates have gone on to become leaders in government, business, and the academic world. UTokyo places a strong emphasis on cooperation and links at all levels of research and education—interfaculty, interdisciplinary, and with other universities both within Japan and abroad.

HLS exchange students will study at UTokyo’s Graduate Schools for Law and Politics in the School of Legal and Political Studies. The School is designed to provide graduate education for students who wish to become attorneys or directors of legal affairs within companies; students interested in academia; and for international students who wish to gain a deeper understanding of legal and political studies in Japan.


The Graduate Schools for Law and Politics are located on the university’s main campus in Hongo Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, and occupies about 138 acres of the former Kaga Yashiki, the Tokyo estate of a major feudal lord. Parts of the 17th century landscaping of the original estate have been preserved to provide greenery and open space. The campus is graced by the Kaga Estate’s celebrated Akamon, or Red Gate, which dates from 1827 and has been designated as an “Important Cultural Property” by the Japanese Government. This preservation of the old alongside the new exemplifies Tokyo’s reputation as a city of cutting edge fashion, pop culture, and architecture with great respect and care for its more traditional elements. The public subway and bus systems make both the campus and larger city easily accessible to students.

Course Offerings and Credit

HLS students will register for courses through the Graduate Schools for Law and Politics. Students interested in taking courses at UTokyo’s Faculty of Law will need permission from a UTokyo advisor.

“I was particularly impressed with the caliber of my professors—each of whom was very well informed of the major developments in both Japanese and American law, and in some cases European law as well…and are all wonderful teachers and thoughtful scholars.”
– C. Wallace de Witt, J.D. ’08

A semester at UTokyo is comprised of 15 weeks of classes, and most classes meet once a week for one hour and 45 minutes. HLS students generally enroll in five to six classes for the semester, but individual course loads will vary from student to student. UTokyo uses letter grades, with A signifying 80-100%, B signifying 65-79%, and C as the lowest passing grade signifying 50-64%.

Course loads will vary from student to student. HLS students may receive a total of 10 to 12 ungraded classroom credits in relation to work done through the semester abroad program. Please see Academic Requirements for more information about course requirements and how semester abroad credits are calculated. See the University of Tokyo’s course catalog for information about available courses.

Language Proficiency

Nearly all courses offered at UTokyo are in Japanese. HLS students interested in spending a semester there are expected to have a level of Japanese fluency that will enable them to perform well in class and on exams. Prior to study abroad, HLS students may improve their language proficiency and receive credit for foreign language courses at Harvard College in accordance with the HLS cross registration policy. Students may also find it helpful to arrive in Japan early for language acclimation and/or to take a language training course before law classes begin. Once the semester begins, the UTokyo International Advisor Office sponsors a weekly Japanese language study group.

Academic Calendar

The academic year at UTokyo runs from April through March of the following year. Autumn Semester classes begin in September and end in January, with exams held in January and February. Summer Semester classes begins in April and end in July, with exams held in July. Please see the UTokyo website for the most recent academic calendar.

Application Process

should follow the Semester Abroad application process described on the Semester Abroad Eligibility and Application page.

Students approved by the HLS Study Abroad Committee must also complete the UTokyo application form for exchange students.

The exchange agreement stipulates that UTokyo reserve at least one spot for an HLS JD student each year. HLS may recommend more than one candidate but ultimately selection of the student will be made by UTokyo.


UTokyo has several dormitories for international students. Applications for the dormitories are accepted in January (for admission in April) and June (for admission in September). Because demand for dormitories is high, students are not guaranteed a dorm room. UTokyo’s Dormitory Committee determines the allocation of dorms and makes selections based on a number of factors. More information is available on UTokyo’s Housing Office website.

Contact Information

For further information, please contact Sara Zucker at (617) 495-9030 / or Andre Barbic at (617) 496-8732 /

University of Tokyo International Student Adviser Yasuko Takano ( can also provide information.