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University of Tokyo, Graduate Schools for Law and Politics, Tokyo

The University of Tokyo (UTokyo) was established in 1877 as the first national university in Japan. Since its establishment, the Faculty of Law at UTokyo had a central role in shaping law and politics within Japan. Of the sixteen Japanese prime ministers who received their educations at UTokyo, fifteen were educated at the Faculty of Law.

HLS exchange students will study at UTokyo’s Graduate Schools for Law and Politics in the School of Legal and Political Studies. The curriculum 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 international students who wish to gain a deeper understanding of legal and political studies in Japan. Broad areas of study offered through the School include: positive law; comparative, historical and theoretical studies of law; and politics. The School also publishes journals of jurisprudence and of political and social sciences, as well as a business law working paper series. The School is also home to the Institute of Business Law and Comparative Law & Politics, and to the Center for Modern Japanese Legal and Political Documents.

“Even with some background in international law, I gained an entirely new perspective learning from my professor in International Law, a human rights expert who will be serving as a judge at the International Court of Justice. Also, the instructors of the Corporate Law and International Arbitration courses were partners at the most elite Japanese law firms. These classes were filled with substantive legal doctrines and also gave me an insight into the life and work of a lawyer in Japan.”

— Sean Iijima ‘19 (past participant in semester abroad program, University of Tokyo)

Course Offerings and Credit

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

UTokyo uses letter grades, with A signifying 80-100%, B signifying 65-79%, and C as the lowest passing grade signifying 50-64%.

HLS students generally enroll in five to six classes for the semester, but individual course loads will vary, and students must meet minimum courseload requirements for both the University of Tokyo and their Japanese student visa. This usually works out to at least 12 University of Tokyo credits per semester and at least 10 hours of classroom time per week. Most classes meet once a week for one hour and 45 minutes, and earn two UTokyo credits.

The University of Tokyo’s course catalog is available online.

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 Semester Abroad: Academic Requirements for more information about course requirements and how semester abroad credits are calculated.

Language Proficiency

Nearly all courses at UTokyo are offered 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 (specifically, at or above N1 on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test).

The presumption of the HLS Study Abroad Committee is that students applying for a semester abroad are proficient in the primary language of the destination country such that they are able to navigate university systems and take one or more law classes in that language. If not, the students must explain how they propose to manage these challenges and derive full benefit from a program of study abroad.

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. The Center for Japanese Language Education on the Hongo campus offers Japanese language courses for international students; please note that these classes are not eligible for credit. Once the semester begins, the office of the International Student Advisor sponsors a weekly Japanese language study group.

Academic Calendar

The academic year at UTokyo is divided into two semesters. The summer semester begin in begins in April and ends in July, with exams held in July and early August. The autumn semester begins in September and ends in January, with exams held in January and early February. As a result, HLS students spending the fall semester at UTokyo are expected to remain in Tokyo during the HLS Winter Term to complete exams scheduled at that time. Students may only seek their instructor’s permission to make alternate arrangements for exams scheduled to take place during the HLS spring semester.

UTokyo’s academic calendar is available online.

Application Process

Students interested in the University of Tokyo exchange program should follow the HLS Semester Abroad application process described on the Semester Abroad: Planning and Application page.

Students approved by the HLS Study Abroad Committee must also complete the UTokyo application for exchange students, which includes an application form and supporting documents, such as academic transcripts, a letter of recommendation from an HLS faculty member, and certification of language proficiency, among others.  HLS will provide students nominated to study at UTokyo with more information on this process.

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.


The Graduate Schools for Law and Politics are located on the university’s main campus in Hongo Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, which occupies about 138 acres of the Kaga Yashiki, the former estate of a major feudal lord. Parts of the estate’s 17th century landscaping 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.

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. Tokyo is the capital of Japan and a leading center for international finance. Museums, shrines, festivals, botanic gardens, the Ginza and other shopping districts, and observatories offering city views are easily accessible via Tokyo’s subway and bus systems.


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.