Kokugakuin Archives[Chapter2]The Establishment and Development of the Kotenkokyusho(the Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics) and Kokugakuin

After the Meiji Restoration,  Japan was under pressure to emulate the West and pursue modernization.  However, there was also an escalating sense that traditional culture must also be valued and preserved. Therefore, The Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics was founded with the goal of conducting research and education in Kokugaku in order to make clear the national character of Japan  and  thereby to promote the cultivation of virtue .   Kokugakuin University developed out of this earlier institute, and inherited this unique academic culture of conducting education and research into Japanese traditional culture in the style of Kokugaku for the benefit of the nation, society, and the international community. 

-The Foundation of the Kotenkokyusho( the Imperial Institue for the Study of the Classics)-

The Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics was founded in Kōji-machi, Iidamachi (now Chiyoda-ku Iidabashi) in Tokyo in 1882, to conduct research into the Japanese Classics and to educate Kokugakusha and Shintō priests. At the opening ceremony held on November 4th of the same year, the first President of the Institute, Prince Arisugawa no Miya Takahito (1812-1886) gave an address, saying: “As a rule, there is nothing  greater for the path of academic research than the study of books. Upon that foundation, we must hold as our unchanging principle for all future generations: that we shall strengthen the foundations of our nation by researching our national polity, and that we shall spend the prime of our lives devoted to the cultivation of virtue ”  These words represent the cornerstone of  the spirit in which Kokugakuin University was founded.   Every year on November 4th Kokugakuin University commemorates this Opening Ceremony by marking the Anniversary of the Founding of the University.  

-The Syllabus of the Kotenkokyusyo

In its early days, the Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics was divided into a Letters Division and a Practice Division. The Letters Division offered 4 courses:  ethics, history, law, and writing. The Practice Division offered 3 courses: ritual, music, and gymnastics.  The former was responsible for cultivating knowledge and the latter for physical education, and the foundation of the educational program was to educate students in both Divisions simultaneously so as to cultivate the human resources required to meet society’s needs.

-The Establishment of Kokugakuin-

In  January of 1889 the Constitution of the Empire of Japan was promulgated and the National Diet was established.  In light of these events, Yamada Akiyoshi (1844-1892), the Minister of Law  and first Director of the Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics, set out to expand the Institute on the grounds that  it was necessary for the proper operations of constitutional government to fortify the foundations of the nation through research into the Japanese classics and national history.  It was through the expansion of the Institute that the Kokugakuin (lit. “the National Learning Institute”) came to be established with the promulgation of an order to that effect in July of 1890.  In that order, it is possible to see that the plan for Kokugakuin aimed at the cultivation of both knowledge and virtue through the study of Chinese history, national literature, law,  and also various foreign subjects.  Takasaki Masakaze (1836-1912), the Director of the Poetry Department of the Imperial Household Agency, was appointed as the first Director of Kokugakuin, and on the 22nd of November an opening ceremony was held. 

-The former campus at Iidamachi-
Until May of 1923 the joint campus of the Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics and Kokugakuin was located in Iidamachi(in Kōji-machi-ku district of Tokyo).  The campus was damaged by fire twice, in 1902 and in 1906, but Kokugakuin’s President Sasaki Takayuki declared that he would turn disaster into opportunity and worked for the recovery and enlargement of Kokugakuin.  As a result of his efforts, in April of 1908 a new campus was constructed, and the first library to bear the name “toshokan” (now the common word for “library”) was constructed at the new site. 

-The development  of the Kotenkokyusho and Kokugakuin-
The Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics received approval to register as a legal entity in 1898.  In 1904 Kokugakuin was approved through the Vocational School Ordinance and two years later changed its official name to Kokugakuin Private College.  In 1920, Kokugakuin was elevated to the status of a university under the University Ordinance, and so Kokugakuin officially became a private university.  As the Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics and Kokugakuin University grew, they became too large for the joint campus at Iidamachi, and so in  May of 1923 the campus was moved to the present location in Shibuya, and that June courses were offered here for the first time. Three months later in September, the new campus was severely damaged by the Great Kantō Earthquake.  Great effort was expended in reconstruction of the campus, and on November 25th of the following year (1924) a ceremony was held to mark the completion of the reconstruction and to announce the appointment of the fourth General Director, Prince Kuninomiya Kuniyoshio (1873-1929).  On that day, the newly completed school flag was raised and the school anthem, with words composed by the University President Haga Ya’ichi and music by the composer Motoori Nagayo, was performed publicly for the first time.  

-The Shibuya Campus Ⅰ-
The first campus erected at Shibuya consisted of a single three-story building , but as the number of students increased in the early Shōwa period (late 1920s), a new two-story building was erected behind the original structure.  In 1935, an auditorium was built, and by the time "Central building" was constructed in 1984 , these original halls had served many students. 

-Reorganization of Kokugakuin University-
The end of the war in 1945 brought with it the Occupation Government and its policies. These new measures applied pressure to the Shintō shrines through a number of interventions which included disallowing the use of public funds for Shintō.  The shrine priesthood responded to this crisis by banding together for their common cause. The Imperial Institute for the Study of the Classics together with other publicly-funded shrine-related groups — now rendered without public funds - were merged into the Jinja Honchō or Association of Shintō Shrines, a private group.   Through these efforts, the Kokugakuin University as a legal entity was also established, enabling operations to resume and the management of Kokugakuin University to be established.  The incorporation of the university was based on the Private School Law passed in 1950, and in 1951 the legal entity officially became “Kokugakuin University Incorporated Educational Institution.” The president of Kokugakuin during the chaotic postwar years was Ishikawa Iwakichi, and he worked tirelessly to ensure the continuation and development of the university.  

-The Shibuya Campus Ⅱ-
The original campus that withstood the Great Kantō Earthquake and the ravages of World War II stood for half a century, but over time these structures deteriorated.  Starting in 1955,  efforts were made to improve and expand the buildings and grounds to mark the 80th and then 90th anniversaries of the University.  Ultimately, the Shibuya campus was entirely renovated.  

-Shibuya Campus of Today-
In 2002, on the 120th anniversary of the founding of the university, redevelopment work began once more on the Shibuya campus with the aims of creating a symbolic and functional urban university and of ensuring earthquake resistance and safety codes were met, while also providing a spacious campus. This work was completed in 2009.  In 2015 Building 5 was completed for the 130th Anniversary of the school, bringing the second wave of development on the Shibuya campus to completion.