The Institute of Social Science (Shakai Kagaku Kenkyujo; abbreviation ISS) was established in August 1946 as part of the Tokyo Imperial University under Imperial Ordinance No. 349. It initially consisted of five departments: Japanese law, Japanese domestic politics, Japanese economy and industry, studies of Great Britain, and studies of the United States. The Institute was established at the initiative of Nambara Shigeru (1889-1974), president of the University, as part of his efforts to revive the university after the nation’s defeat in World War II. Its purpose, according to the “Rationale for Establishing the Institute of Social Science” drafted in March 1946, was “to collect in an organized and systematic fashion accurate resources from around the world relating to conditions and institutions in the fields of law, politics, and the economy throughout the world, and engage in rigorous scientific and comparative study thereof.” The report also states, reflecting the bitter experience of the war, that in the process of achieving the reforms necessary to make Japan a democratic state devoted to peace, it would be necessary to undertake a complete change in the nature of social scientific study in Japan,. Economist and educator Yanaihara Tadao (1893-1961) became the first Director of the Institute. In February 1947, a special lecture program was held commemorating the opening of the Institute. February 1 has been celebrated since that time as the anniversary of its founding.
In May 1949, in the wake of the postwar educational system reforms, the Institute of Social Science became a part of the University of Tokyo under the National School Establishment Law.
After its founding, the Institute gradually expanded from the original five departments to eleven in 1951, and to twelve in 1965. Added to the original five departments were Japanese private law, public finance, and social surveys, as well as those focusing on Germany, France, the Soviet Union, and China. A system for promoting comprehensive as well as comparative research centering on the advanced nations was thus established.
Toward the end of the 1950s, the University of Tokyo contemplated a plan to found an institute of international affairs aimed at the broad study of other countries including the United States. The Institute of Social Science instead proposed that it be reorganized and further expanded so as to facilitate the advancement of world and area studies. The ISS proposal was adopted as a university-wide policy, and in 1967, a plan was approved for the reorganization and expansion of the Institute of Social Science.
With the realization of the reorganization plan, the Institute of Social Science was expanded in 1973 to a total of seventeen departments-eight basic research departments (Japan-related study) and nine area studies departments (study of other countries). In 1979 a visiting professors department was added. This brought the total number of departments at the Institute to eighteen, comprising: the basic research departments of private law, public law, social law, politics, agriculture, industry, public finance, and labor; the area studies departments of European law, European politics, European economy 1 (United Kingdom), European economy 2 (Continent), U.S. politics, U.S. economy, socialist nations’ law, socialist nations’ politics, and socialist nations’ economy; and the visiting professors department of comparative law.
In the 1980s, a shift to a division system became necessary in order to deal with the diversification of fields and topics of study in the social sciences and further promote international comparative and interdisciplinary/comprehensive research. The shift, approved in 1985, gave the Institute a research set-up consisting of twenty-two fields of research under four divisions-the Division of Comparative Contemporary Law, the Division of Comparative Contemporary Politics, the Division of Comparative Contemporary Economics, and the Division of Comparative Contemporary Societies (21 professors, 13 associate professors, and 1 visiting professor). In 1992, an overseas visiting professor department (1 post; Japanese Studies in International Perspective) was approved in order to encourage the internationalization of research.
In the 1990s, building a research system geared to the internationalization and computerization of social science research became a crucial task for the Institute of Social Science. After several years of preparation, in 1996, the Information Center for Social Science Research on Japan (2 professors and 2 associate professors, 2 posts for non-Japanese visiting professors) was established within the Institute of Social Science. Since its founding four years ago, the Center has conducted a wide variety of activities as the information nerve-center of ISS in two main research fields, “Network Organizations” and “Survey Research Analyses,” aimed at encouraging the globalization of social science research on Japan as well as building and expanding information networks to support it.
ISS is administered, following the objectives of its founding, in close cooperation with the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law and Faculty of Economics. In its early years (until March 1954), professors from these faculties who concurrently assumed professorship at the Institute participated in Institute faculty meetings, lending their experience to the administration of the Institute in its formative period. The practice of requesting professors of the faculties of law and economics to serve as professors at the Institute was suspended for a time but resumed in 1964 (on the condition that these professors would be exempted from attending Institute faculty meetings). Later, personnel were prohibited under university bylaws from holding professorships concurrently in more than one department or faculty. From April 1986 onward, therefore, the Institute annually submits to the law and economics faculties a request for the services of two professors in the form of commissioned research. These professors are requested to cooperate with the research activities of the Institute - mainly with the institute-wide Joint Research projects - as well as to serve as liaison between the Institute and their own faculties.
Since the University of Tokyo Graduate School was inaugurated in 1953, the staff of the Institute have taught various graduate courses, initially in the Department of Social Sciences, and starting in 1963 in the Division of Law and Politics, the Division of Economics, and the Division of Sociology (reorganized as the Division of Humanities and Sociology in 1963). Since 1983 some of Institute staff have been concurrently engaged in graduate education in the Division of International and Interdisciplinary Studies, and starting in 1999, in the newly established Division of Frontier Sciences.
On February 6, 1997, the Institute of Social Science celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. With half a century behind it, the Institute stands ready to undergo scrutiny from inside and outside the university as well as from within Japan and from overseas and to strive to meet the expectations placed on it. It is committed to meeting head-on the challenges of cultivating social science research that deals directly with the issues confronting Japan and the world in the twenty-first century. The comprehensive external evaluation program conducted in academic year 1999 will help the Institute assess its organization and activities and clarify its vision for the future.