Institute of Social Science The University of Tokyo

the University of Tokyo


About ISS


Greeting by Director of ISS

Director of ISS

The Institute of Social Science (ISS), the University of Tokyo (UTokyo) was established in 1946, the year after the end of World War II, and will celebrate its 77th anniversary in 2023. I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has supported and cooperated with the activities of ISS during this time.

The former President of UTokyo, Shigeru Nambara, who led the establishment of ISS, noted “From a purely academic standpoint, we will pursue the true scientific research institute for post-war reconstruction, construction of peaceful democratic nation, and construction of cultured Japan.”(The Journal of Social Science, 1947, Vol.1, p.157). In the background, there was a deep regret that academics, which had been distorted by the times, could not fulfill the necessary responsibility for the avoidance of war that took away the lives and livelihoods of many people. The ISS was established thanks to the passion and efforts of many people who shared this thought with President Nambara.

The 100-Year History of the University of Tokyo described the establishment of the Institute as follows. “After the dark ages when the term 'social science' itself was banned and suppressed, it should have been thought to open up a new era in the history of universities and scholarship. It is no exaggeration to say that the Institute of Social Science had a mission to serve as a base for university and academic innovation that would contribute to the construction of new Japan.” (The 100 Year History of the University of Tokyo, Departmental History, Vol. 4, 1977, chap.17, p. 373)

As the institution aiming to conduct truly scientific research, every stuff involved in the ISS still values what it did 77 years ago. It is to see and think about facts with multiple eyes at any time, and to open the door to the truth while asking multi-layered academic questions.

Since its establishment, ISS has aimed to gain a comprehensive understanding of societies in countries and regions around the world, including Japan, from the perspective of international comparison. In a unique environment where researchers from the four fields of social sciences—law, political science, economics, and sociology—belong to a single institute, daily academic exchanges and mutual studies will lead to the development of social sciences. In addition, the ISS considers the combination of theory and reality to pursue comprehensive knowledge and is also always aspired to continue its research activities, putting it into practice for society in order to "penetrate academic outcomes into the foundations of people's lives" (The Journal of Social Science, 1947, Vol. 1, p. 158).

In the social sciences, general phenomena related to human activities are all the subject of research. Everything from the material to the spiritual is involved in society. Many of the subjects are constantly repeating dynamic changes. In considering such a wide and complex society and its phenomena, if someone wants to obtain academic results at any rate, the "deep and narrow" approach of narrowly defining the research subject and digging deeply into it is the choice. In contrast, if the others want to attract a wide range of attention above all else, it may be effective to take the “broad and shallow” approach that speaks frankly about everything, relying on a little intuition and experience.

However, our goal is neither of these. What we are aiming for is, so to speak, the “deep and broad” approach. To this end, every ISS member is daily devoting themselves to basic research in their specialized fields, and taking on the challenge of deepening their knowledge. At the same time, we are working on wide and flexible knowledge that can be obtained by being involved on interdisciplinary research communication. In the Institute-wide Joint Research Project, which has been the tradition of ISS for more than 50 years, from 2021, we start "Methodology of Social Sciences: How to Measure Phenomena and Values." While reexamining the methodology of social sciences, we seek new knowledge that contributes to people's lives, such as how to measure the state of society and what kind of social value the measurement creates.

Regardless of the era, social sciences must continue to move forward together with people living in society. For that reason, the Institute of Social Sciences, while always thinking about people who are suffering and feeling hopeless, is the unique place to study society with the pleasant hope that a better society can be built. We will continue to make efforts to make it a place of learning that is deep, broad, and pleasant.

Director ISS