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A History of Sophia University (2018- )

history of sophia.png

Lead Investigator: Sven Saaler (, tel. 03-3238-4046)



Sven Saaler (Sophia University, FLA/ICC) (Personal Website)

Bettina Gramlich-Oka (Sophia University, FLA/ICC)

Christian Hess (Sophia University, FLA/ICC)


Affiliated Sophia members (non-ICC or formerly ICC)

Kate Wildman Nakai (Professor Emerita, Sophia University)             

David Wessels SJ (Professor Emeritus, Sophia University, Faculty of Global Studies)

Nagai Nobuhito (Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo; formerly Sophia University, History Department)

Linda Grove (Professor Emerita, Sophia University)  

Yajima Motomi (Professor, Sophia University, Faculty of Law)

Sakano Masanori (Associate Professor, Sophia University/History Department)

Ozaki Shuji (part-time lecturer at Sophia University / Department of German Studies)

Katada Satoko (postdoctoral fellow, Sophia University /History Department)

Ôtsuka Sachie (Sophia University Archive)


Affiliated non-Sophia members

Klaus Schatz SJ (Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen, Frankfurt)

Tokumitsu Shukuji (local historian)

Shimada Masayuki (Gakushūin Kōtō Gakkō)



Research questions, goals and expected outcome:


This project aims at strengthening a community of scholars studying the history of Sophia University and, in the long term, the completion of a History of Sophia University from its foundation until the twenty-first century. Because Chancellor Sakuma is deeply interested in and supportive of the Sophia History project,

Beginning with a symposium organized on the occasion of the university’s 100th anniversary (, we have been building up a group of Sophia scholars, former Sophia faculty as well as external researchers interested in the history of our university. In addition, we have also received the endorsement of members of the Jesuit community and the university administration. Sophia University Press (SUP) has expressed interest in publishing the final product, and Chancellor Sakuma Tsutomu has reassured us of his support for the project. However, since external funding is difficult to secure for a university history project, we have suggested to institutionally root this project at ICC and have received ICC support in FY2018 and FY2019, which was highly appreciated.

The focus of the project will be on the contexts and connections that have shaped Sophia’s history and on developments that have given the university its character and direction. In doing so, we aim at underlining the dynamics of the university’s history. Due to the limitations in terms of sources, authors, and finances, the coverage will be topical and selective. The project will involve multiple authors, but will aim for a greater integration than would be possible with a collection of individually authored essays. Depending on interest and background, individual contributors will be responsible for multiple sections across different chapters or simply a single section within one chapter. For details, please refer to the attached tentative table of contents, which also indicates the names of authors that have already agreed to write specific sections.

The research project has to be seen in the wider context of research on Japan’s modern education system and on the development of Japanese universities and their international connections in particular. Compared to the situation of other universities with roots going back to the prewar period, Sophia’s history has received little academic attention. Of the four Christian-affiliated institutions recognized as full-fledged universities under the University Ordinance of 1918 (Dōshisha, Rikkyō, Kwansei Gakuin, Sophia), Dōshisha and Rikkyō have published multiple works of research (in both book and specialized periodical form) on their histories. Kwansei Gakuin has put out a multivolume university history combining analytical narrative with primary sources. Some Protestant schools that did not become recognized as universities until after the war, such as Meiji Gakuin, have done the same. Sophia has so far published a six-volume collection of documents related to the history of the university (上智大学史資料集), which will be an essential resource for this project. However, apart from a valuable but brief account published privately in 1993 by Theodor Geppert (and not widely available) and recent studies in German by Klaus Schatz based on materials in European Jesuit archives, there is no reliable, document-based, analytical narrative of Sophia University’s history. This project seeks to fill this gap by exploring in depth the issues and events that have shaped Sophia’s history.

The volume will be published in English and Japanese. Sven Saaler, Kate Nakai and Nagai Nobuhito will be the editors of both volumes and have begun to coordinate the authoring of the chapters written by the collaborators and contributors.


Role of the members

The members and affiliate members will conduct research on the history of Sophia University, participate in the workshops and write contributions to a publication tentatively titled A History of Sophia University. The exact topics each member is going to be responsible for is indicated in the tentative table of contents attached to this proposal.

Photo of Yotsuya Campus from SUSEI booklet

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