Ritsumeikan History

School Spirit and Educational Philosophy of Ritsumeikan

A Brief History

The history of Ritsumeikan dates back to 1869 when Prince Kinmochi Saionji, an eminent international statesman of modern Japan, founded "Ritsumeikan" as a private academy on the site of the Kyoto Imperial Palace. In 1900, Kojuro Nakagawa, former secretary of Prince Saionji, established Kyoto Hosei School, an evening law school that was open to working people. This school formally adopted the name Ritsumeikan in 1913 and was finally given the status of a university in 1922.


Kinmochi Saionji
Kinmochi Saionji
Kojuro Nakagawa
Kojuro Nakagawa
A Brief History
Kyoto Hosei School, an evening school of law and politics,
established by Kojuro Nakagawa

The school spirit of liberalism and internationalism advocated by Prince Saionji was combined with the ideals of academic freedom and vivacity pursued by Kojuro Nakagawa, and became a tradition of the university. This tradition also survived the intense suppression of the prewar days, as evidenced by the fact that Ritsumeikan University accepted seventeen professors who were forced by the government to leave Kyoto Imperial University for their pacifist activities.

After World War II, Ritsumeikan adopted the educational philosophy of peace and democracy, faithful to the spirit of the Japanese Constitution and the Education Fundamental Law. In 1948, Ritsumeikan became one of the first Japanese universities to be reorganized under the new education system. Ritsumeikan carried out extensive reforms to ensure democratic administration of the university to better serve society as an educational institution open to the public.

In the 1990s, with the changes leading to a globalized information society, each faculty went through curriculum revisions to accommodate the global complexities and innovations now affecting higher education. One significant part of these changes was the introduction of the international education programs such as the Five-Week Intercultural Programs; the One-Year Program; the Academic Exchange Program with the University of British Columbia (UBC); and the Dual Undergraduate Degree Program/Dual Masters Degree Program with American University. As a result of these programs and the extensive global network Ritsumeikan has developed, the university now has one of the largest international student bodies in western Japan, offering numerous invaluable overseas study opportunities to its students.

Today, Ritsumeikan University offers a wide range of courses in advanced studies at its Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto, Biwako-Kusatsu Campus (BKC) in Shiga and Osaka-Ibaraki Campus (OIC) in Osaka. The year 2000 marked the 130th anniversary of the founding of the Ritsumeikan private school and the 100th year of the establishment of Ritsumeikan University. In April 2000, the 100th anniversary of its establishment, Ritsumeikan opened an international educational institution, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU) in Oita prefecture. The addition of APU has given new momentum to Ritsumeikan as it continues to adhere to its founding spirit into the 21st century. Over the century, the Ritsumeikan Trust has evolved into a comprehensive educational institution consisting of two universities, four senior high schools, four junior high schools and one primary school.

Ritsumeikan Timeline

The Origins of the name “Ritsumeikan”


The word ritsumei comes from a passage in the Jinxin chapter of the Discourses of Mencius. This passages states that:
"Some die young, as some live long lives. This is decided by fate. Therefore, one's duty consists of cultivating one's mind during this mortal span and thereby establishing one's destiny."