Japan Studies Seminar: The free university: visions from 1920s japan and their importance in the twenty-first century by Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki

At the start of the 1920s, a couple of young silk merchants living in the mountains of central Japan decided that their community needed education to enable them to be active citizens and to shape their own future. The result was the Ueda Free University, a remarkable educational experiment which inspired the creation of other "free universities" in many parts of Japan. Although these experiments were quite short lived, they were the start of an enduring Japanese tradition of grassroots alternative education. 


Today, universities across the world are in the midst of major transformations which pose huge challenges, particularly to the humanities and social sciences. Our own University, and our own College and School, are no exceptions. In this context, the history of the free university movement launched in Ueda can provide a valuable starting point for reconsidering the meaning and future of university education in the 21st century.


Professor Tessa Morris-Suzuki is Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Culture, History and Language, College of Asia and the Pacific. This paper arises from her Laureate project on informal life politics in East Asia.

About the Japan Studies Seminar Series

The ANU Japan Studies Seminar Series is a monthly forum for Japan specialists to present their research and opinions on important issues in Japan. Speakers are invited from across various sectors such as academia, business, government, and non-governmental organisations operating both in and outside of Australia. The seminar series aims to introduce audiences to a diverse and fascinating range of debates and issues concerning Japan and its place in the region and the world.  

For the schedule of future seminars please visit Japan Institute website:



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