Watsuji Tetsuro (和辻哲郎)

Tetsuro WATSUJI (March 1, 1889 - December 26, 1960) was a Japanese philosopher, ethicist, cultural historian, and scholar of Japanese history of ideas who was well known for his literary works such as "Koji Junrei" (A Pilgrimage to Ancient Temples) and "Fudo" (Climate and Culture). The system of his ethics is known as Watsuji Rinrigaku (Ethics).

He is recognized as an unprecedented philosopher who tried to merge Japanese concepts with Western philosophy and aimed at sublating those studies.

His major work "Rinrigaku" (Ethics) is said to be one of the most systematic and original philosophy books of modern Japan.

Haruki WATSUJI, an expert in marine engineering who was also appointed the mayor of Kyoto, is his cousin. His eldest daughter married Kunio ODAKA.

Nowadays, Himeji City awards The Watsuji Tetsuro Bunka Sho (The Watsuji Prize for Culture) to excellent works every year.


1889: He was born in Nibuno, Tohori-mura, Kanzaki County, (present-day Nibuno, Himeji City), Hyogo Prefecture.

1906: He graduated from Himeji Junior High School (under the prewar education system), which is present-day Hyogo Prefectural Himeji Nishi Senior High School.

1909: He graduated from First Higher School (under the prewar education system).

In the same year, he participated in the second series of private magazines named "Shin Shicho" with Sueo GOTO, Shosen ONUKI, Sota KIMURA, and Junichiro TANIZAKI, and he wrote a drama named 'Tokiwa' for its first issue. Subsequently, he was also involved in the translation of books written by George Bernard Shaw, but he gradually lost interest in literature. It is said that was because he felt he was no match for Tanizaki in terms of talent for literature.

1912: He graduated from the department of philosophy in the College of Literature, Tokyo Imperial University, and then entered the graduate school of Tokyo Imperial University. He respected Koeber, and he wrote his graduation thesis in English because he wanted this professor to read his thesis. He wanted to write about Nietzsche at first, but he eventually changed his theme to Schopenhauer because his academic adviser hesitated about his first theme.

In the same year, he married Teru TAKASE.. He became close friends with Jiro ABE..

1913: He began to visit Soseki NATSUME's Soseki Sanbo (a house where Soseki stayed in his later years) through an acquaintance. He published "Nietzsche Kenkyu" (Nietzschean Studies).

1916: Soseki and his father-in-law Saburo TAKASE died. During that period, he began to have great interest in Japanese culture.

1920: He became a lecturer at Toyo University. 1922: He became a professor at Hosei University. 1925: He became an assitant professor at Kyoto Imperial University.

1927: He went to Germany to study.
(stayed in Germany until 1928)

1931: He became a professor at Kyoto Imperial University.

1932: He concurrently became a professor at Otani University professor, and obtained a doctorate in literature.

1933: He became a professor at the department of ethics in the College of Literature, Tokyo Imperial University.

1949: He retired from the university. He became a member of the Japan Academy.

1950: He was appointed as the president of the Japanese Society for Ethics (he remained at this position until his death.)

1955: He received a Cultural Medal.

1960: He died. His graveyard is at Tokei-ji Temple in Kamakura.


He perceived human beings in terms of space instead of time, inspired by "Being and Time" written by Heidegger during his stay in Germany. This book was published in 1931. This book is regarded as pioneering work of discussions about Japanese culture, which became popular after World War II. He classified climates into groups, namely, monsoon (including Japan), desert, or farm in order to examine the relations between the various climates, culture, and human thinking. His idea that 'climate affects human begins,' which is seen in "Fudo," has been exposed to some criticisms; for example, some think that his idea is a poor environmental determinism or that it leads to affirmation of the emperor system of Japan. At the same time, some people such as Augustin Berque appreciated his idea and believe that this concept based on climate must be a positive methodology that can stop globalization.