The Faculty of Letters traces its origins back to 1906 when the College of Letters was established in the University. In the beginning it consisted only of the Division of Philosophy, which was soon to be followed by the Division of History (1907), Literature (1908) and Behavioral Studies (1992).

The Graduate School of Letters now consists of five divisions: Philology and Literature, Philosophy, History, Behavioral Studies, and Contemporary Culture. These are further divided into 31 departments. The Faculty of Letters has always worked closely with the Institute for Research in Humanities, whose staff are directly involved in the education of graduate students.

The Faculty of Letters currently consists of six divisions: Philosophy, Eastern Culture, Western Culture, History, Behavioral Studies, and Contemporary Culture, further divided into 32 departments, although the way they are divided is slightly different from that in the graduate school.

Undergraduates spend the first two years attending classes which are open to students from all the faculties, but at the end of their first year they are required to choose one of the six divisions. At the end of the second year they are required to decide which department they wish to belong to, and spend a minimum of two years majoring in the field of their choice. The B.A. degree is awarded to those who submit a graduation thesis and fulfill all other requirements.

At the graduate school, students must spend a minimum of two years in study and write a thesis in order to qualify for the M.A. degree. They must work for another three years before submitting a doctoral dissertation. In addition to the Institute for Research in Humanities, the Faculty of Letters works in close cooperation with other components of the university, especially with the Faculty of Integrated Human Studies, both in terms of education and research. The Center for Eurasian Cultural Studies (Haneda Memorial Hall) is attached to the graduate school.

Because of the nature of the fields it covers, the Faculty is one of the most internationally-oriented components in the University. Studies of foreign cultures are pursued in many departments and involve a number of international scholars, while the departments devoted to the study of Eastern cultures in particular attract numerous students from abroad.

Most of the lectures are conducted in Japanese, except for those given by non-Japanese teachers, but texts are invariably studied in their original languages, and proficiency in foreign languages is one of the requirements for students in all fields.