In June 2015, the education ministry sent shock waves through Japan's academic humanities community when it issued a notice urging national universities to restructure their humanities departments and shift their focus to fields that have greater social demand.

Since then, the value of humanities studies at state-funded institutions has been a hotly debated topic, with some questioning the need for such classes in the modern age.

But Karen O'Brien, head of the humanities division at the prestigious University of Oxford, said that such studies are indispensable and play crucial roles in today's society.