This essay investigates the need for and the challenges associated with the establishment of western style liberal arts education in a non-western nation. Two such programs in Japan are examined: Akita International University and Yamanashi Gakuin University’s International College of Liberal Arts or iCLA. The authors have been deeply involved in the establishment and administration of both of these all-English language liberal arts ba degree programs. The difficulty of establishing a liberal arts education curriculum in a country like Japan is explored by examining the cultural and institutional obstacles within the Japanese system of higher education. The two case studies are presented to highlight the establishment problems and subsequent successes of these programs in a nation with little tradition of liberal arts education at the university level. Finally, the questions of how to justify a liberal arts education program and how to design such a program are discussed by an examination of the utility of area studies as an organizing framework for liberal arts education in a non-western society.