The predecessor to Toyo University was Shiritsu Tetsugakukan(私立哲学館?), which was founded at Rinsho-in Temple by Enryo Inoue in 1887. Inoue felt that the subject of philosophy was neglected in Japanese schools of higher learning at the time. In 1906, the school was moved to its present site[where?], and its name was changed to Toyo University. The school's motto is "The basis of all learning lies in philosophy". An animated film character from the Swedish-Finn Moomins animation series is its mascot.
Originally, courses were offered in philosophy, religion, ethics, education, Japanese, and classical Chinese, and the school continued to expand over time. In 1949, there was a substantial restructuring of the university, and departments of Literature, Economics, Law, Sociology, Engineering and Business Administration were established. Each of these departments has a graduate program. Departments of Regional Development Studies and Life Sciences were added in April, 1997. A law school was created in April 2004, and the Kawagoe campus hosts a Bio-Nano Electronics Research Centre founded in 2003. Among those conducting research at this facility is Nobel Laureate Sir Harold Kroto. Toyo University today[when?] consists of ten graduate schools, one postgraduate law faculty, nine undergraduate faculties, thirty five departments, many research institutes, and two affiliated high schools, serving a combined student body of more than 30,000 students.