Majors & Programs


Japanese Language & Culture

Why Major in Japanese?

The Language

Japanese (Nihongo) is a fascinating and challenging language. Engaging with the intricacies of spoken and written Japanese will introduce you to new dimensions of social and cultural experience. The intensive, interactive classroom experience, with class size limited to 15 students, is aimed at fostering natural fluency and cultural competence from the very beginning stages of study.

The Culture

Your studies will introduce you to the full range of Japan’s 1,500-year history, with its unique mix of Shinto, Buddhism, Confucianism, aristocratic elegance, earthy commoner traditions, warrior culture, and high-tech modernism. You will be exposed to enduring works of literature, art, and drama – the poetry of the Imperial court, the plays of bunraku and kabuki theaters, and the wide-ranging novels and stories of modern Japan.

Career Options

Majors will be able to pursue numerous career options that utilize their language skills. Some of our graduates have gone on to pursue academic careers in Japanese literature and culture. Others have pursued careers in law, diplomacy, international business, media, and trade. Still others have gone on to jobs in Japan in international relations or teaching. In short, the opportunities are virtually limitless. Whichever path you choose, fluency in the Japanese language and familiarity with its culture will serve as a valuable asset in the job market, in addition to being a significant achievement in its own right.

Features of the Program

The student majoring in Japanese will gain knowledge of the rich literary and cultural traditions of Japan, from premodern to modern. After four years of language study, you will achieve advanced skills in speaking, reading, and writing, and a deep understanding of Japanese culture. As a Japanese major, your coursework will afford you an unparalleled “insider’s” understanding of the people of Japan and their literary and cultural traditions.

There is also the possibility of completing a double major in Japanese and another discipline or area, such as history, economics, religious studies, biology, etc. Many students choose to combine their language and culture skills in this manner.

Outstanding majors are encouraged to pursue senior honors, which will involve them in a research project under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The project will culminate in the submission of an honors thesis.

Japanese majors and other students in the language and culture program have opportunities to converse informally with their peers and native speakers of Japanese in our monthly “Cafe Washuu” gatherings, to enjoy Japanese films, to interact with members of the Heisei Japan Club, and to attend special lectures on Japanese culture. Interested students may also wish to get involved with our local Taiko ensemble and learn the art of traditional Japanese drumming.

Study Abroad

As a Japanese major, you will have several excellent study abroad opportunities from which to choose: the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), based in Kyoto; and the Waseda University study abroad program, based in Tokyo. These year-long programs focus on intensive language instruction combined with a selection of Japan-related course work. Each program features home-stays with Japanese families. You may also apply for summer language study in Japan. These experiences are invaluable for refining conversational skills and gaining a deeper understanding of Japanese society and culture.

Course Sampler

  • Four levels of modern Japanese, in addition to courses on classical Japanese language
  • Japanese Civilization
  • Surveys of Japanese Literature, from the Classical to the Contemporary
  • Women in Japanese Culture
  • Courses on Buddhism, Asian Art History, Comparative Literature
  • Japanese film courses
  • Japanese Popular Culture

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