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Japanese Language & Culture Program

Gateway to a civilization marked by fascinating historical epochs, iconic traditions in the arts, and postmodern allure, the Japanese program enables majors to encounter new worlds of cultural expression, experience, and knowledge. Language study is fundamental to this process, and our Japanese language program, featuring an intensive and highly interactive classroom experience, fosters natural fluency and cultural competence from the earliest stages. Graduates can expect to attain advanced proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Japanese majors will acquire a broad knowledge of Japanese society and culture and a solid foundation in the major landmarks of Japanese literature spanning fourteen centuries. And their education will be reinforced by various study-abroad opportunities-- most notably the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), which affords an unparalleled access to Japan's great cultural mecca.

The Language

Japanese (Nihongo) is a fascinating and challenging language. Engaging with the intricacies of spoken and written Japanese will open you up 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 Literature and Culture

Your studies will introduce you to the full range of Japan’s 1500-year history, with its unique mix of Buddhism, Confucianism, aristocratic elegance, earthy traditions, warrior culture, and high-tech modernism. You will be exposed to enduring works of literature, art, and drama – the inspiring poetry of the Imperial court, the plays of bunraku puppet theater, the wide-ranging novels and stories of modern Japan, and examples of Japan’s internationally-known popular culture.


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Japanese Language & Culture Program

Major & Minor Requirements

Majors in Japanese are provided access to the skills and opportunity to explore a marvelously rich and fascinating culture. Through our performance-based language curriculum, majors travel the path from novice to expert, achieving a level of proficiency in spoken and written Japanese that allows comfortable interaction in Japanese society and opens the door to exploration of significant landmarks in Japanese culture and literature. Our literature faculty guide majors through this exploration, helping to hone their skills in textual and literary analysis, and introducing them along the way to a great diversity of subjects from the aristocratic poems of the tenth century to murder mysteries of the twenty-first.

learn more about major & minor requirements

Japanese Study Abroad Programs

Many majors elect to study abroad during their junior year at the The Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies, affiliated with Dôshisha University in Kyoto, where they join students from 14 other American universities to do advanced work in Japanese language and cultural studies. Those students interested in intensive language study over the summer in Japan may apply to the International Christian University Summer Courses in Japanese or the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies Summer Program in Advanced and Classical Japanese. Many of the courses taken at these approved study abroad programs will transfer to the major.

Japanese Study Abroad FAQ



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Being able to study in the Japanese Language Program at Wash U is, without a doubt, one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling experiences of my time at Wash U. And it is studying Japanese that inspired me to pick up a few novels in Japanese-to-English translation in the summer before my sophomore year - which, in turn, took me so completely that I couldn't wait until the fall to declare my major in Japanese Language and Culture. Ultimately, I loved being a part of EALC at Wash U. I loved being a part of the Japanese Language Program.

―Katarina Lacy KlafkaMajor in Japanese Language & Culture, Minor in Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies, '16


Have questions? We would love to help you explore studying Japanese at WashU. 

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