Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Japanese

UCAS code: T210

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Japanese

Over the past 150 years, Japan has experienced change at a rapid pace but has nevertheless retained its fascinating cultural heritage.

On our programme, you will develop the linguistic, intercultural and analytical skills to critically engage with this dynamic society in a truly interdisciplinary way.

Our language courses will develop your skills in speaking, listening to, reading and writing Modern Japanese. You can start the language as a complete beginner, or at a more advanced level depending on your previous experience. We welcome both new and continuing learners.

You will also learn about Japan's place in East Asia, one of the world's most important and influential regions. Our expertise extends to the languages, histories and cultures of China, Korea and beyond.

Why Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer undergraduate honours degrees in Japanese.

Our programme has been carefully designed around the goal of making you an expert on Japan. It introduces skills and knowledge step by step, and we encourage you to see the connections between language, history, politics, culture and international relations at every stage.

By the end of the programme, you will have demonstrated your expertise through your dissertation, which will draw upon four years of rigorous Japanese studies training.

You will also have the opportunity to study other subjects from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh and to spend a year studying in Japan.

Research-led options

Our research spans a wide range of Japanese Studies fields, including:

  • pre-modern and modern history
  • politics
  • international relations
  • religion
  • theatre
  • cinema
  • linguistics
  • literature

Our range of Japanese Studies option courses reflects this diversity, which means you will be able to choose a path through the programme that suits you.

Teaching excellence

Our courses are mostly taught in seminars and tutorials, so you will have plenty of opportunities to contribute to class discussion and receive feedback on your progress.

Language classes are active, innovative, inclusive, and always informed by the best practice in the field. Our final year students regularly pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test at N2 and N1 level.

Studying Japanese at the University of Edinburgh has been a life changing experience. I have been able to explore and learn a new world that I never thought possible. Through studying at the University of Edinburgh I have been supported by incredibly encouraging staff and they help motivate me to do my best! It's a challenging experience, but definitely a rewarding one!

  • Cadely, Year 4, Japanese MA (Hons)

One of the most attractive characteristics of this four-year programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subject of Japanese.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

Depending on your existing knowledge, you will start your Japanese language studies at one of the following levels:

  • beginner
  • post-beginner
  • pre-intermediate (advanced)

Courses will focus on skills in speaking, listening to, reading and writing Modern Japanese. They will cover both kana writing (Japanese phonetic writing) and kanji (Japanese characters).

You will also take:

  • Modern East Asian History A: Japan and Korea in the Modern World

This course covers Japan and Korea's political, social, and economic history. It will help you to understand how the two countries have been inextricably linked, and to explore their changing relationship with China.

Option courses

You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University.

You can, for example, opt to study another language, such as Chinese or Korean. We offer one of the widest ranges of languages of any UK university - the majority are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

There are also additional optional courses in Japanese Studies. Alternatively, you can opt to take a course in a completely different subject area. Options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • linguistics and language sciences
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy and social anthropology
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • Celtic and Scottish ethnology
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

You will continue your Japanese language study focusing on all the skills needed to live and study abroad in Year 3.

You will also deepen your understanding of Japanese society and culture through a course on Researching Japan: Skills, Methods and Critiques. This course will develop your critical skills and set you up for conducting research in Japan and in your final year dissertation. We will help you find your own research voice and gain confidence reading and discussing literature on Japan.

Option courses

As in Year 1, you will complete your studies with option courses.

We typically offer the following option courses for Year 1 and Year 2 students:

  • Politics and Economy of Japan
  • Pre-Modern East Asian History
  • Society and Culture in Pre-modern East Asia
  • Modern East Asian History B (which looks at China in particular)
  • Introduction to Japanese Literature
  • Kanji: A linguistic and cultural introduction
  • Supernatural Japan: Doing Japanology through Yokai
  • Politics of Everyday Life in Modern Korea

You can also study a wide range of courses outside of Asian Studies.

Year 3

You will spend Year 3 in Japan, turning classroom learning into living engagement with Japanese and East Asian culture. We have exchange relationships with some of the best universities in Japan.

You will spend a minimum of 30 weeks in Japan. This is when you will really deepen your knowledge of the language by speaking and using it daily. Living abroad will also give you the wider perspective, experience and skills to embrace the opportunities and challenges of life after university.

Coursework while abroad

You will study at a university in Japan. This immersive learning environment will strengthen your language and cross-cultural communication skills.

You will take our online course that offers guidance and support on making the most of your language learning while you are away.

In addition, you will expand your research skills by working with primary and secondary materials related to our honours-level courses, and will submit two pieces of written work to us. As well as the materials at your host institution, you will have access to the University of Edinburgh's online library resources.

You will start work on your own research project in an area of Japanese history, society or culture, identifying what materials you will need and perhaps undertaking some fieldwork. By the end of the year, you will have submitted a detailed dissertation proposal on your chosen topic.###Keeping in touch

While you are studying abroad, you are still a student at the University of Edinburgh.

The Year Abroad Office and your Student Adviser, both based in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), will check in with you at key points during your Year Abroad. Additionally, each language has a dedicated Year Abroad Coordinator for any academic queries, ensuring you are all set and ready for your final year in Edinburgh.

Just like any other time during your studies, you have access to all University services while you are abroad. These include our:

  • Student Wellbeing Service
  • Student Counselling
  • Student Disability and Learning Support
  • University emergency helpline (available 24 hours a day)

Wellbeing and safety

Your wellbeing and safety abroad is our first priority. If international travel is not possible or placements are disrupted, for example following travel advice from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), we will offer you alternative ways to engage with Japanese. We will support you to meet your learning outcomes and prepare you for your final year.

Year 4

You will continue to study Japanese language at advanced level, including spoken and written Japanese and translation from Japanese to English.

You will choose from a range of honours-level option courses on Japan's:

  • history
  • politics
  • religion
  • culture
  • film
  • literature

You will work closely with a supervisor to complete your dissertation on the topic you chose in Year 3.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries and collections

The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media.

The Library is also the home of the University's Centre for Research Collections which brings together:

  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects

The Centre's treasures include over 100 rare and pre-1900 Chinese and Japanese books. More broadly, the East Asian Studies Collection runs to over 50,000 resources, both print and digital, of which over 5,000 are in Japanese.

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

The University's annual book collecting prize, the David Laing Prize, gives a student the opportunity to select a book for Special Collections, exhibit in the Centre for Research Collections and spend £500 to add to their own collection. In 2023, the Prize was won by graduating student of Japanese, Francesca Lutje-Wilkes, for her collection of the ‘Fabulous Year 24 group’ of female manga artists.

Read our interview with Francesca about her collection and the inspiration behind it

Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

From making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, these student-led groups offer lots of ways to explore your subjects, interests and talents socially. You might be particularly interested in the Japan Society and the Anime Society.

We typically host visiting Noh masters from Japan for an annual performance and student workshops.

There are also film screenings and an Asian Studies seminar series that features visiting speakers from around the world. This will bring you closer to students of Chinese and Korean too.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.

We believe there is no better place to study Japanese than in a city so rich in its own historic architecture, literature, arts and philosophy.

The city's resources for studying literatures, languages and cultures are exceptional, and its world cinema scene is particularly strong.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Galleries of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland, which holds over 5,000 Japanese woodblock prints in its extensive East Asian Collection

Study abroad

You will spend Year 3 (a minimum of 30 weeks) at one of our exchange partner institutions in Japan.

This is your chance to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, and to develop your broader life experience and skills towards life after university.

We know that you are likely to have lots of questions about your Year Abroad. We’ve gone into lots of detail about where you can go and what you can do under ‘What you will study / Year 3’ above. You can also find out more through the University's Study and Work Away Service.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.

We make extensive use of our audio and visual resources, and you will also be encouraged to use online materials.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

Language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and facilitate your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in Year 4.

Support

As well as the teaching staff and other staff members you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD).

Additionally, the Students’ Association facilitates a peer support scheme for Japanese, bringing together students across year groups to help each other with specific study skills, topics or themes.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

Depending on where you go and what you do on your Year Abroad, Year 3 may include being assessed, in part, by a host university.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Studying a language to degree level demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.

Beyond the language skills you will develop on this programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of diverse cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to:

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of projects
  • work independently and as part of a group

Opportunities across sectors

Our programmes are an excellent primer for a range of careers, especially those that place a premium on thinking that is both disciplined and imaginative.

Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, previous graduates have gone on to work in:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
  • research, development and venture acceleration
  • translating and interpreting

Local and global opportunities

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, and growing links between the UK and East Asia, there is demand for our graduates in Scotland, the UK and abroad.

Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in another language, and to understand the cultures to which it opens doors, will make you stand out.

If you are keen to work abroad, it’s good to know that Japanese ranks in the ten most commonly used languages by number of native speakers (125 million).

A cultural treasure trove, Japan is also a major global power with one of the world's top five economies.

Further study

The enhanced research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are a valuable asset if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University, we typically offer a Masters by Research degree in Japanese. This programme is a good foundation for our PhD in Japanese, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

Taught masters (MSc) programmes generally comprise a combination of core and optional courses taught by specialists in the field, training in research methods, coursework, and an independent dissertation or piece of creative work. Our portfolio of interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes typically includes:

  • East Asian Studies (with the option to specialise in Japanese studies)
  • Comparative Literature
  • Intermediality
  • Translation Studies

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service, you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Be inspired by our alumni

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAB by end of S5 or AAAA by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAB.
  • IB: 36 points with 665 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: a language other than English at A and English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: a language other than English at A or 7 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: a language other than English at 6 and English at 5.

Additional requirements

Native speakers

Please note that the Japanese degrees involve beginners language study and are not suitable for native or near-native speakers.

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Japanese

Additional costs

As long as international travel is possible, you will spend Year 3 in Japan. The costs you have to pay will depend on where you decide to go, and how you spend your time.

Some study placements at language schools may charge a fee, but we will normally refund you for tuition costs as long as your activity has been approved. You will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.

Some scholarship money may be available from external sources, on a competitive basis.

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding