Undergraduate study | Japanese
Learn the Japanese language and explore Japan's place in East Asia, including its relations with China and Korea.
Why study Japanese in Edinburgh?
Over the past 150 years, Japan has experienced change at breakneck pace but has nevertheless retained its fascinating cultural heritage.
Study with us and you will develop the linguistic and analytical skills to engage critically, and in a truly interdisciplinary way, with this dynamic society.
Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer undergraduate honours programmes in Japanese. It is also one of the few in the UK with integrated course offerings in China and Korea. This enables you to learn about Japan's place in East Asia - one of the world's most important and influential regions.
All our four-year honours programmes include a year abroad studying in Japan.
No prior knowledge required
We specialise in teaching students with little or no prior knowledge of Japanese.
Helping you bridge the gap between school and university learning, we introduce skills and knowledge step-by-step, encouraging you to see the connections between language, history, politics, culture and international relations.
Classes are active, inclusive, and always informed by the best practice in the field. We have received Edinburgh University Students' Association awards for innovative teaching, use of student feedback, and overall course excellence.
Our final year students regularly pass the Japanese Language Proficiency Test at N2 and N1 level.
On campus and in the city
You will study in the heart of a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. These include the University’s East Asian Studies Collection, of which over 5,000 holdings are in Japanese.
There's lots going on in our tightly-knit community, from our Japanese Studies Peer Support Group to film screenings and an Anime Society. We organise performances and workshops with visiting Noh masters and a regular Asian Studies seminar series featuring visiting speakers from around the world.
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!
- You’ll complete a four-year Master of Arts (MA) honours degree. You can take Japanese as a single honours degree, as a joint degree with Linguistics, or as part of a programme with International Business.
- It doesn't matter whether you’re starting from scratch, or have some existing knowledge of Japanese. Over the course of your four years, you’ll progress in all aspects of the language, including the use of kana (Japanese phonetic writing) and kanji (Japanese characters).
- In addition, you will have the opportunity to learn about Japan's modern and pre-modern history, its politics, religion, society and culture - such as literature, theatre and film - and its international relations and place within East Asia.
Years 1 & 2
Our programmes are very flexible. In your first two years, you'll likely get to choose option courses from a wide range of subjects alongside Japanese and any partner subject. This may enable you to change the focus of your degree going into your final two (honours) years, which is when you start to specialise.
Years 3 & 4
- Your third year will typically spent in Japan. Our graduates have told us how much the Year Abroad has benefitted their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of Japan and East Asia.
- You will learn how to undertake your own research to the level of completing a dissertation or long essay in your final year. This is your chance to focus on a topic, period or discipline that’s of particular interest to you. We have an extensive range of honours courses to choose from.
Teaching and learning
- Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven to help you gain skills for life after university.
- Across your courses, you’ll typically be taught in a combination of lectures, tutorials (including language classes) and seminars. On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years.
- You will also be expected to study independently and in small groups, and to read widely.
Assessment and support
- You’ll be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.
- Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills.
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.
- As well as the teaching and other staff 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 and Edinburgh University Students' Association.
In the 2024 to 2025 academic year, you can take Japanese as a single honours degree, or as a joint honours degree with Linguistics.
There is also the option to study an MA in International Business with Japanese; it doesn’t follow the same structure as the other two programmes, but it’s still a four-year degree, with a year abroad element.
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate Japanese programmes on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder. For example, you can find out about:
- the courses you will take each year
- entrance requirements
- English language requirements
- fees and funding opportunities
Applications for 2024 entry are now closed. If you have applied for one of our degrees or are holding an offer to start studying with us in September 2024, check out our applicant and offer holder website for Japanese.
If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Skills and experience
Studying one or more languages to degree level demonstrates that you're 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 our programmes, 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 concepts, and to manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project, both independently and as part of a group.
Opportunities across sectors
Our programmes are an excellent primer for a range of careers.
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
Home and away
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates both at home 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 - with more than 128 million native speakers - Japanese is one of the world's 15 most commonly used languages.
A cultural treasure-trove, the country is also a major global power.
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 of Edinburgh, for example, we typically offer a Masters by Research degree in Japanese and taught MSc programmes in:
- East Asian Studies (with the option to specialise in Japanese Studies)
- Comparative Literature
- Translation Studies
Get to know us better
- Take a Virtual Visit - Asian Studies (Undergraduate)
- Look inside 50 George Square
- Join us for an Open Day or Online Information Session
Talk to a current student
QS World Rankings by Subject 2023
The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for Modern Languages.
We are also 3rd in the UK in the broad subject area of Arts & Humanities.
Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for Modern Languages (7) and Arts & Humanities (10).
The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings are based on research citations and the results of major global surveys of employers and academics.
They are International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) approved.
The Complete University Guide
The University of Edinburgh is ranked fourth for Asian Studies in The Complete University Guide - Subject League Table 2022.
The Complete University Guide ranks the best 130 universities in the UK in 74 subject areas.
Other ways to learn Japanese at Edinburgh
If you're not on one of our degree programmes, you can still learn Japanese with us!
As an undergraduate student of most subjects at the University of Edinburgh, you can take Japanese as an outside subject in one or both of Years 1 and 2 of your programme, depending on your timetable.
Japanese is also available to all students (undergraduate and postgraduate) as an Open Language Course and - through the Centre for Open Learning - as a Short Course, with options for complete beginners.