UCAS code: T210
Duration: 4 years
School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
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.
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.
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.
Our research spans a wide range of Japanese Studies fields, including:
- pre-modern and modern history
- international relations
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.
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 is so rewarding. Even though I already had a keen interest in Japanese culture, there is always more to learn. The teachers and lecturers are all very down-to-earth people so, even though learning the language can be challenging, they are always there to support you through it and help you reach your potential.
- Gavin, 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.
Depending on your existing knowledge, you will start your Japanese language studies at one of the following levels:
- 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 inextricably linked the two countries have been, and to explore their changing relationship with China.
- Academic Skills for Asian Studies
Through interactive teaching and practical exercises, this course on core study tools and strategies will help you step up from secondary to university education.
You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.
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.
Other 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
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.
As in Year 1, you will complete your studies with option courses.
We typically offer the following courses for Year 1 and Year 2 students:
- Politics and Economy of Japan
- Pre-Modern East Asian History and the forces that shaped it
- Society and Culture in Pre-modern East Asia
- 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.
If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad, 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, where you will develop your language skills and cultural awareness, and start work on your own research project.
The year abroad is a truly transformative experience, and one of the highlights of your programme. Our graduates have told us how much it has benefited their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of Japan and East Asia.
If international travel is not possible, you will be offered an alternative means of engaging with Japanese, enabling you to meet your learning outcomes and preparing you for your final year.
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 in Japanese:
You will complete your dissertation.
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.
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.
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).
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, Galleries and Museum of Scotland, the latter holding over 5,000 Japanese woodblock prints in its extensive East Asian Collection.
If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 (a minimum of 30 weeks) at one of our 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.
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:
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 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.
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 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 your honours years (Years 3 and 4).
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 (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 project
- 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
Home and away
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, and growing links between the UK and East Asia, 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 Japanese ranks in the ten most commonly used languages by number of native speakers (125 million).
A cultural treasure-trove, the country is also a major global power with one of the world's top five economies.
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, we typically offer a Masters by Research degree in Japanese. This programme is a good stepping stone to a PhD, 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 interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes typically include:
- East Asian Relations
- Comparative Literature
- Translation Studies
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.
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.
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.
Please note that the Japanese degrees involve beginners language study and are not suitable for native or near-native speakers.
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.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
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.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of 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.
- 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.
(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)
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.
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.
As long as international travel restrictions allow, 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.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.