Universiteit Leiden

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Japanese Studies (MA) (120EC)

About the programme

The two-year master's in Japanese Studies, a specialisation of the MA in Asian Studies, offers teaching by leading academics and a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of the East Asian region.

For students considering to apply for the MA Asian Studies 120 EC specialisation Japanese Studies: 

Please be aware of the fact that due to Covid-19 the study abroad period in Japan will be postponed until September 2022. As a result of this, the structure of the programme will be different from what has been communicated on our website and may cause study delay. We therefore strongly advise students to consider applying for the MA Asian Studies 60 EC - track East Asian Studies instead. 

About the programme

A central focus of the MA in Japanese Studies is on mastering the Japanese language. Your fluency in Japanese will complement the knowledge you develop in other disciplines, which you will select from the wide range of academic perspectives available at leiden. These academic disciplines include Japanese History, Philosophy, Religion, Literature, Politics, Sociology, Anthropology and many others.

Learning takes place during core courses, electives, two semesters spent at a Japanese university taking courses, and an MA thesis.

The first semester of the programme is held at Leiden and consists of the following courses:

  • The core course Introduction to Asian Studies that explores the place of Asian Studies in the larger field of Area Studies and among the many disciplines represented in Asian Studies;
  • A Thesis Class for a first grounding in the specific methodological and disciplinary approach most relevant to your expected thesis topic;
  • Electives with a focus on Japan;
  • Advanced Japanese language courses.

You will be free to follow a variety of academic courses – known as Master Classes in Asian Studies and State of the Field seminars. These include classes in:

  • History (modern and pre-modern)
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Literature
  • Social science
  • Linguistics

You have to reach at least the equivalent of JLPT level 2 in Japanese in order to follow courses at Japanese universities. Students who do not reach the required level by March, will not be allowed to progress to the year in Japan.

Two semesters of your degree will be spent studying at a university in Japan, where you will follow relevant courses in your chosen field of research and conduct research for your MA thesis. The purpose of this study trip is to strengthen your language skills while developing your understanding of the country and its society.

Upon your return to Leiden, you will continue to develop your language skills while developing knowledge in your area(s) of specialisation. Our goal is that, by the time you are ready to write your MA thesis, you will be in a strong position to integrate your language and academic skills to the point where you can use primary sources written in Japanese as part of your research.

You are free to choose the topic of your thesis from any field supported within the department – although we recommend that the topic closely mirrors one or more of the classes you followed while in Japan. Your thesis supervisor will be available to advise you. Currently the department can supervise theses from the following specialisations:

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Religion
  • Literature
  • Politics and International Relations
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology
  • Linguistics
  • Material Culture

During the final stages of the programme you will concentrate on honing your language skills to a level that can be applied in your professional life (post graduation). This includes, for example, learning how to use language in a legal, commercial and political setting.

For a more detailed programme, see the Prospectus.

Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.

Aya Ezawa

Researcher and university lecturer

Aya Ezawa

"Studying contemporary Japanese society is like a journey: full of discoveries and new insights. It is not just a question of acquiring knowledge, but reflecting on issues relevant to our own lives."

Gender inequality

"My classes on contemporary Japanese society address, for instance, gender inequality in contemporary Japan. What explains the persistence of gender inequality in the workplace in Japan, for example, despite the existence of laws ensuring equal opportunities? Engaging with these kinds of questions means developing not only a better understanding of Japan, but reflecting on the meaning and significance of gender, and how gender operates on a societal and personal level."

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