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Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

MA Japanese Studies

Duration: One calendar year (full-time), Two or three (part-time, daytime only)


Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

SOAS offers the most comprehensive MA in Japanese Studies available anywhere in Europe.

Students are able to choose courses that cover all of Japan’s historical periods, from the earliest to the present and ranging over the social and political sciences as well as humanities.

The students who take this degree come from many countries and have a wide variety of academic backgrounds. Some have already studied, or lived in, Japan and wish to broaden their knowledge or understanding. Others wish to focus their previous training on the region, while still others will come from Japan or other East Asian countries wishing to study Japan from the perspective of a different culture and academic tradition.

Knowledge of the Japanese language is not a requirement of the course. Language courses, however, are popular options.

SOAS has its own Japan Research Centre and shares the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures with the University of East Anglia. Both can be of great benefit to students.

Also see the Dual Degree Programme in Global Studies between SOAS and Sophia University (Tokyo).


Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

Students take three course units (three full units, six half units, or a combination). One of the units is designated as a major, in relation to which students complete a 10,000 word dissertation. Note that some courses can only be taken as a major and some, notably language courses, only as a minor.

As the emphasis in the Regional Studies programmes is on interdisciplinary study, students are required to select their three courses from more than one discipline. The two minor units can be taken from the same discipline, but students cannot take a minor unit in the same discipline as their major.

One minor unit can be chosen from a different MA programme, for example the MA Chinese Studies or Korean Studies, subject to the approval of the MA Japanese Studies convenor and the relevant course convenor.

Some disciplines, such as Anthropology, Economics, or Politics, require an appropriate qualification (such as part of a first degree) if any of their courses are to be taken as the major subject. Students interested in such courses are advised to refer to the relevant webpage for details and, if necessary, to contact the convenor. Please note that convenors have discretion in deciding if an applicant's background is sufficient for the course concerned.

All courses are subject to availability

Course Options

Anthropology and Sociology
Available as a major only
Available as a minor only
Available as a minor only
Available as a minor only

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Lectures and Seminars

The style of teaching in the Japanese Studies programme varies according to subject and teacher, but in most courses there is one 2-hour class each week. This may be an informal lecture followed by a discussion or student presentation.
At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work where students may be expected to make full-scale presentations for units they take.


The 10,000 word dissertation on an approved topic linked with one of the taught courses.

Learning Resources

SOAS has its own Japan Research Centre and shares the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures with the University of East Anglia. Both can be of great benefit to students.

SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


A postgraduate degree in Japanese Studies from SOAS provides its students with competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Postgraduate students develop linguistic and cultural expertise which will enable them to continue in the field of research.  Equally, they develop a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers. These include written and oral communication skills; attention to detail; analytical and problem solving skills; and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.  

Graduates have gone on to work for a range of organisations including:

Department of Energy & Climate Change
Ernst & Young
Gaia'S Delights
HM Forces
Nikkei Europe Inc
The Japan Society
Thomson Reuters
Al-Jazeera English
Reykjavik University
Konnichiwa-Japan, Inc.
Mitsibushi Securities

Types of roles that graduates have gone on to do include:

Executive - Japan Business Programme
Product and Operation Executive
Communications Officer
TV reporter, producer
Financial Analyst
Academic Programmer
Online Journalist
Creative Director
Investor Relations Officer
Marketing Director

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

Aside from the incredible library, I would have to say that the commitment to learning that is shared by both students and staff members is a unique aspect of SOAS. Everyone is striving to do their best and to bring out the best in others.

Charlie Orr