SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

BA Japanese (2018 entry)

  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Please note that this BA programme will undergo a structural reform for 2019/20. Although the overall scope and learning outcomes will remain mostly unchanged, there may be minor changes to the core module and the selection of guided options. These changes are designed to improve the student experience and engagement with the subject matter, based on feedback from current and previous students.

From the study of pre-modern Japanese literature and history, to contemporary cinema and TV, we are the home to the largest concentration of Japanese specialists in Europe. The BA Japanese programme provides students with the highest level of competence in all aspects of the written and spoken language, as well as an introduction to both classical and modern Japanese culture, and is suitable for both absolute beginners as well as those with some knowledge of the Japanese language. Students will spend the third year of study in Japan furthering language proficiency and understanding of Japanese society and culture.

Why study Japanese at SOAS?

  • we are home to the largest concentration of Japan specialists outside of Japan
  • you will not only learn the essential language skills but also an in depth understanding of the region’s culture covering subjects from literature, history, cinema, and politics
  • you will spend your third year in Japan furthering language and cultural proficiency
  • you will be able to flexibly structure your programme using our Open Options modules to take advantage of the expertise of our other departments
  • we are specialists in the delivery of more that forty African and Asian languages. Your command of a language will set you apart from graduates of other universities

Apply now via UCAS or visit our upcoming Open Day.

Find out more about how to apply.

Programme Code: T210 BA/J

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time

Entry requirements

  • No preliminary knowledge of the language is required but a foreign language at A-level or equivalent is preferred.
  • Subjects Preferred: A foreign language at A level, or equivalent, is preferred
  • Interview Policy: Mature students, candidates with non-standard qualifications, Japanese nationals, and heritage speakers (i.e., Japanese raised abroad) who meet the academic requirements may be invited for interview.
A Levels:
A Level language preferred
35 (6/6/5)

View alternative entry requirements


Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction

Scottish Highers: AAABB

Scottish Advanced Highers: AAB

Irish LC: 340 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above

Advanced Placement: 4 4 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0

Euro Bacc: 80%

French Bacc: 14/20

German Abitur: 2.0

Italy DES: 80/100

Austria Mat: 2.0

Polish Mat: Overall 75% including 3 extended level subjects

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4 years



Students take 120 credits per year composed of core and optional modules, which allows for students to design their own intellectual journey while maintaining a strong grasp of the fundamentals.

You will study Japanese language intensely for the first two years, half the programme load. The other half is focused on Japanese culture/society modules, including both contemporary and traditional Japan.

The third year is spent at one of the twenty-plus Japanese universities that we have exchange programmes with. During the year in Japan you will study Japanese language as well as modules on Japan society, culture and history.

In the final year you will explore a topic of your choice in an Independent Study Project (final-year thesis), and two other modules that allow you to read Japanese-language sources. Your final module can be an open option from another department. 

Core Modules

These modules must be passed in order to progress to the following year of study.

Core Module

This module must be passed in order to progress to the following year of study.

Module Code Credits Term
J100: Elementary Japanese 155901195 60 Full Year
Compulsory Modules

Students must take the modules below

Compulsory Modules

Students must take the following modules

Year 1
Core Module

This module must be passed in order to progress to the following year of study.

Compulsory Modules

Students must take the modules below


Students will take both of the modules below:

Year 2
Core Module

This module must be passed in order progress to the following year of study.

Guided Option

Choose modules from List A (at the relevant FHEQ level for your academic year of study) to the value of 15 credits.


Guided Options

Choose modules from List A /List B or Central options (at the relevant FHEQ level for your academic year of study) to the value of 30 credits.

Year 3 (Year Abroad)

Please see more information on the year abroad in Japan under the Teaching & Learning tab.

Year 4
Compulsory Modules

Students must take the modules below


Guided Option

Choose modules from List A (at the relevant FHEQ level for your academic year of study) to the value of 30 credits.


Central Options

Choose modules from List A/List B or Central options (at the relevant FHEQ level for your academic year of study) to the value of 30 credits.

List of modules (subject to availability)
Year 2: List A Guided Option Modules

FHEQ Level 5

Module Code Credits Term
Modernity, Nation and Identity in Japanese History (1853-1945) 155900882 15 Term 2
Reading Pre-modern Japanese Texts 1 155901424 15 Term 2
Self, City and Sexuality in Modern Japanese Literature 1868 to present day 155901426 15 Term 1
Writing from the Margins: Minority and "Outsider" Texts in Modern Japanese Literature 155901427 15 Term 2
Year 4: List A Guided option modules

FHEQ Level 6

Module Code Credits Term
Cool Japan: Manga, Anime, Sushi 155901416 15 Term 2
History and Memory in East Asian Cultures 155903015 15 Term 2
The Other Korea: North Korea since 1945 155901356 15 Term 2
Trajectories of Modernity in Korean Literature and Film 155901390 15 Term 1
Year 2 Only
Module Code Credits Term
Fieldwork methods in language and culture 155901417 15 Term 2
Identity and social relations in Japanese 155901418 15 Term 1
Year 4 Only
Module Code Credits Term
Japanese Traditional Drama 155901422 15 Term 1

Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

All full-time undergraduate programmes consist of 120 credits per year, in modules of 60, 45, 30 or 15 credits. They are taught over 10 or 20 weeks. The programme structure shows which modules are taught over one term or the full year. It also shows which modules are compulsory and which are optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study (see Approaches to teaching and learning at SOAS). It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others.

More information is on the page for each module.


Year 1

The programme accommodates absolute beginners as well as those with some knowledge of Japanese. Absolute beginners are placed in J1 - Elementary Japanese (60 credits), and students who know some Japanese may be allocated, after a placement test, to J1 - Accelerated Elementary Japanese Language (45 credits).  More advanced learners can also be accommodated, but please note that second-year entry is only possible for students who have previously studied Japanese at degree level.

Elementary Japanese students will additionally take Aspects of Japanese Culture I and II (total 30 credits) and one open option (i.e. a module in a subject other than those named in the student’s chosen degree title).

Accelerated Elementary Japanese students will also take Aspects of Japanese Culture 1 and 2, and an additional 15 credits to be chosen between Introduction to the Study of Language Learning I or II, Issues in Post-War Japanese Society I, Survey of Modern Japanese Literature (in translation). The remaining 30 credits may be an open option.

Year 2

Students take J2: Japanese (60 credits), a half-module (15 credits) of Survey of Pre-modern Japanese Literature in Translation, and a half-module (15 credits) of Introduction to Pre-modern Japanese Language. The remaining 30 credits are made up from other modules within the Japanese section or alternatively from open options.

Year 3

This is a compulsory year spent in Japan for both single and two-subject degree students, and there is no tuition offered by the department. Students are expected to take the equivalent of 120 credits in this year at a Japanese university.

Year 4

The Independent Study Project (ISP: 10,000-word essay on an approved topic) 30 credits is compulsory. This is combined with at least 60 other credits available in the Japanese section; the remaining 30 credits may be an open option.


Modules are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials, usually one hour a week of each. Sometimes, one follows the other in a two-hour bloc. Sometimes, the tutorial is at a different time or on a different day than the lecture.

Lectures are led by an academic while tutorials are sessions in which students are expected to present reports and take a lead in discussions.

Depending on the size of the class, some intermediate and advanced level modules are less strictly divided between a formal lecture and a tutorial discussion, and instead, the topic is briefly introduced by the lecturer, followed by a seminar discussion. Advanced level modules, which are usually taught in one two-hour bloc, often take this format.

The assessment procedures involve coursework assignments, tests and unseen examinations. They provide students with opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the content and systems taught in lectures, tutorials and the literature.

The Independent Study Project (ISP)

These can be taken by final-year students only. Like the Special Subject dissertation, its aim is to provide an opportunity for students to conduct original historical research on their own initiative, to engage in in-depth analysis of particular subjects and to use a range of primary historical sources. It too involves no formal classes and is assessed by a single 10,000-word dissertation (including notes but excluding bibliography).

Learning Resources

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.

Year Abroad

All students spend their third year in Japan at one of the Japanese universities listed below, following successful completion of their second year. Please note that not all universities will have places available every year.

  • Hitotsubashi
  • International Christian University
  • Keio
  • Meiji University
  • Ochanomizu (women only)
  • Sophia
  • Tokyo U. of Foreign Studies
  • Waseda
  • Nagoya
  • Nanzan
  • Doshisha
  • Kyoto U. of Foreign Studies
  • Ritsumeikan
  • Kansai
  • Osaka U., School of Economics
  • Osaka U., School of Foreign Studies
  • Kobe
  • Kwansei Gakuin
  • Kyushu
  • Hokkaido U. of Education

Pre Entry Reading

  • B. Frellesvig, A History of the Japanese Language (Cambridge University Press, 2011)
  • K. Friday, Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850 (Westview Press, 2012)
  • C. Gerteis and T.S. George, Japan Since 1945: From Postwar to Post-bubble (Bloomsbury, 2013)
  • C. Goto-Jones, Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  • J. Hendry, Understanding Japanese Society (Routledge, 2012)
  • M.B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000)
  • H. Shirane, T. Suzuki, and D. Lurie (eds.), The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
  • P. Varley, Japanese Culture (University of Hawai’i Press, 2000)


Studying this programme will provide students with competency in language skills as well as intercultural awareness and understanding.

Skills gained include:

  • a familiarity with the region through a combination of the study of language, literature, history, cinema, politics, economics or law
  • communication and presentation skills
  • analytical skills
  • the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources

Graduates from the Department leave SOAS not only with language and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers, both in business and in the public sector.

Find out more about Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea Destinations

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

  • Bloomberg L.P
  • British High Commission
  • British Council Tokyo
  • Deloitte Management Consulting Ltd
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office
  • Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International
  • NHK-Japan Broadcasting Corporation
  • Oxford University
  • The British Embassy
  • The British Museum
  • Wall Street Associates

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

  • Financial Analyst
  • Head of Production
  • US Marketing Executive
  • Senior Research Executive
  • Director of Development and Alumni Relations
  • Project Leader, Strategic Planning
  • Solicitor
  • Architect
  • Interactive Designer
  • HM Ambassador to Japan
  • Freelance Japanese Translator

A Student's Perspective

What was particularly appealing was the prospect of learning a language to a professional capacity and using that to complement and deepen my understanding of the areas of art and culture.

Jon Adjetey

Find out more