Japanese Major

The Japanese major combines thorough training in spoken and written language with study of Japanese culture through a broad range of materials and approaches, including classical and modern literature, linguistics, history, philosophy, visual arts and popular culture. Most courses are conducted in Japanese with readings in Japanese. The major begins with language study and an introduction to issues in East Asian cultures (JAPN-024 East Asia: Texts and Contexts) and proceeds through advanced work in language and culture including a semester or year abroad.  In order to familiarize themselves with relevant critical and historical issues in the field, students must take at least one course on Japanese culture offered by the department in English in addition to “East Asia: Texts and Contexts.” The major culminates in a Senior Seminar paper or Senior Honors Thesis on a topic of the student’s choice within the area of Japanese cultural studies.

In addition to courses offered by the department, a variety of Asian studies courses is also available through other departments. Majors are highly recommended to fulfill their general education history requirement by taking at least one semester of Japanese or Asian history, but we encourage students to take two semesters of Japanese or Asian history, which serves as important background to advanced coursework and the overseas study experience. Beyond that, Japan-related courses are offered in Economics, Government, International Affairs, Theology, Sociology, Art History, and other fields. These can be taken as free electives, or can in some cases fulfill general education requirements. These outside courses can often be counted toward an Asian Studies Certificate. Students should seek help from their department advisors to develop a well-integrated academic program built around their interests and drawing upon this rich variety of resources.

Download the new brochure for the Japanese Program!

Required Courses

12 General Education Requirements, including:

  • 1 JAPN 024 East Asia: Texts and Contexts
  • 2 Courses in history for which the department highly recommends that the second be either: HIST-124 or HIST-125 (History of Japan I & II)
  • 5 Japanese language courses JAPN-300 or above
  • 1 Departmental course on Japanese culture, literature or linguistics taught in English
  • 1 Senior Seminar
  • Additional Japanese language courses as needed for a minimum total of 11 courses in the major (not counting General Education courses).


  • JAPN 311, 312 Integrative Advanced Japanese I & II
  • JAPN 321, 322 Business Japanese I & II
  • JAPN 333 Readings in History and Society
  • JAPN 334 Media Japanese
  • JAPN 349 Catholicism in Japanese Culture
  • JAPN 351 Megacity Edo-Tokyo
  • JAPN 352 Mass Society and Culture in Modern Japan
  • JAPN 358 Cultures of Modernization in East Asia
  • JAPN 372 Readings in Language and Culture
  • JAPN 391 Introduction to Japanese Linguistics

(Not all courses are offered every year.)

To further their understanding of Japanese culture, students should take advantage of the wide range of literature and audio-visual materials concerning Japan available at the University Library. Students are also encouraged to participate in the Japan Network, which conducts various social and educational activities, and explore resources available beyond the University. The Freer-Sackler Gallery holds one of the finest collections of East Asian Art in the world. The Library of Congress also has a large collection of Japanese books and periodicals.

Japanese Minor

Students majoring in other fields, particularly those involving Asian studies, are encouraged to minor in Japanese. The Japanese minor requires seven courses, at least six of which must be JAPN language courses or advanced courses conducted in target language. The seventh course may either be another JAPN course in the target language, a JAPN course taught in English, or, by permission of the EALC department, a Georgetown course with Japanese literature, culture/civilization, or linguistics as a substantial component.  

Study Abroad

Japanese majors are required to spend at least one semester studying in Japan, and are encouraged to spend up to one year. Georgetown-affiliated academic programs are available at International Christian, Keio, Nanzan, Sophia and Waseda Universities. (See section on this topic in the Bulletin.)

Students may apply to the Georgetown-sponsored programs through the Office of International Programs (OIP).