Japanese studies at Cambridge provides an opportunity to engage with a rich and diverse traditional culture, one of the world's most challenging languages, and a modern and dynamic economy and society that have experienced massive change and growth in the course of the twentieth century. All too often, Japan is presented as an inaccessible and enigmatic society. Our aim is to challenge this stereotype, to enable you to master the Japanese language and to gain a comprehensive understanding of Japan and its vital role in world affairs.
Japanese is thought to have connections with the Altaic group of languages (including Korean and Mongolian), found throughout northern Asia. Superficially, it is often assumed that Japanese must be a close cousin of Chinese. It is true that Japanese has borrowed a good deal of its vocabulary from China, but in terms of grammar and syntax the two languages have hardly anything in common. To those who believe that the language is fiendishly difficult, it might be reassuring to discover that in terms of pronunciation, spoken Japanese is actually very accessible and not particularly hard to master. The main challenge comes in getting to grips with a large alien vocabulary and a writing system that is undoubtedly the most complex in the world today - one which uses Chinese characters in combination with two distinct home-grown Japanese writing systems, as well as elements of the Roman alphabet.
Japanese cultural history, which is taught alongside the language, is as long and varied as our own, with a written literature dating from the eighth century AD. Understandably, students undertaking the study of the Japanese should have some aptitude for language-learning, but there are no specific prerequisites and scientists and mathematicians often do well at the subject.
Formation of alumni group - Tsurugi no kai 剣の会
To enable Japanese Studies alumni to share news and interests, offer new graduates advice and discuss ways to ensure the prosperity of Japanese Studies at Cambridge we have formed the group Tsurugi no kai (from the Meiji-period name for Cambridge 剣橋).
The Aoi Pavilion in the University Library was built in 1998 to house the East Asian collections through the magnificent generosity of Mr Tadao Aoi.
In addition to the East Asian Reading Room on the first floor, the Aoi Pavilion contains the Library's collections of Japanese, Chinese and Korean material, together with a Seminar Room and offices for the staff of the Library's Japanese and Chinese departments.