Before coming up to Cambridge in October you absolutely need to do some work on the language in advance: click on Language below. Similarly, you will need to prepare yourself for the course on East Asian History which you will take with students studying Chinese: click on History below. We also strongly advise you to do some general reading on Japan and to read some modern Japanese literature in translation: you will find some suggestions below (click on the headings to expand the sections).
The first-year textbook used is R. Bowring and H. U. Laurie, An Introduction to Modern Japanese, 2 vols. (Cambridge University Press). Both volumes are now available in paperback. In addition you are advised to purchase one of the numerous guides to character stroke order: we recommend either F. Sakade, ed., A Guide to Reading and Writing Japanese (Tokyo: Tuttle) or W. Hadamitzky and M. Spahn, A Guide to Writing Kanji and Kana, 2 vols. (Tokyo: Tuttle), but there are plenty of others on the market. Dictionaries are, of course, useful but expensive if purchased in the UK. They are not absolutely necessary in the beginning stages and, in any case, the Faculty Library is well provided for in this respect.
The language course is intensive and moves very quickly; it is absolutely vital that you are completely au fait with the basic syllabaries (hiragana and katakana) before you arrive, because a knowledge of them will be assumed from the very beginning and the course does not use romanization. Lists of the syllabaries are given in all three books mentioned above and there are also specialised workbooks available. In general, Japanese textbooks are still fairly difficult to obtain outside London but Amazon should have everything you need.
In the first year you will be following a course on East Asian history covering Japan, China and Korea. To prepare for this you should read AT LEAST one item from each section below so that you have a general knowledge of the outline of the history of Japan, China and Korea.
East Asia in general
G. Barnes, China, Korea and Japan: the Rise of Civilization in East Asia
John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: a new history
C. Holcombe, The Genesis of East Asia, 221 B.C. - A.D. 907
Peter Katzenstein, A World of Regions. Asia and Europe in the American Imperium
J. Thomson, P. Stanley and J. Perry, Sentimental Imperialists. The American Experience in East Asia
S. Adshead, T’ang China: the Rise of the East in World History
M. Hane, Modern Japan: a historical survey
C. D. Totman, Early modern Japan
C. Totman, A history of Japan
A. Iriye, Origins of the Second World War in the Pacific
J. W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War
J. McClain, Japan: A Modern History
M. Schaller, Altered States: the US and Japan since the Occupation
J. Hunter, The Emergence of Modern Japan
M. Barnhart, Japan and the World Since 1868
S. Adshead, China in World History
K. Ch'en, Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey
V. Hansen, The Open Empire: A History of China to 1600
Rana Mitter, China's Bitter Revolution
J. Spence, The search for Modern China
M. Nylan, The Five "Confucian" Classics
I. Robinet, Taoism: Growth of a Religion.
P. Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China
E. Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China. 2 vols.
B. Cumings, Korea’s Place in the Sun: a modern history
Kim Chun-kil, History of Korea
K. Pratt, Everlasting flower: a history of Korea
R. Foot, The Wrong War: American Policy and the Dimensions of the Korean Conflict, 1950-53
Ki-baik Lee, A new history of Korea
W. Stueck, The Korean War in world history
In addition you are strongly advised to read at least two or three of the following:
Natsume Soseki, Kokoro and Sanshiro
Tanizaki Jun'ichiro, Some Prefer Nettles
Kawabata Yasunari, Snow Country
Mishima Yukio, Confessions of a Mask
Enchi Fumiko, The Waiting Years
Oe Kenzaburo, Teach Us to Outgrow Our Madness
Tsushima Yuko, Child of Fortune