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An overview of our course

An overview of our course


Our course (in Cambridge language ‘our Tripos’) is unique for combining intensive and fast-pace study of the Japanese language with the chance to specialise in specific areas of Japan according to your own interests. Lectures and seminars are combined with personalized supervisions to cater for a form of education that empowers each of you as active learners while giving caring support and thoughtful guidance.



First year (Part IA): Gaining solid grounding

The first year focusses mainly on language learning, as almost 75 percent of your time will be devoted to the study of Japanese in all its components: reading, writing, listening and speaking. By the end of the second term (around mid-March) of the first year, you will have covered all the basic grammar and mastered around 650 kanji (Chinese logographic characters). This means that you will have already acquired the skills that enable you to read real-world texts (paper ‘J.3: modern Japanese Texts’) during the third term of the same year. While developing a solid grounding in the language, you will study Japanese history and culture as part of the wider East Asian region (paper ‘EAS1’). This paper fosters the development of analytical and interpretative skills when engaging with East Asian primary and secondary sources. While introducing student to major themes in East Asia, the paper also encourages familiarity with theoretical approaches in different disciplines in the study of East Asia.


Second year (Part IB): Going deeper and broader

The second year continues to offer extensive teaching in the language. Language classes are designed specifically to prepare you for living and studying in Japan in the third year as well as for the more advanced study in the fourth year. You will learn new grammar while reading and translating excerpts from a wide range of real-world texts (e.g., newspapers articles, literary texts, non-fictional essays, etc.). You will also have a chance to discuss and write about them. This will take you through intermediate to early-advanced Japanese. Our BA also offers the opportunity for you to develop a more mature understanding of the Japanese language via the study of pre-modern Japanese. We do so having devised an innovative syllabus, which aims to teach classical grammar in a rigorous manner while reading intriguing texts (both canonical and non-canonical) produced from the early-modern era back in time to the Heian period. Meanwhile you are exposed to the variety of disciplines that our course offers: Japanese history, literature, society, and politics. You can also choose cultural papers from Chinese Studies as well as a cross-departmental paper in East Asian Film Studies. It is in the second year that you also begin brainstorming around the area and the topic you wish to research for your undergraduate dissertation. Of course, you are not left alone in this challenging and equally rewarding task. Our teaching staff helps you identifying a possible supervisor who will guide you in the first steps of this exciting intellectual endeavour.


Third year: the Year Abroad

This is year when the knowledge and skills developed in the first two years come alive with you studying and living in Japan. To understand more about this year, please read the dedicated page on our Year Abroad.


Fourth year (Part II): Generating knowledge

You are back from the enriching Year Abroad. Your Japanese is so advanced that you can now read and discuss a variety of sources in Japanese. Japanese language is still taught with the aim to prepare you with the language skills necessary in a professional Japanese-speaking environment (be it in business, diplomacy, research or other fields).  You will be learning to make oral presentations and to write texts using the appropriate linguistic register. You will also learn to discuss a wide range of topics in Japanese and to translate advanced literary and academic texts from Japanese into English. While At the same time you can choose from a range of elective papers that allow you a deeper understanding of the disciplines you are interested in. And this is also the year during which you produce yourself new knowledge about Japan. Your dissertation, for which you would have done extensive work during your Year Abroad, now comes together in a highly original piece of writing that opens new horizons in the field of Japanese Studies. You can find examples of undergraduate dissertations in the field of Japanese society in: Brigitte Steger and Angelika Koch (eds.). Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy. Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge. Zurich: Lit, 2013. Of course you can write about a variety of different topics in other fields, relating both to pre-modern and modern eras.