Department of Japanese

Cultivating Self-Expression in the Japanese Language

Recent years have seen growing concern about the decline in the power of the Japanese to express themselves in their native language. The abilities to grasp information accurately, to think it through, and to express one’s conclusions effectively are essential, not only in the university context but also in daily life within today’s society. The Department of Japanese helps its students gain a command of essential skills in reading, listening, writing and talking, beginning with a compulsory course for our first-year students, entitled “Japanese for University Studies.” From their second year, students participate in specialist seminars, where they develop their interest in their chosen field. These seminars give them many opportunities to polish their skills in investigation and research, as well as effective and persuasive presentation.

Twenty-two Seminars in Three Course Program

For the purposes of the Department’s specialist education, from its second year its curriculum divides into three course programs, in literature, linguistics, and creative writing, which offer a total of twenty-two seminars. Individual students join one of the seminars in their chosen course program, where they participate for two years in classes with up to twenty students, culminating in their fourth year in the production of an extensive graduation thesis or writing project. Outside of regular classes, students participate in study weekends and excursions with their supervisor and fellow students.

Literature Program

The literature program covers a broad range of Japanese literature, from ancient to modern times. Students study not only the works themselves, but the spirit of their times and their creators, as well as their cultural contexts. The program also gives students the opportunity to study many fields closely related to Japanese literature, such as Chinese literature, children’s literature, the literary arts of Okinawa, gender studies, Noh theater, Japanese music and other performing arts. Japanese literature is hence viewed systematically within the broader context of Japanese cultural studies. Specialist education within the thirteen seminars offered in the literature program provides students with a deep comprehension of the literary works of each age, in addition to a broad grasp of their historical and cultural contexts.

Linguistics Program

The linguistics program offers courses making possible a multifaceted understanding of the complex and fascinating nature of the Japanese language, its both its historical and contemporary forms. The history of the language is glimpsed through ancient texts such as Kojiki and Man’yōshū, and that of the Okinawan dialect through the collection of song texts known as Omorosōshi. Study of language change throughout history covers all historical periods and geographical regions of the country. Research on the modern language endeavors to survey and analyze language used in contemporary society in an objective and systematic way. Linguistic study of the Japanese language also embraces insights provided by the field of generative grammar, as represented by the work of the American linguist Noam Chomsky. A total of four seminars are offered within this program.

Creative Writing Program

The creative writing program is designed for students who, in addition to appreciating and interpreting works of Japanese literature, also want to create their own. Its five seminars are taught by leading novelists and literary critics. In these seminars, students study plot construction and effective methods of literary expression, with a view to fostering their creative ability. Students’ works are subjected to critical appraisal by the instructor and other seminar students. Graduation writing projects include novels, poetry, plays and scenarios. Most seminars publish their own collection of students’ works each year, and excellent works are selected for publication in Hosei bungei (the creative writing journal published by the Department of Japanese) and other leading literary magazines.

The Only Department in the Faculty of Letters with a Complete Evening Curriculum

The Department of Japanese is the only department in the Faculty of Letters that divides its timetable into two timeslots, Periods 1 to 5 (daytime) and Periods 6 and 7 (evening), with the same basic curriculum available in both. Students can select subjects from both timeslots, and are thus free to construct a timetable that suits their individual lifestyles.