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MA in Japanese Studies

The interdisciplinary Master's Degree in Japanese Studies is a program of study which can be completed in two to five terms of full time study depending on the student's Japanese language proficiency at the time of entrance. Students have the option of pursuing the degree part time.

The degree requirements are configured to provide the students with advanced proficiency in Japanese language in combination with a broad, multi-disciplinary understanding of Japan, as well as training in graduate-level research and writing. The requirements are structured to provide maximum flexibility for students to pursue their own interests within Japanese Studies.

The sections below outline the major degree requirements that need to be completed prior to the awarding of the MA degree in Japanese Studies.  (For admission requirements, please use the navigation links to the top right of this page and go to the Admission Information section for further details.)

Please click on the each section title to display more detailed information about each topic.  Once you are done, the section may be closed by clicking again on the section title.

Prospective MA Students: Start with Admission Information  and Application Materials pages for more details on applying to the MA program.  If you have further questions, contact  an MA Program Advisor by email at or call the International Institute Graduate Academic Services Office at 734.763.4528.

Current U-M Students--with a uniq name--may schedule an advising appointment here.

Required Credit Hours

Students must complete at least 24 credit hours of course work to receive the degree. Only courses approved for graduate credit may be used to fulfill this requirement. Courses used to meet the Japanese language requirement (see next section below), may not be counted toward the minimum credit hours requirement. The 24 credit hours must include courses which meet the minimum Core Courses, Distribution, and Research/Writing Requirements (see below for details).

Students are free to take additional courses beyond the minimum credit hours, or elective courses that do not fulfill degree requirements as long as they are making adequate progress toward the completion of degree requirements.

Japanese Language Proficiency

Students must attain Japanese language proficiency equivalent to third year level taught at the University of Michigan.  Students may meet this requirement by successfully completing ASIANLAN 326 (Third Year Japanese II) with a grade of B or better, or by placement into a fourth-year Japanese class (ASIANLAN 425, 429, or 439) through a placement examination.  Third year proficiency at the University of Michigan is approximately equivalent to the Japan Foundation Japanese Language Proficiency Test (nihongo noryoku shiken) Level N-2.

Credit hours used to fulfill the language requirement do not count toward the minimum credit hours required for the degree. Students are strongly encouraged to continue language study throughout the program beyond the minimum requirement.

In addition to language courses offered during the academic year, opportunities are available to enroll in intensive language programs during the summer.  These intensive summer programs cover one academic year of language in 6-10 weeks of intensive study.  Many qualified programs are offered in the United States and in Japan.

Core Courses

Students must complete six (6) core courses totaling at least 18 credit hours. To qualify as a core course, the course’s primary focus must be on Japan. Core courses must be selected to meet both the Distribution Requirement (see below) and the Research/Writing Requirement (see below).  Students have the option of replacing up to two core courses with approved Cognate Courses (see below).

Distribution Requirement

Students must take courses from at least three (3) disciplines for at least three (3) credit hours each. A list of appropriate disciplines is given below:

  • Anthropology
  • Buddhist Studies/Religion/Philosophy
  • Business/Engineering
  • Economics
  • History
  • History of Art/Art & Design
  • Japanese Literature
  • Japanese Culture
  • Law
  • Music/Theater/Dance/Film
  • Political Science
  • Psychology
  • Sociology

Research/Writing Requirement

Students must complete four (4) core courses for at least 12 credit hours with a substantial research and writing component. Usually this means completing a term paper of substantial length which requires independent research beyond the required readings for class sessions.

Cognate Courses

With the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, up to two (2) core courses may be replaced by a cognate course. A cognate course is a course that is primarily theoretical and/or methodological in nature but relevant to Japanese Studies and to the student’s particular program of study. Cognate course may not be used to fulfill the Distribution Requirement or the Research/Writing Requirement.

More Information

For more detailed information on the degree requirements, as well as other policies and rules that govern the degree, please see our Policies and Procedures.