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Study Japanese at Otago

Study languages: Make the world your place.

To learn Japanese is to gain direct access to one of the world’s most sophisticated, dynamic, and fascinating cultures – and to the large and wealthy market of one of New Zealand’s major trading partners. Japanese culture blends the best of East and West, of cutting-edge modernity and unique tradition, of high-tech innovation and high-cultural style. It is the culture that has given us award-winning manga and anime, the mysteries of Zen, the delectable tastes of sushi and tempura, and the great fun of karaoke – not to mention the world’s shortest poems and longest novels! Japanese culture has something to interest everyone.


Why study Japanese?

Japan is one of New Zealand’s major trading partners and one of the world’s richest and largest markets, therefore your knowledge of Japanese language and culture will be highly valued by many New Zealand or overseas employers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, primary and secondary schools, tourism industries, research institutes, law firms and translation services, and the many New Zealand businesses that trade with Japan, all require university graduates not only proficient in Japanese language but familiar enough with Japanese customs and culture that they are able to interact successfully with Japanese people.

Your study of Japanese language and culture will also be immeasurably enriching to you on a personal level. Whether you’re interested in anime cartoons or Zen meditation, in the novels of Haruki Murakami or the films of Hayao Miyazaki, in the high aesthetics of Japanese food or Tokyo fashion, in flower arrangement, rock gardens, martial arts, tea ceremony, or all of the many other fascinating aspects of Japanese culture, this culture has so much to offer. It will enrich you intellectually and spiritually for the rest of your life.

Career opportunities

There are many opportunities open to students who major in Japanese. While some opt for careers in foreign relations, trade, commerce and tourism, others choose an academic path, such as teaching Japanese at schools in New Zealand or going on to MA and PhD degrees at Otago or elsewhere. A number of our graduates have also spent time in Japan under the Japanese government’s JET Programme. They work as assistant language teachers at Japanese schools or as coordinators for international relations at local government offices.

Background required

No former training is required, because we offer introductory Japanese for absolute beginners. If you have studied Japanese at secondary school for several years, you can enter our Intermediate Japanese papers directly, and study toward advanced levels.

Teaching style

We teach Japanese with communicative methods and simultaneously develop students’ skills in speaking, reading, listening and writing. Frequent tutorials are provided to help students practice in small groups with native speakers. The core papers aim to develop students’ competency in the language to a level which enables them to read and converse without serious difficulty.

We teach Japanese culture through Japanese film, literature, history and society. There is a good balance between lectures taught by teachers and seminars involving students’ discussions and presentations. Training in critical thinking, research, and academic writing is provided in all our culture papers.


Explore your study options further. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages.

Programme requirements

Diploma in Language (DipLang) endorsed in Japanese

Seven of:

Students admitted directly to papers at 200- or 300-level must replace their prerequisites with other papers in the subject concerned

Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Japanese

Level Papers Points

JAPA 131  Introductory Japanese 1

JAPA 132  Introductory Japanese 2

One of ASIA 101, GLBL 101, LING 111





JAPA 231  Intermediate Japanese

JAPA 233  Business and Professional Japanese

One of JAPA 242, JAPA 243, JAPA 244, ASIA 201, GLBL 201, GLBL 202





JAPA 331  Advanced Japanese 1

JAPA 332  Advanced Japanese 2

Two of JAPA 342, JAPA 343, JAPA 344, JAPA 351, JAPA 352, ASIA 301, GLBL 301, GLBL 302

Note: Students with previous knowledge of Japanese will be placed in JAPA papers appropriate to their level. Students placed in 200- or 300-level language papers will still have to pass approved papers worth 180 points in order to major in Japanese.





198 further points; must include 54 points at 200-level or above.

Up to 90 points may be taken from outside Arts

Total   360

Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)) in Japanese


Postgraduate Diploma in Arts (PGDipArts) in Japanese

The Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) programme in Japanese is the same as the programme for the degree of Bachelor of Arts with Honours (BA(Hons)).

Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in Japanese

  • JAPA 590 Research Dissertation
  • Two of:
    HUMS 501 Writing and Revision for Graduate Research
    HUMS 502 Research Methods in the Humanities
    HUMS 503 Key Debates in the Humanities

  • either
    JAPA 441 Advanced Topics in Japanese
    JAPA 451 Studies in Japanese
    JAPA 452 Studies in Japanese 2
  • or
    JAPA 441 Advanced Topics in Japanese
    and two other approved 400-level papers

Master of Arts (Thesis) (MA(Thesis)) in Japanese

  • Thesis: JAPA 5

Note: Students who have not completed a Bachelor of Arts (BA(Hons)) in Japanese or a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts Subjects (PGDipArts) in Japanese must complete the required papers for the BA(Hons) in Japanese prior to undertaking the thesis.

Minor subject requirements

Japanese as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BAppSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

Papers Points

Five JAPA papers, at least three of which must be above 100-level, including at least one at 300-level.



Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
JAPA131 2023 Introductory Japanese 1 18 points Semester 1, Summer School
JAPA132 2023 Introductory Japanese 2 18 points Semester 2
JAPA231 2023 Intermediate Japanese 18 points Semester 1
JAPA233 2023 Business and Professional Japanese 18 points Semester 2
JAPA242 2023 Understanding Japanese Culture 18 points Semester 2
JAPA243 2023 Issues in Japanese Culture Today 18 points Not offered in 2023
JAPA244 2023 Modern Japanese Fiction 18 points Not offered in 2023
JAPA331 2023 Advanced Japanese 1 18 points Semester 1
JAPA332 2023 Advanced Japanese 2 18 points Semester 2
JAPA342 2023 Understanding Japanese Culture 18 points Semester 2
JAPA343 2023 Issues in Japanese Culture Today 18 points Not offered in 2023
JAPA344 2023 Modern Japanese Fiction 18 points Not offered in 2023
JAPA351 2023 The Structure of the Japanese Language 18 points Semester 2
JAPA352 2023 Language Cosplay: Japanese Language in Anime and Beyond 18 points Semester 1
JAPA441 2023 Advanced Topics in Japanese 20 points Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA451 2023 Studies in Japanese 20 points Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA452 2023 Studies in Japanese 2 20 points Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA490 2023 Dissertation 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA590 2023 Research Dissertation 60 points 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

Key information for future students

Contact us

School of Arts
Languages and Cultures Programme