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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.

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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.

Japanese at Otago

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.

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.


Japanese as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, 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 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


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


JAPA papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
JAPA131 2024 Introductory Japanese 1 18 Semester 1
JAPA132 2024 Introductory Japanese 2 18 Semester 2
JAPA231 2024 Intermediate Japanese 18 Semester 1
JAPA233 2024 Business and Professional Japanese 18 Semester 2
JAPA242 2024 Understanding Japanese Culture 18 Not offered in 2024
JAPA243 2024 Issues in Japanese Culture Today 18 Semester 2
JAPA244 2024 Modern Japanese Fiction 18 Semester 1
JAPA331 2024 Advanced Japanese 1 18 Semester 1
JAPA332 2024 Advanced Japanese 2 18 Semester 2
JAPA342 2024 Understanding Japanese Culture 18 Not offered in 2024
JAPA343 2024 Issues in Japanese Culture Today 18 Semester 2
JAPA344 2024 Modern Japanese Fiction 18 Semester 1
JAPA351 2024 The Structure of the Japanese Language 18 Not offered in 2024
JAPA352 2024 Language Cosplay: Japanese Language in Anime and Beyond 18 Semester 1
JAPA441 2024 Advanced Topics in Japanese 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA451 2024 Studies in Japanese 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA452 2024 Studies in Japanese 2 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA490 2024 Dissertation 60 Semester 1, Semester 2
JAPA590 2024 Research Dissertation 60 1st Non standard period, 2nd Non standard period

More information

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School of Arts
Languages and Cultures Programme

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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