BA in Japanese Language & Literature

The Japanese Language & Literature major provides students with an appreciation and critical understanding of Japan’s rich literary and cultural traditions and a high level of proficiency in the Japanese written and spoken language. Working with faculty who include renowned scholars of literature, media, language pedagogy, and translation, students engage with Japan’s 1,000+ years of literary history and contemporary Japanese media and culture. The program also encourages students to think beyond Japan itself to consider cultural and historical connections with the rest of East Asia and the world. While numerous courses are taught in English, a distinguishing feature of the program is its large number of courses that are conducted in Japanese and/or make use of original Japanese materials. We also offer training in pre-modern languages including classical Japanese and classical Chinese as it was used in Japan. Students regularly spend a semester or year studying abroad in Kyoto at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies or in Tokyo at Keio University.

Majors leave Boston University with a high degree of proficiency in Japanese, an understanding of Japan’s past and present, and a set of tools for describing and analyzing literature, film, and other media forms. They develop strong critical-writing skills and an appreciation for both human universals and cultural differences. This combination of knowledge and skills help them to function effectively in cross-cultural contexts and to contribute meaningfully to the global challenges of today’s world. Graduates have successfully pursued careers in translation, law, journalism, government, education, international business, and other fields.


A prerequisite of CAS LJ 212 (or equivalent placement) and 13 courses with a grade of C or higher are required. Students must complete a minimum of 6 principal courses at Boston University. Unless otherwise noted, all required courses are 4 credit hours.

Required Courses

  • Two of the following courses in comparative literature and linguistics:
    • linguistics: CAS LX 250
    • comparative literature: CAS XL 100, XL 222*, XL 223, XL 224, XL 225

*CAS CC 101 and 102 together may be substituted for CAS XL 222.

  • Three language courses: CAS LJ 303, 304 and another advanced language course from among the following (students placing above LJ 303 and /or 304 will replace these with other LJ courses in consultation with the advisor), chosen from:
    • CAS LJ 314 Classical Chinese I for Students of East Asia
    • CAS LJ 316 Classical Japanese
    • CAS LJ 320 Conversational Japanese
    • CAS LJ 350 Readings in Modern Japanese Fiction
    • CAS LJ 385 Intensive Kanji
    • CAS LJ 386 Intensive Kanji II
    • CAS LJ 386 Translation/Interpretation Workshop
    • CAS LJ 441 Japanese Press
    • CAS LJ 445 Readings in Japanese Culture
    • CAS LJ 450 Topics in Advanced Japanese

Language courses taken at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS) may also count toward this requirement.

  • Three courses in Japanese literature, chosen from:
    • CAS LJ 250 Masterpieces of Japanese Literature (required for all majors)
    • CAS LJ 251 Modern Japanese Literature
    • CAS LJ 350 Readings in Modern Japanese Fiction
    • CAS LJ 480 Japanese Women Writers
    • CAS LJ 451/LJ 481 Topics in Japanese Literature

Topics courses may be taken for credit more than once if topic has changed. Topics include specific authors, genres, periods, or themes, and comparative topics dealing with Japanese literature in the context of East Asia and the world.

With the exception of CAS LJ 350, the literature courses are conducted in English and do not require Japanese language ability. Japanese originals and bilingual editions will be made available where applicable.

  • Two courses in Japanese history, culture, and cinema, chosen from:
    • CAS LJ 281 Japanese Civilization
    • CAS HI 369 Modern Japanese History
    • CAS LJ 260 Gateway to Asia
    • CAS LJ 282 Samurai in Myth and History
    • CAS LJ 283 Modern Japanese Culture in Cinema
    • CAS LJ 445 Readings in Japanese Culture (if not used to fulfill the advanced language requirement)
    • CAS HI 369 Introduction to Modern Japanese History

With the exception of CAS LJ 445, these courses are conducted in English.

  • Three additional CAS LJ non-language courses at the 400 level or above. Students may also take Japanese studies courses in other departments (such as History of Art & Architecture, Religion, Anthropology) or other areas of study within World Languages & Literatures (WLL), such as Chinese or Korean, as approved by the advisor. Non-LJ courses can be at the 200 and 300 level if approved by the advisor. Non-language courses taken in Kyoto (KCJS) or at Keio University may also count toward this requirement.

Placement Test

A placement test is required of all students whose most recent course in Japanese was taken while in high school or at a college other than Boston University and who wish to continue their study of this language here. Information about online testing is available at the World Languages & Literatures Department website.