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The Program

East Asian Languages and Cultures offers a course of study leading to the Master of Arts degree in Japanese. There are two principal focuses of our program. One is the study of Japanese literature, culture, linguistics, and/or pedagogy. The second is the acquisition of practical language skills to enhance future work in such fields as translation, interpretation, teaching, journalism, business, or government. Our MA students have gone on to work in embassies, as high school teachers and college professors, as professional translators and interpreters, and in a number of other careers.


Application deadline for admission to the following fall term: February 1

Required application materials:

Essay Prompt (Required):

Please take the time to answer all parts of the following question.

600 words is your limit, not your goal. Use the full range if you need it, but do not feel obligated to do so.

At UMass Amherst, no two students are alike. Our communities and groups often define us and shape our individual worlds. Community can refer to various aspects, including shared geography, religion, race/ethnicity, income, ideology, ability, sexuality, gender, and more.

Please choose one of your communities or groups and describe its significance. Explain how your experience in this community or group would enable you to enrich the following:

  1. Your department/program/our campus
  2. Your field/discipline

Optional application materials:

  • GRE Test Scores

Program Description

Students entering the MA program in Japanese Language and Literature must have finished the equivalent of four years of college-level Japanese language courses. This can be accomplished by taking courses as an undergraduate; studying, living, and working in Japan; or completing the N2 level of the Japanese Language Placement Exam. Each student accepted into the program will take our language placement exam during the first week to determine the level of their language competence. If a student does not place in either Japanese 532 (Media Japanese) or Japanese 536 (Advanced Modern Japanese I), the student may have to spend an extra year in the program in order to gain the competence necessary to write a Master’s Thesis using original materials. (Students whose preparation is deficient in certain areas may be required to do remedial work after admission to the program. Such work will not be counted toward the degree.) Students in the program are also expected to familiarize themselves with the general features of Japanese history and Japanese literary history before they arrive on campus. The student can contact the Graduate Program Director for information about how to do this.

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is no longer required for any applicants. The Graduate School requires all applicants whose native language is not English to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). (Please refer to the Graduate School guidelines here.) However, the standard English test scores are only one part of the application, and we review all the application materials when making admissions decisions. We also look at the applicant's background in college coursework and potential in graduate studies. Sending a writing sample separately from the application is not required.

Teaching Assistantships. All applicants will automatically be considered for a paid teaching assistantship, which includes a full tuition waiver, stipend (as of spring 2023, the hourly salary for TAs is $32.66; most TAs work 10 hours/week, but some on rare occasions will work 20 hours/week) and 95% contribution by the university towards the health insurance fee. Keep in mind, though, that there are other residual fees assessed to program graduate students that are not covered by the assistantship. Information on these residual graduate student fees is posted at the Graduate Assistantship Office. The program awards a limited number of teaching assistantships on a competitive basis. Although we try to cover as many of our graduate students as possible with teaching assistantships, we cannot guarantee that every admitted student will receive a teaching assistantship. Our teaching assistantships can be for language teaching (depending upon a student’s qualifications) or assisting with content courses in literature and culture.

Japanese MA Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete at least thirty credits of coursework plus a master’s thesis (six credits). Up to six credits of appropriate course work at the graduate level from other institutions may be accepted with the approval of the graduate committee. It is expected that most suitably prepared students will be able to finish all requirements for the degree within two academic years.

Required Courses (21 credits)

Japanese 537: Advanced Modern Japanese II

Japanese 556H: Classical Japanese I

Japanese 592A: Pro-seminar in Japanese 1

Japanese 592B: Pro-seminar in Japanese 2

Japanese 660: Problems and Methods in Translation

Japanese 691: Graduate Seminar in Japanese

Japanese 692B: Advanced Thesis Writing

Elective Courses (9 credits)

Japanese 532: Media Japanese I

Japanese 536: Advanced Modern Japanese I

Japanese 557H: Introduction to Classical Japanese II

Japanese 580: Teaching Japanese as a Foreign Language

Japanese 591B: Seminar in Modern Japanese Philosophy

Japanese 591JT: Technology in Japanese Pedagogy

Japanese 591S: Japanese Women’s Literature

Japanese 591T: Tokyo through Literature & Film

Japanese 593: Heian Literary Culture

Japanese 593B: Introduction to Japanese Linguistics

Japanese 597A: Manuscript Japanese (1 credit, repeatable)

Japanese 597F: Business Japanese

Japanese 597K: Japanese Video Games

Japanese 698Y: Practicum

Up to two courses (six credits) from other units or departments may also be accepted with the approval of the graduate committee, if higher than 500 level.

Note that MA candidates CANNOT use 400-level (or lower, taken within their department) courses to fulfill requirements for their degree.

Thesis and Examination (6 credits)

Japanese 699: Thesis and Examination