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Learning Japanese is not just language learning. Since the way Japanese think is inextricably woven into their language, it is also a doorway to a new world, as well as a new way of understanding the world we think we "know."

Language Courses

Japanese has been taught at Carleton since 1968. In elementary classes 101-103 all four skills: speaking, listening, reading and writing are equally emphasized. Students learn 46 characters (hiragana) in the first ten days. By the end of the first year, students have enough basic Japanese to survive in Japan. Intermediate classes 204-206 emphasize the development of reading skills, especially the mastery of kanji, Chinese characters, with considerable work on spoken Japanese through the use of audiovisuals. By the end of 205, students are ready to start reading Japanese books in Japanese. The college language requirement is completed with 205. Japanese 206 focuses on polishing and refining practical skills in both spoken and written Japanese.

Advanced courses allow students to enjoy modern Japanese short stories, manga, and other contemporary materials in the original and discuss them in Japanese with classmates. The students can also read Japanese newspapers and journals and discuss in Japanese current topics such as the environment. One goal of these courses is to attain a high level of communication skills in Japanese.


Japanese literature and popular culture is one of the richest in the world. Carleton offers courses that enable students to analyze the modern Japanese novels by Soseki, live-action films by Kurosawa, anime by Miyazaki, and manga by Tezuka. In addition to the texts themselves and the traditions they represent, these classes explore the social, cultural, aesthetic, and political contexts in which they were written.


Students may petition for a special major in Japanese, or they may focus on the study of the language, literature, or popular culture as Asian Studies majors. Japanese courses are also an integral part of the East Asian Studies Concentration and an advanced certificate of language learning is offered by the college for students completing the required number of courses after Japanese 204. Guidelines for a Japanese special major are here.

Off-Campus Studies

Two academic-year programs in Japan are available to our students. After having completed one year of Japanese, students may apply either to the Associated Kyoto Program, at Doshisha University in Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan; or to the Japan Study Program on the campus of Waseda University in Tokyo, the splendid metropolis where nearly a quarter of the Japanese people live and work. Students may also participate in other short-term off-campus programs.

Term-long programs that Carleton students have attended include: Center for Japanese Studies, JCMU, Tokyo Kokusai Daigaku (JSP), and Kansai Gaidai. If you have questions about any of these or other Japan study abroad programs, Professor Noboru Tomonari is willing to help. His office is located in the Language and Dining Center 213. He will be able to give you applications, give you his personal experience about these programs, and direct you to other students who have participated in these and other programs.