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Course content

The last 20 years have been a period of transition for Japan.

The abrupt end in the early 1990s of Japan’s seemingly unstoppable economic growth plunged the nation into two decades of recession, which has in turn brought to the fore a range of social and political issues accumulated since the Second World War.

The end of Japanese economic superiority also coincided with the end of the Cold War, an event that brought about new regional and global dynamics, and with them new security challenges.

Meanwhile, Japanese culture has experienced a renaissance, with Japan recognised worldwide as a centre of global ‘cool’, and Japanese cultural products continuing to find new markets and influence new demographics worldwide.

The overall picture is of a rapidly changing nation in the vanguard of post-industrial societies — fascinating not only for its rich traditional heritage and diversity, but also for what its recent experience can tell us about world trends.

Understanding such complexity requires an interdisciplinary approach, and we offer you the opportunity to explore Japanese history, international relations, politics, religion, and arts, and help you see the connections between them.

Using Japanese source materials in tandem with the extensive English language literature on Japan, we will help you build upon and develop your own interests, focus on the aspects of Japan that fascinate you, and support you as you carry out your own original research project.

By the end of the programme you will have acquired specialist skills and knowledge that mark you out as an expert on Japan, and the confidence to apply those skills in industry, academia or beyond.

Programme structure

The programme is taught through a combination of seminars and tutorials. You will take one compulsory and four option courses, as well as a compulsory research skills and methods course. After two semesters of taught courses you will conduct your own research for your dissertation.

Compulsory courses:

  • State, Society and National Identity in Japan after 1989
  • Research Skills and Methods

Option courses may include:

  • The Buddhist Brush: Discursive and Graphic Expressions of Japanese Buddhism
  • Contemporary Japanese Cinema
  • Japanese Performing Arts
  • Japanese Religions in the Modern Era
  • Japanese Cyberpunk
  • East Asian International Relations
  • The Role of Sub-State Actors in East Asian Politics
  • Radical Japan, culture, politics and protest in Japan's 'Long 1960's'

Learning outcomes

Students who follow the programme will:

  • develop critical awareness of at least two specific areas of Japanese Studies, both in terms of the indigenous literary and/or critical traditions and in comparison with Western critical thinking
  • acquire specialist knowledge of Japanese culture and awareness of the interaction of Japanese and other cultures in the contemporary context
  • use the bibliographic, internet and other relevant resources to advanced level
  • develop the ability to read and evaluate critically core texts in the specific areas studied

Those with previous experience in Japanese language learning will have the opportunity to develop the necessary linguistic skills to conduct research in defined areas within Japanese Studies by retrieving, selecting, translating and assimilating information from Japanese sources.

Career opportunities

The flexibility of focus this programme offers makes it an ideal foundation for advanced study, potentially leading to an academic career. Teaching or curatorship roles in cultural institutions are alternative career pathways

The transferable skills you gain in communication, project management and presentation will prove a valuable asset to employers in any field.


Visit the Japanese Society and Culture - MSc page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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