Penn State Penn State: College of the Liberal Arts


What is Japanese?

Japanese is the study of Japan in an international context and provides a focus on one of the world’s most important nations. The Japanese major is designed for students who want to develop proficiency in speaking, listening, reading, and writing Japanese, and acquire a profound knowledge of Japanese culture, history, and civilization in the context of East Asia.

Why should I major in Japanese?

The Japanese program provides students with an opportunity to concentrate on acquiring expertise in an important modern language and its culture. Giving students a strong working knowledge of the Japanese language and understanding of Japanese culture, the program can help prepare students for work in contexts where the language and culture are pertinent, to live and work in Japan as informed and capable individuals equipped with appropriate intercultural skills and awareness, or for graduate study in Japan-related fields.

What careers can I have with a major in Japanese?

Japanese majors may seek employment in government service, domestic and foreign offices, the United Nations, the Peace Corps, the U.S. Information Agency, or other international agencies. Employment may also be available with import and export trade organizations, international banking houses, or U.S. companies abroad. In addition, an increasing number of domestic and multinational companies are seeking employees who have backgrounds in multicultural studies as a way of dealing with the global market.

Requirements for the Major

The Japanese major requires 35 credits of study (this includes 0-9 credits of General Education GA, GH, or GS courses). At least 22 credits must be at the 400 level. Students are strongly encouraged to take at least 12 of their credits as part of a study abroad program in a Japanese-speaking location. For curricular sequencing, the program encourages students to pursue this Education Abroad experience following the completion of JAPNS 401. Students must earn a C or better in all courses applied to their major.

Select 3 credits from:

  • JAPNS 120 – Japanese Literature in its Cultural Context
  • JAPNS 121N – Japanese Film and New Media

Select 3 credits from:

Select 3 credits from:

Select 6 credits pertaining to Japan, such as courses in art history, Asian studies, Japanese, comparative literature, economics, geography, history, philosophy, political science, religious studies, theatre arts, or other fields, selected from the departmental list below. 

Courses not on this list may also count with approval from the Japanese adviser. This approval process is not complex and can be done via e-mail.

Requirements for the Minor

Select 4 credits from:

Select 6-8 credits from:


Tom Spencer is the undergraduate adviser for the major and minor in Asian Studies, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. To make an appointment, visit Starfish and hit ‘Log Into Starfish.’ Select “Appointments” and click the “Advisers” link at the top of the page to view Tom Spencer’s hours for the week. Please make an appointment if you need help with:

  • Your next semester schedule (language pre-majors and majors)
  • Concurrent major planning (feasibility, courses needed)
  • Academic difficulty
  • Faculty Senate petitions (retroactive withdrawal or registration, etc.)
  • Course selection