Japanese Language Program

Poised just off the edge of the Asian continent, Japan has been an important bridge between Asian and Western cultures since the 19th century.

Gateway to the East

Many vocabulary items in modern Chinese and Korean were coined from Japanese inventions for English words such as "electricity" and "democracy." In addition to serving as a mediator of Western scientific and technological knowledge for Asia, Japan is a center of commerce, trade, education, and culture in East Asia. Today, in Asia, "Japan is in vogue," writes a Taiwanese scholar. Japan is a trendsetter for Asian fashion, and "Japanese cultural commodities are ubiquitous" throughout Asia (and, one might add, through manga, anime, Godzilla, Ultraman and the Pokemon, throughout the West as well). Japan, one might say, is the gateway to the East.


Students who have studied in KU's Japanese Language and Literature/Culture program have found employment in countries around the world. One student who combined computer science studies with Japanese worked for a Japanese computer firm in Japan and then for an American firm that based him in Zurich, Switzerland. Another student added Japanese studies to his business major, attended Sophia University through KU's Study Abroad Program, and is today a CPA with the Deutsche Bank Group in Tokyo. Another combined Japanese with computer science, acquired a law degree, and became a legal expert on technical affairs in charge of Microsoft's Pacific Region. Yet another former Japanese major now teaches English at a Yokohama National University and acts in Japanese television dramas and t.v. commercials. Many who majored in Japanese have gone on to graduate studies at Michigan, Columbia, the University of California, and other universities. Many are now teaching Japanese language and literature/culture at universities, colleges, and high schools.


Beyond the practical advantages that comes to those who learn it, studying Japanese possesses its own intrinsic rewards. Learning a language whose syntax is virtually the reverse of that of English and whose writing system of two phonetic syllabaries and several thousand Chinese characters is the world's most complex and exercises the mind in unique ways. Learning the language opens the door to the world of a very different culture with very different thinking patterns and over a millennium of outstanding cultural achievement. As anyone who has made the effort to learn Japanese can attest, studying the Japanese language can be the beginning of a fascinating, all encompassing relationship with a people that grows richer and more interesting as one goes on.

Japanese Placement Exam 

If you are enrolling at KU for the first time and want to continue your study of Japanese, you should take an on-line placement exam prior to your arrival on campus. To take the exam, you will need to request a single-use username and password. Once your request is processed, you will receive an e-mail containing full instructions for the exam, including the username and password that you will need.

Upon completion of the exam, you will be given a preliminary placement, which you should use to register for a specific Japanese course. During the first week of classes, you should meet with your instructor to confirm the accuracy of the placement. If it is determined that another course would be more appropriate, you will be allowed to transfer to that course.

Proficiency goals for KU Japanese language courses (PDF).