The Japanese program offers students a range of courses and activities that enhance students' intercultural and transcultural competencies. With the completion of the four basic years of the language, students will be prepared to handle various types of colloquial Japanese. Our majors pursue advanced studies in Japanese language or literature. It is also possible to combine an interest in Japan with a degree in business, engineering, history, or international studies.

Majors are urged to begin coursework early, ideally in the freshman or sophomore year. If, however, this is not possible, summer courses at UW–Madison or elsewhere are available which speed the student's progress. Those who have previous Japanese study experience may enter advanced courses on the basis of department recommendation.

Visit our website for more information about undergraduate studies in Japanese.

Study Abroad in Japan

Students may receive residence credit for study abroad through a variety of programs sponsored by the department. Please contact International Academic Programs for details.

Students may also receive credit, or gain experience, through various internship opportunities abroad. Please contact International Internship Programs for details.

Starting Coursework Toward the Major

Before declaring the major, students are urged to begin coursework early, ideally in the freshman or sophomore year. If, however, this is not possible, summer courses at UW–Madison or elsewhere are available which speed the student's progress. Those who have previous Japanese study experience may enter advanced courses on the basis of placement tests.

How to Get in

Placement Exam

The Asian Languages and Cultures department offers placement exams for students with prior language study or experience as a speaker of Japanese. For more information, see the department’s website

Declaring the Major

Students must meet with the undergraduate advisor to review the requirements and discuss course plans, make an appointment on Starfish.

Students may declare the major prior to completing the requisite language courses (1st and 2nd semester).

Students declared in the Japanese Professional Communication certificate may not be declared in the Japanese major at the same time. Students who do wish to declare the Japanese major must first cancel their declaration in the Japanese Professional Communication certificate.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (BA)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum.

Bachelor of Arts Degree Requirements

Mathematics Complete the University General Education Requirements for Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A) and Quantitative Reasoning B (QR-B) coursework.
  • Complete the fourth unit of a language other than English; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a language and the second unit of an additional language other than English.
LS Breadth
  • 12 credits of Humanities, which must include 6 credits of literature; and
  • 12 credits of Social Science; and
  • 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include one 3+ credit Biological Science course and one 3+ credit Physical Science course.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work Complete at least 60 credits at the intermediate or advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience
  • 30 credits in residence, overall; and
  • 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work
  • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
  • 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

Japanese Language Requisites
First Semester Japanese (complete one):4
First Semester Japanese
First Semester Elementary Japanese
and Second Semester Elementary Japanese
Followed by (complete all):
ASIALANG 104 Second Semester Japanese4
ASIALANG 203 Third Semester Japanese4
ASIALANG 204 Fourth Semester Japanese4
Required Japanese Language Course
ASIALANG 303 Fifth Semester Japanese4
Advanced Japanese Language Courses (complete 3 courses from the options below):9
Classical Japanese
Advanced Japanese: Solidifying the Foundations
Japanese Conversation
Business Japanese Communication
Advanced Readings in Japanese
Advanced Japanese through Audio-Visual Media
Japanese Studies Courses
Introductory Course (complete one):3
Gateway to Asia: Special Topics
Introduction to East Asian History: Japan
Lost in Translation: Western Experience in Asia
Asia Enchanted: Ghosts, Gods, and Monsters
Japanese Popular Culture
Introduction to East Asian Civilizations
Asian Religions in Global Perspective
Survey of Asian Art
Intermediate Courses (complete 3 courses from the options below):9
Lovers, Warriors and Monks: Survey of Japanese Literature
Early Modern Japanese Literature
Modern Japanese Literature
Japanese Ghost Stories
Language in Japanese Society
Love and Politics: The Tale of Genji
Topics in Japanese: Study Abroad
Introduction to Japanese Linguistics
Samurai: History and Image
Pearl Harbor & Hiroshima: Japan, the US & The Crisis in Asia
Classical Japanese
Introduction to the Anthropology of Japan
Topics in Japanese Literature
Modern Japanese Fiction
Capstone Course (complete one):3
Readings in Early Modern Japanese Literature
Readings in Modern Japanese Literature
Readings in Classical Japanese Literature
Senior Honors Thesis
Senior Thesis
Directed Study
Total Credits44

Residence and Quality of Work

  • 2.000 GPA in all major courses
  • 2.000 GPA in 15 upper-level major credits, in residence
  • 15 credits in the major, taken on campus

Upper-level major courses in the major:

ASIAN 310 Introduction to Comics and Graphic Novels: Theory, History, Method3
ASIAN 353 Lovers, Warriors and Monks: Survey of Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 354 Early Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 355 Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 357 Japanese Ghost Stories3
ASIAN 358 Language in Japanese Society3
ASIAN 361 Love and Politics: The Tale of Genji3
ASIAN 367 Haiku3
ASIAN 373 Topics in Japanese: Study Abroad1-6
ASIAN 376 Manga3
ASIAN 378 Anime3
ASIAN 434 Introduction to Japanese Linguistics3
ASIAN/​HISTORY  454 Samurai: History and Image3-4
ASIAN/​HISTORY  456 Pearl Harbor & Hiroshima: Japan, the US & The Crisis in Asia3-4
ASIAN 533 Readings in Early Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 563 Readings in Modern Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 573 Readings in Classical Japanese Literature3
ASIAN 681 Senior Honors Thesis3
ASIAN 682 Senior Honors Thesis3
ASIAN 691 Senior Thesis3
ASIAN 692 Senior Thesis3
ASIAN 698 Directed Study2-3
ASIAN 699 Directed Study2-3
ASIALANG 303 Fifth Semester Japanese4
ASIALANG 313 Classical Japanese3
ASIALANG 376 Japanese Conversation3
ASIALANG 377 Business Japanese Communication3
ASIALANG 375 Advanced Japanese: Solidifying the Foundations3
ASIALANG 451 Advanced Readings in Japanese3
ASIALANG 452 Advanced Japanese through Audio-Visual Media3
ANTHRO 357 Introduction to the Anthropology of Japan3-4
ART HIST 575 Proseminar in Japanese Art3
LITTRANS 368 Modern Japanese Fiction3
LITTRANS 373 Topics in Japanese Literature3

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Major in consultation with the undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Major Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major, students must satisfy both the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 University GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA for all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete the following coursework, with a grade of B or better:
    • Either ASIAN 699 or other appropriate course of 3–4 credits with the major professor, under whose guidance a student intends to write a thesis. This course must be taken before ASIAN 681.
    • Complete a two-semester Senior Honors Thesis in ASIAN 681 and ASIAN 682, for a total of 6 credits.

University Degree Requirements 

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Understand the content and cultural context of written texts and video materials with a large degree of independence, adapting style and speed of comprehension to different texts and purposes, and using appropriate reference sources selectively.
  2. Spontaneously exchange ideas about various topics with relative ease.
  3. State and support one’s own opinion while acknowledging others’ viewpoints.
  4. Demonstrate an awareness of the importance of pragmatic, sociolinguistic, and rhetorical features of the target language.
  5. Conduct library and/or internet-based research on topics relating to their particular interests and special fields of expertise, collecting and selecting relevant information using English and target language source materials.
  6. Synthesize and critically evaluate source materials in both English and the target language.
  7. Present (orally or in written language) their experiences and their introspection on these experiences in a coherent and effective manner.
  8. Demonstrate cultural awareness across historical epochs.
  9. Produce effective academic writing in English.

Four-Year Plan

This Four-Year Plan is only one way a student may complete an L&S degree with this major. Many factors can affect student degree planning, including placement scores, credit for transferred courses, credits earned by examination, and individual scholarly interests. In addition, many students have commitments (e.g., athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, work and volunteer experiences) that necessitate they adjust their plans accordingly. Informed students engage in their own unique Wisconsin Experience by consulting their academic advisors, Guide, DARS, and Course Search & Enroll for assistance making and adjusting their plan.

First Year
ASIAN 1003-4ASIAN/​ASIAN AM/​HISTORY  246 (meets Ethnic Studies requirement)4
Communication A3Quantitative Reasoning A3-4
Biological Science Breadth3Science Breadth3-4
 Students beginning language study this term may start with:
 14 15
Second Year
ASIALANG 2034ASIALANG 204 or 1044
Or students continue with:ASIAN/​RELIG ST  236 (Communication B)3
ASIAN 253 (Humanities Breadth)3
ASIAN/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI  255 (Social Science Breadth)3-4ASIAN 355 (Literature Breadth)3
ASIAN/​HISTORY/​RELIG ST  267 (Humanities Breadth)3-4Physical Science Breadth3-4
Quantitative Reasoning B3-4 
 14 16
Third Year
ASIALANG 303 or 2034ASIALANG 304 or 2044
ASIAN 367 (Literature Breadth)3ASIAN 6992-3
ASIAN 3731-6Science Breadth3
ASIAN/​HISTORY  4543-4Elective3-4
 16 16
Fourth Year
ASIALANG 303 (if not yet completed)4ASIALANG 304 (if not yet completed)4
ASIAN 4343ASIALANG 475 (Japanese topic only)3
ASIAN 6913ASIAN 6923
 16 13
Total Credits 120

Advising and Careers


If you like to plan, seeing your major advisor is very important; it can make the difference between fitting in general education and major requirements before you graduateMany students also try to complete more than one major or certificate, and discussing how you might be able to reach this goal is another primary role of your major advisor. Advisors can speak to you about course content, which courses fit best with your interest areas, and what kinds of courses might work best with your learning style. Any and all of these discussions can occur during your advising appointment.

Rachel Weiss is the advisor for the undergraduate majors and certificates in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures. She is happy to meet with students as they explore the degree options, prepare for study abroad, or advance through their four-year plans. Schedule an appointment in Starfish.

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.

Wisconsin Experience

Undergraduate Research

Students in the ALC department academic programs are encouraged to become engaged in undergraduate research. There are numerous programs that provide research opportunities for undergraduates at UW–Madison, including:

Resources and Scholarships

Department Scholarships

The Department of Asian Languages and Cultures has various scholarships to support meritorious students in our programs. Application information and deadlines.

Cameron G. Keith Memorial Scholarship 

This award is given annually to two undergraduate students studying Japanese. This award is announced during the fall semester, and eligible students may apply. The criteria are: Japanese major, junior or senior standing, cumulative GPA of 3.5 or above, currently taking Japanese, and plan to go into a Japanese-related profession. Cameron G. Keith was an East Asian Studies and Economics studies major at UW–Madison who studied abroad in Japan, and later in Nepal. In his memory, the Keith family established these funds in honor of his interest in the region.

Other Campus Resources

Foreign Language & Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships
East Asian Studies FLAS Coordinator: Laurie Dennis, Assistant Director, ldennis@wisc.edu, 325 Ingraham Hall

FLAS fellowships are funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered by UW–Madison's National Resource Centers to assist students in acquiring foreign language and either area or international studies competencies. FLAS awards are only available for specific languages and are contingent on federal funding. Please direct any questions to the FLAS Coordinator of your chosen language.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States. Applications by students in professional fields are encouraged. Preference will be given to applicants with a high level of academic ability and with previous language training. Academic Year and Summer FLAS awards are two separate competitions requiring two separate and complete applications.

This is the primary campuswide portal for applicants, current students, and everyone looking for scholarship opportunities on campus.

Undergraduate Academic Awards Office
We help UW–Madison undergraduates and recent graduates pursue nationally competitive scholarships and campus-wide awards for research, service, and leadership — activities at the heart of the Wisconsin Experience. We can help you:

  • Find scholarship opportunities that match your goals and interests
  • Navigate the scholarship application process
  • Review scholarship essays
  • Prepare for national scholarship interviews

Contact us to schedule an appointment​ to discuss which opportunities are right for you.

National Scholarships

Boren Scholarships 
Campus Representative: Undergraduates with questions should contact Matt Geisler, Associate Director of International Academic Programs

These scholarships provide up to $20,000 to U.S. undergraduate students to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central & Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. The countries of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are excluded. (Full list of preferred countries) Additionally, all programs must include formal study of an appropriate foreign language. (Full list of preferred languages). 

Critical Language Scholarship Program
Campus Representative: Mark Lilleleht, Assistant Director for Awards at awards@iris.wisc.edu

The CLS program is part of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a fully-funded overseas intensive language and cultural immersion program for American undergraduate and graduate students. With the goal of broadening the base of Americans studying and mastering critical languages and to build relationships between the people of the United States and other countries, CLS provides opportunities to a diverse range of students from across the United States at every level of language learning. The fourteen CLS languages are: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish, and Urdu.

The CLS Program seeks participants with diverse interests, from a wide variety of fields of study, backgrounds, and career paths, with the purpose of representing the full diversity of the United States. Thus, students from all academic disciplines, including business, engineering, law, medicine, science, social sciences, arts, and humanities are encouraged to apply.

Gilman Scholarship Program
Campus Representative: Andy Quackenbush

The Gilman Scholarship Program is an undergraduate grant program for U.S. citizens of limited financial means to enable them to study abroad, thereby internationalizing their outlook and better preparing them to assume significant roles in the increasingly global economy.