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トップ >  Home >  Academics >  Undergraduate Studies > Japanese Language and Literature

Japanese Language and Literature

The Department of Japanese Language and Literature offers classes in three major areas of study: classical Japanese literature, modern Japanese literature and Japanese linguistics.
The study of classical Japanese Literature focuses particularly on the outstanding pieces of literature written from the 8th to the middle of the 19th century. Among them, the Tale of Genji, widely considered to be the oldest novel in the world and written in the early 11th century by Lady Murasaki, had a significant influence on the Japanese literature of later times. In the class of “Reading the Tale of Genji”, students are expected to read the original Japanese text. Through the process, the students deepen their understanding of the historical background, ancient customs and practices, and Japanese thoughts and sensibilities. Such knowledge, which provides basic background information, will help prepare students to understand Japanese literature throughout the centuries.

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The study of Japanese Modern Literature deals with literature in the period from the middle of the 19th century to the contemporary period. For example, “Outline of Modern Japanese Literature” covers literature from 1920 to the present; the Showa and Heisei Eras. Literary selections from this period, including novels by Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Kenzaburo Oe, Haruki Murakami and other major writers, are studied with regard to their political, economic and social background, and also by utilizing various visual reference materials such as movies.
In the study of Japanese linguistics, history, grammar, and other aspects of Japanese language are specially focused upon. For example, in “Japanese Linguistics,” lectures are given on how the Japanese language has developed historically, what kind of language it has become, and where it stands in the world from the linguistic perspectives of phonetics, accents, characters, and notations.

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There are also classes that examine Japanese linguistics and literature from worldwide linguistic perspectives. “Comparative Linguistics” examines the structural differences between Japanese and the English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean languages, in order to consider the characteristics of the Japanese language. Or, “Comparative Literature” studies the Japanese literature in comparison with literatures of foreign languages with Christian cultural backgrounds.

“Self-Structured Exercise of Japanese Literature” is a unique class which awards credits to students who submit reports about their own research on selected themes in relation to Japanese literature. For example, students may visits museums, watch movies or go to theaters and submit reports based on their own experience. Students favor such classes, which respect their independence and own design of the course structure.

Most of the classes in the Department of Japanese Language and Literature require the students to have considerable Japanese proficiency. Students, however, can improve their level of Japanese by challenging classes taught in Japanese. The department wishes to offer students whose native language is not Japanese the opportunity to improve their Japanese, to learn Japanese literature analytically, and to re-discover Japan through these classes.
Classes in Japanese Language and Literacture specially recommended for international students

Kabuki & Haiku
In the General Education Curriculum there are several classes that may be particularly interesting for international students who wish to study Japanese culture, literature and language. For example, Regional Culture Ia and Ib focus on Kabuki, which is a traditional Japanese performing art of drama and dancing.

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Kabuki had its origin in the early 17th century, which was the early period of the Edo Era, and was established as a popular performing art in the 19th century. A female dancer named Izumo no Okuni is said to have initiated the avant-garde dance performance, which later was called Kabuki. Gradually however, female performers were replaced by young boys and later by adult men. Even the characters of women were played by men, as we see today. Stories of Kabuki plays were often comic, or absurd, and actors wore gaudy dresses and heavy makeup, which were much applauded by people in the Edo Era. At the same time, there were also Kabuki plays which tried to realistically dramatize common people’s lives and emotions. Today, in Kabuki plays, many of the 300 year-old costumes, language dialects, and customs of the Edo Era are still preserved, and strong relevance to contemporary Japanese culture can be observed.

Other courses of interest include Studies of Japanese Culture, which offer opportunities for foreign students to learn about Haiku, a form of Japanese traditional poetry, and to practice creation of their own. Haiku is an extremely short poem with only 17 syllables, within which kigo, a word that symbolically expresses the season, should be included. Haiku poetry helped Japanese people acquire succinct expression of a rich sense of seasons. There are, still existing, many excellent Haiku poems that were created in the Edo Era, as well as in the 19th century.  In these classes, through appreciation of those classic Haiku, with the focus on the season words, students can deepen their understanding of the nature and climate of Japan, and the life and beliefs of its people.  Students are also expected to write critiques or to create Haiku poems themselves. Exchanging reviews among students will also help them understand Japanese culture through their own experience.

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