Japanese Language

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

The Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures offers a PhD program in Japanese Language. The department only admits students into the PhD program.

As a rule, students wishing to enter the graduate program should have completed an undergraduate program comparable to the undergraduate major in this department. Students who do not have BA or MA degrees in East Asian Languages and Cultures (or Japanese) or in similar fields can be considered for admission. If admitted, these students are often required to make up deficiencies in their course work. This can result in a lengthening of the normative time to degree (seven years).

The department only admits students into the PhD program. You must indicate that a PhD is your degree goal on the application materials. Students who have not completed an MA degree before beginning study at Berkeley will have to complete the requirements for the MA before proceeding to the PhD program. After completion of the MA requirements (coursework and thesis), students are evaluated for permission to proceed to the PhD portion of the program. Students who have completed an MA degree before beginning study at Berkeley may apply for admission directly to the PhD program. After one year in the PhD program, such students will be evaluated before being permitted to continue in the program.

UC Berkeley graduate students from other disciplines who are considering transferring into the degree program in Japanese language undergo the same faculty review as first-time applicants. However, they do not complete the Graduate Application. Students in this category should contact the department graduate assistant for instructions.

The length of time needed to complete an advanced degree in the department depends on financial considerations, the extent of the student's earlier preparation, and other factors. Under optimum conditions, the MA can be earned in two years and the PhD in an additional four to five years.

Step by Step. To learn how best to prepare for study at the graduate level in the humanities and the social sciences, current undergraduates may find useful Step by Step, a resource for UC Berkeley students to enrich their undergraduate academic experience and to prepare for graduate school.

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Admission to the University

Applying for Graduate Admission

Thank you for considering UC Berkeley for graduate study! UC Berkeley offers more than 120 graduate programs representing the breadth and depth of interdisciplinary scholarship. The Graduate Division hosts a complete list of graduate academic programs, departments, degrees offered, and application deadlines can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Prospective students must submit an online application to be considered for admission, in addition to any supplemental materials specific to the program for which they are applying. The online application and steps to take to apply can be found on the Graduate Division website.

Admission Requirements

The minimum graduate admission requirements are:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or recognized equivalent from an accredited institution;

  2. A satisfactory scholastic average, usually a minimum grade-point average (GPA) of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale; and

  3. Enough undergraduate training to do graduate work in your chosen field.

For a list of requirements to complete your graduate application, please see the Graduate Division’s Admissions Requirements page. It is also important to check with the program or department of interest, as they may have additional requirements specific to their program of study and degree. Department contact information can be found here.

Where to apply?

Visit the Berkeley Graduate Division application page.

Admission to the Program

Applications are reviewed and ranked by the entire faculty. The faculty makes its selection on the basis of academic records and on whether or not the applicant's academic goals can be met by the department's programs. Those chosen are recommended to the Graduate Division, which sets the number of students the department can admit, makes a final review of the applications, and issues an official letter of admission to the student. The number of students the department can admit is usually very small and standards for admission are highly competitive.

The graduate application is submitted electronically; the online application becomes available in September for admission effective the following year. See the Graduate Division website for details. All applicants must use the online application.

Transcripts. Applicants will submit unofficial transcripts, GRE scores, and other admissions materials online as part of the application. Admitted students will be required to submit two copies of all official transcripts in envelopes sealed by the issuing institutions at a later date.

Letters of Recommendation. Three letters of recommendation are required. As part of the application you will have to submit the names and contact information for the letter writers. Letters in languages other than English should be translated into English, but the original letter, in the original language, must be included. The department recommends that letters of recommendation come from faculty members who can comment on the applicant's intellectual capacity, analytical skills, ability to write English, and general aptitude for scholarly work. Letters from nonacademic referees are rarely helpful. All letters must be submitted online by the recommenders no later than two weeks after the application deadline to ensure that they are included in the review process.

Academic Writing Sample. A writing sample in English must be included with the online application. The writing sample is intended to gauge an applicant's academic writing ability, and should be a paper that the student feels best represents the quality of his/her work. An ideal writing sample will be around 20 pages on a topic related to East Asian studies, but a paper on another topic or of a different length may be acceptable.

GRE Test Scores. The GRE is currently required.

Applicants from Abroad. International applicants are urged to examine closely the requirements for certification and translation of records and TOEFL requirements provided in the graduate application and the information on legal residency and fees.

Doctoral Degree Requirements

Application to Degree Programs

All prospective graduate students must apply for the PhD program. The department does not offer terminal MA degrees; instead, an MA degree may be earned while progressing toward the PhD.

Normative Time Requirements

Normative Time to Advancement: The total normative time to advancement is five years.
Normative Time in Candidacy: The total time in candidacy is two years.
Total Normative Time: The total normative time of the program is seven years.

PhD Curriculum

Courses Required
EA LANG 200Proseminar: Approaches to East Asian Studies4
Graduate Seminars:
Three JAPAN seminars (four units each) for a letter grade before proceeding to the PhD.
Two JAPAN seminars and one seminar outside your area in a cognate discipline for a letter grade (four units each) after proceeding to the PhD.

Language Requirements

Japanese MA

Fluency in modern and classical Japanese. The classical Japanese requirement must be satisfied by completion of a classical Japanese seminar taken for four units for a letter grade. Students entering the program without having taken an introduction to classical Japanese elsewhere are expected to take J120 as well.

Japanese PhD

Reading competence in a language other than Japanese relevant to the program, chosen in consultation with the Primary Advisor. Competence will normally be demonstrated by three years of language study at Berkeley or its equivalent. (Coursework must be taken for a letter-grade.) Native speakers of a language other than English do not automatically fulfill the language requirement; the language must be appropriate to advanced research in the program.

MA Requirements

  • EA LANG 200, "Proseminar: Approaches to East Asian Studies" is required, normally in the first year.
  • A minimum of three graduate seminars (four units each) in the Japanese language field in the department will be required, for a letter grade. EA LANG 200 will not count toward the three required seminars. The department also encourages students to take a "Materials and Methods" seminar as part of the MA program.
  • 8 additional units, in consultation with the primary adviser.

All courses required for the degree must be finished by the last day of the semester in which the student expects the degree to be conferred.

Students will have the option of taking additional seminars beyond the three required for the MA degree for two units, in which case no seminar paper is required. Each EALC seminar is structured with a 4 unit norm and 2 unit option.

Students who will need to acquire a second language from scratch to satisfy PhD requirements (q.v.) will be advised to begin work on that language as early as possible.

MA Thesis
An MA thesis, usually based on a previous research paper and limited to 50 pages, is required. If the MA thesis involves a translation, the translation may be added as an appendix, which will not count toward the page limit.

Mechanism for Continuation or Termination at the MA Level
A review of graduate students will take place in the middle and at the end of their first year and annually thereafter, and conveyed to the students in writing.

PhD Requirements

Two JAPAN graduate seminars for four units and for a letter grade in the department are required after completion of the MA, as well as at least one course outside the department in a cognate discipline, also for four units and for a letter grade.

Qualifying Examination
The following will be required:

  • Three written examinations on fields within the department.
  • One written examination on a field outside the department.
  • Oral examination.

The purpose of the qualifying examination is to ensure that the student possesses adequate breadth and depth of preparation needed to conduct dissertation research and teach. The student will normally choose reading lists in consultation with examiners and then meet regularly to discuss those readings with them. The written examinations will be based on those readings and discussions. The oral examination that follows is not meant to be a separate field of inquiry; instead, it is designed to pursue issues raised in the written segments.

The oral examination will take place one week after completion of the last written examination. It will last three hours and be attended by all four members of the qualifying examination committee. It will be devoted to further investigation of issues raised in the written examinations.

A dissertation is required. Students should meet with their dissertation chairs to decide on appropriate timelines for research abroad and the completion of individual chapters. Students are not required to defend the dissertation once the dissertation committee has decided the dissertation is finished.


Japanese Language

Contact Information

Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures

3413 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-3480

Fax: 510-642-6031


Visit Department Website

Department Chair

Robert Ashmore

3403 Dwinelle Hall


Director of Graduate Studies

Andrew Jones


Graduate Student Affairs Officer

Grant Tompkins

3414 Dwinelle Hall

Phone: 510-642-4497


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