University of Washington

Office of Academic Services

Thomson Hall Room 111

Japan Studies



Faculty Program Adviser

Degree Requirements
Language Requirement
Required Core Course
Other Course Work
Final Paper(s) and Oral Exam
Applying to Graduate
Program Procedures for Finishing
Registration and Planning Your Class Schedule
Fellowship Applications and Financial Aid


A JSIS Japan faculty member will be appointed as your Faculty Program Adviser. You should meet with your faculty adviser at least once a year (preferably once a quarter) to review your course of study, program requirements, and guidelines for completing the degree. You will find that some actions on your part need formal approval from the Faculty Program Adviser. This approval should be in writing and placed in your file in the GPA’s office.

Familiarize yourself with both the Japan Studies Program Requirements for a Master of Arts in International Studies and the General Graduate School Requirements for a Master’s Degree. The Japan Studies Program requirements are designed to meet Graduate School requirements automatically, but it is important to note that you must satisfy both sets of requirements to graduate.
Language Requirement
The Japan Studies Program requires that you attain competency in the Japanese language through at least the third-year level.  This competency may be demonstrated either by results from the UW proficiency test or through course work.  Those considering third-year Japanese or higher should talk with the instructors of these classes to determine which would be the most appropriate level.  Information on proficiency and placement tests is available through the Department of Asian Languages and Literature:
Students are strongly encouraged to take language throughout their studies at the University of Washington.  Those who enter the program with proficiency beyond the third-year level may continue language study through classes in fourth-year or classical Japanese, readings in Japanese in the social sciences, the Technical Japanese Program offered through the College of Engineering, or a variety of literature courses based on Japanese-language texts. Discipline (non-language training) courses in which the readings are primarily in Japanese can be counted toward the 46 credits of additional course work described on pages 4-5 under “Other Course Work.”
Required Core Course
SISEA 555/Introduction to Modern Japanese Studies (5 cr.)
This component of the program introduces the interdisciplinary approach to the study of modern Japan with emphasis on analysis of academic articles in various disciplines. You must take this course in your first year and receive a minimum grade of 3.0.
Other Course Work
You must complete 46 additional credits in discipline (non-language training) course work with at least 13 credits at the 500 or 600 level. All courses should relate to your program, which is planned in conjunction with the Faculty Program Adviser to ensure that both individual and program goals are met. At least one history course and one social science course on Japan are required as part of the 46 credits.   Up to 15 credits from advanced Japanese language classes may be counted toward these 46 additional credits. A minimum grade of 3.0 is required in the core course and other course work.
While most of your work should focus on Japan, students may take a maximum of two courses not specifically focused on Japan for the purposes of fulfilling specific educational or professional objectives. For instance, those planning to pursue a PhD may find that the departments they wish to enter have prerequisites they must fulfill. On the other hand, a student may find that a non-Japan course will provide relevant topical information to assist in writing the final paper(s). Students pursuing non-university careers may determine that course work from departments or schools relevant to their career objectives (e.g. Public Affairs, Communications, Business Administration, Education, etc.) will be useful. Those doing a concurrent degree could use this option to count two courses for both their Japan Studies requirements and their professional program requirements. Prior to taking any non-Japan related courses, though, you should obtain written approval from your Faculty Program Adviser confirming that these courses can be counted toward your Japan Studies requirements.
In selecting Japan-related courses, students should consult the List of Approved Non-Language Graduate Courses for Japan Graduate Students. Both Graduate Independent Study focused on Japan and other courses on Japan which are not on the approved list may be counted toward program requirements, but only with written approval from your Faculty Program Adviser. While language classes cannot be used here, Japanese literature courses can be.
It is preferable to take only courses at the 400 or 500 level. You may take a 300-level course as Graduate Independent Study at the 600 level, making a contract with the instructor to do the work required for the class plus extra work to meet graduate-level standards.  While Graduate Independent Study at the 600 level may count toward your overall credits, it is not considered graded credit even though you may receive a decimal grade. Such grades are not included in your GPA.
Final Paper(s) and Oral Exam
Most students write two research papers to complete the degree requirements. If you think you would like to write a longer, more rigorous Essay of Distinction, consult your Faculty Program Adviser first. An Essay of Distinction should utilize resources written in Japanese, and additional steps are required (such as forming an advisory committee, oral presentation of the Essay, and defense of the Essay).
No later than Friday of the eighth week of Autumn Quarter in the second (final) year, you must indicate which of the two options  you will fulfill for the final paper requirement by returning the MA Completion Form to the Graduate Program Adviser.
Two Research Papers
These papers should originate from courses you have taken and must be written for courses completed before your final quarter. They must be on two different topics and written for two different professors. At least one of the papers must have been written for a member of the Japan faculty with a graduate appointment in the Jackson School, and the papers must be approved by the faculty as qualifying to fulfill this degree requirement (a higher standard than simply  receiving a passing grade). Each paper should be 20-25 pages in length. The papers may be a part of regular course work or may be written for additional SISEA 600 credit in conjunction with a formal (regularly scheduled) course. 
The first paper must be completed and approved when you submit the MA Completion Form by the eighth Friday of Autumn Quarter in your final year in the program.  The second paper must be completed and approved by the fifth Friday of your final quarter.  
Essay of Distinction
An Essay of Distinction is only for students who have prior approval from two faculty members willing to work with them in developing a very rigorous research paper. Typically 35-50 pages (10,000-15,000 words), an Essay of Distinction presents a clear research question and statement of hypothesis/argument, and draws on Japanese-language sources. More information about standards and requirements for this option is available from the GPA or your Faculty Program Adviser.
If you choose this option, your MA Completion Form will include a statement of your hypothesis along with signatures of members of your faculty advisory committee. The final version of your Essay will be due to the Office of Student Services by 3:00 P.M. on Friday of the eighth week of the quarter in which you intend to complete the degree requirements.  An oral defense of the Essay will be scheduled when the Essay is accepted, usually in the last week of your final quarter.
Oral Exam
Students writing two research papers will take an oral exam during the fifth week of instruction in their final quarter in the program.   Those choosing to write Essays of Distinction will take their oral exam during the final week of the final quarter, after the Essay is approved by the supervisory committee. The exam will be administered by the faculty for whom the student wrote research papers or by the faculty supervisory committee for the Essay of Distinction. The exam will include questions on the subject matters of the courses the student has taken at UW and general knowledge of Japan, but topics may also include any completed essay(s).  The exam is expected to last one hour, but it may take longer.  In the event of an unsatisfactory exam, a retake will be scheduled.  You will receive an evaluation of “fail,” “pass,” “high pass,” or “excellent” for the exam.
To graduate, you must apply through the Graduate School’s website: The application period commences the first day of the quarter of intended graduation. It is preferable for you to apply to graduate as early in the quarter as possible. 
When you apply to graduate, the Graduate School’s degree auditing software will review your record to determine whether you have met Graduate School requirements and let you know by email of outstanding Graduate School requirements.
It is important for you to maintain your status as a student until you graduate. To do this, you must be registered for every quarter except Summer Quarter, or be formally on leave.

In your second year of the program, you should take these steps to complete the degree requirements:
Autumn Quarter: Submit the MA Completion Form with required faculty signature(s) to the Graduate Program Adviser (see pages 6-7).
The Quarter Before You Wish to Graduate: Schedule appointments with the GPA and Faculty Program Adviser to review your coursework at UW and to make sure you have sufficient credits to graduate.
Your Final Quarter: (1) Apply to graduate through the Graduate School’s website (see page 7). (2) Submit your final research paper (see page 6). (3) If you’re writing an Essay of Distinction, you’ll present your research at a Japan Colloquium and turn in the final essay in the eighth week. (4) Take the oral exam (see page 7).
If you finish all required course work and need only to complete your Final Paper(s), you may want to consider going on leave for one quarter before you finish. In the quarter you return, you can register for SISEA 600/Independent Study credit with a member of the Japan faculty and reapply to graduate.

Registration for classes begins in the middle of the preceding quarter (middle of Spring Quarter for Autumn). Course booklets on East Asia, which contain course descriptions for the upcoming quarter, are available in Student Services prior to each registration period. Course information is also available on the Japan Program’s website at As a continuing student, you will be eligible to register in the first Registration Period. Registering early will ensure entry into the classes you want.
Usually there are no classes on Japan offered at the UW during Summer Quarter, except intensive Japanese, which is offered by the Department of Asian Languages and Literature. First- and second-year Japanese are standard summer offerings, and sometimes third year is offered as well. You may wish to consider an internship or other summer language programs during these months. Consult with the Faculty Program Adviser during Winter Quarter if you are considering another summer language program.

First Year in the Program

  •  Autumn Quarter: Meet with Graduate Program Coordinator to review your educational and professional goals and plan your curriculum.
  • Autumn Quarter: Take JSIS A 555.

Second Year in the Program

  • Autumn Quarter: MA Completion Form due Friday of eighth week, along with one completed research paper for those choosing this option. See Graduate Program Adviser, Paula Milligan, with any questions and to obtain form.
  • Penultimate Quarter: Meet with Graduate Program Coordinator and Graduate Program Adviser to review your credits and coursework for completing the degree.
  • Final Quarter: Apply to graduate.
  • Final Quarter: Second research paper is due with faculty signature on MA Completion Form by Friday of first week.
  • Final Quarter: Essays of Distinction are due on Friday of the eighth week.
  • Final Quarter: Oral exams will be administered in the fifth week for students submitting two research papers and in the last week for students writing Essays of Distinction.

The application deadline for most fellowships offered through the Jackson School will be early in Winter Quarter. This application may include Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) Fellowships and other fellowships. Awards are made during Spring Quarter for the following summer and/or academic year. Specific questions concerning fellowships should be addressed to the Fellowships Coordinator, Robyn Davis, in JSIS Student Services or to James Donnen, the Director of Student Services. Foreign nationals, who are ineligible for FLAS awards, should complete the application in order to be considered for other fellowships offered in the Jackson School.
Fellowship applications will require some of the same materials submitted for admission to the Japan Studies Program. Because of time constraints and other limitations, however, JSIS Student Services cannot provide copies of admission materials, so it is important to be sure you have your own copies of materials such as GRE scores and transcripts from all previous universities attended. Photocopies of these documents are sufficient.
Faculty evaluations and grades earned at the UW are of particular importance to JSIS fellowship committees, so it is helpful to carry a full load of relevant courses and to do well in them. It is important to make good progress toward your degree before applying, and you must continue this progress if you receive a JSIS fellowship. For information on need-based financial aid, check with the Financial Aid Office in Schmitz Hall. The website is

The University has a large library system housed in many different buildings across all three campuses (Seattle, Bothell, and Tacoma). There is a reference section on the first floor of Suzzallo Library. This can be particularly helpful in searching for materials via online catalogue or published indexes. The East Asia Library is in Gowen Hall and the Law Library is in William H. Gates Hall; other branch libraries also contain Japan-related resources.


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African Studies Program
University of Washington
326 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195

Joel Ngugi / Chair
Associate Professor, School of Law

Mary Kay Gugerty/Adjunct Director
Associate Professor, Evans School of Public Affairs

Erin Murphy/Program Assistant
Autumn Quarter Office Hours: Tues/Thurs 9-12, or by appt.
206.616.0998 office
206.685.0668 fax

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