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Department of Japanese Studies

Where tradition and modernity coalesce
Founded in 1917, our department is one of the oldest Asian language and culture centres in Australia.

We conduct teaching and research in Japanese modern and pre-modern history, language, society and literature. Our students acquire a combination of language proficiency and an in-depth understanding of cultural difference, enabling professional opportunities in a number of areas ranging from international business to government and non-government organisations. 

The University’s East Asian Collection includes over 120,000 titles consisting of primary and secondary sources from China, Japan and Korea. The library also boasts a rich collection of books on Japanese art and art history.

Our study offering

One of the oldest subject areas of its kind in the English-speaking world, Japanese Studies offers consideration of a rich history and culture, as well as a rewarding language experience. Undertake an in-country exchange with our large network of partner universities in Japan and prepare for employment in education, government, media, international relations and the private sector.


*Available as a major and minor within the Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of Economics and Bachelor of Visual Arts, as well as all combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies  degrees.  


Our research

Our strengths in research cover the following areas:

  • cultures of consumption in Japan
  • cultural approaches to nutrition health
  • interconnections of modern Japanese social, cultural, and political history
  • Japanese pre-modern intellectual history and political philosophy
  • Japanese cinema and mass culture
  • Japanese humour and comedy
  • Japanese and East Asian media, the government, media industry, and audience nexus
  • Japanese sociolinguistics and linguistics
  • Japanese language and pedagogy
  • modern Japanese poetry, comparative literature, and Australian literature
  • modern and contemporary Japanese fiction and literary theory
  • pop and media culture and the literature-anime nexus
  • pre-modern Japanese urban history
  • pre-modern and modern Japanese theatre and popular entertainment
  • early temple and residential architecture
  • spatial theory: spatial-structural history
  • Chinese communities in Australia and Japan
  • Japan-Korea relations, historical and contemporary
  • postcolonial studies and cross-cultural representations.

The Inoue Yasushi Award

The Inoue Yasushi Award for Outstanding Research in Japanese Literature, Culture and Art has been awarded annually, beginning in 2007, for the best refereed journal article or book chapter published in English by a researcher based in Australia or New Zealand during the previous year.

The recipient will receive AU$1,500 and a certificate of award at our annual award ceremony.

Inoue Yasushi was a prominent post-Second World War novelist and poet. He wrote in many genres ranging from contemporary novels focusing on social problems to historical novels. He was a unique writer who managed to combine serious themes with fascinating and intriguing plots. Inoue’s works are still very popular, reaching a wide general readership as well as scholars and intellectuals.

The Inoue Yasushi Memorial Foundation established the award in order to encourage Australian interest in Japanese literature generally, and in Inoue Yasushi more particularly. The Foundation also generously donated 28 volumes of Inoue Yasushi’s collected works, which can be found in the East Asian Collection of Fisher Library at the University of Sydney.


  • Researcher based in Australia or New Zealand 
  • Published refereed journal article or book chapter on Japanese literature, culture, or art published in English during the previous year of award

How to apply

Submit an electronic copy of your work with a cover letter to the Committee Chair, Dr Mats Karlsson:

2019: Dr Lucy Fraser (University of Queensland)

“Dogs, Gods, and Monsters: The Animal–Human Connection in Bakin’s Hakkenden, Folktales and Legends, and Two Contemporary Retellings”, article published in Japanese Studies, Vol. 38(1), 2018.

2018: Associate Professor Roy Starrs (University of Otago)

“Renga: A European Poem and its Japanese Model”, article published in Comparative Literature Studies, Vol. 54(2), 2017.

2017: Dr Royall Tyler – Lifetime Achievement Award

2016: Dr Tamaki Mihic (née Tokita) (University of Sydney)

“The Post-3/11 Quest for True Kizuna – Shi no Tsubute by Wago Ryoichi and Kamisama 2011 by Kawakami Hiromi”, article published in The Asia–Pacific Journal, Vol. 13(7), 2015.

2015: Roger Pulvers – Lifetime Achievement Award

2014: Associate Professor Rebecca Suter (University of Sydney)

“Grand Demons and Little Devils: Akutagawa’s Kirishitan mono as a Mirror of Modernity”, article published in Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 39(1), 2013.

2013: Dr Helen Kilpatrick (University of Wollongong)

"Envisioning the Shōjo Aesthetic in Illustrations of Miyazawa Kenji’s Literature", article published in PORTAL Journal of Multidisciplinary International Studies, Vol. 9(3), 2012.

2012: Associate Professor Edwina Palmer (Victoria University of Wellington)

"A poem to carp about? Poem 16-3828 of the Man’yōshū collection", article published in the Bulletin of School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), Vol. 74(3), 2011.

2011: Dr Vera Mackie (University of Wollongong)

"Reading Lolita in Japan", chapter in Girl Reading Girl in Japan (London: Routledge), 2010.

2010: Dr Mats Karlsson (University of Sydney)

“Writing Madness: Deranged Impressions in Akutagawa’s Cogwheels and Strindberg’s Inferno”, article published in Comparative Literature Studies in Vol. 46(4), 2009.

2009: Dr Ian McArthur (University of Sydney)

“Narrating the Law in Japan: Rakugo in the Meiji Law Reform Debate,” article published in the Electronic Journal of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Issue 4, 2008.

2008: Dr Roman Rosenbaum (University of Sydney)

“The ‘Generation of the Burnt-out Ruins’”, article published in Japanese Studies, Vol. 27(3), 2007.

2007 Inaugural prize: Dr Tomoko Aoyama (University of Queensland)

“Appropriating Bush Tucker: Food in Inoue Hisashi’s Yellow Rats”, article published in the Journal of Australian Studies, Vol. 30(87), 2006.


Our advanced exchange programs provide life-changing experiences in Japan where students exercise their language skills and develop an understanding of cultural intricacies first hand. 

  • University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki-Ken
  • Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto
  • Nagoya University, Nagoya
  • Rikkyo University, Tokyo
  • Hosei University, Tokyo

Our people


See our school's calendar for a full listing of upcoming events.

Department Chair


  • School of Languages and Cultures, Room 506, Brennan MacCallum Building A18, The University of Sydney NSW 2006

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