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Why study pre-modern and early-modern Japanese?



One can easily imagine what is going on in the minds of many of you who have decided to explore this page....

Pre-modern and early-modern Japanese? Classical Japanese?

Boring! Difficult! Useless!


..... well, studying classical Japanese will actually prove you wrong!

Because classical (pre-modern and early-modern) Japanese is the hard-core part of your curriculum!!!


Nothing better than starting by listening to why your senpai are enjoying the study of pre-modern and early-modern (classical) Japanese.

Second-year students (2012-13)

Helena Laughton

Oliver White

Fourth-year students (2012-13)


Dan Anscomb

Emily Liu


Ed Phillips


Frederick Feilden



Here are some of the reasons for studying pre-modern and early-modern Japanese


Are you interested in modern Japanese language or in linguistics? The study of pre-modern and early-modern Japanese allows you to gain a better understanding of modern Japanese and of the functioning of the Japanese language, as you will:

-  Understand the roots of vocabulary and grammar that are still used in modern Japanese. Are you thinking that this is a lie?   Test yourself! CLICK HERE

- Learn new vocabulary which will allow you to communicate in a learned way

- Translate not only in English but also from classical Japanese into modern Japanese.

This means that you will  practice your modern Japanese more than students who do not choose classical Japanese!


It allows you to have access to sources that will otherwise remain inaccessible. You do not want to be unable to read in the original language what Japanese wrote up to the beginning of the 19th-century, do you?!? Then, to get familiar with classical Japanese is the only way to have unlimited access to anything Japanese.


Are you into manga, anime, video-games? Do you have an interest in pursuing your interest in a future career as a translator? Well, you might be surprised to know that a variety of products of Japanese contemporary pop-culture, you need to know pre-modern and early-modern Japanese to understand these texts in depth. Here are some examples of products of pop-culture which require knowledge of pre-modern language, literature and culture: manga and anime 少年陰陽師-ライトノベル; anime 御伽草子; manga and tv drama 大奥; manga and anime さらい屋五葉; videogame and anime 薄桜鬼; manga あさきゆめみし; manga and anime ちはやふる; manga and anime 超訳百人一首・歌恋い ... and the list could continue! Become a 'real' expert by being able to decode the deep structures of these texts and you can only do so if you have a solid knowledge of pre-modern and early-modern Japanese and Japan.


Are you into history? How can you understand history and talk about it without accessing the primary sources of different epochs of Japanese history? Once more, what you need is a knowledge of pre-modern and early-modern Japanese.



Are you interested in the development of the new field of Digital Humanities? Discover how the field of pre-modern and early-modern Japanese literature is facing the challenges of the digital era via digital reproductions, digital critical editions, translations in e-book format. You can be part of this project! See also Challenges of the digital era.