Master’s (Doctoral) Program in Area Studies

A program that foster ideas from local areas while developing a global perspective

The Area Studies Program is characterized by attachment to and empathy with local communities, familiarity with the life and culture of local societies, fostering ideas from the local community, rather than from the national level, and collaborating on research across multiple disciplines. In the 21st century, important issues like hunger, which knows no borders; regional conflicts; environmental problems, such as global warming and declining biodiversity; and the challenge of building globally shared values for our coexistence are felt on a global scale but their solutions demand the local, on-the-ground responses informed by area studies.

It was in response to this demand that Sophia University established a specialized area studies major in 1997. The Department of Area Studies offers instruction in the history, society, culture, politics, economics, and development of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin America, aiming to foster professionals with advanced knowledge of the region and an advanced ability to apply that knowledge.


In the Master’s Program, students deepen their specialized understanding of their selected target region by taking seminar-style courses in area studies, a group of courses that examine the development of each region, and fieldwork. In the second year, students work on their master’s thesis under the supervision of a faculty advisor.

In the doctoral program, students are required to complete prescribed coursework and receive guidance from multiple faculty members for deep investigation of their own research themes. After doctoral dissertation qualifying examinations in the second year (consisting of submitting a thesis proposal, oral examination, and foreign language examination), students prepare a research plan and concentrate on writing their doctoral dissertation. The doctoral program offers a wide range of career opportunities for graduates, including positions at domestic and international universities, regional research institutes, think tanks, media, government offices, and private companies.

Granted Degree


Program Features

Deep Issue Awareness, Advanced Knowledge, and an Eagerness to Act

Contemporary area studies, which seek to make intellectual discoveries closely with local communities, a rarity in this age of globalization, requires a deep awareness of issues concerning the state of the world, advanced local knowledge, and a great ability to act both in Japan and in local communities. Above all, mastery of local languages is essential for understanding the region from within.

Aiming for Global Coexistence Driven from Regional Perspectives

At first glance, studies in different academic fields or on different areas of the world may seem to exist in disparate areas, area studies reveals that collaborative research, the sharing and exchanging of knowledge and ideas, is essential in confronting issues that cannot be grasped within singuarly existing academic disciplines. This program strives to nurture the next generation of area-specific researchers who will support a world where diversity is a point of harmony.

Selected Thesis Topics

Master’s Thesis

  • Cambodian Prehistory: Past Achievements and Future Challenges in Archaeological Research
  • Arab Oral Tradition “Sheila Banu Hilal”: a Story for Whom?
  • Transformation of the Everyday World in Cairo’s City Blocks and Districts: Relationships and Mutual Aid Created by Direct Interaction
  • Career Strategies for Low-Income Populations: Focusing on Mexico’s “Youth Building the Future Program”

Doctoral Dissertations

  • An Ethnographic Study of Christian Initiation and Faith Succession: The Case of the Taiwan Aboriginal Amis and the Catholic Church
  • American Baptist Missions and Colonial Rule in 19th Century British Burma: Aspects of Karen Baptist Understanding and Response
  • Indian Migrants in Tokyo: A Study of Their Socio-Cultural, Religious, and Working Worlds

Educational Policies

Master’s Program

This program aims to nurture fieldworkers who can clarify the origins of global issues identify resolve them while taking into consideration historical and cultural backgrounds, based on a community-based approach. Upon completion of the program and fulfillment of the below requirements, inducing passing thesis review, students will be awarded a degree:


  1. The ability to establish a fieldwork-oriented methodology using the languages of East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Latin America
  2. The ability to analyze and understand issues that cannot be captured by existing academic disciplines through ideas from local communities, that are not national in scope, and through joint research by multiple disciplines
  3. The ability to contribute academically and socially to the elucidation of global issues from local perspectives and approaches, and to support global civil society and local diversity as a next-generation area-specific researcher
  4. Ability to complete a master’s thesis with a clear awareness of an issue, sufficient proceeding research, a precise thesis structure, and a coherent thesis development.

Doctoral Program

Based on an appropriate and original regional approach and methodology for clarifying research issues, this program aims to meet the high academic standards in area studies that contribute to the development of related academic fields, and defines the following abilities and knowledge that students must acquire upon completion of the program. Upon satisfying the requirements for completion and passing the thesis examination, students are recognized as having acquired these skills and are awarded a degree:


  1. The ability to develop and establish appropriate approaches to solving today’s problems, make new academic contributions, and carry out the field work to obtain and analyze original materials, using language skills sufficient to elucidate their research problem.
  2. Ability to set research questions and gain insight into the potential for academic contribution, with an eye toward future interdisciplinary collaboration.
  3. The ability to conduct research to deepen one’s own area of specialization based on chosen methodology and knowledge acquired in the Master’s program, and to complete a doctoral dissertation that is unique and makes an academic and social contribution.

Master’s Program

In order to realize the Diploma Policy, the curriculum of this course is organized with subjects that include the following objectives:


  1. Through required basic courses, students will acquire the fundamentals of area studies, study diverse and comprehensive methodology, and gain a community-based perspective.
  2. Through interregional comparison courses, students will be encouraged to compare the regions studied and the methodologies used, and to develop an objective understanding of the academic contribution of individual studies by cultivating a comparative perspective.
  3. Through specialized courses in area studies, students will be trained to develop a coherent logic based on the methodology appropriate to the subject of study and the results of their major research.

Doctoral Program

In order to realize the Diploma Policy, the curriculum of this course is organized with subjects that include the following objectives:


  1. Individual thesis guidance with a faculty advisor to encourage the original materials and development of approaches through fieldwork.
  2. Through active participation in courses offered by academic advisors and within the department, students will engage in a wide range of discussions with other students from other fields and areas.
  3. The doctoral students will be examined on their level of academic achievement, including foreign language ability and logical thinking, through a doctoral dissertation submission qualification examination.
  4. After passing the doctoral dissertation submission qualification examination, the doctoral dissertation plan review and the doctoral dissertation planning seminar will lead to the completion of the doctoral dissertation.

Master’s Program

The program seeks students with the following qualities:


  1. Students with the language proficiency skills to understand the basic literature required to understand individual phenomena and challenges occurring in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Latin Ameria, as well as to understand various global issues
  2. Students who have a spirit of social and academic curiosity and ambition, are able to write logical and thoughtful essays on specific issues, and have a proactive approach to their work
  3. Students who aspire to become professionals who can contribute to society in a practical way to support global civil society and local diversity

Doctoral Program

The program seeks students with the following qualities:


  1. Students with a proven track record of working on research projects
  2. Students who possess the language skills essential for obtaining and analyzing materials sufficient to elucidate their research problem
  3. Students who prepared and eager to contribute to communities and society, both in their academic field and in practice

Faculty Members

East Asia

Hyangsuk KWON Associate Professor

Southeast Asia

Hiroko KUSHIMOTO Associate Professor

South Asia

Masako TANAKA Professor

The Middle East

Erina IWASAKI Professor

Akihiko YAMAGUCHI Professor


Mikako TODA Associate Professor


Shunta UCHIMURA Professor

Akeo TAKAHASHI Professor

Yoko MAKI Associate Professor

Noriko MATSUBARA Professor

Latin America

Sophia University

For Others, With Others