Within Japan, teachers, academics, parents and students themselves consider Japanese university students to lack motivation to study, compared to their counterparts in other countries. (Sugimoto, 1997; McVeigh, (2002). This paper addresses this issue by using the Inventory of University Motivation, an adaptation and translation of McInerney's Inventory of School Motivation (McInerney & Sinclair, 1991; McInerney, Roche, McInerney, & Marsh, 1997), based on Maehr's multiple goal model of Personal Investment (Maehr, 1984; Maehr & Braskamp, 1986), which seeks to understand students' perceptions of the relevance and promise of the situation. Data were collected from 500 female Japanese first-year university students, on their motivation towards study at university in general as well as specifically towards the study of English as a Foreign Language. The resulting motivational profile contains characteristics that both support and contradict the stereotypical belief about the lack of motivation of Japanese university students. They also highlight the importance that the study of English in particular may hold for young Japanese women in the construction of their identities and their future opportunities.