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(3 semester credits each)
Please carefully note that courses are subject to change.
Mythology and manga, animism and anime: Shinto, the ancient religion of Japan, is still today an important part of the Japanese cultural imagination. Shinto is visible everywhere, and there are few Japanese people who do not have some contact with Shinto, many of them on a regular basis. Yet it is not easy to answer the question, "What is Shinto?" We will look at Shinto from as many perspectives as possible: religious, philosophical, anthropological, and political. However Shinto is defined, there is no doubt that Japan is the place to study Shinto. Thus, students are encouraged to explore Shinto in today’s Japan as part of their work for the course.
This course presents an overview of Zen Buddhism, with a focus on fundamental existential and religious questions. Buddhism, like any religion, provides answers to the "big questions" of human existence: How did human life first occur? Why do tragedies happen? What happens after death? How should we lead our daily lives? Specific points of inquiry are meditation, the controversy over sudden versus gradual enlightenment, and Zen and ethics.
Death in East Asian Thought
In this course, we will have a chance to explore the various meanings of death in Japan, China and Tibet.
We will first consider the range of possible approaches to death and the afterlife (or nonafterlife): treatment of the corpse; funeral rituals; the destiny of the dead. Then we will look at East Asian attitudes toward death: Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist.
Japan is an especially intriguing case, since the two major religious traditions, Buddhism and Shinto, have significantly different attitudes toward death. Focusing on Japan, we will study ancestor worship, funeral practices, cemeteries, ghosts, and mummies. The current Japanese attitudes toward abortion, brain death and organ transplants will be discussed.
Religion in Japan
This course is an introduction to the most important types of religious expression in Japan: ancestor worship, Shinto, Buddhism, and the New Religions. We focus on contemporary beliefs and practices, especially religion that is encountered every day in Japan. Various approaches to the interpretation of religion will be discussed.
Japanese Cultural History: Ancient and Medieval
This course offers a survey of Japanese cultural history from the time of the earliest known human settlements on the archipelago during the Paleolithic Era up until the end of the so-called “Age of the Country at War” circa 1600. We will focus on a number of major developments that took place during this extended period, with a particular emphasis on the creation of a centralized government and the gradual, uneven transition from courtier to warrior rule that accompanied and further complicated this shift. In addition, we will also analyze how these larger trends influenced some of the specific cultural practices developed and maintained by people who lived during these tumultuous times.
Japanese Cultural History: Early Modern and Modern
The most basic aim of this course is to provide an approachable and wide-ranging survey of early modern and modern Japanese history, a period spanning from the late sixteenth century to the present. In addition, however, this class is also designed to foster curiosity and compel deeper historical inquiry into the thorny question of how individuals relate to society. Accordingly, we will examine not only many of the major political, social, economic, and intellectual developments that have accompanied Japan’s emergence as a world power, but also employ the methods of cultural history in order to investigate how people ranging from government leaders to average citizens have attempted to define and explain their various roles and responsibilities in early modern and modern Japan.
Japan and the World: From the Mid-19th Century to the Present
This course aims at deepening the understanding of Japanese history from the 19th century to today, focusing both on its foreign relations and domestic society.
Struggling toward becoming the ”first-ranked" nation in the West-centric world order, Japan fought many wars, colonized its neighboring countries, and was finally defeated in WWII. After 70 years as a pacifist country, Japan has begun reconsidering its regional/global roles, and looking for a more active role. Domestically, Japan has struggled to become a multi-cultural society, and faced many challenges throughout the period.
Southeast Asia & Japan: Historical Perspective
Southeast Asia is situated at the crossroads of the North-South land bridge linking two continents—Eurasian and Australian continents, and the waterway linking two oceans—the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean. This region has received various influences both from the West and the East as a result of East-West Trade ever since dawn of its history.
In the modern period, it had to endure a harsh colonial rule by the major Western colonial powers. During World War II, the whole region was governed by Japanese military rule. In this series of lectures, we will overview the overall relations between the two regions throughout their history.
Japanese History: Japan's Search for Identity in the Wider World
This course is a survey of the political, economic, social, ideological, and foreign policy aspects of Japanese history from 600AD to the economic miracle of the 1980s. Particular focus is placed on Japan's attempts to establish a central government prior to 1600, as well as Japan's quest for national identity and security in the 20th century. Key topics include how geography has shaped Japan’s history, the legacy of feudalism, the Meiji Restoration, the road to the Pacific War and Japan’s defeat, and Japan’s post-war economic growth. Understanding these aspects of Japan’s history will help students better understand contemporary Japanese society.
Geisha, Gangsters and Samurai: Japan in Western Film
Since the earliest days of cinema, Western filmmakers have used Japan as a mirror in which to reflect upon their own cultures. At times they have portrayed Japan as a model society that illuminated Western failures. At other times they have imagined Japan as an inferior society against which Western superiority could be measured. Much of this discourse has been highly gendered—Japan as the paradoxical land of ultra feminine geisha (soft, gentle and nurturing) and extremely masculine samurai and gangsters (cold, unyielding and dangerous). This course looks at how and why these contradictory images of Japan coexist so freely within the Western cinematic imagination.
Japanese Popular Media and Culture
This course begins by examining the historical roots of Japan’s popular culture. It then explores the evolution of modern manga and anime from entertainment media aimed primarily at children to works of mature themes and social criticism. Of particular interest will be how manga and anime both reflect and shape the debate over Japan’s postwar identity. We will then examine the means of production, distribution and consumption of manga and anime in Japan. The second half of the semester will focus on television dramas in Japan. We will examine their relationship with manga and anime while discussing how they deal with and influence a variety of current social issues. The course will conclude with a look at the popularity of Japanese media abroad and how they may be influencing foreign attitudes about Japan.
Monsters, Ghosts and the Making of Modern Japan
The Japanese popular imagination has always been haunted by myriad monsters, ghost, demons, and goblins. Whether the trickster kitsune of ancient folklore, scenes of torment awaiting sinners in Buddhist Hell scrolls, or the shinigami of modern manga like Death Note, Japan’s many supernatural beings have always both frightened and entertained. But these are by no means the only two roles that such creatures have played in Japanese history. In this class we will study the many ways that monsters and ghosts have symbolized and personified the issues, problems, hopes and fears that have propelled Japan’s evolution from ancient times to the modern day.
Japanese Pop Culture: From Edo to the Present
Godzilla, Gundam, Power Rangers, Pokémon. These are just a few of the many famous figures and franchises frequently invoked in discussions of contemporary Japanese pop culture both at home and abroad. Some continue to retain a lasting relevance and appeal while others have already begun to fall. Yet much of that which constitutes "popular culture" is rooted in the past in multiple, often subtle ways. Rather than focus exclusively on recent developments, we will examine the many changing styles, tastes, and technologies associated with popular culture in Japan from roughly 1600 to the present, looking closely at a host of fascinating primary sources and related secondary studies that reveal not only concrete examples of Japanese material and visual culture, but which further compel us to question just what is meant by the concept of "pop culture" in historical terms.
Culture and Everyday Life in Japan: Japanese Society in Anthropological Perspective
This survey course is designed to help students make sense of Japanese society by exploring key aspects of cultural meaning and patterns of behavior, along with the institutional contexts that provide coherence as well as make Japan a dynamically changing society. We will pursue these aims primarily through the perspective of cultural anthropology.
This discipline's greatest strength, through the method of participant-observation fieldwork, lies in its focus on the texture of people's everyday lives and experiences, and its devotion to understanding how behavior and beliefs are shaped by the cultural and historical contexts in which we live.
Sexuality and Culture in Japan: Shifting Dimensions of Desire, Relationship and Society
Topics for exploration in the course include changing aspects of mating, romance and marriage; sex education in Japanese schools and recent controversies over sex education policy and practice; conjugal sexual relations, contraceptive practice, and abortion; international romance and marriage; the exploitation and commodification of sexual and emotional ties, from Japan’s licensed quarters of earlier times to military sex slaves ("comfort women") and more recently enjo kôsai ("assisted dating" with teenagers) and recent transnational trafficking in women; mizu shôbai (the after-dark "water trades") and eroticized servicing by hostesses and hosts; sexual images in popular culture; and lesbian, gay, transgender and other minority sexual and gender identities and practices.
Anthropology of Gender and Sexual Diversity: Japan, Asia and Beyond
In this course, we will explore those aspects of gender and sexuality that exist beyond or between, transcending or transgressing against the gender binaries and heteronormative beliefs and social arrangements that have come to be dominant in the modern West and elsewhere.
Based in a cultural anthropological, cultural relativist approach, we will explore a range of phenomenon exhibiting the diversity of human arrangements in the realms of gender and sexuality. The course will be explicitly comparative, exploring gender and sexual phenomena and their social, cultural and historical contexts in mostly centrally in Japan, but also elsewhere in Asia and in other world regions.
Culture, Power and Belonging in Japan: Anthropological Perspectives on the Making of Minorities and Majorities
This course focuses on the conditions of cultural minority and marginalized groups in Japan, in particular: the Ainu, Okinawans, those of Buraku “outcaste” heritage, ethnic Koreans tracing their heritage from the colonial era, Nikkei "return" migrants, the growing Chinese and South Asian communities and other "newcomer" foreigners. Questions to be investigated include: What have been the experiences of minorities, how have conditions changed, and what has been the role of social activism on the part of minority communities themselves? How is culture creatively utilized by minorities for identity formation and creating solidarity? What accommodations have been made for the preservation of minority rights and cultural identities within Japanese society?
Gender and Sexuality in Japan: Norms, Practice and Selves in Motion
This course aims to explore beliefs and practices in Japan related to gender and sexuality, and how they shape the lives of people in Japan. Through the course, students will gain the conceptual, historical and cultural background for understanding gender issues within the context of Japanese society.
In exploring such gender-related phenomena, we will discuss the meanings underpinning contested ideas of femininity and masculinity, gender roles and the gendered division of labor in Japan, as well as issues of sexuality, reproduction, and the body. A comparative, cross-cultural perspective will be employed throughout the course, and students will be asked to reflect on their own culturally specific, gendered perspectives and positions.
Popular Culture as Social Practice: Fandoms, Subcultures and the Rest of Us
In this course, we will critically explore selected topics from the broad field of popular culture in Japan, with a focus on the relationships between cultural products, consumption practices, and social norms, practices, and tensions within Japanese society. We will briefly discuss the historical development of popular cultural industry in Japan, followed by the recent emergence of a discourse on “cool Japan.” Most of the course will be devoted to exploring specific fandoms, subcultures or cultural categories constructed around consumption practices such as otaku, the dôjinshi world and fujoshi female consumers of male-male eroticism, J-rappers, gyaru, visual-kei fans and the legendary fans of the Takarazuka Revue. Fans’ creative “play” with norms of gender and sexuality will be a theme running throughout the course. We will also explore questions of creativity and self-expression, constructions of “deviance,” and the role of popular culture in resistance to, or reinscription of, dominant norms.
Deaf World Japan: The Struggle of Disability, Identity and Language
This course is an ethnographic examination of deaf culture in Japan and Japanese Sign Language. While the focus will be on deaf people and their language, it will be in the broader context of contemporary Japan. Deaf people will be compared/contrasted with other so-called disabled people and other minorities in Japan in terms of discrimination issues and political movements. Cross-cultural comparisons of deaf people in the United States, Bali and other places will also be considered.
Documenting Japan: Film and Photography as Cultural Description
We have often heard the phrases “the camera never lies,” “seeing is believing” and “a picture is worth a thousand words.” This course provides an introduction to the field of visual anthropology, with a focus on documentary films and photographic projects. Visual anthropology strives to visualize the invisible – knowledge, values, morals, beliefs, perceptions, capabilities and private spaces. In this course, films and photography dealing with Japan will be examined, analyzed and evaluated in terms of providing understanding of Japanese culture.
Japan and Globalization: A Cultural Approach
In today’s world, it is widely held that global scale culture supersedes governments and political boundaries; economy is paramount. The new buzz-word to explain this phenomenon is “globalization.” But what does this supposedly new concept really entail? Globalization is about movement and interaction: people, culture, technology, goods and services, money, religion and ideologies are moving through porous borders causing immediate and intense contact. This cultural contact affects everyone in the global village albeit in vastly different ways. Where does Japan and Japanese culture fit within globalization?
Traditional Japanese Music & Theatrical Performance
Japan has an abundance of types of music and theatrical performance, which extend from the highly sophisticated court music preserved in the Imperial House hold, to the rustic but very energetic performance of Tsugaru shamisen. However, since the Meiji Restoration in 1868 traditional music and theatrical performance have been totally neglected by educators. Recently both the young generation and non-Japanese people have been attracted by the charm of this colorful tradition. In a sense, nowadays, traditional Japanese music and theatrical performance are discovered once again by an open minded new generation. Based on this observation, I would like to introduce the young generation to this abundant and colorful tradition.
Japan's Security Policy and International Relations Theory
This course examines Japan’s security policy in the post-war era from a broader perspective. Although focusing on Japan’s security policy, the course surveys wider areas including Japan’s domestic politics and its relationships with other countries, especially with the United States. By taking IR theoretical approach, it aims to encourage the students to think and analyze issues logically and critically. In the latter part of the course, all students are expected to make a presentation, which is followed by intensive discussion, on a topic related to Japan’s foreign policy.
Can We Enforce Human Rights?: Understanding and Evaluating Human Rights Enforcement Mechanisms in Asia
This course aims to provide a concrete introduction to the human rights agenda and the legal foundations for upholding international human rights declarations, treaties, and customary practices. The first part of the course introduces theoretical and historical debates in the field of human rights and the relationship between human rights law and domestic laws.
The second part of the course covers how human rights are translated within countries and through established mechanisms, such as the United Nations and the International Court of Justice. Course materials will come from a variety of academic and legal disciplines as well as reports from major international organizations.
Tyrants, Dictators and Strongmen: Exploring Authoritarian Rule in Asia and the Struggle for Democracy
Why does Asia flirt with dictators? Why does democracy seem to have such a difficult time? The region is home to some of the most colourful and notorious leaders in the world, from Thailand’s junta leader Prayut Chan-ocha, who took power after a bloodless military coup in 2014, and the crime-fighting former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the new President of the Philippines. This course will examine root causes of authoritarian rule in Asia, from typologies, case studies, and biographical sketches of Asia’s most brutal regimes.
Contemporary International Relations: Understanding the United Nations, the International Community, and the State
The world is a complex place. States, international organizations and conflicting interests collide to directly impact our lives. This course will help make sense of the noise and chaos of the world we live in. Through concepts, theories and practical case studies, this course offers a closer look at how the world works—for better or worse—and will allow for a clearer understanding of the United Nations, the international system, and the mind of the State.
The Struggle for Justice
Rumors about criminal justice systems in Asia are common and often exaggerated. Newspapers report that Japan is a homogenous crime-free society while they publish pictures of caning in Singapore. This course will introduce the student to the nature of crime and criminal justice systems in several Asian countries. The main focus of the course is on Japanese criminal justice.
Along with other areas of focus, the class will examine how the Japanese criminal justice works to produce one of the lowest rates of crime in the developed world. We will learn why Japanese prosecutors win 99.98% of their trials and we will try to discover why the vast majority of criminal suspects confess.
We will examine the recent reforms of the criminal justice system in Thailand and measure the effect they have had on crime. After we have explored the intended and immediate results of the reforms, we will try to discover how the system has allowed extra-judicial killing of thousands of suspects.
Our study of the criminal justice system in China will teach us to place the concept of criminal justice within the broader perspective of politics and sovereignty. We will examine those ways in which the system is changing and predict future change. We will also try to identify the ways in which criminal law is being used to limit the main threats to political stability in China. Finally we will place the death penalty debate into a global context by examining the strike hard campaigns and China’s implementation of the death penalty.
The Japanese Economy: Growth and Stagnation
We analyze the high-growth period in the 1960s, the bubble period in the late 1980s and the "lost decades" in the 1990s through 2000s of the Japanese economy from the viewpoint of Japanese financial system. In particular, we focus on how the Japanese financial system has evolved in the postwar period and how it has affected the performance of the Japanese economy by way of changing the behavior of banks, firms and households. We pay special attention to the "lost decades" and describe the characteristics of the "lost decades" and then explain why it took so long to wipe out the aftermath of the "lost decades."
Corporate Strategy in East Asia
Corporate strategy is a critical component to a firm's long-term success. This course explores how companies formulate, implement and change their strategies in response to both domestic and international factors. Students will apply the strategic management model to a variety of global companies, with a special emphasis on companies from China, South Korea, and Japan. Students will put their understanding of strategy into practice by competing in teams in an intensive strategy simulation activity.
Management Across Cultures
The management functions of planning, organizing, leading and controlling are at work in every organization. This course explores traditional management theories and principles in each of these areas, as well as explores the demand for management innovation in order to better meet the needs of organizations in the 21st century. The course will also address how cultural values and beliefs shape the management practices of communication, decision making, leadership, planning, and organizational structures in businesses throughout the world. Japanese management principles will also be briefly addressed.
International Business Ethics
Numerous recent ethical lapses in the marketplace have brought misery to many and have tarnished the image of entire sectors of the global economy. Now more than ever, international business managers must demonstrate that they can be both moral and profitable. Global citizens and corporate leaders must show that they can think beyond the confines of a single culture's ideas about right and wrong with respect to the marketplace. With a concentration on Japan and Asia, this course is designed to broaden a student's perspective on business ethics through consideration of real-world issues and problem solving that any international business manager could face. We will also explore the emerging idea of a global ethical code and examine Japan's role in fostering this idea.
International Negotiation: Resolving Conflict and Closing the Deal
My goals in this course condense to the following points. First, enable students to understand the importance of negotiation in all aspects of their lives and to recognize opportunities to negotiate. Second, develop the practical skills necessary to improve negotiation outcomes. Third, develop students’ confidence in their skills through focused practice. Fourth, take advantage of the unusual diversity within the program to recognize the myriad ways in which culture affects the negotiation process and negotiation outcomes.
The last portion of the course will focus on the ways in which Japanese negotiation scripts differ from other scripts. In this sense, Japan will serve as a model to allow students to understand how the various cultural backgrounds of their colleagues also influence negotiation processes and outcomes.
Throughout the course, I will try to show that the relevance of negotiation skills is not limited to the business environment. Negotiation, at its root, is about interdependence and relationships rather than money. Regardless of your future path, my hope is that this course will give you skills to improve your experience along that path.
Japanese Management: A Global Perspective
The study of management and leadership is always a challenging prospect and presents significant difficulties in separating science from myth and competence from coincidence. This course will explore common aspects of management structures in Japanese businesses and compare them to those in the West. We will use case studies to explore the experiences of foreign and Japanese leaders in Japan and work to develop an understanding of the skills necessary for foreign leaders to be successful in Japanese organizations with a specific focus on the way that power is distributed and decisions are developed. Finally, we will compare the challenges facing the Japanese management style in an increasingly global and fast paced marketplace.
International Entrepreneurship: Focus on Japan
The role of entrepreneurship in an economy has been well documented and is of interest to businesspeople, politicians, professors and students. Creating and growing a new venture inside or outside a corporation is a task that few individuals are able to accomplish, even though many have the desire. Entrepreneurship in a foreign market introduces additional challenges and opportunities to the business owner. This course is based on an understanding of all the functional areas to the new venture creation process with a focus on those aspects that are of particular importance to the foreign business owner.
International Business: Doing Business in East Asia
It has become almost impossible to read a newspaper, business magazine or recent business textbook without encountering the rise of Asia. In the working careers of current undergraduate students an understanding of how to be successful in Asia will be essential. In this course, we will examine the practical aspects of how firms choose to enter into foreign markets, with a focus on East Asia. We will use a case based approach to learn how executives select markets, develop entry strategies and manage the foreign venture. By the end of this course, the student will understand the theoretical and strategic issues related to entering a foreign market and understand that cultural, historic and structural issues can be as important as economic principles when doing business in Asia.
Marketing Across Cultures
This course will cover readings and discussions on marketing across culture with a focus on Asia. The course emphasizes the role of diversity in world markets and the importance of local consumer knowledge and marketing practices. A cross-cultural approach is used which compares national marketing systems and local commercial customs in various countries. Finally, the study of interaction between business people from different cultures is discussed and will be simulated in class using case studies. While examples in the course will be global, the focus will be on Asia and in particular Japan.
Global Business Teams
As the world continues to become increasingly interconnected, many students will work in global contexts and will need related competencies. Creating effective work teams is challenging, even among people from similar backgrounds. Global teams face additional hurdles related to cultural differences, geographic and time zone separation, communication styles, differences in decision-making strategies, and role expectations, to name a few. This course is designed to assist students in developing competencies related to effective teamwork in a global context.
Intercultural Communication in Japan
This course is a practical introduction to theory and research in the field of intercultural communication as applied to a Japanese context. The primary course content focuses on perceptions, behaviors, values, and cultural patterns of human interaction, thereby assisting students in developing a clearer understanding of their own communicative perspectives as related to life in Japan. A variety of methods and activities, including class discussion, group work, lecture, cultural enactment, video critique, story telling, critical incident, written reflection, and in-class engagement, will be used to help students to develop intercultural communicative competence.