(3 semester credits each)

Our curriculum aims to provide students with a broad-based exposure to Japan and Asia, as well as relevant experience learning and living in Japan. To achieve this goal, knowledge of current business issues as well as traditional cultural traits is equally important.

With this in mind, the Asian Studies Program course offerings cover various topics in rapidly changing societies and cultures, current social issues as well as Japan’s history and its unique arts. In order to make it possible for those who have limited knowledge of the Japanese language to pursue these courses, all lecture and seminar courses are offered in English.

The courses are generally equivalent to 300- or 400-level upper division (third- and fourth-year) courses in most other universities, in terms of level of academic content and amount of work required. Most of them are designed to accommodate non-majors; thus no prerequisites are required. For a few courses, however, it is recommended that students have some level of background in the course discipline.

Japanese Aesthetics

Japanese aesthetics is a seminar that explores pre-modern and modern Japanese concepts of “beauty” through literary, performing, and visual arts. A variety of artistic mediums literature, music, theatre, tea ceremony and more will be examined through which students will explore the construction of pre-modern and modern aesthetic concepts: notably okashi, mono no aware, jo-ha-kyu, yugen, wabi, sabi, realism, and kawaii. Each of these concepts will be placed in their broader respective cultural parameters to illustrate their connection to and derivation from larger ideas such as nature, good and bad, gender, nationalism, and globalism.

Wa: Rules and Principles in Japanese Arts, Design and Aesthetics

Wa is a pivotal concept in Japan that encompasses many situations. It is a way to maintain social interactions harmoniously, as well as a dynamic framework for creating art. Wa is used in this course as a keyword that offers two levels of understanding about Japanese art: one being “Japaneseness” and the other being the cultivation of quiet, peaceful, and harmonious qualities. Through the study of Zen, nihon-ga, ceramics, ikebana, calligraphy, literature, photography and design, this course explores the connections between Wa and other key concepts connected to art practice and Japanese aesthetics.

Japanese Influence on Western Art and Design

Trade between Japan and the West began in the late 16th century and led to Japonism at the fin de siècle. Japanese art profoundly influenced Western art and design in the development of such modern art and design as Impressionism, Aestheticism, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and so on. Therefore, this course examines Japanese art and explores how Japanese art and aesthetics influenced western art and design.

Fashion in Japan: Art and History of the Kimono and Western Dress Culture

From the origins of the kimono to the anti-fashion design of Rei Kawakubo, this course will be exploring the parallel routes of traditional clothing (wafuku) and western fashion (yôfuku) in Japan. From showing social ranking to expressing oneself, analyzing clothing in Japan will be seen as an encompassing dynamic, coming from the need of covering one's body to an artistic and performative statement about Japanese culture, aesthetics, silhouettes and body consciousness. Employing different materials (books, artworks, movies, magazines, etc.) this course will examine and analyze how kimono and western fashion are embedded in Japanese society, history, popular culture and visual arts. 

Japanese Design: Aesthetics and Visual Culture

This course aims at understanding Japanese aesthetics, culture, and society through design. Students will examine a broad range of design examples reflective of the social, political, and economical culture of the time. The course will begin by exploring Japanese aesthetics and prewar design and continue by discussing contemporary design with regard to the emergence of design, “made in Japan,” pop culture, and “disaster and design.” Through lectures, discussions, presentations, and museum visits, students will understand how traditional Japanese aesthetics are reflected in contemporary design and how individual Japanese designers uniquely delivered traditional aesthetics to international style.

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, storytelling, critical incident, written reflection, and in-class engagement, will be used to help students develop intercultural communicative competence.

Documenting Japan

The phrases “the camera never lies”, “seeing is believing” and “a picture is worth a thousand words” are often heard. 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. 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 buzzword 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?

Sociolinguistics of Deaf Communities in Japan

This course, broadly speaking, will explore the relationship between language, culture, and society through the use of linguistic, anthropological, and sociological concepts and methods. The basics of linguistics structural linguistics, semantics, historical linguistics and sociolinguistics will be covered. Specifically, the course will focus on the sociolinguistics of deaf communities in Japan and the intersections of identity disability, education and sign language. Culture and language are not static; linguistic ecologies are always changing. To accommodate such challenges, alternative approaches and theories will be utilized, including visual anthropology, multimodality and gestural approaches to language.

A Successful Life and the Best Education in the World

How can sociology help us understand education in Asia? This course attempts to show the scope and usefulness of sociological theorizing to comprehend the educational processes in Asia. In the course, students will emphasize the diversity of theoretical approaches, issues in the field and the application of this knowledge to the understanding that an individual position in society largely depends on schooling. Education is changing rapidly and it is not an easy task to present the excitement of a dynamic field with diverse and disparate topics. Despite these challenges, the course will present the development to date of the sociological study of education in Asia, and assess the strengths and weakness of current educational policies in order to point out the prospects for die future.

Medicine and Health Care in East Asia

In this course students are invited to think about one of the most serious issues affecting contemporary East Asian societies: the provision of health care for an ageing population. The first part of the module is a general review of concepts that have been used to explain medicine and health care-related issues. The second part of the course explores how the concepts of social class, gender, race and ethnicity can help understand the provision of health care in East Asia. The last part of the course draws on mental health-related issues to shed light on how anxiety disorders affect East Asian societies and enlarge social inequality among ageing populations.

Contemporary Japan in the Gender Matrix

This course discusses and analyses gender issues in contemporary Japanese society and culture. After outlining and discussing fundamental theories of gender and society, we will explore a wide range of topics focusing on how gendered social structures, such as family, work, reproduction, political and economic participation, etc., are interconnected and historically constructed in Japanese society. The construction and function of gendered norms as the basis of the modern Japanese nation-state in negotiation with lived diverse realities will be the leitmotiv that follows us throughout the semester.

Population Control and the Politics of Reproduction in Japan

This course analyzes and discusses the politics of reproduction in Japan from multilayered perspectives and approaches. Human reproduction, one object of a broad range of (feminist) anthropological and sociological scholarship since the 1980s, is situated at the intersection of the private/intimate and the public realm with all its “political, symbolic, economic, and ideological connotations” (Roy & Thompson, 2019, p.8) and embedded in ideologies of the gendered “normal” family with its mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion.
We will connect theoretical accounts of reproduction as an object of demographic management and control in modern nation-states with those of reproduction as a personal and physical experience, nevertheless deeply entrenched with social and cultural frameworks. Specifically, we will discuss historical and contemporary issues in the context of population control in Japan, such as pronatalist, antinatalist, or eugenic policies in various eras, as well as topics surrounding reproductive rights, pregnancy, birth, parenthood, infertility, contraception, abortion, and assisted reproductive technologies.

Japanese Music

Beginning with gagaku, music of the early imperial court, this survey course will cover the major genres of Japanese music and end with student presentations exploring any of the musical forms covered in class to J-pop. The primary aim is for the students to develop a familiarity with the various musical genres and the musical instruments and structures of each genre through listening exercises. Other themes to be explored throughout the semester with secondary readings are the relationship of musical genre with social class, the continuing dialectic between high culture and low, and the classification of popular musical genres.

The Japanese Economy: Growth and Stagnation

This course analyzes 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 the Japanese financial system. In particular, the course focuses 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. Special attention is paid to the "lost decades" and describing the characteristics of the "lost decades" and then explaining why it took so long to wipe out the aftermath of the "lost decades." The efficacy of Abenomics is examined, as well as economic policies advocated by the current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in rescuing the Japanese economy from "lost decades."

Cultural and Creative Industries in Japan/East Asia

The Japanese/East Asian cultural and creative industries (e.g., visual/performing arts, advertising, crafts, design, film, multi-media, publishing, and games) are widely touted (particularly in policy circles) as vectors of global competitive advantage and economic growth. However, their myriad characteristics, dynamics, and challenges are seldom grasped. The course reviews canonical and up-to-date theoretical/empirical literatures relating to the Japanese/East Asian CCI at national, regional and global levels. It encompasses inter- trans- and post-disciplinary approaches, drawing upon the endeavors of Cultural Economics, Political Economy, Sociology, and Urban Studies. Key topics include: manga and anime, contents tourism, fashion, and cultural policy/soft power, among others.

Urban Trends and Futures in Japan/East Asia

East Asian cities have increasingly undergone socio-economic and socio-spatial restructuring in order to respond to local and global processes. Thus, while attending to global drivers of change, this course examines the local/regional dynamics of East Asian cityscapes to shed light onto current urban challenges and prospects. Emphasis throughout the course is placed on cities as spaces of everyday life and spaces of socio-economic change. Key topics include: urban socio-spatial exclusion, gentrification, peri-urbanization, and environmental sustainability, among others.

Japanese Cultural History: Ancient and Medieval

This survey course offers a look at Japanese cultural history from the earliest Paleolithic Era human settlements on the archipelago 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, students 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, this class is also designed to foster curiosity and compel deeper historical inquiry into the thorny question of how individuals relate to society. Students 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 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.

History of Modern Japan

In a survey of modern Japan, from the time of the Tokugawa Shogunate up to the recent past, this course provides students with a broad survey of the political, economic, social and cultural developments in Japan. Major themes include the rise and fall of the Shogunate; the "opening" of the nation; economic and technological development under the Meiji government; the crises of the Taisho and Showa eras; Japan at war; and the postwar economic "miracle." By the end of the course, students will have acquired a broad general knowledge of the history of modern Japan; be able to communicate effectively and analyze complex questions about the history of modern Japan; and be able to understand the history of modern Japan within world history.

20th Century Asian History through Film

Film is an exciting medium to approach the study of history. In the course, students will engage in debate on how historical films portray the past, whether they can or should strive for historical accuracy, and to what degree they present opinions or interpretations of the past. Students will explore twentieth century Asian history through the analysis of a wide variety of films which portray the history of the time period and place. By the end of the course, students will be able to reference a wide range of historical films and produce an analytical film review essay which places a film in historical context and engage in debate on film representation.

Marketing Across Cultures

This course will cover readings and discussions on marketing across cultures 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.

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.

Japanese Management: A Global Perspective

The study of management and leadership presents significant difficulties in separating science from myth and competence from coincidence. This course will explore common aspects of management in Japanese businesses and compare them to those in the West and will 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. Finally, students will compare the challenges facing Japanese management style in an increasingly global and fast paced marketplace.

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 companies/case studies, with a special emphasis on multi-national companies from China, South Korea, and Japan.

International Business

This dynamic course explores the basic elements of international business including why companies engage in international business, the different ways of “going global,” how companies select international locations, and how they assess the benefits and risks of international business activities. The course is set up as an international business consulting company with students becoming experts on the cultural, political/legal and economic factors of doing business in various countries in Asia. Case studies are used to illustrate the strategic and operational aspects of doing business internationally.

International Negotiation: Resolving Conflict and Closing the Deal

What negotiation strategies do international companies employ while doing business in Japan? Students in this practical course will come to understand the importance of negotiation in all aspects of their lives and to recognize opportunities to negotiate. The class will aid students in developing the practical skills necessary to improve negotiation outcomes and boost confidence in negotiation skills through focused practice. Finally, students will be able to take advantage of the unusual diversity within the program to recognize the myriad ways in which culture affects the negotiation process and negotiation outcomes.

Culinary Tourism: Theories and Concepts

Culinary Tourism: Theories and Concepts explores a number of issues that explain what culinary tourism is, how it works and what internal and external factors influence successful tourism operations. The subject adopts a multi-disciplinary perspective that allows students to examine the meaning of culinary tourism to the individual, the structure of tourism and its component elements and the management of tourism from the perspective of the market place.

International Entrepreneurship: Focus on Japan

The role of entrepreneurship in an economy has been well promoted 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 new 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 in Japan.

Financial and Operational Auditing

Students are introduced to objectives of financial and internal auditing, and the process of auditing by internal and/or outside auditors. The course will introduce standards to help understand the concepts of auditing, and students will learn the importance and necessity of internal control to have a healthy organization through case studies. Some of these case studies will be covered about some Japanese companies to understand their business minds.

Financial Statements Analysis

Accounting concepts and techniques are essential to the administration of business entities. This course focuses on the mechanics of Financial Statements Analysis by going over the financial statements prepared by global entities. This course introduces how to interpret and analyze the financial statements to understand liquidity, activity, profitability and coverages of each entity. As methods to analyze the financial statement, a ratio analysis, a cash flow analysis, and a diagramming are introduced. The students will learn financial situations of some global companies including Japanese companies by analyzing their financial statements.

Constitutions' Impact on Democracy in Asia

Constitution is a fundamental legal document to assert the essence, the direction, and the identity of a state. As such, how a state goes about designing its constitution holds a significant impact on state governance. Constitutional design as an emerging field contributes to generating sets of options, recommendations, and guidelines for drafters and other stakeholders engaged in an ongoing (and evolving) constitution-making process. Areas of interests for constitutional design scholars are vast, ranging from electoral system and constitutional review to political culture and public participation. Through this course, students will be exposed to main areas of interests for the field of constitutional design from an Asian perspective. First of all, what is constitutional design, and what does it all entail? What arc prominent constitutional design challenges and issues in general and in Asia? How do Asian countries cope with such challenges and issues? What are best practices from Asia in addressing the challenges and issues? How does constitutional design impact democracy and democratization in Asia? Such are the main research/discussion questions for this course.

The Struggle for Justice

How does the criminal justice system in Japan differ from other Asian countries? With a main emphasis on Japanese criminal justice, this course will examine how the Japanese criminal justice produces one of the lowest rates of crime in the developed world. Students will discover why Japanese prosecutors win 99.98% of their trials and will learn the why the vast majority of criminal suspects ultimately confess.

East Asian Literature and Culture in Translation

What insights can contemporary Asian literature reveal about culture, politics, gender and history? Through an examination of East Asian literature, photographs, music, and film from Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and more, this course will examine the intensive process of globalization in this region as well as the current rapidly growing inter-Asian cultural flows. Moving beyond the selected texts as part of a literary/art genre, students will envision how these cultural productions are inseparable from our living surroundings, and how these texts shape social memories, traditional Asian values, gender roles, nationalisms, and historical traumas.

Urban Culture Asia

Urban cultures in Asian societies are multi-layered and intricate. The question of urban Asia acquires new significance currently as the impact of globalization and advancement of digital technology have created a thriving East Asian cultural market and active exchanges of pan-Asian popular cultures among different locations. Looking into various forms of urban culture in contemporary Asian societies (fiction, musicals, films, sporting events, current examples of K-pop fandom and related boy-bands and girl-groups, etc.) students will be engaged in critical discussions about how people experience patterns of cultural expressions that are not readily reduced singular narrative.

Kojiki to Haruki: Literary Representations of Diverse Eras

Students will discover the essence of Japanese literature in this unique course that traces the development and adoption of literature into society. Students will analyze literary works from each period of Japanese history and realize the significance of literature—both past and present as a means of understanding Japanese culture and society. The course will further examine how the rapid and dramatic transformation of Japan influenced the diversification and evolution of literature. The course is divided into sections—ancient, classical, and medieval, concentrating on the pre-war and post-war periods.

Kodai to Gendai: Influences of Literature on Japanese Society & Culture

The rich history of Japanese society and culture has played a vital role in shaping modern-day Japan. Through the study of various socio-cultural practices and phenomena such as mythology, religion, education, and globalization, students in this course examine critical developments in Japanese history. Each module of the course is structured around a social or cultural subject with emphasis on their critical aspects that can deepen and broaden historical understandings of Japanese society and culture.

Can We Enforce Human Rights?: Understanding and Evaluating Human Rights Enforcement Mechanisms in Asia

It's been said that almost all states obey international human rights obligations almost all of the time, but what happens when they don't? What systems exist to compel states to uphold their international human rights obligations? This upper-level course will survey the global human rights landscape, from Eastern and Western philosophical underpinnings, the codification of human rights norms in national courts, and a thorough examination of United Nations human rights enforcement mechanisms, including the Universal Periodic Review. This interdisciplinary course will introduce case studies from Japan and broader Asia as evidence of state compliance.

Tyrants, Dictators and Strongmen: Exploring Authoritarian Rule in Asia and the Struggle for Democracy

More than half of Asia has never known democracy—and may never will. Do Asian countries really prefer strong, authoritarian leadership? Asia has a rich history of colorful, yet autocratic rulers—from Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, to the current military junta in Thailand.
This interdisciplinary course offers a fresh look at the prospects for democracy in the region, with distinct case studies from China, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines. Through multiple lenses and larger-than-life personalities, students will explore the symptoms and causes of authoritarianism in Asia.

Japanese Foreign Policy in Movies

This course focuses on three specific policy cases: the beginning and the end of the Pacific War, and the adoption of the new constitution in Japan. To better understand these three moments, this course adopts an interdisciplinary and intercultural approach. First, this course combines the reading materials from advanced academic journals with audio-visual materials to provide more vivid pictures of the policy process. Second, this course emphasizes intercultural cooperation between local and foreign students. Although designed for the students with general backgrounds, this course is particularly recommendable for those students with social science or history/linguistics backgrounds, who want to deepen their knowledge in specific cases. It is also recommendable for those students ready for intercultural teamwork.

Global Diplomacy and Asia: Modern History and Implications

The recent international politics in East Asia has ignited numerous debates about the relevance of modern European diplomatic history to East Asia. This course examines major historical developments in global diplomacy and their impact on East Asia since the 19th century. Participants analyze major diplomatic strategies, such as balance of power, appeasement, deterrence, and containment, while investigating aspects of decision-making during international crises. It also pays close attention to the roles played by the United States in diplomacy and statecraft in Europe and East Asia. The implication of history on recent international relations of East Asia will be analyzed.

International History of East Asia (from the late 19th century to the late 20th century)

This course examines how and why different international systems rose and declined in the Asia-Pacific region during the twentieth century, by analyzing inter-locking relations among China, Japan, Korea, Russia and the United States. It pays particular attention to three shaping forces of international history: power competition, pursuit of economic interest, and inter-cultural relations among countries and people in the region. The course also examines major sources of foreign policies of the countries involved in the region: roles played by central decision-makers, domestic political context, and the constraints and opportunities offered by the international environment. This interdisciplinary course includes opportunities for students to deal with primary historical sources.

Pathways to Peace: Case Studies from the East

Peace is difficult to define and even more difficult to achieve. In order to achieve a lasting peace, all sides of a conflict need to have their needs, wants, and concerns addressed. In broader Asia with its complex religious, cultural and political conflicts, the aspirations for peace seem near impossible. This course examines the prospects for peace and the root causes of conflicts in Asia, with rich case studies from Myanmar Sri Lanka, Mindanao, and Southern Thailand.

The Fall of the Japanese Empire

The Japanese empire fell with the end of the Pacific War. And a new Japan rose up from the ashes of the war. Understanding the Pacific War and the fall of the Japanese empire that came with it, therefore, is a key to comprehend the historical process that set the foundations for modern Japan. To this end, this course presents three why’s: (1) why the empire of Japan attacked Pearl Harbor; (2) why the Americans dropped atomic bombs; and (3) why the leaders of imperial Japan did not end the war earlier. This course will be an intellectual journey to find your own answers to these three questions.

Sustainable Development & Public Policy in Asia

In recent years, sustainable development has gained currency as the core concept of development in the worlds of scholars, practitioners, political leaders, the media, and the general public alike. Gone are the days of states pursuing their socioeconomic developments at the expense of the environment, the climate, the energy, and the people. Also gone are the days of the international community acquiescing to such modes of socioeconomic growth. Against this background, students will engage with the world of sustainable development and Sustainable Development Goals in this course (both in general and in the Asian context). What is sustainable development? What are Sustainable Development Goals? What have been the prominent issues for the world and Asia? What have been the main achievements and challenges thus far in the world and in Asia? How have Asian countries addressed each SDG? What can we do at the individual level to help achieve these SDGs? Such are the main research/discussion questions for this course.

Religion in Japan

Providing an introduction to the most important types of religious expression in Japan, this course will cover ancestor worship, Shinto, Buddhism, and the New Religions, with a focus on contemporary beliefs and practices, especially religion that is encountered every day. Various approaches to the interpretation of religion will be discussed. Topics include: the fox deity; Yasukuni Shrine controversy; Tenrikyo; Soka Gakkai; Buddhist heavens and hells; Buddhist Pure Land; rites for aborted fetuses. This course is open to students at all levels.


Shinto, the ancient religion of Japan, is 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?” Students in this course will examine Shinto from as many perspectives as possible: religious, philosophical, anthropological, and political. Students are encouraged to explore Shinto in today’s Japan as part of their coursework.