JPS 101 Introduction to Japan Studies

Why Japan? This course provides an introduction to the study of Japan and begins with a very basic, but important question. In an increasingly “globalized” world where various kinds of borders and boundaries are said to be receding, what reason is there in narrowing our focus on a particular place, its culture, its institutions (political, economic, educational, artistic, religious), its history? This course provides students with materials and tools for better answering this question by exploring the very topics that have fueled internal and external interest in Japan and its trajectory for over a century. Lectures and readings will emphasize relevant social and cultural concerns that are important, but not unique, to Japan. In doing so, the aim it to see how the study of Japan remains central to larger discussions about human society and the modern condition. The course relies on a range of source material to help students cultivate an appreciation for the debates that animate research on Japan. In the course, we will examine the distinctiveness of Japan’s postwar social institutions and cultural arrangements and interrogate how new social formations are changing Japan and enriching its study. Course assignments offer students a chance to immediately reflect on their own engagement with Japan. Oral and written assignments allow students to hone important analytic and argumentative skills useful for conducting future research.