Past Special Topics in Japan Courses

2015: Culture and the Mind: Understanding Cultural Variations in Mentalities

Instructor: Dr. Takahiko Masuda (Psychology)

Description: Focusing on Japanese culture and North American culture, this course will introduce systematic cultural variations in the human mind. Throughout the course, students will learn recent empirical findings in this field, including (1) culture and self-concepts, (2) culture and emotional experiences, (3) culture and motivation, (4) culture and aesthetic expressions such as advertisement, artworks, cartoons (manga) and design of video games, (5) cultural variations in attention and perception, (6) cultural variation in child-rearing styles, (8) historical backgrounds of cultural variation in the human mind, and (9) benefits and difficulties of multicultural experiences. In addition, through field trips in Japan, students will be encouraged to introduce and share their cultural experiences with classmates.

2014: Revisiting Japan: Traditionalism, China, and the Artistic Envisioning of Modern Japan

Instructor: Dr. Walter Davis (Art and Design)

Description: This introduction to Japanese art of the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries considers how the artistic imagination of tradition has contributed to Japanese notions of modernity and contemporaneity. Lectures, discussions, and examination of original artworks and other materials in Japanese museums and archives will enable students to explore how visualizations of Japan’s past and its relations with China have shaped Japanese responses to such modern phenomena as Westernization and commercialization. We will focus on the activities and efforts of producers and supporters of Japanese nihonga (Japanese-style painting), nanga (literati painting), and popular prints, paying particular attention to their renderings of Chinese and Japanese history and cultural traditions. Study of Chinese guohua (national-style painting) will provide a comparative case of East Asian traditionalism in the modern era. Engaging original works of art and their contexts of production and circulation, participants in the course will develop a deeper understanding of the material, social, and institutional bases of Japan's cultural history. Excursions to historical and cultural sites in Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe will further familiarize students with traditional and modern Japanese culture.

2013: Understanding Japanese Game Culture

Instructor: Dr. Geoffrey Rockwell (Philosophy and Humanities Computing)

Description: The videogame market is one of the most creative industries in Japan. With companies like Nintendo and Sony that produce high quality and popular video games, as well as the console gaming platforms and hand-held gaming devices used to play them, the video game industry in Japan is known across the world. The associated culture that stems from this immense gaming market is thriving and active. In this course, we will look at Japanese game culture from a number of perspectives. We will look at the spaces of games and "otaku" culture as we delve into further discussion and study to examine the close connections between Japanese manga, anime, and videogames. The course will include taking field trips to Japanese arcades, to Nipponbashi in Osaka, and Akihabara in Tokyo. Finally, as we critically analyze the history of games from the historic benchmarks to the contemporary, students will get first hand experience playing and understanding the multiple facets of games based on the cultural and social components of today’s society.

For more information, see the course description here.