JPNB42 Contemporary Japan: Selected Topics in Politics, History and Culture

Faculty of Arts
Spring 2020
Extent and Intensity
2/0/0. 5 credit(s). Type of Completion: zk (examination).
Ing. Ivo Plšek, M.A., M. P. P. (lecturer)
Guaranteed by
Mgr. Zuzana Kubovčáková, M.A., Ph.D.
Department of Japanese Studies - Asia Studies Centre - Faculty of Arts
Supplier department: Department of Japanese Studies - Asia Studies Centre - Faculty of Arts
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
Fields of study the course is directly associated with
Course objectives
In this class, we will read and debate influential works in the field of Japanese studies. We will try to understand whether Japan is a culture of shame rather than guilt (Ruth Benedict); whether its society can be characterized as vertical (Chie Nakane); whether its politics is primarily driven by status (Susan Pharr); whether its economic miracle is due to state-led capitalism (Chalmers Johnson); whether Japan is still "number 1" (Ezra Vogel) or a country that "can say no" (Ishihara Shintaro). By engaging the research of leading experts in and outside of Japan, we will explore crucial topics in Japanese culture, society and history of past 150 years.

The format of the class will require: 1) regular preparation and 2) active participation. Each week, students will be asked to complete assigned readings before coming to class (materials will be accessible through MU’s IS interface - all in English). During our meetings, we will debate these texts and learn how to identify their strengths and weaknesses.

This seminar follows a format commonly used at major universities in the United States. It puts a much greater emphasis on students' preparation and participation but also provides for a significantly richer and funner learning experience.

English fluency is essential. Participants in this course must be able to read scholarly literature and discuss its contents in a seminar setting. Furthermore, a deep interest or knowledge of East Asia/Japan will be very helpful.

Students majoring in Japanese language are encouraged to participate. This seminar will introduce them to some of the canonical social science texts on Japan. Students specializing in area studies, international relations, politics, economics, history, sociology or other related fields will also find this course useful.
Learning outcomes
At the end of this class, students:
- will become familiar with selected cannocial texts on Japan published in the last 70 years
- will learn how to learn, analyze and critically evaluate these writings
- will deepen their knowledge of Japanse culture, politics and history
  • SYLLABUS (tentative):
  • 1st MODULE: Japanese culture & society
  • - Ruth Benedict (1946): The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture
  • - Chie Nakae (1970): Japanese Society
  • - Vogel Ezra (1979): Japan as number one: lessons for America
  • - Norma Field (1993): In the Realm of a Dying Emperor
  • - John Nathan (2004): Japan Unbound
  • 2nd MODULE: Japanese Ideology
  • - Masao Maruyama (1963): Thought and Behaviour in Modern Japanese Politics
  • - Ishihara Shintaro and Morio Akio (1989): Japan that can say NO
  • 3rd MODULE: History and post-war memory
  • - Carol Gluck (1993): The Past in the Present (chap. 3 in Gordon, ed., Postwar Japan as History)
  • - James Orr (2001): The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan
  • - John Dower (1986): War Without Mercy: Race and Power in the Pacific War
  • - John Hersey (1946): Hiroshima
  • 4th MODULE: Japanese economy
  • - Chalmers Johnson (1982): MITI and the Japanese Miracle -The Growth of Industrial Policy, 1925-1975
  • - Krugman, Paul (1994, Foreign Affairs): The Myth of Asia's Miracle
  • -Ramseyer, J. Mark, and Frances McCall Rosenbluth (1993): Japan's political marketplace
  • - Woodall, Brian (1996): Japan under construction : corruption, politics, and public works
  • 5th MODULE: Japanese politics
  • Susan Pharr (1990): Losing Face: Status Politics in Japan
  • T.J. Pempel (1990): Uncommon Democracies: The one-party dominant regimes
  • RAMSEYER, J. Mark and Frances McCall ROSENBLUTH. Japan's political marketplace. 1st Harvard University press. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1997. viii, 262. ISBN 0674472810. info
  • Postwar Japan as history. Edited by Andrew Gordon. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. xii, 496. ISBN 0520074750. info
  • FIELD, Norma. In the realm of a dying emperor. 1. ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 1991. xi, 273. ISBN 0679405046. info
  • BENEDICT, Ruth. The chrysanthemum and the sword : patterns of Japanese culture. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1989. xi, 324. ISBN 0395500753. info
  • DOWER, John W. War without mercy : race and power in the Pacific war. Toronto: Pantheon books, 1986. 398 s. ISBN 0394751728. info
  • NAKANE, Chie. Japanese society. 1st ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972. xi, 157 s. ISBN 0-520-01642-4. info
Teaching methods
Group discussion.
Assessment methods
The grade will be determined by weekly quizzes (short multiple choice tests, designed to check students’ reading preparation). The quizzes will comprise 70% of the overall grade. 30% will be determined by class participation. One unexcused absence is allowed. Further absences will negatively affect the overall grade.

Grade distribution:

A 100% -90%
B 89% - 80%
C 79 - 75%
D 74% - 70%
E 69% - 65%
F 64% - 0%
Language of instruction
Follow-Up Courses
Further comments (probably available only in Czech)
The course is taught: every week.
General note: Předmět je určen i pro studenty mimo mateřské obory.

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