Japanese Program Courses

Kabukicho District

Fall 2023 Offerings Spring 2023 Offerings Course Info on SIS Archives

Course Descriptions

The list below includes descriptions of all undergraduate and graduate courses offered by the Japanese Program.

Review specific course requirements for the Japanese Program. For up-to-date information on course offerings, schedules, room locations and registration, please visit the Student Information System (SIS).

Language Courses

JPN 1, JPN 2 Elementary Japanese. Pronunciation, basic grammar, and conversation. An introduction to modern written Japanese, including hiragana and katakana syllabaries and some kanji. No previous knowledge of Japanese required.  

JPN 3, JPN 4 Intermediate Japanese. Continuation of Elementary Japanese. Emphasis on grammar, reading, writing, and conversation. Prerequisite: Japanese 2 or equivalent.  

JPN 21, JPN 22 Reading and Conversation. Continuation of Intermediate Japanese with more emphasis on reading, writing, and conversation. A considerable portion of the class will be conducted in Japanese. Prerequisite: Japanese 4 or consent.  

JPN 93, JPN 94 Directed Study. Guided independent study in Japanese language and culture. Prior consent of instructor is required.

JPN 95, JPN 96 Teaching Internship. For students who have acquired a good command of Japanese, i.e. completion of Japanese 22 (minimum). Students learn basic principles of language pedagogy through in-class instruction and an on-site practicum. All students teach weekly Japanese language and culture courses at local public schools. Enrollment limited to 10. Initial screening required. Prerequisite: Japanese 021 and concurrent 121 or above.  

JPN 121, JPN 122 Advanced Japanese. Discussion of Japanese literary and nonliterary texts in Japanese. Prerequisite: Japanese 22 or equivalent.  

JPN 123, JPN 124 Advanced Readings in Japanese Culture. For students with a good command of Japanese. Fiction, poetry, film, newspaper articles, and essays. Course work includes oral and written reports. Prerequisite: Japanese 122 or equivalent.  

Literature and Culture Courses Taught in Japanese

JPN 191, JPN 192 Seminar on Special Topics in Japanese. An intensive reading course on selected topics. Conducted entirely in Japanese. Prerequisite: Japanese 124 or equivalent. 

Courses Taught in English

JPN 61 An Introduction to Japanese Culture. Fundamental principles of Japanese thought and sensibility: animism and communion with nature and the dead, transience, the beauty of sorrow. China as a source of high culture. Focus on the Noh plays and their literary sources. Cross-cultural comparisons. Taught in English. No prerequisites. (May be taken at the 100 level with consent; see Japanese 161 below.)  

JPN 62 Modern Japanese Literature. A study of modernity and the meaning of post-modernity. Crucial Japanese texts from 1600 to the Second World War. Taught in English. No prerequisites. (May be taken at the 100 level with consent; see Japanese 162 below.)  

JPN 63 Postwar Japanese Literature: Modern to Postmodern. Introduction to representative writers of the postwar period, including Tanizaki, Kawabata, Tsushima, and Murakami. Examines the nature of Japanese culture after 1945, focusing on such issues as the devastation of the War, the effect of the occupation, the "economic miracle" of reconstruction, and changing work and gender roles. Taught in English. No prerequisites. (May be taken at the 100 level with consent; see Japanese 163 below.) 

JPN 71 Love & Sexuality in World Literature. Cross-listed as CIV 71, RUS 71, ILVS 71.
Representations of love and sexuality in Japanese and Russian literature. Specific issues to be addressed across a diverse body of literature, film and art include 1) the fusion of sexuality and romance, 2) love as a problem versus love as an ideal, 3) societal conventions as to so-called proper or normative behavior (the various ways hetero-and homosexuality, celibacy, and hedonism have been understood and commented upon in artistic media). All discussions in English.  

JPN 80 Japanese Film. Survey of important Japanese films, including internationally renowned works by the "masters," Mizoguchi, Ozu, and Kurosawa; the 60's avant-garde cinema of Oshima and Shinoda; and some innovative works by contemporary filmmakers, such as Itami and Morita. Understanding Japanese culture through its cinema and exploring that cinema's relation to Western cultural hegemony. Taught in English. No prerequisites.  

JPN 81 The World of Japanese Animation: Culture, Cult, and Commerce. The themes, directors, and imagery of Japanese animation (anime). Analysis of animation as a medium. Discussion of relation between manga and anime and cultural roots of both media. Study of major themes--elegiac, carnival-esque, and apocalyptic. From prewar military propaganda to the contemporary work of Satoshi Kon, Hayao Miyazaki, Mamoru Oshii and Katsuhiro Otomo. The anime industry and the spread of anime worldwide. A consideration of otaku culture. Taught in English.  

JPN 82 Animism, Lyricism, and Monstrosity. Studies the consequences of an animistic worldview that sees the world as living rather than dead. The power of things and our ability to lyrically feel and express vitality. The monstrous mix of dead and living expressive systems. Explores topics including Heidegger's instrumentalist dead world, the non-symbolic shimenawa, and Ainu yukara, and the works of Sesshu and Ozu, Matsuo Basho, Izumi Kyoka, Shinkai Makoto, Tawada Yoko, Shizuki Shigeru, Miyazaki Hayao, and Ito Junji.

JPN 83 Disney/Ghibli: Comparing Two Animation Studios. (Cross-listed w/ ILVS 78 & FMS 50) Critical comparison of two of the most influential animation studios in the contemporary world, each a cultural phenomenon. Focus on the contrast between Japanese and American worldviews. History, aesthetics, and narrative style of both studios and their differing approaches to gender, national ideology, ethics, and environmental concerns. In English.

JPN 91, JPN 92 Special Topics. Courses on selected themes and authors. Conducted in English. Some recently taught Special Topics:

  • Japanese Popular Culture
  • Fantasy and Japanese Culture
  • Cultural Legacies of the Atomic Bomb
  • Woman's Film and Literature in Japan
  • East-Asian Cinema
  • Japanese Animation
  • Gender and Identity in Japanese Popular Culture
  • Love and Sexuality in Japanese and Russian Literatures
  • Ethnic Narratives of Japan and Korea

JPN 110 Major Japanese Writers. A Study of major Japanese men and women novelists - their major works and their social contexts. Selection of authors will change year to year. Includes Natsume Soseki, Enchi Fumiko, Mishima Yukio, Kawabata Yasunari, Oe Kenzaburo, Yoshimoto Banana, Murakami Haruki. No prerequisites. 

JPN 111 Japanese Poetry: from Traditional to Avant-Garde. A Study of Japanese Poetry, from its classical forms of waka and haiku to its modern transformations through various Western modernist movements. By encompassing both classical and modern modes of Japanese poetry, we investigate how the function of poetry in society has changed through history. The course also addresses the reciprocal relationship between Western and Japanese poetics. Taught in English. No prerequisites. 

JPN 112 Major Japanese Film Directors. An in-depth study of one or two important Japanese film directors, such as Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, and Nagisa Oshima. Prerequisite: Japanese 80 or consent. Enrollment limited to 15. Taught in English.  

JPN 113 Japanese Visual Culture. Examination of the roots of manga (comic books) and anime (animation) through a study of the Japanese narrative tradition and its close ties to the visual arts. Emphasis on illustrated gesaku (frivolous letters) texts, the theater, and the woodblock prints of the Edo and Meiji periods. Comparisons with the manga of Osamu Tezuka, and with the anime of Miyazaki Hayao.  

JPN 114 Gender in Japanese Culture. The role of femininity and masculinity in Japanese culture, from the writings of Muraskai Shikibu, creator of "The Tale of Genji" to the heroines of contemporary Japanese animation (anime). Our sources will include , literature, film, essays, television series, manga (comics) and anime. The role of women as a repository of tradition, the use of women in contemporary horror films, the rise and fall of the iconic salaryman, the crisis in contemporary masculinity, and issues in queer sexuality. Taught in English.  

JPN 115 Haruki Murakami. In-depth study of one of the most important contemporary Japanese writers, Haruki Murakami. Readings: A Wild Sheep Chase, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Norwegian Wood, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, etc. Murakamis status as an international writer. His relation to American Literature. No prerequisite. In English.

JPN 116 The Writings of Natsume Soseki. The essays and novels of the brilliant yet tortured Natsume Soseki , one of modern Japan's most important writers. A consideration of his turbulent times and of his major themes--woman as oasis, modern masculinity, redemption, the omnipresent allure of death. An assessment of his role in the formation of the modern Japanese literary canon. Taught in English.  

JPN 117 Horror and Reverence in Japanese Culture. Examination Japan's long tradition of monstrosity and horror, "Japanese gothic." The earliest texts to contemporary treatments: literature, film, anime, manga, painting, popular culture. The influence of animism on fear as both reverence and horror. Consideration given to each side of this duality, and attention to the dynamism that destroys the distance between one and the other.

JPN 118 Haruki Murakami and World Literature. (Cross-listed as ILVS 118). Comparative study of Haruki Murakami's literature in the context of World Literature. How some Western writers' works have shaped Murakami's work. How literature travels the globe, breaking national boundaries. The writers to be examined may include, besides Murakami, Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler, Raymond Carver, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Dostoevsky. Freud, Girard, Karatani, Nietzsche, Damrosch, and others, provide theoretical insights. Taught in English. No prerequisites.

JPN 119 Nothingness. (Cross-listed w/ PHIL 119) Nothingness as nihilism and fullness (mu). Topics may include Animism, Buddhism (especially Zen), the Romantic symbol, phenomenology and existentialism. Works by Nagarjuna, Nishitani Keiji, Mishima Yukio. Kojeve, Hegel, Sartre, Paul Schrader, Bresson, and Ozu.

JPN 161 An Introduction to Japanese Culture. (See Japanese 61 for course description.) For 161, additional readings in the original Japanese; extra class meeting.  

JPN 162 Modern Japanese Literature. (See Japanese 62 for course description.) For 162, additional readings in the original Japanese; extra class meeting.  

JPN 163 Postwar Japanese Literature: Modern to Postmodern. (See Japanese 63 for course description.) For 163, additional readings in the original Japanese; extra class meeting.  

JPN 170 The Orient in the Mind of the West. Two centuries of the role of Asia in the Western mind. Edward' Said's "Orientalism" and its subsequent critiques. The "Orient" vis a vis the West in global power relations. Rudyard Kipling's "Kim", Puccinis's "Madama Butterfly" and tropes of Asia. How these stereotypes have played out in both high and popular Western culture. Student research papers and class presentations on the interflow of images between the civilizations of the West and those of China, India, and Japan.  

JPN 191 Seminar on Special Topics. Special seminar on selected topics in Japanese literature and culture conducted in English. Contingent on the approval by the IR program, it may satisfy the IR seminar requirement. Enrollment limited to 15. 

Some recently taught seminars:

  • Japan and Postmodernism
  • Modernization and Japanese Literature

JPN 192 Advanced Special Topics. Special advanced course on selected topics in Japanese literature and culture.

JPN 193, JPN 194 Advanced Directed Study. Guided independent study of Japanese language and culture for advanced students. Prior consent of instructor is required.

JPN 198, JPN 199 Honors Thesis.

Japan Related Courses from other Departments

History of Art and Architecture

FAH 11 Buddhist Art. (Cross-listed as Religion 11.) A survey of the Buddhist art of India, China, and Japan. Painting, sculpture, and architecture in relation to changing liturgical requirements. Changes in form and iconography that occurred when Buddhism encountered indigenous traditions. Offered in alternate years.  

FAH 10 Japanese Art and the West. Artistic exchange between Japan and the West from the sixteenth century to the present. Focus on Japan's Occidentalism and the West's Japonisme movements; also Japanese nationalists' rebellion against cultural and artistic invasions from the West. Major artists include Hokusai, Degas, Aoki Shigeru, and Van Gogh. (May be taken at 100 level with consent; see below.)  

FAH 14 The Arts of Japan. (Cross-listed as Religion 14.) Study of traditional painting, sculpture, architecture, and ceramics from pre-Buddhist times to the Meiji Restoration (1868). Particular focus on national modes of expression developed in response to foreign cultural influences. Offered in alternate years.  

FAH 15 Japanese Architecture. (Cross-listed as Religion 15.) Historical survey of major developments in Japanese religious and secular architecture and gardens from pre-Buddhist times to the modern age. (May be taken at 100 level with consent; see below.)  

FAH 107 Japanese Narrative Painting. The concepts and development of this major genre of Japanese art from the Heian (794-1185) through the Edo (1615-1867) periods. Focus will be on the subjects, methods of representation, narrative devices, and the relationship between text and image. Trips to museum collections. Prerequisite: Art History 14 or consent.  


REL 43 Asian Religions. A survey of the living religions of Asia from a historical point of view. Special attention is given to historical development, the major tenets of faith, and the distinctive ceremonies. Religions studied include Shintoism, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

REL 45 Introduction to Buddhism. The history, doctrines, and practices of Buddhism in India, Sri Lanka, China, Korea, and Japan. Philosophical theories of the Buddha, meditation, and nirvana. Aspects of Buddhist social and institutional history.

REL 54 Japanese Religion. A study of Shinto and Japanese Buddhism and their roles in Japanese society and culture, with attention to recent developments, including nationalistic Shinto and the new religions of Japan.


HIST 47 Japan to 1868. Prehistoric times to the eve of the Meiji Restoration. Emphasis upon early continental ties; Shinto, Buddhist, and Confucian traditions; Japanese feudalism; struggles for control of land and peasants; the changing composition of the ruling class; incipient capitalism of the Tokugawa period; breakdown of the Tokugawa order. Primary materials used in translation.  

HIST 48 Japan from 1868 to the Present. From the eve of the Meiji Restoration to the twentieth century. Topics include the unequal treaties with Western powers, the Meiji Restoration, early industrialization, growth of the imperialist state, fascism, war, defeat, recovery, and recent role as a member of the Western camp.  

HIST 123 Japanese History through Literature. Reading and discussion of primary sources with both historical and literary interest, including representative samples of chronicles, courtly diaries, war tales, novels, kabuki dramas. 

HIST 124 Tokugawa Japan. Japanese history from 1603 to 1868. Emphasis upon the Tokugawa legacy to modern Japan. Topics include commercial growth, the urban tradition, feudal-bureaucratic rule, philosophical and religious thought, education, gender and sexuality, and peasant rebellions. Prerequisite: History 69 or consent.  

HIST 125 Gender and Sexuality in Japanese History. Discussion of ancient matriarchy, marriage customs, the status of women in ancient courtly and medieval military society, female samurai, childhood, initiation rites, monastic and samurai homosexuality, male and female prostitution, ruling-class "deployment" of sexuality, and the appeal of androgyny in theater and other arts. 


MUS 27 The Music of Asia. Musical systems, musical instruments, music in its historical, social, and cultural context. Topics from the musical traditions of diverse Asian cultures. (May be taken at 100-level.)

Political Science

PS 131 Critical Issues Confronting Japan. Examines contentious debates within Japan regarding its politics, economy, and society, as well as foreign policy, from global and comparative perspectives. Topics include the Emperor, constitutional revision, one-party dominance, civil society, gender inequality, immigration, nuclear power, U.S.-Japan alliance, and relations with China and Korea.