Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


This course is designed for students seeking a fundamental understanding of Japanese history, politics, culture, and the economy. “Raw Fish 101” (as it is often labeled) combines lectures, seminar discussion, small-team case studies, and Web page construction exercises, all designed to shed light on contemporary Japan.

The 6 unit (pass/fail) and the 9 unit (graded) subjects meet together, and are organized around four substantive topics: 1) Politics and history, 2) Economy and technology, 3) Education and the workplace, and 4) Community and civil society. Each topic is addressed in three separate class meetings. The first will be a lecture, with time for Q and A. The second will be a seminar discussion based upon carefully selected readings on the same topic and guided by students’ questions. After we have had four sets of lectures and seminars on the topics, we will have four sessions in which students will make two kinds of classroom presentations: 1) A group presentation of the issues associated with a case study provided by the instructors, and 2) The presentation of a Web page developed by a second group of students.

Additional readings and assignments are outlined below for those who elect the 9 unit variant. Either way, this subject is, as advertised, merely an “introduction”. We hope that students will be stimulated to select other subjects related to Japanese studies, consider selection of a concentration in Japanese studies, and/or travel to Japan for a closer look at this critically important, technologically advanced nation.


There are six requirements for both the 6-unit and the 9-unit subjects:

  • Assigned readings.
  • Mandatory attendance at class.
  • Active class participation.
  • Two discussion questions integrating the lecture and seminar readings e-mailed to instructors at least one day before the seminar session.
  • Case study presentations: The case studies require students to take and defend a point of view, based on what s/he has learned from lectures and seminar readings. By engaging the student in debate and critical thinking, we aim to enliven the key issues faced both by Japanese citizens and by students who encounter Japan.
  • Web page construction: Groups of students will build and present to the class a Web page that addresses the core concepts and information sources pertaining to that week’s topic.

Additional Assignments for the 9-Unit Subject

In addition to the starred readings on the syllabus, there is a final exam and two paper assignments:

  • First paper, due in class Ses #5: Select a book from the following list (PDF). In 5-7 pages, summarize the author’s main thesis and identify the major issues associated with this topic. Criticize the author’s approach if appropriate.
  • Second paper, due in class Ses #8: Write a short 5-7 page essay on one group of readings. Use the starred readings as well as at least three readings footnoted in the assignments. What do the authors say? Why is the subject important? What do they omit? Are there better readings to assign?

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment Activity Assignments
assignment Presentation Assignments
assignment Written Assignments