Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Description

This course explores how and why Japan, a late-comer to modernization, emerged as an industrial power and the world’s second-richest nation, notwithstanding its recent difficulties. We are particularly concerned with the historical development of technology in Japan especially after 1945, giving particular attention to the interplays between business, ideology, technology, and culture. We will discuss key historical phenomena that symbolize modern Japan as a technological power in the world; specific examples to be discussed in class include, kamikaze aircraft, the Shinkansen high-speed bullet train, Godzilla, and anime.

Course Requirements

Attendance in all class sessions is expected. As this is a seminar course, students are expected to be prepared for and to participate in discussion, either planned or impromptu. Readings for each session should be completed before the discussion on that unit begins, so pace yourself throughout the semester. A list of questions to discuss in class will be provided in advance. By the end of the course, students are expected to develop the ability to think critically about cultural issues of historical interest and importance in the history of technology within a non-Western context. Students are also expected to gain basic factual knowledge of Japanese history, and be able to reach informed conclusions about factual information regarding technology and culture in Japan.

During the semester, all students are required to make two presentations, each of about 15-minutes’ duration. The subjects and dates will be determined by the student in consultation with the professor. Further instructions on these presentations, short papers, and weekly readings will be provided later.


Lec # Topics KEY DATES
1 Introduction: Understanding Japan

2 Reading Maps and Defining Technology Brief in-class presentation
3 Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868 Paper 1 due
4 Meiji Japan, 1868-1911

5 Imperialism, Technology, and Business Paper 2 due
6 Kamikazation of Japan, 1937-1945

7 Postwar Japan I, 1945-73

8 Symbol of Postwar Japan: Godzilla

9 Symbol of Postwar Japan: The Shinkansen Bullet Train

10 Postwar Japan II, 1973-Present

11 Symbol of Postwar Japan: Anime

12 Japan in the “West”

13 Review: Technology and Culture in Modern Japan

Grading Policy

Short Papers 20%
Presentation I 25%
Presentation II 25%
Attendance 30%

Course Info

As Taught In
Fall 2005
Learning Resource Types
Written Assignments with Examples
Activity Assignments