Course: EAS 225
Instructor: Amy Borovoy
F 2019

Description of Course Goals and Curriculum

This course provides a broad introduction to contemporary (post-World War II) Japanese society and culture through social, economic, and political lenses. Topics covered include: the Japanese post-war economic miracle, labor and corporation culture, gender and family relations, youth culture and education, social control, law and order, and popular culture. The course also looks at societal issues in Japan such as mental health, public and population health, aging, and immigration. Japanese society is particularly interesting for American observers to study because although it is a major industrialized power, its social institutions and cultural values are strikingly different from Western ones. Through this course, students will gain an improved understanding of Japanese society as a fascinating combination of a deeply traditional, insular culture with a hypermodern, capitalist economy.

Learning From Classroom Instruction

There are two 80-minute lectures per week in this course, and no precept. It may seem unusual that a course like this doesn’t have a precept, but that’s because lectures are meant to be quite discussion-based. Prof. Borovoy encourages frequent participation in lecture (and it’s 25% of the course grade), so it is advantageous for you to do the required readings before lecture so that you can participate constructively in lecture. Prof. Borovoy usually covers one topic per week, with approximately 50-100 pages of reading per topic. In the first lecture of each week, she usually delivers material in a traditional lecture-style, while allowing for student participation in some areas. In the second lecture of each week, she will usually lecture for about 1/3 to 1/2 of the class time, and devote the rest to small-group discussions. In these discussions, the class splits into small groups and each group discusses a particular concept pertaining to that week’s topic. At the end of lecture, each group reports back to the class on what they discussed. These discussions are very helpful for recapping what you’ve learned that week and synthesizing all the information you’ve learned. Participation in these discussions is thus very useful for writing the papers and studying for the exams.

Learning For and From Assignments

There are 2 short papers (30%), an in-class midterm exam (20%), and an in-class final exam (25%) in this course. In addition, class participation counts for 25% of the grade. The assignments and assessments are designed to test your knowledge of concepts covered in lecture and in the readings. Each short paper is 3 – 5 pages long and is based on a list of prompts that Prof. Borovoy releases at the beginning of the semester. There are usually several paper prompts for each week’s topic. Prof. Borovoy allows you to choose which two weeks to write your 2 papers, so use this opportunity to plan wisely (i.e. don’t choose to make your paper due midterm week), and choose topics that are of interest to you! In the papers, Prof. Borovoy is looking for you to synthesize information from readings and lecture to respond to the prompt and argue a point. Simple regurgitation of concepts from class is not sufficient. Therefore, to do well on these papers, it’s important to carefully do the readings and pay attention in lecture to the arguments that Prof. Borovoy makes. Both the midterm and final exam are similar in style. There are usually 2 ID questions, 1-2 short essay responses, and 1 long essay response. The ID questions consist of keywords where your task is to identify what they mean and outline their social, political, and/or cultural context. The essay responses often involve concepts or topics discussed extensively in lecture, and require you to make an argument while synthesizing information from multiple sources. The best way to prepare for the essay responses is to pay close attention in lecture to what Prof. Borovoy says about each topic, and take good notes. Going over these notes, as well as carefully doing the relevant readings, will enable you to draw on this information during the exam and write good essay responses. To help you prepare for the midterm and final, Prof. Borovoy usually releases a study guide filled with sample keywords, short essay questions, and long essay questions. This guide is very helpful for giving you a sense of what you’re expected to know for both exams, so going over it in the days before the exam will enable you to do well on the test itself.

External Resources

When writing the papers, it can help to make an appointment with the Writing Center. The Writing Center fellows are great about reading over your draft paper and giving feedback, or working with you to brainstorm ideas for your paper. I found it very helpful when writing my papers to have as many people look over them and give me feedback, since if you can convey your argument well to someone who isn’t taking the class, Regarding studying for the exams, many of the concepts discussed in class can also be found online. Therefore, you can use sources like Google to get a basic overview of broad ideas before using the academic resources in the course to deepen your understanding of specific course topics.

What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection

This class does not require any prerequisite knowledge of Japanese language or familiarity with Japanese culture. It is designed as an accessible survey-level course on Japanese society and culture that can serve as the gateway to upper-level seminar courses on Japanese culture in the East Asian Studies department. Students from a wide variety of majors take this course, so it serves as a nice and straightforward SA distribution requirement. I recommend that anyone interested in learning more about contemporary Japanese society and culture, and how it differs from American society and culture, should take this class!
Japanese Society and Culture

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