SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of Japan and Korea

Aspects of Japanese Culture 2

Module Code:
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Term 2

Lectures and seminars will focus on continuity and change in Japanese cultural history from early modern period to the Occupation.

Varied topics will be discussed, such as:

  • women in Tokugawa Japan, 
  • early modern religious practice, 
  • Tokugawa power, 
  • the modern imperial institution, 
  • democratic movements 
  • and ultra right wing movements.



Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Objectives: an introduction - using multiple methodologies - to key issues in Japanese history, 1600-1945.

Learning outcomes:

  1. students will acquire basic understanding of issues in political, social, intellectual, literary and religious history.
  2. through presentations and written assignments, students will develop critical skills in speaking, discussing, thinking and writing.


Total of 11 weeks teaching with 3 hours classroom contact. Teaching is by means of interactive lectures, tutorials, and student presentations.

Scope and syllabus

Aspects of Japanese culture 2 is structured broadly chronologically, focussing on key themes in different periods: Tokugawa power; women in early Japan; Tokugawa literature, Tokugawa religion; the collapse of the Tokugawa; Meiji restoration; Meiji society; Meiji religion; Meiji literature; imperialism; people's rights; Taisho culture; Japan at war.

Method of assessment

One two-hour written examination taken in May/June (60%); one 2,500 word essay (40%) to be submitted on the last Monday, term 2.

Suggested reading

Required Reading:
  • William Wayne Farris, Japan to 1600: A Social and Economic History (University of Hawai'i Press, 2009)
Recommending Reading:
  • The Cambridge History of Japan (Cambridge University Press, 1988-99)
  • Collcutt et al., Cultural Atlas of Japan (Phaidon, 1988)
  • Eisenstadt, S., Japanese civilisation: a comparative view (University of Chicago Press, 1996)
  • Friday, Karl, Japan Emerging: Premodern History to 1850 (Westview Press, 2012)
  • Lu, David J., Japan a Documentary History (M.E. Sharpe, 2005)
  • Reischauer and Craig, Japan: Tradition and Transformation (Tuttle, 1978)
  • Totman, Conrad, A History of Japan (Blackwell, 2005)
  • Varley, H.P., Japanese Culture - 4th edition (University of Hawaii Press, 2000)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules