SOAS University of London

Japan & Korea Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Culture

Japanese Cultural History 1600 to 1945: Power, Belief, Creativity

Module Code:
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

On successful completion of this module: 

  1. Students will acquire familiarity with issues in the political, social, intellectual, literary and religious history of Japan.
  2. Students will learn how to identify and evaluate arguments and the use of evidence in academic writing.
  3. Students will learn how to construct convincing arguments, combing critical insight and a command of relevant evidence.   


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

Scope and syllabus

This module 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

Am  essay of 2000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, in the term of teaching (40%); an essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term following (60%).

Suggested reading

Required Reading:
  • Marius Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (The Belknap Press, 2000)
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