SOAS University of London

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

Gender and Society in Contemporary Japan

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

The module is designed to offer a critical overview of changes occurring in the late 20th century Japanese culture and society. The module will complement and enhance the offerings available in the section, especially in bringing in the contemporary perspective on Japan which is essential for preparing the students for their year abroad.


No pre-requisites are required though a basic knowledge of Japanese culture would be an advantage.  This module is available as an open option on all SOAS degrees.  There is no language requirement for this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, the students will be able to demonstrate a clear knowledge about the discourses dominating present-day Japanese culture and society. The module will make use of (Japanese) media in order to familiarise them with self-representations as well as help them to discover how these discourses have entered the Japanese mainstream.  While Issues in post-war Japanese society I deals more with the political aspects of life in Japan, this module will look at the cultural side, discuss changes that Japanese society has undergone and make the students think critically about them by incorporating a wide range of sources.

Classroom discussions will encourage the students to develop a critical awareness of present-day Japan and question their own stereotypes and images – which will be underlined by the essay, in which the students will be familiarised with bibliographic methods, taking also into account how sources from the world wide web should be dealt with. Furthermore, in the essay the students will be encouraged to make critical use of a wide range of media, such as books, academic journals and newspapers.  The module is essential for anyone planning to further investigate contemporary Japanese culture and society in module of their degree.


Total of 10 weeks teaching with a two hour lecture and one hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

This module is designed to look at post-war Japanese (popular) culture and society. Specific topics to be dealt with include: 

  • changes of gender roles 
  • challenges of an ageing society 
  • youth culture 
  • developments in popular culture

Method of assessment

A marked outline and bibliography of 1500 words to be submitted on day 5, week 7 in the term of teaching (30%); an essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1 in the term following teaching (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Iwabuchi Koichi (2002): Recentering Globalisation. Popular culture and Japanese Transnationalism. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Craig, Timothy J. (ed.) (2000): Japan Pop! : Inside the World of Japanese Popular Culture. Armonk, N.Y. : M.E. Sharpe.
  • Coulmas, Florian (2007): Population Decline and Ageing in Japan. The Social Consequences. New York: Routledge.
  • Harootunian, Harry and Yoda Tomiko (eds.) (2006): Japan after Japan. Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Schodt, Frederik L (1996): Dreamland Japan. Writings on Modern Manga. Berkeley CA: Stone Bridge Press.
  • Schodt, Frederik L. (1997): Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. With a foreword by Osamu Tezuka. Tokyo, New York : Kodansha International.
  • McCarthy, Helen (2002): Hayao Miyazaki. Master of Japanese Animation. Films, Themes, Artistry. Berkeley, Calif. : Stone Bridge Press, 2002
  • Penn, Wm. (2003): The Couch Potato Guide to Japan. Inside the World of Japanese TV. Forest River Press.
  • Roberson, James E. and Suzuki Nobue (eds.) (2003): Men and Masculinity in Contemporary Japan. Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa. London: RoutledgeCurzon.
  • Lebra, Takie Sugiyama (2007): Identity, Gender and Status in Japan. Collected Papers of Takie Lebra. Folkestone/Kent: Global Oriental.
  • Macias, Patrick and Machiyama Tomohiro (2004): Cruising the Anime City. An Otaku Guide to neo Tokyo. Berkeley/CA: Stone Bridge Press.
  • Rebick, Marcus and Takenaka Ayumi (eds.) (2008): The Changing Japanese Family. London: Routledge.
  • Gravett, Paul (2004): Manga. Sixty Years of Japanese Comics. London: Laurence King.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules