SOAS University of London

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

Memory and Militarism on Japanese TV

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Full Year


Fluency in Japanese at the level of year 4 BA Japanese is needed.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of a module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. critical reading of Japanese television (media literacy)
  2. deep understanding of the highly volatile issue of Japanese war memory and the possibility of a resurrection of Japanese militarism as reflected in the media
  3. the ability to assess to what extent content may be limited by genre conventions and therefore, the ability to question the Japanese media system as a whole
  4. the ability to critically assess issues discussed in Japanese culture and society through the media,  and by applying methods of media analysis, to critically assess the contrasting methodologies in the field
  5. the ability to understand and engage with Japanese language media, and to some extent with the academic discourse surrounding Japanese media, in Japanese


This module is taught over 22 weeks with 4 hours classroom contact per week (1 hour lecture, 1 hour tutorial and 2 hour screening).

Scope and syllabus

This module will firstly provide an intensive theoretical introduction to the field of media analysis and particularly, the context in which Japanese television is being produced. Then, students will learn how to analyse the media critically by writing several discussion papers on the examples presented in class.  Since the media play an important part in upholding and creating memory as well as myths, the module will focus on the fictional genres, since, due to their narrative structure, they invite the audience to identify with the characters and possibly ‘relive’ the events.

In the second part, the module will focus on the analysis of several examples, which aim to incorporate several aspects of memory that is being upheld on the television screens. The focus will be set on Japanese TV drama, but, since the boundaries between genres continue to blur, some films and documentary-dramas may also be included.  Topics to be tackled include mainly the memory of the Second World War and the Self-Defence Forces as an emerging power within Japan.

In the lectures, the dramas will be screened and discussed, whereas the seminar will allow for a more detailed application of methods of media analysis, and also for applying theory that is presented in class.  Consequently, the first half of term 1 will be devoted to the theoretical and methodological background to the topic, providing the students with tools for media analysis. In the second half of the term, dramas and films dealing with the issue of war responsibility will be looked at. In term 2, examples that could roughly be divided into narratives of victimisation, stories of wartime and modern heroes will be looked at. Term 2 will conclude with an intensive discussion on how the media represent war memory and militarism and what kinds of myths are being generated.

Since original materials without subtitles will be used, the module will enhance the students’ knowledge of spoken Japanese. In addition, some of the texts to be read in class will also improve their ability to read Japanese.

Method of assessment

This module is examined by essay only.  The first essay of 1,000 - 1,500 words to be submitted on the last day of term 1 (15%); the second essay of 3,000 - 3,500 words to be submitted on the Friday of week 2, term 2 (35%); the third and final essay of 4,500 - 5,000 words to be submitted on the last Friday of term 2 (50%).

Suggested reading

  • Morley, David and Chen Kuan-Hsing (eds.) (1996): Stuart Hall. Critical Dialogues in Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.
  • Burn, Andrew and David Parker (2003):  Analysing Media Texts.  London, New York: Continuum.
  • During Simon (ed.) (2007):  The Cultural Studies Reader.  3rd Edition. London: Routledge.
  • Fiske, John (1987):  Television Culture.  London:  Methuen.
  • Fiske, John and John Hartley (2003):  Reading Television.  London:  Routledge, 2nd edition.
  • Chun, Jayson Makoto (2008): A Nation of A 100 Million Idiots? A Social History of Japanese Television, 1953-1973. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Clements, Jonathan and Tamamuro Motoko (2003):  The Dorama Encyclopedia. A Guide to Japanese Drama since 1953.  Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press.
  • Matsuo Yōichi (2002):  Terebi dorama o yomu.  Eizō no naka no nihonjinron.  Tōkyō:  Metropolitan.
  • Okada Yoshikazu (2005): Terebi dorama wa suki datta.  Tōkyō: Iwanami Shōten.
  • Gordon, Andrew (2003):  A Modern History of Japan.  Oxford:  Oxford UP.
  • Nozaki Yoshiko (2008):  War Memory, Nationalism and Education in Post-War Japan, 1945-2007.  The Japanese History Textbook Controversy and Ienaga Saburo’s Court Challenges.  New York:  Routledge.
  • Saaler, Sven and Wolfgang Schwentker (eds.) (2008): The Power of Memory in Modern Japan. Folkestone: Global Oriental.
    Mark MacWilliams (ed.) (2010): Imag(in)ing the War in Japan. Representing and Responding to Trauma in Postwar Literature and Film. Boston: Brill.
  • Seaton, Philip A. (2008): Japan’s Contested War Memories. The ‘Memory Rifts’ in Historical Consciousness of World War II. New York: Routledge.
  • Frühstück, Sabine (2007): Gender, Memory and Popular Culture in the Japanese Army. Berkeley: University of California Press.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules