SOAS University of London

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

Music and Japanese Identities

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 1 or Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

Music is a frequently overlooked marker of identity, in spite of the ways in which it can act as a powerful medium for the configuration of space and identity. This course seeks to examine the multiple ways that music has functioned in Japanese modernity as a marker of shifting identities: rural, urban, modern, traditional, as well as gendered and subcultural identities. It will also examine the ways in which music can mediate space and place, creating both real and imagined social spaces. As such, it will focus on music as a complex social activity that involves not only musicians, but also other actors involved in the performance: audiences, promoters, critics, companies, etc.

Students thinking of writing an ISP on Japanese popular music in their final year are strongly encouraged to enrol on this module.


There are no pre-requisites for this module.  It is also available as an open option to students on other undergraduate programmes within SOAS.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the function in music in creating identity
  2. demonstrate an enhanced media literacy by understanding workings behind the creation of Japanese popular music
  3. question the idea of Japanese identity and critically examine the ways it can be complicated by region, gender, class, etc. 
  4. demonstrate enhanced research skills through the engagement with their research project


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

The following syllabus is for guidance only and is subject to alteration at the discretion of the module convenor.

Sessions will cover the following topics:

  1. Introduction: Thinking About Music, Place and Identity
  2. The Beginnings of Japanese Pre-war Popular Music
  3. Jazz: Authenticity and Interwar Modernity
  4. Group Sounds: The Creation of a Youth Culture
  5. Music Protest 1: Japanese fooku Music
  6. Enka: Nostalgia, Tears and the Urban Self
  7. The Lure of Blackness: Ethnicity in Japanese Hip-hop and Dancehall
  8. Idols: Desire, Fantasy and Virtuality
  9. Noise and Global Subcultures
  10. Music of Protest 2: Playing Back the Tsunami & Fukushima

Method of assessment

A reaction paper of 800 words to be submitted on day 1, week 7 in the term of teaching (25%); an essay of 2,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in the term following the one in which the module is taught (75%).


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules