SOAS University of London

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

Censoring Japan: A Socio-Cultural History of Japanese Television

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/2023
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 1

Japan is one of the most avid television-watching nations in the world - with television sets being on throughout the day and people even watching it on their phones, it can be called one of the most important media within Japan. It penetrates all aspects of Japanese life and is located deeply within Japanese culture and society, becoming key to a profound understanding of Japan. At the same time, Japan is often criticised for having a very controlled media environment, exemplified, for example, by a formal warning to the Japanese government by the UN representative for Freedom of Press in May 2017. Therefore, the Japanese broadcasting landscape is extremely vibrant on the one hand and extremely closed, marred by (self-) censorship on the other. Japanese television provides an excellent case study that highlights many different facets of broadcasting in the 20th and 21st centuries within a changing political landscape.

Offering insight into the Japanese broadcasting system, its key players and legal framework as well as a survey of its most popular and important genres (e.g. news programmes, television drama, and anime), the module will show how Japanese society and television interact with one another and how (self-) censorship influences the production of content.

A wide range of visual examples will be looked at, but no Japanese language skills are needed, translations will be provided for relevant examples. 

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

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

  1. critically discuss issues relating to Japanese television and its influence on/role within Japanese society and culture
  2. critically assess how a broadcasting industry works and which players hold key roles, contributing to an enhanced media literacy
  3. critically analyse how television can be used as a vehicle for power and propaganda
  4. critically analyse how self-censorship can occur and what influence it can have on the contents of a programme
  5. critically engage with media theory and methods of media analysis
  6. critically engage with literature on (Japanese) television


Total of 10 weeks teaching with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar per week.

Scope and syllabus

The module will cover the historical background to the Japanese broadcasting landscape, its formative years and specificities. Then, its key players and their role within the broadcasting system will be looked at. This will be followed by an overview of poignant media events such as the Imperial Wedding of 1959 and the Tokyo Olympic Games of 1964 that contributed to making Japanese television what it is today . Then the issue of (self-) censorship, not just in itself but also by applying it to various genres will be looked at before the transnational appeal of Japanese television and its supposed demise in the light of internet streaming services takes centre stage.

Throughout the module, various relevant texts on media, propaganda, censorship will be read alongside the lecture.  

Method of assessment

A 1,000 word reaction paper to be submitted on day, 5, week 7, in the term of teaching (20%); A 2,500 work essay to be submitted on day 1, week 1, in term after teaching (80%)

Suggested reading

  •  Fiske, John (1987): Television Culture. London: Routledge.
  • Fiske, John and John Hartley (2003): Reading Television. London: Routledge, 2nd edition.
  • Fiske, John (1991): Understanding Popular Culture. London: Routledge.
  • Hartley, John (1992): Tele-ology. Studies in Television. London, New York: Routledge.
  • Miller, Toby and Marwan M. Kraidy (2016): Global Media Studies. Malden, MA: Polity Press.
  • Krauss, Ellis S. (2000): Broadcasting politics in Japan. NHK and Television news. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
  • Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro, Eva Tsai and JungBong Choi (2010): Television, Japan and Globalization. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan.
  • Chun, Jayson Makoto (2006): A Nation of 100 Million Idiots? A Socio-Cultural History of Japanese Television, 1953-1973. London: Routledge.
  • Steinberg, Marc and Alexander Zahlten (ed.): Media Theory in Japan. Durham: Duke UP.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules