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Research Faculty of Media and Communication, Hokkaido University

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Contemporary Japan HSI

This course has finished. Welcome to the page for the Hokkaido University Summer Institute course Contemporary Japan. This course is taught by Professor Akihiro Ogawa (University of Melbourne), Professor Philip Seaton (Hokkaido University), Professor Jeffry Gayman (Hokkaido University) and Dr Svetlana Paichadze (Hokkaido University).


Photo: Hokkaido University Campus in the middle of Sapporo.


Syllabus and Course Description

Course Description
This is a survey course on contemporary Japanese society for undergraduate students who are broadly interested in Japan. We will examine the cultural and social contexts of pertinent issues in contemporary Japan, primarily using qualitative ethnographic studies. This subject examines basic themes in contemporary Japanese society, as well as commonly used theoretical models. Topics for discussion include the tension between individuals and collective society; notions of regional, gender and age-based status identities and the effects of social change. Students are expected to think critically about current events in Japan and apply these ideas to their own culture and society.

Expected Learning Outcomes
Students are expected to complete the required readings before class. Assignments include:
(1) Students are required to write three 500-word précis from the list of readings;
(2) Students are required to write one report from their participation in weekend fieldwork activities that will be scheduled; and
(3) A final essay

Course Requirements
(1) Three précis (30%): 500 words x 3 (10% each);
(2) Fieldwork report (30%): 1,000 words; and
(3) A final essay (40%): 1,500 words

Class attendance is required for this subject; if you do not attend a minimum of 80% of classes without an approved exemption you will not be eligible for a pass in this subject. All pieces of written work must be submitted to pass this subject by the deadlines announced.

Additional Information
Students are required to prepare the field trip fee (transportation cost, admission fee, etc.) for fieldwork; the total cost will be approximately 8,000 yen. The money will be collected on the day of the field trip.

Lecture 1: July 3, Monday

Introduction: Conceptual Foundation of Contemporary Japanese Studies

Duus, Peter. 2011. Showa-era Japan and Beyond: From Imperial Japan to Japan Inc. In The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society. Pp. 13-28. London; New York: Routledge.

Goodman, Roger. 2008. Making Majority Culture. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan. Jennifer Robertson, ed. Oxford: Blackwell. 2nd edition. Pp.59-72.

Nakane, Chie. 1970. Japanese Society. Berkeley: University of California Press. Excerpt.

Lecture 2: July 4, Tuesday

Family and Gender

White, Merry. 2011. Change and Diversity in the Japanese Family. In The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society. Victoria Lyon Bestor and Theodore C. Bestor, eds. London; New York: Routledge. Pp. 129-139.

Allison, Anne. 1991. Japanese Mothers and Obento: The Lunch-Box as Ideological State Apparatus. Anthropological Quarterly 64(4): 195-208.

Yamaguchi, Tomomi. 2014. “Gender Free” Feminism in Japan: A Story of Mainstreaming and Backlash. Feminist Studies 40(3): 541-572.

Lecture 3: July 5, Wednesday


Goodman, Roger. 2011. Japanese Education and Education Reform. In The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society. Victoria Lyon Bestor and Theodore C. Bestor, eds. London; New York: Routledge. Pp. 52-62.

Yoneyama, Shoko. 2008. The Era of Bullying: Japan under Neoliberalism. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus.

Okada, Akito. 2012. Education Reform and Equal Opportunity in Japan. Journal of International and Comparative Education 1(2): 116-129.

Lecture 4: July 6, Thursday


Gordon, Andrew. 2017. New and Enduring Dual Structures of Employment in Japan: The Rise of Non-Regular Labor, 1980s-2010s. Social Science Japan Journal 20 (1): 9-36.

Dalton, Emma. 2017. Womenomics, ‘Equality’ and Abe’s Neo-liberal Strategy to Make Japanese Women Shine. Social Science Japan Journal 20 (1): 95-105

Osawa, Machiko, Myoung Jung Kim, and Jeff Kingston. 2013. Precarious Work in Japan. American Behavioral Scientist 57 (3): 309-334.

Lecture 5: July 7, Friday

Race, Ethnicity, and Minorities 1: Ainu (
Jeffry Gayman)

Gayman, Jeffry. 2014. The Ainu. In Native Nations – The Survival of Fourth World Peoples. Sharlotte Needy, ed. Vernon: JCharlton Publishing Ltd. Pp. 55-72.

Kayano, Shigeru. 2013 [1994]. My Father’s Arrest. In Critical Readings on Ethnic Minorities and Multiculturalism in Japan. Richard Siddle, ed. Leiden; Boston: Brill. Pp. 199-209.

Watson, Mark K., lewallen, ann-elise, and Hudson, Mark J. 2014. Beyond Ainu Studies: An Introduction. In Beyond Ainu Studies. Mark J. Hudson, ann-elise lewallen, and Mark K. Watson, eds. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press. Pp. 1-22.

Fieldwork 1: July 8, Saturday

Field trip to The Ainu Museum

Details will be provided later.

Lecture 6: July 10, Monday

(Svetlana Paichadze)

Sugimoto, Yoshio. 2012. Kyosei: Japan’s cosmopolitanism. In Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitan Studies. Gerard Delanty, ed. London: Routledge. Pp. 452–62.

Paichadze, Svetlana. 2015. Language, Identity and Educational Issue of ‘Repatriates’ from Sakhalin. In Voices from the Shifting Russo-Japanese Border: Karafuto/Sakhalin. Svetlana Paichadze and Philip Seaton, eds. London: Routledge. Pp. 212-232.

Tsuda, Takeyuki. 2009. Global Inequalities and Diaspora Return: Japanese American and Brazilian Encounters with the Ethnic Homeland. In Diasporic Homecomings: Ethnic Return Migration in Comparative Perspective. Takeyuki Tsuda, ed. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Pp. 227-259.

Lecture 7: July 11, Tuesday

Race, Ethnicity, and Minorities 2: Buraku, Zainichi & Day Laborers

Htun, Tin Tin. 2012. Social Identities of Minority Others in Japan: Listening to the Narratives of Ainu, Burke and Zainichi Koreans. Japan Forum 24(1): 1-22.

Gill, Tom. 2015. Yokohama Street Life: The Precarious Life of a Japanese Day Laborer. The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Vol. 13, Issue 34, No. 2, August 24, 2015.

Takao, Yasuo. 2017. The Politics of LGBT Policy Adoption: Shibuya Ward’s Same-Sex Partnership Certificates in the Japanese Context. Pacific Affairs 90(1): 7-27.

Lecture 8: July 12, Wednesday

Civil Society: Overview of Grassroots Dynamism

Ogawa, Akihiro. 2011. The New Prominence of the Civil Sector in Japan. In The Routledge Handbook of Japanese Culture and Society. Victoria Lyon Bestor and Theodore C. Bestor, eds. London; New York: Routledge. Pp. 186–197.

Avennel, Simon. 2015. Transnationalism and the Evolution of Post-National Citizenship in Japan. Asian Studies Review 39(3): 375-394.

Koschmann, J. Victor. 2007. Authority and the individual. In A Companion to Japanese History. William Tsutsui, ed. Pp. 511-527. Oxford: Blackwell.

Lecture 9: July 13, Thursday

Demographic Change

Thang, Leng Leng. 2011. Aging and Social Welfare. In The Routledge Handbook on Japanese Culture and Society. Victoria Lyon Bestor and Theodore C. Bestor, eds. New York: Routledge. Pp. 172-185.

Kingston, Jeff. 2013. Demographic Dilemmas, Women and Immigration. In Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan. Jeff Kingston, ed. London; New York: Routledge. Pp.189-200.

Dales, Laura. 2014. Ohitorisama, Singlehood and Agency in Japan. Asian Studies Review 38(2): 224-242.

Lecture 10: July 14, Friday

Pop Culture / Contents Tourism
 (Philip Seaton)

Seaton, Philip, and Takayoshi Yamamura. 2015. Japanese Popular Culture and Contents Tourism. Japan Forum Special Edition 27(1).

Articles on the International Journal of Contents Tourism IJCT Vol.1 2016

Fieldwork 2: July 15, Saturday

Field trip to survey contents tourism at … (tanoshimi ni!)

Details will be provided later.

Lecture 11: July 18, Tuesday


Toivonen, Tuukka, and Yuki Imoto. 2013. Transcending Labels and Panics: The Logic of Japanese Youth Problems. Contemporary Japan 25(1): 61–86.

Masuda, Jin. 2015. Finding Hope in the Life of Young Part-timers. International Journal of Japanese Sociology 24(1): 106-118.

Genda, Yuji. 2013. The Solitary Non-Employed Persons (SNEPs): A New Concept of Non-Employment. Japan Labor Review 10(4): 6-15.

Lecture 12: July 19, Wednesday

Post-Fukushima Japan

Kelly, Dominic. 2015. Ideology, Society, and the Origins of Nuclear Power in Japan. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 9(1): 47-64.

Hasegawa, Koichi. 2014. The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Japan’s Civil Society: Context, Reactions, and Policy Impacts. International Sociology 29(4): 283-301.

Klien, Susanne. 2016. Reinventing Ishinomaki, Reinventing Japan? Creative Networks, Alternative Lifestyles and the Search for Quality of Life in Post-growth Japan. Japanese Studies 36(1): 39-60.

Resources and Reading List

The links to all resources are on this page. Some are open access, but all other materials may be accessed using the password given in class. Sharing the password with people outside this class is strictly forbidden.