Curriculum & Requirements

The Japanese Section attracts beginners as well as those who have pursued Japanese in high school. Students combine their Japanese language coursework with a wide list of majors, ranging from Asian Studies, History, Government and Legal Studies, Economics, Art History, and Biology. Many study abroad in Japan, and consolidate their learning upon their return through Independent Studies and Honors Projects.

Our curriculum is adaptable to the prior knowledge, disciplinary interests, and learning styles of a wide variety of students. It is a good match for those just interested in learning a new language as well as those who want to major in Asian Studies in preparation for graduate school or international work.

Students who want to earn a Minor in Japanese need to fulfill the following requirements.

1. Requirements for the Japanese Language Minor in Asian Studies

The minor in Japanese Language consists of five courses, four of which must be in Japanese language. Students who have a background in the language must take four classes in Japanese from the point where they are placed in the placement exam. The fifth course may be either an advanced Japanese language class, or a literature, film, or culture course in the area of language study, including a first-year seminar. The roster of qualified classes may change, so students should consult with their advisors.

Up to two full Bowdoin credits from an approved off-campus study program may count for the minor. No "double counting" of courses is allowed for the minor. One course taken with the Credit/D/Fail grading option may count for the minor as long as a CR (Credit) grade is earned and the course is not at the 3000 level.

2. Japanese Language Courses and Japan-related Courses

Japanese Language Courses
Anyone interested in studying Japanese at Bowdoin should be able to find a course suitable for his/her level since we offer a full range of language instruction: from beginner to advanced.

Elementary Japanese I (Japanese 1101)
An introductory course in modern Japanese language. In addition to mastering the basics of grammar, emphasis is placed on active functional communication in the language, reading, and listening comprehension. Context-oriented conversation drills are complemented by audio materials. The two kana syllabaries and 60 commonly used kanji are introduced. Textbook used: Genki I 2nd edition (Lessons 1-6), Japan Times.

Student works:

Fall 2012 Skit presentation:

Fall 2011 Skit presentation:

Elementary Japanese II (Japanese 1102)
A continuation of the fundamentals of Japanese grammar structures and further acquisition of spoken communication skills, listening comprehension, and proficiency in reading and writing. An additional 90 kanji are introduced. Textbook used: Genki I 2nd edition (Lessons 7-12), Japan Times.

Student works:

Spring 2013 Skit presentation:

Spring 2013 Sakubun presentation:

Spring 2012 Skit presentation:

Spring 2011 Sakubun presentation:

Spring 2012 Sakubun presentation:

Intermediate Japanese I (Japanese 2203)
An intermediate course in modern Japanese language, with introduction of advanced grammatical structures, vocabulary, and characters. Continuing emphasis on acquisition of well-balanced language skills based on an understanding of the actual use of the language in the Japanese socio-cultural context. An additional 100 kanji are introduced. Textbook used: Genki II (Lessons 13-18), Japan Times.

Student works:

Fall 2012 Skit presentation:

Intermediate Japanese II (Japanese 2204)
A continuation of Intermediate Japanese I with the introduction of more advanced grammatical structures, vocabulary, and characters. Textbook used: Genki II (Lessons 19-23), Japan Times.

Student works:

Spring 2013 Skit presentation:

Spring 2011 Skit presentation:

Advanced-Intermediate Japanese I (Japanese 2205)
Increases students' proficiency in both spoken and written modern Japanese. A variety of written and audiovisual materials are used to consolidate and expand mastery of more advanced grammatical structures and vocabulary. Includes oral presentation, discussion, and composition in Japanese.

Student works:

Fall 2012 Cooking presentation:

Fall 2010 Sakubun presentation:

Fall 2011 Cooking project presentation:

Advanced-Intermediate Japanese II (Japanese 2206)
A continuation and progression of materials used in Advanced Intermediate Japanese I.

Essay contest by the Counsel General of Boston: Kim Lacey received the third place in advanced essay contest in 2013. Her essay title is “私の心を支える日本(My Heart’s Support, Japan)”Student works:

Spring 2013: Essay contest by the Counsel General of Boston: Kim Lacey received the third place in advanced essay contest in 2013. Her essay title is “私の心を支える日本(My Heart’s Support, Japan)”

Spring 2013 Project presentation:

Spring 2013 Speech presentation:

Spring 2012 Speech presentation:

Spring 2012 Mini-project presentation:

Advanced Japanese I (Japanese 3307)
Designed to develop mastery of the spoken and written language. Materials from various sources such as literature, newspapers and cultural journals as well as TV programs and films are used. Assigned work includes written compositions and oral presentations.

Advanced Japanese II (Japanese 3308)
A continuation of Advanced Japanese I. Continued efforts to develop oral and written fluency in informal and formal situations. Reading of contemporary texts of literature, business, and social topics.

Student works:

SoonHo Park 2012Spring 2011: Research project presentation

Spring 2012: Essay contest by the Counsel General of Boston: SoonHo Park received the second place in advanced essay contest in 2012. His essay title is “小さな桜の花びらの旅.”

Japanese Language Advanced Independent Study
Students who have reached the level beyond Advanced Japanese II may take an Independent Study in Japanese with permission from a sponsoring faculty member. Focus of the course depends on the students' interest, sponsoring professor's field, etc.

3. Study Abroad

The Japanese Section maintains links with a wide variety of study-away programs in Japan, including JCMU, KCJS, AKP, IES, and Waseda University. Location choices for study away are tailored to student interests, whether it is intensive language study, cultural immersion or exposure to contemporary pop-culture and sociological trends.

Read more on the Study Away page.

4. Japan-related Courses

In addition to a full range of Japanese language courses, you can take other Japan related courses in the fields of literature, history, political science, and art. The following is a list of courses offered currently or in the recent past.

Japanese History

Asian011. Living in the Sixteenth Century [MN1]

Examines the nature of state and society in an age of turmoil. Studies patterns of allegiances, ways of waging war, codes of conduct, and the social matrix of sixteenth-century Japan, based on primary and secondary sources. Kurosawa’s masterpiece Kage Musha provides the thematic foundation for this course. Note: This course fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors.

Asian283. The Origins of Japanese Culture and Civilization

How do a culture, a state, and a society develop? Designed to introduce the culture and history of Japan by exploring how “Japan” came into existence, and to chart how patterns of Japanese civilization shifted through time. Attempts to reconstruct the tenor of life through translations of primary sources, and to lead to a greater appreciation of the unique and lasting cultural and political monuments of Japanese civilization. Note: This course fulfills the pre-modern requirement for history majors.

Asian284. The Emergence of Modern Japan

What constitutes a modern state? How durable are cultures and civilizations? Examines the patterns of culture in a state that managed to expel European missionaries in the seventeenth century, and came to embrace all things Western as being “civilized” in the mid-nineteenth century. Compares the unique and vibrant culture of Tokugawa Japan with the rapid program of late-nineteenth-century industrialization, which resulted in imperialism, international wars, and ultimately, the postwar recovery.

Asian380. The Warrior Culture of Japan

Explores the “rise” of the warrior culture of Japan. In addition to providing a better understanding of the judicial and military underpinnings of Japan’s military “rule” and the nature of medieval Japanese warfare, shows how warriors have been perceived as a dominant force in Japanese history. Culminates in an extended research paper.

Japanese Literature

Asian246. The Fantastic and Demonic in Japanese Literature

From possessing spirits and serpentine creatures to hungry ghosts and spectral visions, Japanese literary history is alive with supernatural beings. The focus of study ranges from the earliest times to modernity, examining these motifs in both historical and theoretical contexts. Readings pose the following broad questions: How do representations of the supernatural function in both creation myths of the ancient past and the rational narratives of the modern nation? What is the relationship between liminal beings and a society’s notion of purity? How may we understand the uncanny return of dead spirits in medieval Japanese drama? How does the construction of demonic female sexuality vary between medieval and modern Japan? Draws on various genres of representation, from legends and novels to drama, paintings, and cinema. Students develop an appreciation of the hold that creatures from the “other” side maintain over our cultural and social imagination.

Asian244c - IP. Modern Japanese Literature.

As a latecomer to industrial modernity, Japan underwent rapid changes in the early part of the twentieth century. Examines how the creative minds of this period responded to the debates surrounding these sweeping technological and social changes, pondering, among other things, the place of the West in modern Japan, the changing status of women, and the place of minorities. Many of the writers from this period chose to write “I-novels” or first-person fiction. How is the inward turn in narrative tied to modern ideas of the self and its relationship to society? What sorts of quests does this self embark on and how is the end of the journey conceptualized? How do the romantic objects of this (male) self help express notions of stability/instability in a changing world? No prior knowledge of Japanese language, history, or culture is required. All readings in English.

Asian201. Literature of World Warr II and the Atomic Bomb in Japan: History, Memory, and Empire

A study of Japan’s coming to terms with its imperialist past. Literary representations of Japan’s war in East Asia are particularly interesting because of the curious mixture of remembering and forgetting that mark its pages. Postwar fiction delves deep into what it meant for the Japanese people to fight a losing war, to be bombed by a nuclear weapon, to face surrender, and to experience Occupation. Sheds light on the pacifist discourse that emerges in atomic bomb literature and the simultaneous critique directed towards the emperor system and wartime military leadership. Also examines what is missing in these narratives—Japan’s history of colonialism and sexual slavery—by analyzing writings from the colonies (China, Korea, and Taiwan). Tackles the highly political nature of remembering in Japan. Writers include the Nobel prize-winning author Ôe Kenzaburô, Ôoka Shôhei, Kojima Nobuo, Shimao Toshio, Hayashi Kyoko, and East Asian literati like Yu Dafu, Lu Heruo, Ding Ling, and Wu Zhou Liu.

Japanese Politics

Asian019. East Asian Politics: Introductory Seminar

Surveys the diverse political, social, and economic arrangements across East Asia. China, Japan, and North and South Korea are the main focus, but attention is also paid to the other countries in the region. Examines the relationship between democracy and economic change in East Asia, and asks if the relationship is different in Asia than elsewhere in the world. Other questions include: Are there common “Asian values” and if so, what are they? What is the role of Confucianism in shaping social, political, and economic life in the region? How are economic and technological developments affecting traditional social institutions such as families? How is the status of women changing? What lies ahead for Asia?

Asian282. Japanese Politics and Society

Adams-208 Comprehensive overview of modern Japanese politics in historical, social, and cultural context. Analyzes the electoral dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party, the nature of democratic politics, and the rise and fall of the economy. Other topics include the status of women and ethnic minorities, education, war guilt, nationalism, and the role of the media.

Asian332. Advanced Seminar in Japanese Politics

Adams-114 Analyzes the political, social, and cultural underpinnings of modern politics, and asks how democracy works in Japan compared with other countries. Explores how Japan has achieved stunning material prosperity while maintaining among the best healthcare and education systems in the world, high levels of income equality, and low levels of crime. Students are also instructed in conducting independent research on topics of their own choosing.

Asian337. Advanced Seminar in Democracy and Development in Asia

Examines development from a variety of political, economic, moral, and cultural perspectives. Is democracy a luxury that poor countries cannot afford? Are authoritarian governments better at promoting economic growth than democracies? Does prosperity lead to democratization? Are democratic values and human rights universal, or culturally specific? Emphasis on Japan, China, India, and the Koreas.

Art History

Asian209. The Arts of Japan

Surveys ritual objects, sculpture, architecture, painting, and decorative arts in Japan from the Neolithic to the modern period. Topics include ceramic forms and grave goods, the adaptation of Chinese models, arts associated with Shinto and Buddhist religions, narrative painting, warrior culture, the tea ceremony, woodblock prints and popular arts, modernization and the avant-garde. Formerly Art History 219.

The Honors Program in Asian Studies

Students enrolled in Japanese in conjunction with an Asian Studies Major have the option of writing an Honors Project.

An Honors Paper in Asian Studies provides students with an opportunity to engage in interdisciplinary research and analysis. The process of completing a major research project that culminates in an analytical essay involves many steps, although the order in which a student accomplishes these tasks will depend on their subject, sources and methodologies. Students will design a focused research project, articulating a problem or question about a particular subject. They will locate their study in the literature of the field, broadly defined, in order to show that their problem is worth exploring in relation to the secondary literature and that their paper will advance the understanding of the subject. In order to work toward a thesis, they will propose a preliminary hypothesis (a potential answer to their problem). They will also design or select a research method that enables them to explore the subject in depth through the extensive analysis of available sources, both primary and secondary. Students will present their thesis and analysis in an articulate, persuasive essay. Most projects will span two semesters, although students who have begun exploring their topic in a previous class or paper may do a semester-long project.