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CSOC 1050A - Introduction to Japanese Society

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This course provides an introduction to contemporary Japanese society and culture. So as to understand issues faced by Japanese society today, we will focus on the post-bubble period (from the early 1990s to present) and key features of Japanese post-war development. We start through a focus on work and family, grounded in an understanding of every-day practices in employment (e.g. salarymen, freeters), domestic roles (e.g. sengyō shufu), marriage, dating (e.g. grass-eating boys) and fertility, so as to understand the emergence and prevalence of broad social patterns as well as the experience of those at the margin of society (e.g. immigrants). We then place this understanding of Japanese people's life in the broader social, cultural and political context. Specifically, we consider the educational system, religious norms and practices, social welfare policy, super-ageing of society, and midfullness and well-being. We close off by reflecting and contrasting first the recurrent theme within Japanese social discourse of what makes Japan unique, Nihonjinron, and then on the recent spread of Japanese culture globally, such as the increasing popularty of sushi and the promotion of ‘Cool Japan.'


UMEGAKI-COSTANTINI, Hiroko (PhD, Research fellow)

Pedagogical format

At the end of the course, the student is expected to : 1°) Understand the main characteristics of contemporary Japanese society, and how these inter-relate and have co-evolved based on a multi-disciplinary approach grounded in social anthropology. 2°) Define and apply basic terms and concepts central to social anthropology, and relate these to ethnographic evidence. 3°) Use both primary and secondary sources to analyse Japanese society through application of diverse methods. 4°) Communicate effectively about social issues in Japan, by applying the main concepts and referencing ethnographic evidence.

Course validation

To validate the course, the student is expected to pass the following assignments: 1°) Discussion participation and preparation for sessions, that will include a brief review of a subset of the required readings: 30% 3°) Group final project to investigate an issue of interest in contemporary Japan: 30% 4°) Final in-class examination: 40%

Required reading

Rebick, Marcus. 2005. The Japanese Employment System: Adapting to a New Economic Environment. Oxford University Press. Chapter 2 ‘The Japanese Employment System' :13-36.

Additional required reading

  • Ishii, Kazumi and Jarkey, Nerida. 2002. ‘The housewife is Born: The Establishment of the Notion and Identity of the Shufu in Modern Japan', Japanese Studies, vol. 22, No. 1: 35-47
  • Takeda Hiroko. 2011. ‘Reforming Families in Japan: Family Policy in the Era of Structural Reform'. In Ronald, Richard and Allison Alexy (eds.), Home and Family in Japan: Continuity and Transformation, 46‒64. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Ryang, Sonia. 2000. Koreans in Japan: Critical Voices from the Margin. New York: Routledge. Chapter by Sonia Ryang, ‘Introduction: Resident Koreans in Japan'
  • Watanuki Joji. 1986. 'Is there a "Japanese-type Welfare Society', International Sociology, 1/3, 259-69.