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Writings About Japan--Analyzing Cultural Representations, From Orientalism to Artificial Intelligence

About the lecturer

Yujin Yaguchi received his B.A. from Goshen College (1989) and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary (1999). He was also a Fulbright visiting scholar to U.C. Santa Cruz and the East-West Center (Honolulu). He has published widely in Japanese and English on the intercultural dynamics of Japan-Pacific-US relations.  His analyses of contemporary US-Japan cultural issues have been quoted in major news media such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, BBC World Service and NHK World. He has also appeared in various educational media venues, including NHK Educational and Coursera. For further information, see

Introduction video

Writings About Japan


1 Subject Writings About Japan: Analyzing Cultural Representations, From Orientalism to Artificial Intelligence
2 Field Cultural Studies, American Studies, East Asian Studies
3 Key words representations, Orientalism, media, gender, power
4 Unit 1
5 Lecturer Yujin Yaguchi
6 Period July 5 - August 5, 2022
7 Time Students should participate at least one of each Onlines Discussions 1 and 2

Online discussion 1
 July 11, 2022; 5:00-6:30pm
 July 13, 2022; 5:00-6:30pm
 July 18, 2022; 8:30-10:00am
 July 20, 2022; 8:30-10:00am
Online discussion 2
 July 25, 2022; 5:00-6:30pm
 July 27, 2022; 5:00-6:30pm
 August 1, 2022; 8:30-10:00am
 August 3, 2022; 8:30-10:00am
Students can take On-demand contents any time during the course period.
8 Lecture style On-demand
9 Evaluation Criteria Excellent (S) 90 –100%; Very good (A) 80–89%; Good (B) 70–79%; Pass (C) 60–69%; Fail (D) 0–59%
10 Evaluation methods Students will be required to participate in an online discussion based on certain themes designated by the instructor for each lesson. They must attend and participate in at least one of each Online Discussions 1 and 2 (see above for dates—note they are all Japan Standard Time). They will also be required to submit a 10-page (double spaced) paper based on the content of the course. Detailed instructions will be given to the registrants later. 
Online forum 30%; online synchronous discussion 20%; Final paper 60%.
11 Prerequisites There is no prerequisite for the course. No prior knowledge is necessary, though students are encouraged to read some of the texts noted in the course content. Students must be willing to take an active interest in new and different ways of thinking about culture and its representations.
12 Contents This course explores different ways of representing cultures.  Rather than searching for one true way of portraying a culture (i.e. Japan is A or B), it analyzes how culture is written and understood by focusing on how Japan has been represented in English language texts (especially in the U.S). It pays attention to the political, economic, and social dynamics behind such representations to gain a better understanding of the concept of a culture and its usage in the past and today.
The course will be offered in an on-demand format. Students will be able to view the lecture in segments during a designated period (July 5 to August 6). There will also be a required online non-synchronous forum for students to discuss the course material and content (this will be led by UTokyo teaching assistants). Additionally, there will be live (synchronous) interactive sessions with the instructor--at least two attendances will be required (dates are listed below). 
Schedule (subject to change)
1. Introduction: “Writing Culture” of Japan: Cultural Dynamics of Representation.
2. Japan Day by Day: Edward Morse and Orientalism.
3. A Women’s View of Rural Life: Ella Wiswell and John Embree in Suye Mura, Kumamoto.
4. Can You Write About Japan Authoritatively Without Ever Visiting? Ruth Benedict and The Chrysanthemum and the Sword.
5. Portraying Devastation: John Hershey and Hiroshima.
6. Japan as Number One: Ezra Vogel and Japanese Miracle
7. A Mysterious Nation: Lost in Translation and Mystifying of Japanese Culture
8. A Foodie Nation: Jiro Dreams of Sushi and Popularization of Japanese Cuisine
9. Japan, Endless Discoveries: Tourism Narratives about Japan
10. Robots Like Japan, too: Artificial Intelligence and Using Data to Attract Tourists
Students are required to:
(1) View 10 segmented lectures carefully. They will be available between July 4 and August 5. Students must view the first five lectures by July 17 (i.e. before attending the first in-person session) and the second five by the week of July 24 (i.e. before attending the second in-person session).
(2) participate in an online (written) discussion forum between July 5 and August 6 based on certain themes designated by the instructor. UTokyo teaching assistant will be supervising this forum.  There will be due dates for each discussion topic—further details will be given through the online platform.
(3) attend at least two in-person real time interactive discussion sessions with the instructor. Sessions will be set in the mornings and evenings to enable students from different time zones to attend.
   Students must attend one synchronous session from each of the following date brackets (=two sessions).
   The dates for the first session are (note: these are Japan Standard Time):
    July 11 17:00-18:30
    July 13 17:00-18:30
    July 18   8:30-10:00
    July 20   8:30-10:00
   The dates for the second session are (note: these are Japan Standard Time):
    July 25   17:00-18:30
    July 27   17:00-18:30
    August 1  8:30-10:00
    August 3  8:30-10:00
(4) submit a 10-page (double spaced) paper based on the content of the course by August 26. Detailed instructions will be given after the registration. 
Note: this is a one-unit session, consisting of ten lectures. Each "lecture" comprises relatively short video segments, self-assignment, and on-line non-synchronous discussion forum where students are asked to post their ideas and comments.
13 Required readings None. See, however, below for reference readings.
14 Reference readings Students are strongly encouraged to read the books mentioned in the content section to gain a better appreciation of the lectures. In particular, the books by Benedict, Hershey, and Vogel are generally readily available, so it would be beneficial for them to take a look in advance. They are also encouraged to view the two films (Lost in Translation and Jiro Dreams of Sushi) if possible.  In addition, those who are interested in the cultural theory of representation should familiarize themselves with Edward Said's Orientalism, which will be discussed in the first lecture.
15 Notes on Taking the Course This is an on-demand class that is NOT offered synchronously. There is no need, therefore, for the students to attend at a set time.  The lectures and online forum will be available to registrants between AA and BB. Students MUST, however, attend at least one live interactive synchronous session with the instructor during the times noted above. (see "Time" at #7 of this table)


UTokyo Global Unit Courses
International Exchange Group, Education and Student Support Department,
The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8652 JAPAN

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