Prospective Students

GUC24S322C | Modern Japanese History

About the lecturer

Hi! I’m Michael Facius, associate professor at Tokyo College, an interdisciplinary think tank at the University of Tokyo that was founded in 2019. One of our missions is making cutting edge research available to the public, through lectures, YouTube videos and other formats. I’m originally from Germany and have been teaching about Japanese, East Asian and Global History in English, Japanese and German at Freie Universität Berlin, University College London, and here at the University of Tokyo.
My research has been about the history of knowledge and globalization in Japan and East Asia since the 17th century. I’m also studying why people are interested in history in contemporary society and how it shows up in pop culture such as movies and video games.
Assoc. Prof. Michael FACIUS

Video Introduction

Modern Japanese History


1 Subject Modern Japanese History
2 Field History
3 Key words history; Japan; East Asia; modernity
4 Global Unit 1
5 Lecturer Michael FACIUS
6 Period July 16 - 26, 2024
7 Time 10:30-12:00, 13:00-14:30 [July 16]
10:30-12:00 [July 17-26]
(Japan Standard Time)
8 Lecture style In-person (on Hongo Campus)
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 attendance and participation (30%); short in-class quizzes and written assignments (30%); 1500-2000 words (ca. 5 pages) essay (40%) on (1) a topic of your choice in modern Japanese history, (2) uses of modern history in contemporary Japan, or (3) a personal reflection on history
11 Prerequisites No previous knowledge of Japanese history is required. Please fill out a short pre-class survey to help me understand your background knowledge and motivation to join this course.
12 Contents Purpose
There are learning outcomes for each of the three parts of the course topic: history, Japan, and modernity. After successful completion of the class, you will be able to
- enjoy history as a window into the human experience and find personal meaning in it.
- think about the past like a historian and interpret historical sources.
- apply historical thinking to contemporary problems.
- identify and remember foundational keywords, facts and developments in modern Japanese history.
- understand both the unique aspects of Japan’s history and how it is connected to that of the region and the wider world.
- analyze historical developments on the level of politics, ecology, economy, society, and culture and their relationship.
- understand the various roles history plays in contemporary Japan.
- understand the concept of modernity and its impact and expression in Japan.
- evaluate and critique modernity based on historical facts and your personal value systems.
- care about the future by applying historical knowledge to reframe modernity’s problems and dead ends.

In the first session, we will look at the three components of the course title in detail and rehearse some of the important keywords and developments in modern Japanese history. In eight core sessions, we will then explore this history through eight lenses that cover politics, ecology, economy, society and culture. The goal is less to give you a comprehensive overview than to practice, based on examples from state of the art research, how to think about and study Japanese history. The final session will consider the different ways that the past shows up in contemporary society, from political and diplomatic issues to historical stories in pop culture.
The course will mix short lectures with active learning activities such as discussion, interpretation of historical sources, short quizzes and writing prompts.

01 Introduction: What is modern Japanese history
02 Empire
03 War
04 Water
05 Life
06 Technoscience
07 Consumption
08 Bodies
09 Protest
10 Wrap-up: The past in the present

short in-class quizzes and written assignments; final essay of 1500-2000 words (ca. 5 pages)
13 Required readings -
14 Reference readings Andrew Gordon. A Modern History of Japan. From Tokugawa Times to the Present. Fourth Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020.
Eckhard Fuchs, Sven Saaler and Tokushi Kasahara, eds. A New Modern History of East Asia. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2018.
James L. Huffman. Japan in World History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. 
15 Notes on Taking the Course -
UTokyo Global Unit Courses (GUC)
International Education Promotion Group, Education and Student Support Department
The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8652 JAPAN

For inquiries regarding GUC, kindly direct them to the following email address:
utokyo-guc.adm(at) *Please change (at) to @
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