Course Syllabus:  Sociology 251/351 Japan Intersession, 2015

I.          Course Description:

The course introduces the student, via lecture, text, video and travel to Japan to a culture that is dramatically different from that of the United States. Japan is a nation of contrasts. Modern, crowded cities are balanced by isolated, nearly deserted villages. The Japanese exhibit both an exquisite sense of beauty in nature and strong belief in strength. Hurrying, impersonal masses belie the solitary meditating individual. These and other contrasts will serve as a focus for the course. Students will visit a number of large cities (Tokyo, Kyoto and Hiroshima) as well as a number of small towns (Samukawa, Kamakura, Nagoya and  Kurashiki and Beppu). We will view the beauty of Mt. Fuji, Todaiji and Hachibei as well as the strength of the industrial centers of Tokyo and surrounding areas. The dynamic nature of Tokyo, the current changing capital of Japan will contrast with the traditional aspects of Kyoto and Nara, sites of capitals of Japan for over a thousand years.

The people of Japan can be viewed monolithically (125 million, unsmiling workaholics) and individually (caring, family-oriented parents and children). We will experience the former in the major cities and the latter during one-on-one interaction during our weekend ‘home-stay’ with families from the Samukawa International Exchange Association (SIEA) while visiting Samukawa and with students from the Yokohama International University; we will also enjoy home stays with people from Bungo-ono.

The course is divided into three segments: 1) a brief initial period at W&J to introduce students to things ‘Japanese,’ usually a couple of hours  during reading days. Topics will include history, economics, arts, language, food and behavioral aspects of traveling in Japan; 2) a thirteen day visit to Japan (itinerary available in office of Dr. Miller and on his homepage) will feature ‘living’ Japanese style; and 3) a series of meetings on our return to W&J to reflect on our expectations and realizations of the Japan visit.

Professor Miller and tour guide Mari Ueno Phillippi will also give occasional lectures (informal information) at hotels in the evenings, on our bus trips and other opportune times.

Special elements of the tour include 1) a weekend ‘home-stay’ with a family of the SIEA, 2) an address by a ‘Hibakusha’ – survivor of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing followed by a question and answer session; 3) a night in a Buddhist Temple with an observance of ‘morning services – students may participate in the service if they wish; visits to a number of international known as well as rarely seen art galleries and gardens; and the opportunity to visit the Gion District of Kyoto where, on previous journeys, our students have seen and been photographed with a number of Geisha and Maiko.


II.            Goals & Objectives

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. An awareness of the ‘different’ nature of Japanese ‘home life.’
  2. An awareness of the regard that Japanese have for their heritage.
  3. An awareness of the blend of tradition and innovation in the everyday lives of Japanese.
  4. A brief introduction to the foods, arts, and economy of Japan.
  5. On return to the USA, W&J and home, the experience of ‘re-entry shock’ – the sense of experiencing one’s own culture with an ‘outsider’s perspective.


III.          Methodology:

Lecture, readings, interaction with Japanese while at ‘home-stay’ and in daily interactions while traveling, viewing, eating and shopping. Of particular interest will be the opportunities to talk with a survivor of the Hiroshima Atomic Bombing, a Buddhist priest – both during a gathering of the SIEA and while staying at a Buddhist temple—, Japanese artists and craftsmen, and Geisha from the Gion district.

An attempt will be made to link the assigned readings with the ‘actual’ experiences of Japanese encounters.


IV.          Grading for the course will be determined by:

The trip and cultural experiences by themselves count for 70 percent of the grade. Students must participate in all events, visits and be punctual and prepared for all trips.

A daily log maintained by the students while in Japan counts for 15 percent of the grade. The daily log must identify general locations, trips museums and experiences and observations. The journal must be submitted to the instructor by the Friday of the week in which we return from the trip. (Most students finish up their journals on the flight home.) A short 5-7 page paper (topic to be mutually agreeable to instructor and student) must be developed and is worth 15 percent of the grade. The paper is due by the first day of the Spring term Wednesday, January 29. Students taking the course at the 351 level will also be responsible for both additional readings and an expanded (15 page paper). You may see Dr. Miller for more details.

Students must present their personal “debriefing” at a meeting at 6:00, Thursday, January 30. In other words, what was their evaluation of their experiences? What did they like and not like about Japan? What would be their message to others about what to expect and not to expect upon visiting Japan? What did they think of the cities and country as a whole? The presentation should take no more than about 10 minutes.

Students who take the course at the 300 level will have extra time to complete their papers.


V.            Texts, Reading List, or Illustrative Bibliography: (to be updated in September)

Materials are on file at the library circulation desk under Japan: 2015. More materials will be added during the rest of the semester. Please go over these before we leave.

In addition, a number of ‘handouts’ – print and electronic media ‘current events in Japan’ items will be provided prior to and during travel in Japan. Recent earthquake and tsunami information are provided.


VI.            Special Needs/Costs to Students:

$4950.00 to cover round-trip flights to Japan and return to Chicago; all accommodations, local travel, a rail pass, entry fees and approximately 50% of meals are covered. Student on previous  Intersessions to Japan have indicated that they spent $300 to $500 on souvenirs and meals not covered. Cost is subject to change as the ‘dollar-yen’ ratio varies.

One luggage item and a backpack. Weather in Japan in January is comparable to January in Pennsylvania. Clothing is ‘student-casual’ plus one ‘good’ outfit for special occasions.