BA Japanese Studies

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Bodies, Sex and Gender in Japan

Course unit fact file
Unit code JAPA33071
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Japanese Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


In this course unit, we will examine a number of key issues in modern Japan through the lens of bodies, gender and sexuality. This involves understanding concepts such as nationalism and colonialism as socio-political endeavours and ideologies that shaped particular gender identities and bodily performance. With this approach, we will aim to gain fresh insights into our understanding of Japanese history and society. We will address questions such as: ‘How  and why did tolerance towards male homosexuality disappear in Meiji Japan?’; ‘How was an effort to improve women’s hygienic practices informed by nation building in the Meiji period?’; ‘How and why was sterilization justified under fascist Japan?’; or ‘What links the (in)famous Japanese work-ethos to the masculinity of salary-men?’


Available on: Japanese Studies, East Asian Studies 


The principal aims of the course unit are as follows:
To provide students with an understanding of some of the major issues pertaining to bodies, gender and sexuality in modern Japan.
To introduce major concepts necessary to develop an understanding of how bodies and gender identities/roles were understood in modern and contemporary Japan.
To help students develop their teamwork skills.
To help students develop communication and presentation skills.
To help students critically analyze primary sources.
(Specific to Japanese Studies students) To help students develop their translation skills.

Knowledge and understanding

•    systematically demonstrate understanding of how specific cultural, political and social conditions shaped the perception of bodies, sexuality and gender performance in modern and contemporary Japan;
•    show how different understandings of bodies, gender and sexuality have existed in history, thus critically assess Euro-centric views.

Intellectual skills

•    present intellectual interests and cultural awareness for areas beyond English-speaking countries;
•    debate critically about modern history of Japan.


Practical skills

•    improve their skills to describe and discuss primary and secondary sources about Japan;
•    improve their skills to handle communication and presentation tools;
•    (for students taking part in the translation seminar) improve their skills to read Japanese-language primary sources;
•    (for students taking part in the translation seminar) improve their translation skills;

Transferable skills and personal qualities

•    demonstrate their skills for reasoned presentation, discussion and argument;
•    develop personal qualities of independence of mind in order to make ethical judgments;
•    develop collaborative skills to prepare students for professional and vocational work;
•    develop communication and presentation skills to prepare students for professional and vocational work;
•    confront their own values as global citizens.

Employability skills

- write analytically: gain exposure and practice in appropriate presentation and written skills related to a discipline or profession; - develop a project in a specific topic; - (for students taking part in the translation seminar) read, translate and comment on complex Japanese literary and more scientifically-oriented texts.

Assessment methods

Assessment task  

Formative or Summative 


Weighting within unit (if summative) 

Essay (1) 





Source introduction (2) 




Source analysis or translation (2) 




Outline for the commentary (3) 




A fictional source with a commentary (3) 





Feedback methods

Feedback method Formative or Summative
Written feedback on the essay Summative
Written feedback on the sources introduced, using Blackboard Discussion Board Formative
Written summary on the source analysis or translation Summative
Oral or written one-to-one feedback on the outline for the commentary (during consultation hours or by appointment). Formative
Written feedback on the fictional source/commentary. Summative


Recommended reading

  1. Früstück, Sabine and Anne Walthall eds. Recreating Japanese Men (Berkeley: University of California, 2011).
  2. Igarashi, Yoshikuni Bodies of Memory: Narratives of War in Postwar Japanese Culture, 1945-1970 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).
  3. Low, Morris ed. Building a Modern Japan: Science, Technology, and Medicine in the Meiji Era and Beyond (Basingstoke, Hampshire: PalgraveMacmillan, 2005).
  4. Molony, Barbara and Kathleen Uno eds. Gendering Modern Japanese History (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Asia Center, 2005).
  5. Nakayama, Shigeru ed. A Social History of Science and Technology in Contemporary Japan, vols. 1-4 (Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press, 2001-2006).
  6. Roberson James and Nobue Suzuki eds. Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan: Dislocating the Salaryman Doxa (New York: Routledge, 2003).
  7. Tomida, Hiroko and Gordon Daniels eds. Japanese Women: Emerging from Subservience, 1868-1945 (Folkestone, Kent: Global Oriental, 2005)

Further reading will be recommended in the class.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Aya Homei Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Please check your ‘My Manchester’ timetables for days/times.  Any queries can be directed to the Languages Student Information Office. 

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