BA East Asian Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Modern and Contemporary Japan: Social Dynamics

Course unit fact file
Unit code JAPA20121
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course explores key aspects of modern and contemporary Japanese society, including the following themes:

  • The world of work:  Work, lifecourse and identity, examining the historical formation and current state of the organization and experience of work in large and small organizations.
  • Politics, governance and disorder looks at the structure and dynamics of governance, politics, and civil society in Japan, asking how well Japan’s political structures and practices serve the Japanese people. We also consider the role of law in Japanese society, and crime and attempts to deal with it.
  • Japan and the outside world explores ways in which Japanese identities have been constructed and contested, especially in relation to the world outside Japan. It considers uses of history and tradition in these processes, and nationalism in Japan.
  • Minorities and migrants examines the situation of social and ethnic minorities, and debates within Japan about immigration.



Available on: Japanese Studies programme


  • Provide students with an in-depth understanding of key aspects of modern and contemporary Japanese society and culture.
  • Introduce major concepts necessary for the understanding of modern and contemporary Japan.
  • Provide an understanding of selected key problems faced by modern and contemporary Japan, and the structures, practices and dynamics that underlie and inform these problems.
  • Enable students to analyse problems and dynamics in modern and contemporary Japan in an informed and critical way.


Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of major features of modern and contemporary Japanese society and social dynamics.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of key analytical concepts related to the study of Japanese society.


Intellectual skills

  • Articulate critical analysis of modern and contemporary Japanese society and culture.
  • Engage in critical reading and discussion of academic writing on modern and contemporary Japanese society and culture.

Practical skills

  • Use library, electronic, and online resources.
  • Organise notes derived from lectures, seminars, and reading.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Engage in well-reasoned presentation, discussion and argument.
  • Demonstrate personal qualities of independence of mind in order to make ethical judgements.
  • Confront their own values as global citizens.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course will develop a range of abilities that are essential for much higher-level employment. These include gathering, critically selecting, and organizing information and ideas; analytical, critical thinking; interpreting and assessing sources; articulating coherent, logical and convincing arguments and supporting them by relevant evidence; articulate participation in oral discussion; working independently and to deadlines.
In addition, it will develop critical understanding of a different society, which is valuable for employment with an international dimension. It will develop understanding of a number of key aspects of Japanese society which will be invaluable for those seeking employment in Japan or seeking employment where engagement with Japan is important.

Assessment methods

Assessment task:

Written final examination - 50%

Coursework essay - 50%

(Students can receive formative advice on a full or partial draft/plan of their essay, submitted by the set deadline for the draft) - n/a

Resit Assessment:

Written examination



Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral comments on optional essay draft/plan


Written comments on coursework essay

Students are also welcome to come to see the teacher to discuss their essay assignments and comments on them, once the essay has been returned to them, on the understanding that this de-anonymises the marking.

Formative and summative





Written comments on final examination

All feedback will be returned within the time limits specified in the relevant Faculty and SALC feedback policies.



Recommended reading

  • Thomas P. Rohlen. 1974. For Harmony and Strength: Japanese White-Collar Organization in Anthropological Perspective. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
  • Dorinne K. Kondo. 1990. Crafting Selves: Power, Gender, and Discourses of Identity in a Japanese Workplace. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Gerald Curtis. 1971. Election Campaigning Japanese Style. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Harumi Befu. 2001. Hegemony of Homogeneity: An Anthropological Analysis of Nihonjinron. Melbourne: Trans Pacific Press.
  • Mike Douglass and Glenda Roberts. (Eds.) 2003. Japan and Global Migration: Foreign Workers and the Advent of a Multicultural Society. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press.

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Peter Cave Unit coordinator

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