Culture & Society in Contemporary Japan

Asian 201 / 590

[Header image is of Sensō-ji Temple]

Lectures delivered "live" via zoom Monday and Wednesday, 2:30 - 4pm (Ann Arbor time); zoom links and recordings are shared on Canvas
Discussion sections "live" via zoom Fridays 10am to 11am, and 12 noon to 1pm; zoom links are shared on Canvas

Instructor: Allison Alexy (pronouns she / her)
aalexy [at]
Office hours: via zoom or telephone call, Thursdays from 9am to 12 noon, and by appointment. Please sign up via Google Calendar.

Graduate Student Instructor: Areli Ariana Balderrama (pronouns they / them)
arelib [at]
Office hours: via zoom Wednesdays from 4 to 6pm, and by appointment. Please sign up via Google Calendar.

In the American imagination, Japan often occupies a liminal position – it is “modern” but not “Western,” and Japanese culture might seem recognizable but also very different. This course is a general introduction to the forms and patterns of postwar Japanese culture. First engaging common American perceptions and misperceptions of Japanese people and culture, we explore major social trends including the education system, family organization, styles of intimacy, and patterns of work. Constantly challenging American images of Japanese people, we analyze shared commonalities and cross-cutting differences, ideologies and practices, tools of control and efforts at resistance. The course aims to expose students to enduring social patterns, the range of Japan’s diversity, and concepts in social theory applicable to other cultural contexts. This course is open to all students and requires no Japanese language abilities.

This course will be taught fully online. We are now living, working, and learning in situations that are far from ideal. This course is designed with that context in mind. It will be deeply educational but also flexible and, hopefully, a space of joy and possibility while we all face new responsibilities and challenges. This course website was built to make clear all details about the course and what we are asking you to do. You are welcome to work on your own schedule, knowing that all assignments and deadlines are listed here. At any point, students are welcome to reach out to Prof. Alexy or Areli Ariana with concerns or questions. We will always do our best to support you and will be happy to be flexible. If / when you reach out, please do no feel like you need to "prove" that you are going through a hard time. We will always believe you.