History of Contemporary Japan 日本現代史 2008A

Course Description

According to Benedetto Croce, “all history is contemporary history.” This year, 2008, marks the 63th anniversary of the end of the Pacific War. This course will show how events of the past are very much alive in the present. The war is constantly in the news. This course will explore the ways in which the events and experiences of wartime Japan have been remembered and used and re-used over the past 60-plus years in shaping domestic politics, international relations, and national identity.

Course Structure

This course is taught on the ICU campus during the Fall term. There are 18 sessions, each 105 minutes long, held over a period of 10 weeks. There is one required “field trip” and 7 discussion sessions.

Contents of Lectures 18 Lectures


Course Learning Goals

  1. To identify the major events, persons and ideas of the history of contemporary Japan.

  2. To gain an appreciation of primary sources and demonstrate their significance to an understanding of historical problems.

  3. To apply critical and analytical skills in dealing with historical problems.

  4. To understand the influence of the past on contemporary events and problems.

In addition, this course has some general liberal learning goals. As a result of taking this course, students should be able:

  1. To manage information, recognize significance, and synthesize facts, concepts and principles.

  2. To understand and use organizing principles or key concepts in the social sciences.

  3. To differentiate between facts, opinions and inferences.

  4. To frame questions and develop problem solving skills.

  5. To organize and communicate ideas clearly and concisely through both written and oral presentations.

Course Requirements

  1. Attendance is required; please come prepared and on time!

  2. Active participation in discussion sessions is required. (20 percent)

Students are expected to demonstrate that they have done the readings by offering reactions, analysis, and thoughtful questions in each of the discussion sessions.

  1. Reaction papers: (40 percent)

There are 7 assignments. Sample questions for discussion will be available on the Moodle website one week in advance of each discussion session. All students are required to submit a 1-2 page reaction paper as preparation for the discussion sessions.

  1. Research Paper and Oral Presentation: (40 percent)

All students are required to complete a 10 page (double spaced, proper citation and formatting) research paper relating to the general topic of “war and postwar Japan.” The paper is due at the end of the class. It should be based on wide reading of secondary and primary sources. Students may make a joint research project if desired, but each student will be responsible for 10 pages of research and text. Oral presentations of the research project will take place during the last week of classes.

Course Readings

James M. Vardaman, Contemporary Japanese History since 1945, IBC Publishing, 2006

Fujitani, White and Yoneyama, eds., Perilous Memories: the Asia-Pacific War(s), Duke University Press, 2001.

Ienaga Saburo, Japan’s Past, Japan’s Future, Rowman & Littlefield, 2001.

Course schedule

Week One : Remembering the War

1. Japan in the 1930s: Militarism and Ultranationalism

2. Mitaka in the 1930s: War Memories and Monuments

3. 1945: Defeat or War’s End?

Discussion Class 1: War Anniversaries

Week Two: Nanjing and War Atrocities

4. What happened in 1937?

5. The Politics of Apology

Discussion Class 2: What Happened in 1937?

Research Paper: Proposal Due

Week Three: Hiroshima

6. Hiroshima in Japan; Hiroshima in America

7. Film: The Enola-Gay Controversy

Discussion Class 3: Remembering Hiroshima

Week Four: Trials

8. Tokyo War Crimes Trial 1946-48

9. Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal 2000

“Best Source” presentations

Discussion Class 4: Victor’s Justice?

Research Paper: Annotated Bibliography Due

Week Five: Education

10. Film: Re-inventing Japan

11. Controversies over the teaching of Japanese History

12. Japan’s Basic Eduation Law – why revised?

Discussion Class 5: Controversies over the Teaching of History

Research Paper: Introduction and Outline due

Week Six: Yasukuni

13. Religion and Politics in Postwar Japan

14. Yasukuni, the film

Discussion Class 6: Museum Review

Week Seven: Okinawa

15. Okinawa and Postwar Japan

16. Film: The Japanese Constitution

Discussion Class 7: Okinawa and Postwar Japan

Research Paper: Rough Draft due

Week Eight: Japan and Asia

17. Asia: Love/Hate: War Legacies

Week Nine: Oral Presentation

18. Student Presentations

Research Papers due

Instructor: STEELE‚ M. William | Language of Instruction: E

Major: History 歴史学 | Course ID: HST221 | Course Schedule: 4*/W, 4*/F | Update: 2014.04.01 Category: Major Courses 2008, Autumn