2019-20 Elective Courses

Students visit a Yayoi Kusama art exhibit during a 2018 elective course field trip. 

You’re used to the challenging academic standards and probing critical thinking that characterize a liberal arts education. You’ll find it with AKP. The Associated Kyoto Program mirrors its thirteen consortium institutions in the disciplinary diversity and commitment to excellence among its courses. Thanks to the Visiting Faculty Fellows Program, AKP recruits some of the finest professors from the consortium, allowing you to take classes that will foster a deeper understanding of Japan’s long and complex cultural history.

Fall 2019 (tentative)

AKP-Doshisha Joint Seminar

The Joint Seminar represents a unique opportunity to explore issues in comparative culture in a class comprised of both AKP and Doshisha students. The class format includes panel presentations, discussions, joint projects, and a series of guest lectures by Japanese and foreign experts from the Kyoto environs who will address various aspects of American and Japanese culture from a multi-disciplinary perspective. One of the main purposes of the course is to promote discussion between Doshisha and AKP students on issues related to the course topics. Strategies for promoting good class discussion, including pairs and small groups, will take precedence over organizational purity and continuity. There will be a course packet of readings, but no required texts for this course. Students will complete fieldwork and give a presentation in small groups, and also write a final paper.

Environmental and Conservation Issues in Japan
Professor Mizuki Takahashi, Bucknell University

The world human population has been rapidly increasing, which has made us face a rising number of environmental issues. These issues not only have degraded the quality of human life but also have driven extinction of a number of wildlife populations. As a result, scientists argue that humans are causing the 6th mass extinction event. Japan is one of the most populated countries in the world; yet, it had such a long history of coexisting with nature until the recent rapid economy growth, during which the country started experiencing serious environmental problems. Thus, Japan serves an excellent model to learn and analyze the global environmental issues and to think about the ways to mitigate these problems in order to live sustainably, in harmony with nature. This seminar style course also emphasizes how cultural and religious values may affect interactions between humans and natural systems. While student presentation and discussion will be an important part of the course, I will give lectures providing enough background information for student activities. In addition, several field trips are scheduled throughout the semester to learn assigned material from real life examples.

Desire in Japanese Cinema
Professor Erik Lofgren, Bucknell University

Issues of desire and its representation play an ongoing role in the world of Japanese film. That those representations and their interpretation are historically, culturally, and ideologically determined is, of course, clear. The goal of this course is to study numerous films that portray desire in some of its myriad manifestations and try to discover what those historical, cultural, and ideological forces were and how they influenced the production of the representations on film, as well as how the technical aspects of the films further that representation Concomitant with this task will be the exploration of how our consumption of these films is also determined by a different set of imperatives and forces. In the process, we will gain an understanding of the force of, effect, and response to these films and, by extension, insights into broader issues of Japanese film and ourselves.  Parallel readings in critical materials about films, desire, sexuality, and other related topics will be used to help move our discussion from a simple affirmation of likes or dislikes to a consideration of those filmic and extra-filmic concerns that have produced the movies we have before us. 

Kyoto and the Visual Arts of Japan
Professor Catherine Ludvik, Kyoto Sangyo University

This course takes students on an exploration of the magnificent visual arts of Japan, from the enigmatic excavated works of the prehistoric period, through the imposing Buddhist arts and breathtaking sliding screen paintings defining traditional architecture, to the vibrant contemporary art scene. Through a sweeping historical survey highlighting the forms and functions of representative artworks in their respective contexts, we will examine such issues as the relationship of Japanese art to Chinese and Korean art, patronage, the ritual and visual functions of Buddhist icons, the translation of concepts into artistic forms, as well as representational strategies and modes of viewing. We will also analyze the continuities and divergences in the relationship of innovative contemporary artworks, in some cases represented in traditional formats and settings, with their historical counterparts.
Drawing on Kyoto’s long history and ongoing tradition of spectacularvisual arts, in-class sessions will be amply supplemented with onsite classes at museums and temples.


Spring 2020 (tentative)

Pollution and Waste in Japan: Chemistry and Society
Professor Shizuka Hsieh, Trinity Washington University

This course combines a chronological overview of pre-modern Chinese and Japanese poetic forms with an exploration of the relationship between the natural and the human world as reflected in the literary, visual and material culture of these two countries. While the material we will be reading is fairly equally divided between Chinese and Japanese texts our focus in this iteration of the course will be on Japanese literature and culture as we will be able to take full advantage of our location in the Kansai area to visit Temples, Gardens and Museums to enrich and enhance our understanding of the variety of meanings that nature and specific natural phenomenon held over time. 
Since no previous scientific background is required, basic chemistry essentials are be introduced throughout. Students’ diverse academic backgrounds are expected to contribute towards a lively, interdisciplinary class dialogue.

Japanese Economy
Professor Linus Yamane, Pitzer College

This course is a broad introduction to the fascinating Japanese economy. Japan was the first non-Western nation to become a major industrial power, providing many lessons for economic development. Japan is now the fourth largest economy (PPP) in the world behind the China, the U.S., and India. Japan is the world’s largest creditor nation, but faces enormous challenges with an aging population, mounting government debts, and corporate sector and labor market reforms. We will begin by considering economic conditions during the Tokugawa period, and the process of economic growth since the Meiji Restoration. We will examine the high rates of growth in the post WWII period, along with the economic slowdown in the Heisei period. We will discuss the character of Japanese economic policy making as well as on the behavior of Japanese enterprises, financial institutions, labor force and households. Topics will include macroeconomic growth, monetary and fiscal policies, international trade, industrial policy, labor markets, savings and investment. With the collapse of the Bubble economy, and the Lost Decade, we will end with a discussion of Japan’s recent economic conditions.

Religion, Tradition and Temple-tourism in Kyoto
Professor Catherine Ludvik, Kyoto Sangyo University

Filled with over two thousand temples and shrines, the ancient capital of Kyoto provides the ideal setting for the study of Japanese religions. Temples and shrines, however, are not only sites of faith, but locales where religion, tradition, culture and tourism intersect. Against this vibrant and complex background accommodating diverse modes of religious practice and sightseeing, this course explores selected aspects of Shinto, Buddhism and the New Religions of Japan in historical as well as contemporary context. We will examine present-day attitudes to religion, lived by many as inherited tradition, in conjunction with the enormous popularity of the city’s temples and shrines that function as promoters of cultural identity and World Heritage tourism. Drawing on the religious landscape of Kyoto and nearby sites, classes will be supplemented with organized field trips, and student assignments will be based both on readings as well as temple/shrine visits and first-hand observance of ceremonies, festivals and practices.

Please check often for course description updates.