2021-2022 Elective Courses

You’re used to the challenging academic standards and probing critical thinking that characterize a liberal arts education. And you’ll find that abroad with AKP. AKP mirrors its thirteen consortium institutions in 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.

In addition to the AKP elective courses listed below, AKP students may cross-register for elective courses offered by the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), also housed at Doshisha University. Courses taken at KCJS will receive the same credit as AKP electives and will appear on your AKP grade report. Limits or restrictions on cross-registration may apply depending on the particular course. For information about KCJS electives, see their elective course page. For more information about cross-registration, please contact the AKP US Office.

Fall 2021 (Tentative)

AKP-Doshisha Joint Seminar
Professor Kasumi Yamamoto, RD, Williams College
Professor Taro Futamura, Doshisha University

This seminar, which is open to both AKP and Doshisha students, focuses on issues in comparative culture. The class format includes panel presentations, discussions, group projects, and a series of guest lectures by Japanese and foreign experts from the Kyoto area who will address various aspects of American and Japanese culture from a multi-disciplinary perspective.

Cross-Cultural Psychology in Japan
Professor Sharon Akimoto, Carleton College

How does culture shape what we do and how we think? What is universal to all cultures and what is specific to one or more cultures? This course will explore these questions by examining major theoretical and empirical work in the field of Cultural and Cross-Cultural Psychology, focusing primarily on Japan and the US. In addition to learning from scholarly texts, we are very fortunate to be able to observe psychology in action in our daily lives in Japan. Thus, a major component of this class will be to regularly “test” the scholarly literature through our observations and interactions. The class will largely be conducted in an active discussion format, facilitated by in/out-of-class activities and exercises, field trips, and possible guest speakers.

Environmental Science, Policy, and Culture
Professor Marc Los Huertos, Pomona College

This introductory course will survey environmental issues in Japan, the US, and other countries. We will juxtapose a range of case studies to evaluate how the environment has been conceptualized within a set of cultural and scientific narratives. We will learn how to combine these case studies to create a more complex, nuanced version(s) of environmental science and policy. Cross-country comparisons will allow us to deconstruct hegemonic narratives, while providing an “international” environmental discourse. We will examine how environmental degradation is evaluated in different countries and how it affects environmental policy, as well as how policies reflect cultural heritage. We will compare how climate change will impact different parts of the world and evaluate how various countries have responded. We will determine how various countries value and protect biodiversity. By comparing Japan, the US, and other countries, we will learn how environmental science and policies vary based on culturally defined epistemologies. By doing this, we will appreciate the complexity of environmental issues and be better equipped to address global environmental issues, such as climate change and biodiversity losses.

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.

Spring 2022 (Tentative)

Past, Present and Future of Japanese Language: Introduction to Japanese Linguistics
Professor Kasumi Yamamoto, RD, Williams College

Language learning is a prolonged and intricate journey. Even after many years of learning, does the Japanese language still feel distant and mysterious to you?  What do you think makes learning Japanese sometimes so testing? This course is to gain a deeper understanding of how and why Japanese has developed to its present form and usage and to help make sense of perplexing questions you may have. We will first learn basic concepts and methodologies of linguistics such as how to formally analyze the patterns of speech sounds (phonetics and phonology), word formation (morphology), sentence structures (syntax), and meaning (semantics and pragmatics). Then, we will analyze and investigate Japanese variations and usages through the frameworks of sociolinguistics, linguistic typology, and anthropological and cognitive linguistics.  Topics will include polite language and honorifics, gender and women’s language, onomatopoeia, linguistic landscape, Japanese dialects, language conflicts and language rights (Okinawans, Ainu and Koreans in Japan), and multilingualism. The course format is a combination of lectures, seminars and student facilitated discussions. 

Phoenix out of the Ashes: Issues in Postwar Japanese History
Professor James Orr, Bucknell University

This history of post-WWII Japan builds on political and economic developments to familiarize students with social and cultural developments that characterize society across the late 20th and early 21st century. A major focus will be how remembrance of war structured contemporary political attitudes and culture. Cultural artifacts examined will include film, popular song and music, architecture and urban space, art, manga and political cartoons, and anime.

Living with the Bomb: A Comparative Study of Gender, Race and Nationalism in Japan and the United States, 1945-Present
Professor Ann Sherif, Oberlin College

This course will focus on the moral, ideological and historical complexity of the explosion of the atomic bomb during World War II, and subsequent cultural responses in both the Japan and United States as people learned to live with the bomb. Throughout the course we will foreground questions of race and gender, especially as they are embedded in concepts of nation, in order to explore the ideological struggles to justify and live with the bomb. Most discussions of the bomb focus on military and political issues. This course instead will use feminist theories, studies of nationalism, and critical race theory in order to foreground comparative analyses of the significance of gender and race in both wartime and postwar political and social experiences, as well as cultural responses in Japan and the United States. The class will also explore nuclear culture, public history, and activism in Kyoto and other places in Japan through visits to museums, war sites, and guest presentations.

Shintō: The Japanese Way of Kami
Professor James Mark Shields, Bucknell University

This course provides an introduction to the various forms and manifestations of Shinto—or the Way of Kami—through careful study of its historical and mythological origins, basic beliefs, practices and values, historical development, as well as its interaction and involvement in Japanese politics, culture and society, and with imported traditions like Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism and Christianity. We will explore some of the questions and tensions raised above: Is Shinto a “religion”? Can Shinto be separated from politics and Japanese nationalism? Rather than rely entirely on the sometimes abstract and frequently idealized understanding of history and ideas received from texts, the fact that we are in Kyoto—by any measure the primary historical locus of Japanese religion—will allow us to explore some of the ways that beliefs and values have been put in practice; i.e., via art, architecture, as well as festival and ritual forms. At the same time, rather than simply imagine art as an expression of underlying religious ideas or historical events, we will consider the possibility of material culture as an instantiation or realization of those very ideas and events. In short, we will learn about Shinto via a dialectical interplay of thought and practice—ideas and material culture—without privileging one or the other as more fundamental.

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, you 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.

Interested in our past offerings?

Thanks to AKP’s Visiting Faculty Fellows program, each AKP term is unique in terms of its electives. While it’s hard to predict what might be offered next, you can click on the button below to see what kind of faculty and specialities we’ve brought to AKP in the past!