Japan: Culture, History, and Power

Module code: SY2061
Module co-ordinator: Dr James Fulcher

The study of Japanese society is a cultural and intellectual adventure. Japan is fascinating because it is culturally and socially so different to Western societies but has, nonetheless, become a major industrial and military power.

This module will start by examining some of the distinctive features of Japanese society: its vertical structure, its internal diversity, its various religions, and its political organisation.

We will then consider the development of this society, from its feudal period through to the present day. We will examine Japanese feudalism, its sixteenth century transformation, and the Tokugawa Shogunate, then look at Japan’s nineteenth century revolution, the Meiji Restoration, and the modernisation of Japan. We will also cover industrialisation, the building of a modern state, and imperial expansion. This will lead to a discussion of whether Japan became fascist in the 1930s and why Japan became involved in World War II. Lastly we will discuss Japan’s postwar development with an emphasis on its political, economic, and social transformation.

For your essay in this module you will choose a particular aspect of the development of Japanese society and focus on that, setting it within a context that demonstrates your knowledge and understanding of the nation's overall development. 

Topics covered

  • The development of Japanese society
  • Religion
  • The family
  • Gender
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Crime
  • Warfare


  • 18 one-hour lectures
  • 8 one-hour seminars
  • 174 hours of guided independent study


  • Essay, 4,000 words (100%)

Would you like to learn to speak and read Japanese? Courses for beginners and post-beginners are available to students through our Languages at Leicester scheme.