JAPAN 325 A: Introduction to Japanese Cinema and Media

Summer 2023 A-term
MTWTh 9:40am - 11:50am / * *
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):


** This course is offered ONLINE ONLY in Summer 2023 **

This course will be an introduction to modern Japanese films, in which we will use a wide variety of twentieth-century works to discuss an array of topics. Not only will we be viewing films in a variety of genres — documentary, drama, comedy, historical pieces, the avant-garde, gangster films, and animation — we will also be discussing topics ranging from the nature of art to the moral questions of nuclear modernity. Although our discussions will be sensitive to the specific nature of film as an expressive medium, we will consider the topics of art, history, society, war, propaganda, tradition, and morality.

Learning objectives: this course is an introduction to modern Japanese films, with a focus on them both as aesthetic creations and as reflections of/commentary on contemporary society. By the end of this course, students will demonstrate the ability to:

1. understand a film's artistic objectives, its technical methodology, its insights into the human condition, and its symptoms of societal structures,

2. develop a sophisticated interpretation of a film,

3. express that interpretation in a clear and compelling fashion, and

4. see the significance of the film to the the student's life and the world around them.

Class meetings: the course will be held entirely online. The link to the scheduled (you have the option to join them synchronously) meetings, MTWTh 9:40-11:50 is here. (Note that the Zoom schedule says 9:30-12:00, but the actual time is 9:40-11:50.) During these meetings I will present information about the film, address issues raised in the discussion, and answer questions. The meeting will be recorded and then made available for asynchronous viewing (see the "cloud recordings" subtab under the "Zoom" tab). If you choose to attend the online meeting, I will request that you remain muted until you are called on or have a question but that you keep your cameras on. Please also put a photograph of yourself in your profile, so that we can see your face if you need to turn your camera off momentarily. Students are encouraged to use the Chat function to ask questions or give fellow students encouragement. Private texts are fine, but be careful that texts go to their intended recipients!

Grades: For each film (and by 9am on the day of that film's online discussion), students are expected to write an analytical discussion post of no fewer than 300 words that attempts to interpret one element of the film. It need not be conclusive, and can pose additional questions, but must offer at least provisional or partial answers to those questions. For each film (and within 24 hours of the analytical post deadline), students are expected to write at least one reply to a classmate providing peer feedback. These replies should be no fewer than 200 words and provide a constructive and specific response to the classmate's post.

A more detailed workflow schedule can be found here.

The class will culminate in a final examination.

Grades are based on discussion posts (35%), peer feedback (35%), and the final essay exam (30%). Discussion posts are graded 0, 3, or 5: if the student provides a substantive comment or question, he or she receives 5 points; if it is late, 3; if there is no satisfactory post, 0. Peer feedback is similarly graded on a scale of 0, 3, or 5. The final essay exam is graded with a more complex rubric, which will be discussed in class.                        

Feedback: in addition to peer feedback, student discussion posts will be addressed as part of our online discussion; students will also receive detailed feedback on a discussion post specifically designed as a practice final exam, which is given in the middle of the term. Over the course of the term students will be presented with an increasingly detailed methodology (and increasing expectations for discussion posts) for how to identify a valuable topic and construct a persuasive argument.

Movies: many are long. Please budget your time wisely. Almost all of the films are available through the Criterion Channel, so I am asking students to subscribe to the channel for the term if they cannot get the films themselves. Make sure you take advantage of the 14-day free trial!

Optional reading assignments: Students may also find the following books beneficial as background: Ed Sikov's Film Studies: An Introduction for those with no background in film studies and Yomota Inuhiko's What is Japanese Cinema? for those who wish to know more details about the history of Japanese cinema. Another useful site for film analysis concepts is Yale's Film Analysis site. All readings are available through the UW Libraries as electronic resources or online.

How to prepare for class: 

  1. First, watch the film. I actually recommend you do this before reading up on it beforehand so that your reaction is not affected by others' opinions.
  2. Write your discussion post (by 9am on the day the film is due), following any cues I give you in the assignment description. I will be giving you tips and cues for these posts as we go along, but they are meant to be your initial reactions to the film. Don't worry about being "right."
  3. Participate in the online discussion or watch the recorded version once it is posted. 
  4. Write your peer reaction post after reading any cues I give you in the pinned post from me in the discussion thread. This can be done up to 24 hours after the discussion post deadline.

Necessary background: this course presumes no knowledge of Japan or of film studies as a methodology. All films are in the original Japanese with English subtitles; class discussion will be held exclusively in English.

Office hours will be held online as well. I will be available through Zoom as this link. Appointments can also be scheduled with me via email.

Access and Accommodations: Your experience in this class is important to me. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course. If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or uwdrs@uw.edu or disability.uw.edu. DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

Religious Accommodations: Washington state law requires UW to accommodate student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – no matter where you work or study – to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.

The University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478-121) defines prohibited academic and behavioral conduct and describes how the University holds students accountable as they pursue their academic goals. Allegations of misconduct by students may be referred to the appropriate campus office for investigation and resolution. More information can be found online at https://www.washington.edu/studentconduct/ (Links to an external site.)

The University takes academic integrity very seriously. Behaving with integrity is part of our responsibility to our shared learning community. If you’re uncertain about if something is academic misconduct, ask me. I am willing to discuss questions you might have.

Acts of academic misconduct may include but are not limited to:

  • Cheating (working collaboratively on quizzes/exams and discussion submissions, sharing answers and previewing quizzes/exams)
  • Plagiarism (representing the work of others as your own without giving appropriate credit to the original author(s))
  • Unauthorized collaboration (working with each other on assignments)

Concerns about these or other behaviors prohibited by the Student Conduct Code will be referred for investigation and adjudication by (include information for specific campus office).

Students found to have engaged in academic misconduct may receive a zero on the assignment and will be reported for academic misconduct should the behavior continue.

Catalog Description:
Multiple genres of Japanese film, with particular attention to structures of power and representations of marginalized subjects. Films contextualized within global, national, and local historical settings, and within the development of the cinematic form.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
April 17, 2024 - 10:05 am