Japanese Studies, Academics | Earlham College
COVID-19 news, plans and updates | READ MORE
Skip to Content

Japanese Studies:
Encountering the Complexities of Japan

Overview   |   Meet An Earlhamite   |   Our Faculty   |   Plan of Study   |   Courses  


Scholarship about Japan has a long history at Earlham and our connections with Japan run deep. For more than 50 years, Earlham has been a leader in undergraduate education focused on Japan.

Japanese Studies at Earlham is about encountering the complex histories, societies and cultures that both comprise and are embodied in the nation of Japan.

Our program offers you courses in anthropology, music, environmental studies, religion, art, history, literature, linguistics and beyond.

Earlham runs two study-abroad programs in Japan: a full year or spring semester taking classes at Waseda University in Tokyo, and a fall semester Studies in Cross-Cultural Education (SICE) program in Morioka where you will help teach English at a local school.

Related Programs:


Within our Japanese Studies major, students chose between two foci: “Japanese Culture and Society” and “Japanese Language & Linguistics.”

Earlham hosts 12 students from Waseda University every year, giving you even more opportunities to learn outside the classroom.

Outside the classroom, Earlham also offers Japan House, a residential theme house for students, as well as a Japanese Garden, a Tea Ceremony room, and the student-run spring festival Harumatsuri.

Our graduates have gone on to careers in both Japan and the U.S. in corporate consulting, global sales, education, government, communication and translation.

Meet An Earlhamite

Jennifer Waldman
Jennifer’s Bridge to Japan

As the first student who will complete the newly established Japan Study and Waseda University Double Degree Program, Jennifer Waldman ’18 will be one step closer to a goal she’s had since childhood.

Read More
Rosa Aldrige
A Heart for Japan

Rosa Aldridge ’13 decided that she wanted to study Japanese language so she could help those studying abroad to have positive experiences. Now in her fifth year in Japan, Aldridge works at Tokyo International University’s Career Center, where she is the only English-speaking adviser.

Read More
Amanda Moore
Mixing Business and Japanese Studies

Not unlike the Japanese culture she studies, Amanda Moore’s interests are multi-layered, complex, and have been developing for years.

Read More

Our Faculty

Marc Benamou
Professor of Music

Nelson Bingham
Professor Emeritus of Psychology; Special Adviser to the College

Marya Bower
Professor of Liberal Studies

Eric Cunningham
Associate Professor of Japanese Studies

Dyron Dabney
Jackson Bailey Memorial Endowed Chair for Japan Study/Institute for Education on Japan; Director of Japan Study and Associate Professor of Politics and Japanese Studies

Tiffany Hong
Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies

Rebecca Jestice
Director of Global Management Program; Associate Professor of Global Management

Yasumi Kuriya
Associate Professor of Japanese

Andy Moore
Professor of Geology

Kelly Remo
Japan Study Program Associate

Yasumasa Shigenaga
Assistant Professor of Japanese Language and Linguistics

Plan of Study

General Education Requirements

The Program offers 17 courses that fulfill the International component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, JPNS 172, 226, 228, 236, 238, 342, 343, 344, 357, 362, 364, 366, 374, 376, 380, 472 and 473; one course that fulfills the Domestic component of the Perspectives on Diversity Requirement, 372; and three Writing Intensive courses, JPNS 228, 238 and 372. The Program also offers Earlham Seminars.

The Major

Students seeking to major in Japanese Studies should take JPNS 236 before participating in an off-campus program in Japan. Because of the off-campus study requirement, students should work closely with their advisers to shape a four-year course of study that will make it possible for them to satisfy all requirements for the College and the Program. Students pursuing a major in Japanese Studies should choose either Focus One or Focus Two.

Focus One: Japanese Culture and Society

Students must complete:

  • JPNS 236 Introduction to the Study of Japan
  • One advanced-level language course at 300 or above: JAPN 301, JAPN 302, JAPN 382
  • JPNS 473 or 474 or equivalent
  • Four JPNS courses of 3 or more credits each. At least one must be in the Humanities and one in the Social Sciences. At least two must be advanced-level courses. (JAPN 430 or JAPN 431 may be used for one of the four courses.)
  • Off-Campus Study Program in Japan (full year or one semester)
  • JPNS 488 Senior Capstone Experience. Capstone projects should reflect prior coursework and the student's Japanese Studies major focus.

In addition to the Japanese Studies courses listed in the catalog, students may:

  • Apply certain courses taken off campus with the approval of the Japanese Studies faculty.
  • Petition the program to count non-Japanese Studies courses taken at Earlham. These petitioned courses must contain at least 25% Japan content. In addition, course assignments must be adjusted to include Japan content whenever possible. Students interested in pursuing this option must gain the approval of the instructor and the convener of Japanese Studies early in the semester in which the course is taken.

Focus Two: Japanese Language and Linguistics

Students must complete:

  • JPNS 236 Introduction to the Study of Japan
  • Three advanced-level language courses at 300 or above: JAPN 301, JAPN 302, JAPN 382
  • Two JAPN linguistics or pedagogy courses from the following: JAPN 351, JAPN 407, JAPN 422, JAPN 430, JAPN 431
  • One additional JAPN linguistics or pedagogy course or JPNS course
  • Off-Campus Study Program in Japan (full year or one semester)
  • JPNS 488 Senior Capstone Experience. Capstone projects should reflect prior coursework and the student's Japanese Studies major focus.

In addition to courses listed in the catalog, students may apply certain courses taken off campus with the approval of the program convener. JAPN 352 may not be applied toward meeting requirements of the Japanese Studies Major.

The Minor

Students pursuing a minor in Japanese Studies must complete:

  • One Japanese language course at the intermediate level
  • JPNS 236 Introduction to the Study of Japan
  • JPNS 473 or JPNS 474 or equivalent
  • Two JPNS courses of 3 or more credits each. One must be in the Humanities and one in the Social Sciences. At least one must be an advanced-level course. (JAPN 430 or JAPN 431 may be used for one of the two courses.)
  • Off-Campus Study Program in Japan (full year, one semester, or May Term)

Off-Campus Study

Students completing a major in Japanese Studies are required to participate in one of the off-campus study programs in Japan offered by Earlham or in another program approved by the Japanese Studies faculty for a full year or one semester.

Students completing a minor in Japanese Studies are required to complete an off-campus program for either a full year, one semester or a May Term.


* Key

Courses that fulfill
General Education Requirements:

  • (A-AR) = Analytical - Abstract Reasoning
  • (A-QR) = Analytical - Quantitative
  • (D-D) = Diversity - Domestic
  • (D-I) = Diversity - International
  • (D-L) = Diversity - Language
  • (RCH) = Research
  • (W) = Wellness
  • (WI) = Writing Intensive
  • (AY) = Offered in Alternative Year

The Buddha taught radical inquiry into the nature of the self, the world and suffering. This discussion-based practicum will be guided by the teachings of contemporary masters and the lives of current practitioners to conduct one's own inquiries in a Buddhist style. Students will practice a variety of forms of meditation and reflection, read and discuss writings from the Theravada, Mahayana and Tantric traditions, called "The Three Turnings of the Wheel," and view films and documentaries that embody Buddhist worldviews. Also listed as REL 172. (D-I) (AY)

This course introduces students to the culture and society of Japan through a social scientific lens. Topics include religion, gender, family, the state, politics, popular culture and food. (D-I)

Students will be introduced to manga and other forms of sequential art (comics/graphic novels/BD), and methodologies of analyzing multimodal media. The class will look at genre, relationships to other media, censorship, and representations of violence and sexuality. Also listed as WGSS 216. (D-I)

A survey of traditional culture in China, Viet Nam, Korea and Japan, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Attention to the historical development of the great tradition in literature, art, religion, politics and social institutions. Also listed as HIST 226. (D-I) (AY)

*JPNS 228 MODERN EAST ASIA (3 credits)
A survey of East Asia since about 1800, with emphasis on China and Korea, and on East Asia as an international system. Special attention to the historical development of politics, economics, society and social institutions, literature, thought and international relations. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 228. (WI, D-I) (AY)

This course entails a general introduction to Japan’s natural environments with an emphasis on the roles that humans, their cultures and societies, have played and continue to play in shaping them. Specific topics include: religion and natures, pop culture & media productions of nature, pollution, technology, and environmental politics. Also listed as ENSU 231. (D-I)

This course explores Japan as an object of intellectual inquiry. While looking at various aspects of culture and society in Japan, students will critically consider the ways that scholars approach the study of Japan. Students will also contemplate how scholars contribute to productions of “Japan” and things “Japanese.” Though this course is required for Japanese Studies majors, it is open to any student who is interested in thinking about Japan. (D-I)

A survey of literary texts from Asia, especially China (Mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan), South Korea and Japan. Readings and discussions of short stories, novels, poems and essays in English translation that reflect each society's changing views of traditions, modernization and literary values. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. (WI, D-I) (AY)

This course looks at Japan within the context of global processes and practices of tourism. Students will learn to employ social science perspectives to consider the political-economic, socio-cultural and environmental implications of tourist practices both in Japan and in the wider Pacific region, particularly Hawaii. Also listed as SOAN 244. (D-I)

This course is a study of international relations within the context of Japan and Asian-Pacific politics and foreign policy. This course examines past, present and emerging transnational and trans-regional issues, such as territorial disputes, trade agreements and imbalances, human rights, immigration management, regional militarization, and constitutional revisionism, by way of the political and policy action or inaction of state actors in Japan and Asia. Also listed as POLS 305. (RCH)

This is a companion course to JPNS 343 that will examine a selection of short stories and novels spanning the Shôwa and Heisei periods. The class will address questions of genre, legitimacy, canon, translation, the social role of the writer, and the place of female authors. Also listed as ENG 310 and WGSS 310. (D-I, WI)

JPNS 312 BUDDHIST ETHICS (4 credits)
This course explores the place of ethics and moral reflection in Buddhist thought and practice. As students examine sources that hail from across the Buddhist world, the class will inquire about what it means to think and act well according to different Buddhist visions of the ideal life and human flourishing. Prerequisite: consent of the instructor. Also listed as REL 312.

*JPNS 342 JAPANESE CINEMA (3 credits)
A survey of Japanese cinema from early films to anime, comparing the development of Japanese cinema with other national contexts. Develops analytical skills that focus on technical details of films and how they inflect narration, character and theme. Also listed as FILM 342. (D-I)

Introduces representative literary texts from modern Japan, mostly from 1900 to present. Develops more advanced skills for literary analysis. Some topics include: I-novel autobiographical fiction, women's writing and modern poetry. (D-I) (AY)

Introduces representative classic texts from premodern Japan, approximately from 9th to 19th century. Develops more advanced skills for literary analysis. Some topics include: Heian women's literature, war epics, waka/haiku poetry, and Edo popular literature and theater. (D-I) (AY)

*JPNS 349 JAPANIMALS (3 credits)
This course focuses on human-animal interactions in Japanese contexts. Emphases will be on the social, cultural and ecological dimensions of these interactions. Through examinations of specific topics, including wildlife conflicts, zoos and pet keeping, students will learn to analyze the multiple contexts that inform inter-species interactions in Japan. Also listed as ENSU 349 and SOAN 349. (D-I)

Examines the relationship of individual psychological functioning and cultural systems, utilizing a cross-cultural analysis of Japan vs. the U.S. as an illustrative case. Includes a major project focused on the culture(s) of a student's choice. Prerequisite: PSYC 115, 237, 238 or 239. Also listed as PSYC 362. (D-I) (AY)

*JPNS 364 MUSICS OF JAPAN (3 credits)
Also listed as MUS 364. (D-I) (AY)

A seminar engaging in an interdisciplinary approach to the family from a psychological perspective. Comparative analysis of Japanese and American families allows examination of the universality of psychological processes and concepts and their dependence on the contexts of culture, social class, ethnicity and gender. A major project allows students to investigate the family in a culture of their choice. Prerequisite: PSYC 115, 237, 238 or 239. Also listed as PSYC 366. (D-I) (AY)

A survey of the history of Asians and Americans of Asian ancestry in the United States from the 18th century to the present, with emphasis on phases of immigrant history and interactions with recipient communities in the context of U.S. historical development, and on issues of race, ethnicity, gender, naturalization and citizenship and cultural identity. Prerequisite: An Earlham Seminar, an Interpretive Practices course or consent of the instructor. Also listed as HIST 372. (WI, D-D) (AY)

*JPNS 374 MODERN JAPAN (4 credits)
A study of Japanese historical and institutional development in the early modern and modern periods, from the 15th century to the present. Topics include the Tokugawa period; the Meiji Restoration and modernization; the periods of colonialism, imperialism and militarism; postwar recovery and the economic miracle; and the challenges of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Explores economic, political, social, intellectual and international perspectives. Attention to prominent theories of development. Also listed as HIST 374. (D-I) (AY)

Political ecology is a set of scholarly inquiries and approaches that seeks to account for the ways in which power relationships inform, shape, interact with, and are expressed through ecological relationships. This course entails an examination of political ecologies in the East Asia region. The first part of the course introduces students to political ecology approaches to studying ecological systems, and the second part employs case studies from East Asia to examine how power functions in and through ecological systems. Also listed as ENST 376. (D-I) (AY)

An exploration of the religious and philosophical thought and practice of East Asia, focusing on Popular, Shinto, Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist traditions as manifested in the classical periods of cultural development as well as contemporary society. Prerequisite: One course in Religion (preferably in World Religions), one course in Japanese Studies or consent of the instructor. Also listed as REL 380. (D-I)

*JPNS 472 MODERN CHINA (4 credits)
A survey of Chinese historical development from the first dynasties to the present day, with emphasis on the period from the mid-14th century through the liberalizing reforms of the post-Mao era. Investigates problems of historical continuity and change, Chinese perceptions of themselves and of the West, attempts at economic and political modernization, the Maoist revolution, and the interplay between institutions and ideas. Also listed as HIST 472. (D-I) (AY)

*JPNS 473 TRADITIONAL JAPAN (3 credits) Research Credit.
A survey of traditional life and culture in Japan in a historical and institutional framework, from earliest times to around the 18th century. Topics include the state, the relationship between authority and power, social structures, economic life, philosophy, religion, the arts and literature. Also listed as HIST 473. (D-I) (AY)

JPNS 485 INDEPENDENT STUDY (1-3 credits)
An individually designed advanced study of topics in the history, culture and historiography of Japan, China, Korea and other areas of East Asia, including thought, religion, literature, and literary theory and criticism. Results in a thesis or research paper.

JPNS 488 SENIOR CAPSTONE EXPERIENCE (2 credits in the Fall, 2 credits in the Spring)
Japanese Studies majors enroll in this course for both Fall and Spring semesters of their senior year. In Fall semester they complete the majority of their capstone project including project proposal, solicit faculty readers, development of project in consultation with faculty evaluators, penultimate draft and related reading assignments. In Spring semester they complete final revisions of project in consultation with faculty evaluators, student presentations, professional/career development and related reading assignments. Students develop their capstone project in consultation with faculty. Projects should reflect prior coursework and the student’s major track focus: Japanese Culture and Society or Japanese Language and Linguistics. Submission of the final project and a public presentation take place in Spring Semester and are required for graduation.

Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts and sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admission


Earlham admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin, age, gender and sexual orientation in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.