The Japanese program offers courses in the Japanese language and Japanese literature (in English translation). In Japanese language courses, students build communicative skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing. Students also meet weekly, one-on-one, with a language assistant who supports each step in developing Japanese language proficiency. In Japanese literature courses, students explore the richness and diversity of Japanese literature from its earliest written records to contemporary fiction.

Sarah Lawrence College offers two official options to study in Japan: Tsuda (Women’s) University in Tokyo and Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka. Sarah Lawrence College students also have the opportunity to spend a year or semester in Japan on other programs offered by other approved colleges and universities. For more information: http://www.sarahlawrence.edu/japan

Japanese 2021-2022 Courses

Beginning Japanese

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

Beginning Japanese is an introduction to Japanese language and culture, designed for students who have had little to no experience learning Japanese. The goal of the course is to develop four basic skills: listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing (hiragana, katakana, and some basic kanji) in modern Japanese, with an emphasis on grammatical accuracy and socially appropriate language use. In addition to classes with the faculty instructor, there are weekly, one-on-one tutorials with one of the Japanese language assistants.


Advanced Beginning Japanese

Intermediate, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

This course is for students who have completed Beginning Japanese or its equivalent. Students will continue to develop basic skills in listening comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing while expanding their vocabulary and knowledge of grammar. At the end of the course, students should be able to handle simple communicative tasks and situations effectively, understand simple daily conversations, write short essays, read simple essays, and discuss their content. In addition to classes with the faculty instructors, there are weekly, one-on-one tutorials with one of the Japanese language assistants.


Japan’s Heisei Era (1989–2019): Culture, Society, and Experiences

Open, Seminar—Fall

In this seminar, we will embark on an examination of Japan’s Heisei Era (1989-2019). Over the course of 30 years, this dynamic period of contemporary Japanese history gave rise to significant societal changes, profound cultural transformations, and multiple shared national traumas. Persistent demographic shifts produced far-reaching consequences, greatly altering individuals’ lived experiences and expectations. Devastating natural and manmade disasters deeply shaped collective and individual consciences. Desires for catharsis, escapism, recreation, and reflection reinvigorated popular culture across a plethora of mediums: J-pop, literature, puroresu, anime, and many more. Relaxed societal constraints facilitated new options for self-expression, livelihood, and interpersonal relations. Underrepresented voices were added to critical dialogues. We will examine the unique sociocultural phenomena and historical events that constitute the Heisei Era, utilizing a diverse and interdisciplinary array of primary sources—ethnography, literature, journalism, analyses, and narratives—augmented by albums and films. We will attempt to deconstruct the era from a monolithic entity into a series of interlinking but distinct features in order to better understand and evaluate it. We will explore key sociocultural developments of the Heisei Era: Japan’s rapidly aging and decreasing population, family structure, alienation, gender norms and reform, rural depopulation, historical reckonings, and more. We will investigate the ramifications of major events, such as the Aum Shinrikyo terror attacks; the collapse of the bubble economy; and the “311” Tohoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown. We will also examine influential Heisei-defining individuals and exemplars of popular culture, potentially including Hikaru Utada, Studio Ghibli, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hakuho, and Perfume. Our ultimate aim is to comprehend this immensely impactful period in recent Japanese history from a variety of perspectives through both academic analyses and the creative output of the period itself.


Butoh Through LEIMAY Ludus


This course is an introduction to butoh through the lens of LEIMAY’s Ludus practice, which is the embodied research being taught today by LEIMAY Artistic Director Ximena Garnica. Butoh is a Japanese performing-art form that was created by Tatsumi Hijikata in the 1950s and 1960s. The course will start with an introduction to Hijikata’s butoh-fu, a choreographic method that physicalizes imagery through words. The course will then expand into LEIMAY’s Ludus practice, using multiple physical explorations to embody imagery and enlarge states of consciousness, enabling multiple realms of perception while challenging eurocentric notions of body, space, and time. Each dancer’s physical potential will be cultivated to develop a unique movement language that is rooted in butoh's ideas of transformation. Simultaneously, we will focus on the conditioning of a conductive body through the identification of the body’s own weight in relation to gravity, along with the cultivation of internal rhythm and fluidity. Together, we will decentralize self-centered approaches to movement and explore the possibilities of “being danced by” instead of “I dance,” “becoming space-body” rather than occupying space. We will challenge our body’s materiality and enliven our sensorium through listening to the rhythms and textures of the nonhuman. And we will use impossibility as a spark to enrich the ways in which we create and inhabit the world. This course is based on principles developed through nearly two decades of Ximena’s study of butoh. Historical and cultural context will be offered throughout the course.


Italian and Japanese Women Writers: A Dialogue

Open, Small Lecture—Spring

This course will examine literature written by 20th- and 21st-century Italian and Japanese women writers. We will explore how their works address social issues related to family, marriage, and women’s changing roles, as well as the place of women’s writing in Italian and Japanese literary canons. Our readings will include works by Sibilla Aleramo, Grazia Deledda, Paola Masino, Ada Negri, Rosa Rosà, Anna Banti, Anna Maria Ortese, Elsa Morante, Natalia Ginzburg, Dacia Maraini, and Elena Ferrante for Italian literature; Higuchi Ichiyo, Ota Yoko, Hayashi Fumiko, Enchi Fumiko, Ariyoshi Sawako, Oba Minako, Yoshimoto Banana, Tsushima Yuko, Ogawa Yoko, Tawada Yoko, and Oyamada Hiroko for Japanese literature. Primary sources will range from fiction (novels, short stories, and fictional diaries) to autobiographies, diaries, and plays supplemented with secondary texts on women’s literature and histories. In addition to the lectures, students will attend weekly group conferences, and there will be group conference options for intermediate/advanced language students (in Italian and Japanese, respectively) to focus on developing language proficiency (e.g., by reading literary works in the original language, producing written compositions, and discussing works in Italian or Japanese). No previous background in Italian or Japanese language, literature, or history is required for this course.


Japanese Religion and Culture

Open, Seminar—Fall

This historical survey of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in Japan, from ancient times down to the present, covers all of the major religious traditions and movements—Shinto, Buddhism, Shugendo, Confucianism, and the so-called New Religions—as well as various elements of religion and culture (e.g., Noh theatre, Bushido) that are not readily subsumed under any of the preceding labels. Readings include many primary sources (Japanese texts in English translation), and audio-visual materials are used whenever possible to provide a fuller picture of traditional religious art, architecture, and ritual performance in Japan. Prior study or experience of things Japanese (language, literature, history, etc.) is desirable but not required.