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 2022-2023 Courses

Advanced Beginning Japanese

Open, Seminar—Year | 10 credits

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 effectively handle simple communicative tasks and situations, 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.


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.


Intermediate Japanese

Intermediate, Seminar—Fall | 5 credits

The aim of this seminar is to advance students’ Japanese language proficiency in speaking and listening, reading (simple essays to authentic texts), and writing in various styles (emails, essays, and/or creative writing). Students will meet with the instructor for classes and conferences and with a language assistant for weekly individual tutorials.


Introduction to Japanese Anime

Open, Lecture—Fall

Japanese animation, or anime, is a global phenomenon—a cultural export that has come to stand in for Japan itself in much of the world. Defined by a national identity as “Japanese” but beloved by an international audience of fans and creators, anime is a contradictory and diverse group of texts that allow us to begin to think about what it means for culture to flow globally in the 20th and 21st centuries. In this course, students will learn about the history of Japanese animation from the 1920s to the present. The course offers broad exposure to Japanese animation, from mainstream television cartoons to experimental art animation, but with an emphasis on the specific tradition of Japanese animation production that came to be known globally as “anime.” We will discuss anime as an intermedial consumer art form deeply connected to other media, such as manga (comic books), toys, video games, literature, music, traditional art, and live-action film. Our own experiences of anime as consumers/fans will be placed in context with academic theories of animation and methods for the study of anime. Students will learn about the Japanese cultural and historical context while also examining their own position in creating global anime reception. Assignments will help students develop research skills in Japanese studies, formal film-analysis skills, and creative methods for scholarly engagement. Themes will include production and marketing (e.g., “the media mix”), technology and labor, gender and sexuality, propaganda and political interests (e.g., “Cool Japan”), race and colonialism, genre, auteurism, reception and fan culture (e.g., “otaku” and “fujoshi”), religion, comedy, video games and interactive media, and intertextuality. Works discussed will include Astro Boy; films by Miyazaki Hayao, Galaxy Express 999, Sailor Moon, Doraemon, Mobile Suit Gundam, Naruto, manga by Hagio Moto, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Ghost in the Shell, Osomatsu-san, stop-motion animation by Kawamoto Kihachirō, and the works of Shinkai Makoto.


Japanese Diary Literature, Essays, and the “I” Novel

Open, Seminar—Spring

In this seminar, we will read personal narratives over the last millennium to examine how personal experiences are translated and transformed in writing. We will begin with selections of diary literature, including Ki no Tsurayuki’s Tosa Diary (c. 935), in which a fictional female narrator claims that she will “try her hand at one of those diaries that men are said to keep” and explore the connections between gender and writing. We will also read the Kagero Diary (c.974), whose author is known as the Mother of Michitsuna, and consider both its autobiographical elements as well as its psychological self-expression and critical perspective on Heian marriage politics. Next, we will turn to personal essays referred to as zuihitsu (literally translated as “following the brush”), including imperial lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book (c.1005), Buddhist recluse Kamo no Chomei’s An Account of a Ten-Foot-Square Hut (c. 1212), and more secular Buddhist monk Kenko’s Essays in Idleness (c. 1329-1333). Finally, we will turn toward the modern “I” novel (shishosetsu)—an autobiographical narrative that often involves a form of confession of one’s personal life—to read works by writers such as Tayama Katai, Shiga Naoya, Hayashi Fumiko, Dazai Osamu, Tsushima Yuko, Mizumura Minae, and others. Alongside these texts, we will read other critical sources that explore questions of genre, translation, biographical and other historical “facts,” and how these influence and challenge our readings of personal narratives.


Readings in Contemporary Japanese Religion and Culture

Intermediate/Advanced, Seminar—Year

An examination of religious beliefs, practices, and institutions in Japanese society today, this course covers all of the major religious traditions and movements in contemporary Japan: Shintō, the various schools of Buddhism, Shūgendō, Christianity, and the so-called New Religions that have flourished in the postwar period. Issues of historical development are touched on but only as an aid to understanding the current religious scene. The approach is thematic, with a focus on elements of Japanese religiosity that recur in different traditions—such as ancestor worship, beliefs in fate and karma, festivals, pilgrimages, the sanctification of natural phenomena, taboos against impurities, exorcisms, and rites of purification. Extensive use will be made in class of a variety of audio-visual materials, including animated films, documentaries, and amateur videos of ritual performances. The primary aim of the course is to provide insights into the intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, and spiritual wellsprings of contemporary Japanese culture at large and not simply to familiarize students with the basics of Japanese religion narrowly conceived. Because the assigned readings include materials written and spoken in Japanese, this course is open only to students who have completed at least two years of Japanese language study at the college level, or the equivalent. The course is designed to help such students continue their study of Japanese language at the intermediate or advanced levels.