EAST254 From Shinto to Shogun: Premodern Japanese History

Prof. James Orr, Marts Hall 12A X7-3388

Fall 2011  MWF 12 noon  Coleman 020


General Course Objectives:

To learn the basic history of pre-modern Japan and to appreciate the historical rootedness of various parts of Japanese culture.  Some general questions we will address: How did a scattered tribal society on the periphery of Chinese civilization cohere into an identifiably Japanese political entity and culture, and how did this polity and culture evolve across the centuries?  What major eras do historians see in premodern Japanese history, and what is the rationale for this periodization?  What were the characteristics of pre-modern Japan that help to explain the Japan of today?  What was the human impact on the ecology of the Japanese archipelago and how did the environment impact Japanese political history?  What are the stories of the past that are remembered in Japan today?


Description of Subject Matter:

Archeological and architectural evidence of continental and melo-polynesian influences, Sui and Tang dynasty influences on early Japanese polities and culture, Japanese foundation mythologies, the Heian culture of classical Japan, warrior and aristocratic culture and its economic bases, the emergence of various strains of Buddhism and Confucianism, civil war in the 16th century, and the following Tokugawa era of peace and uneven prosperity. Introduction to the major cultural products of premodern Japan: architecture, art, poetry, literature and dramatic arts (noh, bunraku, kabuki).


Method of Instruction and Study:

Mainly seminar-style discussion of related readings and lecture; quizzes, exams, and a term paper/project.


File written by Adobe Photoshop® 5.2


Izanami and Izanagi, by Kobayashi Eitaku c. 1885


Instructional Materials and Sources:

Mikiso Hane, Premodern Japan: A Historical Survey (Westview Press)

Ivan Morris, The World of the Shining Prince: Court Life in Ancient Japan

Arthur Sadler, Ten Foot Square Hut

Other reading assignments will be available on Moodle or accessible via the library's online digital databases (e.g., JSTOR).  Syllabus is subject to change, especially late in the semester.


Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, which includes being able to summarize and pro-actively discuss reading assignments (20%); quizzes (20%), exams (40% ); a research paper on a topic of interest (due 11/21; 20%). Depending on the number of students enrolled, we may alter the assignments to include biographical presentations, in which case the above percentages will change accordingly.


Course homepage is accessible on Moodle and from a link on my homepage.


Barring exceptional emergencies or crises, late papers will be penalized by a grade for each working day late. [Syllabus is subject to change: please check course website periodically.]


CCC Learning Outcomes Statement:


*Students will interpret texts with awareness of the texts' basic orientation in the world (historical, philosophical, religious, linguistic, etc.).

*Students will be able to construct arguments and evaluate canons using the evidence and tools of critical analysis appropriate to the object of inquiry.


*Students will demonstrate the ability to use concepts and tools of inquiry from at least one discipline to examine the beliefs, history, social experiences, social structures, artistic or literary expressions, and/or traditions of one or more cultures or societies located outside the United States.


Students are encouraged to explore external resources on their own, but the following two sites are useful reference websites:

Metropolitan Museum of Art Japanese Art: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hi/te_index.asp?i=10

Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System (JAANUS): http://www.aisf.or.jp/%7Ejaanus/


Week 1. (8/24, 26) First week

2. Introduction: overview of course and Japanese history/geology/geography

3. (Friday) Emergence of Japanese civilization

Proto-Japanese history—Jomon; Yayoi; Kofun

Reading: Hane, Chapter 1 "The Early Years.”

Web Resources:

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Jomon Culture http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/jomo/hd_jomo.htm

            Sannai Maruyama Historical Park


            Metropolitan Museum of Art: Yayoi Culture http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/yayo/hd_yayo.htm

            Yoshinogari Yayoi Historical Park



Week 2. (8/29, 8/31, 9/2)

Introduction of Sui/Tang (Sino-Korean?) culture: Buddhism, writing, notions of governance, architecture, etc.  Establishment of imperial lineages. Soga and Prince Shotoku; Fujiwara and Heijo—Tempyo and Taika Reforms and Temmu/Tenchi story; ecological disaster in Fujiwara-kyo

Reading: Excerpts from Kojiki and Nihongi

Reading: Hane, Chapter 2 “The Advent and Assimilation of Chinese Civilization.”


Week 3. (9/5, 7, 9) Heian politics and socio-economy

Reading: Hane, Chapter 3 “The Heian Period: The Age of Court Aristocracy”

Reading: Morris, Chapters III and VIII,  “Politics and Society” and “The Women of Heian and their Relations with Men”

Reading: Murasaki, Tale of Genji Chapter 1 “The Paulownia Court” (online) and Chapter 2 “The Broom Tree” (online)

Political/Institutional—Fujiwara family, marriage politics, shoen



Week 4. (9/12, 14, 16) Heian—belief systems: Buddhism, spirits

Reading Morris, Chapters IV and V “Religions” and “Superstitions”

Reading Murasaki, Tale of Genji Chapter 4 “Evening Faces” (online)

Film viewing: “Onmyōji” and animated “Tale of Genji”


Week 5: (9/19, 21, 23) Heian—aesthetics: poetics, literature, shinden architecture

Reading: Morris, Chapters VI and VII “”The Good People” and “The Cult of Beauty”

Film viewing: Sansho the Bailiff


1st exam


Week 6: (9/26, 28, 30) Frontier topics—shogun, emishi, exile, etc.

Reading tbd.


Week 7: (10/3, 5, 7) Kamakura

Reading: Hane, Chapter 4 “The Kamakura Period: The Triumph of the Samurai.”

Reading: Ten Foot Square Hut, or “The Hōjōki,” pp. 1-21.

Supplemental: Cosmos video on Heike crabs


Fall Break (10/10)


Week 8. (10/12, 14)

Reading: “Tale of Heike” selections

Reading: Varley, both parts of Chapter 5, “The Canons of Medieval Taste,” pp. 90-111; pp. 112-139.


Week 9. (10/17, 19, 21)
 Muromachi and the Medieval Aesthetic

Reading: Hane, Chapter 5 “The Ashikaga Period: The Emergence of the Daimyo.”

Reading: Selections from “Tales of Times Now Past” (Konjaku Monogatari)


Week 10. (10/24, 26, 28) Warring States and Momoyama

Reading: Hane, Chapter 6, “The Restoration of Order.”

Reading: Elison, George.  “The Cross and the Sword: Patterns of Momoyama History.” In Elison and Smith, eds., Warlords, Artists, and Commoners: Japan in the Sixteenth Century (University of Hawaii Press, 1981): 55-85.

Film Viewing: “Rikyū”


2nd exam


Week 11 (10/31; 11/2, 4)

Tokugawa consolidation—Institutions of the Bakuhan order

Readings: Hane, Chapter 7 “The Early Tokugawa Period.”

Readings: Selections from David Lu, Japan: A Documentary History


Week 12 (11/7, 9, 11)

 Tokugawa—cultural florescence

Reading: Hane, Chapter 8, “The Intellectual and Cultural Developments in Tokugawa Japan.”

Reading: Ihara Saikaku, “The One Momme Club, in This Scheming World.  “The Story of Seijuro.”

Reading: “At the Farmhouse”

Film viewing: kabuki play tbd.


Week 13 (11/14, 16, 18)

Reading: “Forty-Seven Ronin”

Reading: Selections from “Playboy, Roasted a La Edo”

Film Viewing: “Gonza the Spearman”


Week 14 (11/21)

Tokugawa—trouble in Pax Tokugawa

Reading: Hane, Chapter 9, “The Late Tokugawa Period.”

Term paper due.


Thanksgiving Break(11/23-25)


Week 15 (11/28, 30; 12/2)

Reading: Hane, Chapter 10 “The Fall of the Tokugawa Bakufu.”


Monday December 5, 2011 Last Day of classes --Review


Final Exam: tba