At Kōgakkan University 皇學館大学 I have a seminar for third and fourth-year students called “Japan: Past and Present” (日本：過去と現代）. My aim is to better equip students to discuss Japanese history and culture with people outside of Japan. I generally assign Japanese essays on texts (primary source excerpts, commentary, and analysis) that students may have briefly encountered at some point in previous classes (the 8th-century Record of Ancient Matters 古事記 (Kojiki) or Sei Shōnagon’s 清少納言 11th-century Pillow Book 枕草子 (Makura no sōshi)), but have not read extensively or critically. These are smaller classes focused on discussions, presentations, and debates about the readings, concluding with a graduation thesis and oral defense in the fourth year.
In high school, it seems to me that a lot of classes or test require students to digest facts and regurgitate them with relatively little original input. However, when they enter university, they are often asked to view that received wisdom from new perspectives and interpret it through different theoretical lenses, ultimately having the opportunity at the end of their education to apply what they have learned by conducting original research and producing knowledge on their own.
The graduation thesis may sometimes seem like a chore to students (I don’t remember being thrilled with paper requirements when I was in university either), but I hope they come to see it as a wonderful way to experience both the research process and the joy of discovering new insights. The following is a list of graduation paper titles (in parentheses next to each one is the topic in English) from my past seminars, mainly as a reference for future students. In general, the essays address current-day issues with a Japanese historical or cultural element.
- ボケとツッコミによる緊張の緩和一漫才を中心に一 (tension and relief in “funny guy” and “straight guy” humor)
- 日本における都市開発の考察一日本橋の景観改善計画に基づく一 (Nihonbashi and urban development in Japan)
- 忍びの変遷からみる忍者の職業 (ninja as an occupation)
- 効果的に伝わる話し方一非言語的要素から考える一 (how to speak effectively)
- 日本の過労死と長時間労働についての考察 (karōshi and long labor hours)
- 医学と実体験の二つの目線で見る金縛り (sleep paralysis from the perspective of physicians and the experience of sleep paralysis)
- これからの日本の道徳教育に期待できること一アメリカのCharacter Educationと比較して一 (expectations for moral education in Japan)
- お辞儀文化一日本人はなぜ人に対してお辞儀するのか一 (the culture of bowing in Japan)
- 日本のジーンズ業界の発展と将来のビジョン (Japan’s jeans industry)
- 中国宋代における著作権思想の発展に関する考察 (the development of an idea about copyright during China’s Song Dynasty)
- 日本における観光と温泉一榊原温泉と事例に一 (tourism and hot springs in Japan)
- AIの今とこれから (AI now and in the future)