Explaining the Rise of Japan

Code Cours
Language of instruction
French, English
This course occurs in the following program(s)
Training officer(s)
Paul Scott





Today Japan has the third largest economy in the world at 5.2 trillion. (France is ranked #6 at 2.8 trillion.) If we look at products

like passenger automobiles we see Japanese manufacturers ranked 2, 7, 10, 14, and 16th. (VW is #1, Renault Nissan Alliance #3).

In 1950, the per capita income in Japan was roughly $150 a year.

Japan was poor and its economy ruined by war and defeat.

So - immediately we have fundamental questions: why and how did Japan rise?

This course will attempt to explain these questions.


Week 1

17 September

Introducing the course.

Lecture: Why Japan?

Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gURiHVTJX4A

Reading: Peter Duus, The Rise of Japan, Chapter 1, Traditional Attitudes.

Week 2

Traditional Japan.

Feudalism, tradition, modernity.

Political and social structures.

The Coming of the West

Reading: https://visualizingcultures.mit.edu/black_ships_and_samurai/index.html

Week 3

Explaining Japanese fascism/militarism/aggression.

Kamikaze pilots: How does one construct a narrative of suicide pilots? Heroic? Brainwashed? Manipulated? Victims?


Week 4

Hiroshima, Occupation, Peace

Why was the atomic bombed dropped on Japan?

Video: In English, Peter Jennings. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-WnLNLe3sk

and Oppenheimer https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZuRvBoLu4t0

En français, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLKiuK0cTxk

Week 5 and 6

The rise of the Japanese economy. Why it was not a “miracle.”

Pacific Century: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TWW4PtKK4E&t=724s

Constructing a list of concrete reasons.

Week 7

The Japanese Century was a decade long. Overestimating and

underestimating Japan.

Weeks 8 and 9 oral presentations.


Forms of instruction

Readings: All readings are embedded within the syllabus and available on-line.

Participation: All participants are expected to be prepared and ready to participate in all class activities and discussions. 30% of final grade.

Written and oral presentation: All participants are required to present a 30 minute oral presentation. This will be scheduled during the last two class meetings. Topics will be discussed and decided by 10 October.

Weekly lectures and discussion.

This course is constructed around weekly discussion topics.

Contrôle continu : coeff. 1


Internet resources

Text: There is no text for the course. Readings are all on-line and embedded in the syllabus. For an excellent reference site see: http://factsanddetails.com/japan/

Also see the MIT website Visualizing Cultures.