Modern Japan: An Introduction

Humanities & Social Sciences
Course Code
HIST 2251
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method(s) Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
Hist 2251, Modern Japan: An Introduction, introduces students to social, cultural political and economic change from the Tokugawa era to the present day. Topics include: the reunification of Japan under the Tokugawan Shogunate; the challenges of globalization in the nineteenth century; government, the economy and society in the Meiji Restoration; the imperialist project in East Asia; the military ascendancy of the 1930s; World War II, defeat and occupation; postwar recovery; the collapse of the “bubble” economy; and Japan’s changing role in the contemporary world.
Course Content

A sample course outline may include the following topics.

Note: Content may vary according to the instructor’s selection of topics.

  1. Introduction: Japanese Geography, Language, Religion, Culture and Tradition
  2. Ancient Japan to Tokugawan Reunification
  3. Western Intrusion and the Collapse of the Bakufu
  4. Meiji Restoration
  5. Modernization
  6. Foreign Policy and Wars: China, Russia, and Korea
  7. Taisho Democracy or Showa and the Great Depression
  8. Military Ascendancy and the Road to Pearl Harbour
  9. War and Surrender
  10. From Occupation to American Partner
  11. The Economic Miracle: Becoming Number Two
  12. Politics and a New Regional Context: China and the Koreas
  13. Struggle for Public Memory: War Crimes, Textbooks, and Politics
  14. The Slow Growth Era: Japan and the Contemporary World
Learning Activities

Classroom instruction will include both lectures and seminar discussions. Lectures will provide instruction on weekly topics with opportunities for student inquiry and discussion. Seminars will encourage active class participation in the analysis of assigned primary and secondary readings. Classroom instruction may also include student presentations on specific readings and/or topics, and other types of student-led activities. Classroom instruction may also include tutorials and workshops on transferrable skills, including research methods, academic citation practice, and presentation skills.

Means of Assessment

Assessment will be in accordance with the Douglas College student evaluation policy. Students may conduct research with human participants as part of their coursework in this class. Instructors for the course are responsible for ensuring that student research projects comply with College policies on ethical conduct for research involving humans.

Students will have opportunities to build and refine their research capacity and historical thinking skills through assessments appropriate to the level of the course. There will be at least three separate assessments, which may include a combination of midterm and final exams; research essays; primary document analysis assignments and essays; quizzes; map tests; in-class and online written assignments; seminar presentations; student assignment portfolios; group projects; creative projects; class participation.

The value of each assessment and evaluation, expressed as a percentage of the final grade, will be listed in the course outline distributed to students at the beginning of the term. Specific evaluation criteria will vary according to the instructor’s assessment of appropriate evaluation methods.

An example of one evaluation scheme:

  • Participation, Seminar Discussions, In-Class Work: 15%
  • Primary Document Analyses: 10%
  • Book Review: 10%
  • Midterm Exam: 15%
  • Research Proposal: 10%
  • Research Essay: 20%
  • Final Exam: 20%
Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, successful students will be able to demonstrate historical thinking skills, research skills, critical thinking skills and communication skills appropriate to the level of the course by:

1. Locating, examining, assessing, and evaluating a range of primary sources and secondary scholarly literature critically and analytically (reading history).

2. Constructing historical arguments, taking historical perspectives, and interpreting historical problems through different types of writing assignments of varying lengths (writing history).

3. Participating in active and informed historical debate independently and cooperatively through classroom discussion and presentation (discussing history).

4. Independently and cooperatively investigating the ways that history is created, preserved and disseminated through public memory and commemoration, oral history, community engagement, and other forms of popular visual and written expressions about the past (applying history).

Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Course Readers will be chosen from the following list, to be updated periodically.

An instructor’s custom Course Reader may be required. Additional online resources may also be assigned, and links to specific resources may be provided in the course outline.

De Bary, William Theodore, Carol Gluck, and Arthur Tiedemann, eds. Sources of Japanese Tradition, 1600-2000, Vol. 2. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History of Japan: From Tokugawa Times to the Present. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.

Hirata, K., and M. Warschauer. Japan: The Paradox of Harmony. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014. 

Huffman, James L. Modern Japan: A History in Documents. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

Kingston, Jeff. Japan in Transformation, 1952-2000. 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2011.

McClain, James L. Japan: A Modern History. New ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2002.

Pyle, Kenneth B. Japan Rising. New York: PublicAffairs, 2008.

Sugimoto, Yoshio. An Introduction to Japanese Society. 4th ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Tipton, Elise. Modern Japan. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2015.



One 1000-level History course, or permission of the instructor





Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

These are for current course guidelines only. For a full list of archived courses please see

Institution Transfer Details for HIST 2251
Athabasca University (AU) AU HIST 3XX (3)
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU HIST 2XXX (3)
Langara College (LANG) LANG ASIA 1235 (3)
Okanagan College (OC) OC HIST 261 (3)
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU HIST 206 (3)
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU HIST 2XXX (3)
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU HIST 2XX (3)
University of British Columbia - Okanagan (UBCO) UBCO HIST_O 224 (3)
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ASIA_V 2nd (3)
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC HIST 205 (3) or UNBC HIST 2XX (3)
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV HIST 236 (3)
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC HSTR 2XX (1.5)
Vancouver Island University (VIU) VIU HIST 2nd (3)

Course Offerings

Summer 2024