Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module JPNS1051: Introduction to Japanese History through Objects

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Japanese)

JPNS1051: Introduction to Japanese History through Objects

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with knowledge and understanding of the general outline of Japanese history from the origins of Japanese civilisation to the mid-twentieth century.
  • To provide students with an introduction to the economic, political, social and cultural history of Japan.
  • To develop students’ awareness of historians’ approaches to understanding and interpreting the history of Japanese culture.
  • To introduce students to conceptual tools for interpreting objects and artefacts from Japanese material culture.


  • Each lecture will begin with a single object from Japanese history, introducing students to Japanese material culture and providing a springboard for the topic that week.
  • Teaching in the first term will concentrate on cultural contact with Japan’s neighbours on the Chinese mainland, with the introduction of writing, religion, and Chinese-style state institutions. We will also consider indigenous developments.
  • The second term will focus on Japanese modernization efforts in the Meiji and Taisho periods, on the social and political changes this brought about, and how this was reflected in literature and art. The final lectures of the second term will consider the lead-up to WW2 and its aftermath.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module students will have:
  • Basic features of Japan’s geography and history and their impact on Japan’s development from pre-history to the present day.
  • The ability to demonstrate a reasoned awareness and a critical, comparative understanding of Japanese history and society.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students will have :
  • The ability to describe, explain and evaluate significant elements in the history of Japan, and the ability to make effective connections and comparisons.
  • The ability to relate key features of Japan’s history and culture to the study of modern Japan.
  • The ability to situate an artefact in its historical and cultural context.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module students will have:
  • The ability to communicate ideas and information orally and in writing, devise and sustain coherent and cogent arguments
  • The ability to employ the sophisticated reading skills acquired to gather, sift, process, synthesise and critically evaluate information from a variety of sources (print, digital, aural, other audio-visual)
  • The ability to write and think under pressure, manage time and work to deadlines
  • The ability to make effective use of information and communications technology .

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be taught intensively in Term 1 or Term 2 on a 'short-fat' basis
  • All teaching and assessment is carried out in English.
  • Weekly lectures set the foundations for further study and provide the basis for the acquisition of subject-specific knowledge. Lectures provide a broad framework, introducing students to themes, debates and interpretations. In this environment, students are given the opportunity to develop skills in listening, selective note-taking and reflection;
  • Weekly seminars allow students to present and critically reflect upon the acquired subject-specific knowledge, methodologies and theories, and identify and debate a range of issues and differing opinions. The seminar is the forum in which students are given the opportunity to communicate ideas, jointly exploring themes and arguments. Seminars are structured to develop understanding and designed to maximise student participation related to prior independent preparation. Seminars give students the opportunity to develop oral communication skills, encourage critical and tolerant approaches to reasoned argument and historical discussion, build their ability to marshal historical evidence, and facilitate the development of the ability to summarise historical arguments, think in a rapidly changing environment and communicate in a persuasive and articulate manner, whilst recognising the value of working with others and, occasionally, towards shared goals.
  • Assessment: - Unseen examinations test students' ability to work under pressure under timed conditions, to prepare for examinations and direct their own programme of revision and learning, and develop key time management skills. The unseen examination gives students the opportunity to develop relevant life skills such as the ability to produce coherent, reasoned and supported arguments under pressure.
  • Students will be examined on subject specific knowledge; - Summative essays allow students the opportunity to recognise, represent and critically reflect upon ideas, concepts and problems; students can demonstrate awareness of, and the ability to use and evaluate, a diverse range of resources and identify, represent, and debate a range of subject-specific issues and opinions. Through the essay, students can synthesise information, adopt critical appraisals and develop reasoned argument based on individual research; they should be able to communicate ideas in writing, with clarity and coherence; and to show the ability to integrate and critically assess material from a wide range of sources.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 Weekly 2 Hours 20
Seminars 10 Weekly 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 170
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Summative Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2000 words 100% Yes
Component: Written Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written Examination 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will consist of in-class presentations and student-led discussions in seminars, requiring independent reading and research. On-going feedback will be provided in seminars.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University