Waseda University’s School of Culture, Media and Society launched an English-based undergraduate degree program, Global Studies in Japanese Cultures Program (JCulP), in the 2017 academic year. The program will train specialists in Japanese culture from a global perspective, and will foster individuals who can spread their knowledge to the rest of the world.
JCulP admit up to fifteen Japan Students and fifteen Overseas Students. Students in the program will belong to the School of Culture, Media and Society, and will pursue Transcultural Studies major. Japan Students are required to earn at least 88 credits in English-based coursework; however, they may complete the remaining credits required for graduation with courses taught in languages other than English. The program does not require Overseas Students to have Japanese proficiency upon admission, but Overseas Students will study Japanese language while completing the program’s English-based coursework for the fulfillment of their graduation requirement. Both Japan Students and Overseas Students will conduct research on Japanese culture. At the same time, they will engage in broad, interdisciplinary studies as part of the School of Culture, Media and Society. The program prepares students to discuss and present their findings and research in English.
The program aims to provide opportunities for students to study Japanese culture in English. By doing so, students will explore Japanese history, tradition, custom, and ways of thinking from new perspectives, reconsidering what they had previously taken for granted. For example, reexamining the Meiji Restoration as a part of world history, rather than analyzing it within the framework of Japanese history, would reveal its similarities and differences with popular revolutions that took place in Europe around the same time. A study of contemporary Japan from a global perspective may also lead to an inquiry into the reasons for the rapid increase in the popularity of Japan’s manga and anime among youth around the world particularly from the end of the twentieth century. Was it merely because of the uniqueness of these modes of expression, or were there elements in the expressed sensibilities and values that appealed to young people across the globe? JCulP offers studies of Japanese culture not merely from within but through external perspectives. This approach can reveal various research themes that have been previously overlooked, leading to a new and rich understanding of the structure of Japanese culture.
JCulP trains students to explore Japanese culture through English, so that they can present their knowledge about Japan to the rest of the world using English. It is important not to be restricted by the dogmatic idea that “Japanese culture is so unique that it cannot be understood by outsiders.” English is one of the best means for communicating the values of Japanese culture, and for sharing knowledge and understanding about Japan with a wide range of people around the world. Some may think that acquisition of the Japanese language is a prerequisite for understanding Japanese culture. However, such an attitude may be building a wall between cultures, deterring rather than promoting mutual understanding. Today, interest in Japanese culture is rising through popular culture, with increasing numbers of people beginning to study Japanese. First we must create a space for communication where people from around the world can experience and discuss Japanese culture. In such an environment, English will not be a wall, but a foundation that supports valuable cross-cultural communication. What JCulP hopes to achieve is to foster students who can contribute to the creation of such shared space using English, and be outstanding resources for sharing better understanding of Japanese culture.
Fifteen students who received education in Japan (Japan Students) and fifteen students who received education outside Japan (Overseas Students) will study, discuss, and explore various aspects of Japan together using English to gain a new understanding of Japanese culture from multiple perspectives.
As a general rule, JCulP courses are taught in English. Students who have received education in schools in Japan(Japan Students) may feel anxious about attending English-medium courses. The program, therefore, sets the entrance period for Japan Students in April, and Overseas Students in September, giving Japan Students approximately three months to brush up their English skills. Students will attend an intensive English course – Academic Skills in English – at Waseda University from April to mid-June, and will then participate in the Summer Session at overseas universities in English-speaking countries （the US, UK, or other） for five to ten weeks. During this preparatory period, students will have an opportunity to enhance their learning ability in English in preparation for the Fall Quarter, when Overseas Students begin their studies in the program.
In addition to the seminars offered within the program, students may select courses in the subject groups taught in English in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, as well as the School of Culture, Media and Society. This open curriculum allows students to interact with non-JCulP students in academic settings. It is also possible to take some of the courses taught in Japanese that are offered by these Schools. Studying with students from diverse backgrounds and specialties offers optimal learning environment for eliminating preconceptions and for exploring issues from multifaceted and multilayered perspectives that are critical in cultural research.
Waseda University was selected as one of the thirteen universities to conduct the Top Global University (TGU) Project, Type A, supported by MEXT. JCulP has been established as a part of the Global Japanese Studies initiative, which is one component of Waseda University’s campus-wide TGU Project.
Education and research within JCulP are organized through close collaboration with leading research institutions for Japanese studies abroad, including Columbia University and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Waseda University’s School of Culture, Media and Society, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Graduate School of Letters, Arts and Sciences trace their history to the School of Literature, which was founded in the nineteenth century and trained numerous individuals that excelled in research, education, and the arts. One of the graduates of the School of Literature that “opened Japanese culture to the world” was Ryusaku Tsunoda, who established the foundation of Japanese studies at Columbia University, and trained prominent scholars of Japan, including Donald Keene. JCulP steadfastly continues this unique tradition, and aims to recruit and educate students from around the world, enhancing research and exchange of knowledge concerning Japanese culture.