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Tourist Japan Syllabus

In the fall of 2002, I began teaching a course related to this research project as a venue for working through my ideas. The course evolved as I began to think more critically about digital humanities practice and material culture, and I significantly redesigned the syllabus in Spring 2015. Every year I modify the content and structure but maintain the basic format of a digital humanities lab, which I first introduced around this time, with hands-on class sessions on developing metadata (logistics and theory) and digital curation. In 2016, students began using a sandbox Omeka site to practice the preparatory work necessary to create their own exhibits using objects from the Re-Envisioning Japan collection. Throughout the semester they work in small groups as an introduction to the collaborative dimension of DH practice, working toward creating a final project, which entails creating an exhibit using multiple objects in the collection or analyzing a single object. In the spring 2017 semester, to inaugurate the new Omeka site, students focused more intensely on individual object analysis and metadata for a wide range of formats. For their final project, they designed individual "Object Encounters," online visual explorations of an object with minimal narrative intervention. Now a permanent fixture in the course, this exercise focuses on the systematic description, deduction, research, and interpretation. Their encounters are featured on the site under "Encounters."

In "Either/Or? Both/And? Difficult Distinctions within the Digital Humanities" (Educause Review, May-June 2014), Michael Roy points out that distinctions between teaching and research are often blurred in digital humanities. Roy explains how students can "become co-investigators on humanities-focused questions, doing meaningful work on large, complicated research projects."

There is a productive, reciprocal relationship between my digital scholarship and teaching. Integrating the Re-Envisioning Japan digital archive into the classroom experience has been a natural extension of researching these objects and the life and times of the people who made and used them. I gain fresh perspectives from student insight and students have access to ephemeral yet deeply resonant and informative primary source material. The archive and the collection become important tools that complement secondary reading assignments and films screened in class and designated as part of their weekly assignments. This hybrid teaching model incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches opens up opportunities for new directions in critically analyzing these objects and the times they reflect.

Tourist Japan

Spring 2023 Syllabus 

Tues. 2:00-4:40 pm

Instructor: Prof. Joanne Bernardi, Japanese and Visual and Cultural Studies, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures and Graduate Program in Visual and Material Culture, University of Rochester

Crosslisted at UG/G level: Japanese, Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, Digital Media Studies, Art & Art History, English

Required text: Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction. Christopher Goto-Jones (Oxford, 2009), All other readings are available as e-reserves. Photography books are on reserve in the library so you can consult the images firsthand.

Websites associated with the course:

http://humanities.lib.rochester.edu/rej/ (REJ 1.0 WordPress site)

http://rej.lib.rochester.edu (REJ 2.0 Omeka site)

Additional course website for preliminary metadata exercises ("TJ Sandbox")

Course objectives:

  • This course explores Japan’s image as a foreign destination, focusing on (but not limited to) the first half of the twentieth century through representations in a wide range of visual and material culture. Objects in the heterogeneous and multimedia Re-Envisioning Japan (REJ) Collection comprise our main corpus—ephemera generated by tourism, education, and entertainment; advertisements and souvenirs, and wartime propaganda—all objects changing hands along similar routes of exchange. Japan’s image as a “foreign land” has been promoted both positively (e.g., tourist campaigns, educational films) and negatively (e.g., wartime propaganda, an important part of the history of Japan’s image abroad), and we’ll study both to better understand inherent similarities and contradictions at different historical moments in the constantly shifting geopolitics of our world. For the purpose of this course, “travel” or “tourism” is any act involving a journey both real (through physical space) and virtual (experienced indirectly through education, entertainment, or information about Japan).
  • We will learn how to use material culture in historical research by studying images (including films) and artifacts related to Japan to construct a rich history of how Japan has defined itself and been defined by others. The material we will study includes objects and images generated by the entertainment or tourist industry and objects and images that reference, advertise, and promote Japan more inadvertently, We’ll discuss the concept of cultural heritage, collections, and the acts of interpreting, collecting, and curating the past through visual and material culture.
  • This lecture and discussion course has a hands-on Digital Humanities component: students work with objects in the Re-Envisioning Japan Collection and REJ Digital Archive, learning material culture interpretation, critical analysis, and digital curation skills.

Core issues include:

  • What is (and historically has been) visual culture’s role in creating Japan's image in the context of tourism and promotional education?
  • How do illustrations, photography, and film reflect changing concepts of urban space, rural culture, industry, geography, and military and political authority at the national level and beyond? For example, what is the phenomenon of postcard culture: its origins, significance, and development?
  • Can we identify patterns (recurrent iconography, coded images) that link the visual culture generated by tourism and/or educational promotion and evolving concepts of nationalism and cultural identity?
  • how does this history of images intersect with film history, as in travel films, documentaries, and commercial feature films?
  • In what ways is an investigation of the meaning of modern in Japan useful to a study of the continuous transformation of culture in specific contexts (e.g., the process of transitioning from ukiyo-e culture to the nineteenth-century "modern" phenomenon of photography; the subsequent photographic image explosion; and ultimately, the postmodern anime industry and art form).

The course acknowledges the relevance of preceding historical periods and the extent to which Japan's past informs its present. No prior experience in Japanese studies or the Japanese language is required.

Course Requirements

A. Class participation (20%):

  1. Active involvement and participation in class lecture/discussions count for 20% of the final grade. This is a problem-based course in which class and online discussions are vital. Frequent absences (2+) and lack of participation will affect your ability to stay current and will lower your grade. Each absence lowers your grade by half, e.g., A to A-.
  2. Class participation includes presenting on one of the weekly film titles you screen on your own: each student is responsible for contributing to an original and reflective 10-15 min. presentation identifying key issues and questions as lead-ins to our class discussion of the film. You will most likely collaborate with one or more classmates.

B. Written and Curatorial Assignments (60% total):

  1. Research and metadata midterm group project, in-class presentation due midsemester: detailed observation, analysis, research, and interpretation of a set of objects belonging to 3 different formats and creation of metadata in Omeka for each object (group assignment, 2-3 students per group). This will prepare you for your final project, a group “Object Encounter:” a 3-5 min. video recording or another type of digital presentation that introduces and interprets one or more objects from the REJ collection to potential REJ archive users. Specifics on the type of material that we will use will be discussed in detail in class. You will focus on providing metadata for objects that aid in historicizing and contextualizing the object through a socio-cultural lens. (20%)
  2. Weekly Blackboard Discussion Board film response: You will submit weekly responses (approximately two paragraphs long) for assigned film titles. You can also reference readings, specific object/image analyses, and discussions if relevant. Try to make this an interactive assignment by reading your classmates' responses and considering them in your contributions. This is an opportunity to share your immediate thoughts, reactions, and questions for further discussion. (20%)
  3. Final digital curation project and written response essay: a) group presentation of your group's “object encounter,” a visual presentation of one or more objects in a digital format, introducing and interpreting the object(s) with minimal narrative intervention; b) written metadata and a 3-5 page individual response paper describing the premise and process of creating your group's object encounter, and your role in that process. (20%)

C. Readings and Group Annotation on Perusall (20%)

Detailed directions for this assignment are available as a separate prompt. Weekly reading assignments are listed on the syllabus. This portion of the course grade includes annotating select readings from the syllabus, to be annotated in Perusall, a group annotation tool ("social e-reader") integrated with Blackboard.

Graduate Students

All requirements are the same except for the final assignment, which entails a longer individual essay (10-15 pages) instead of a short response. Your essay should focus on an interpretation of the object(s) at the center of your final curation project, in addition to a reflection on the significance of your curatorial process. I will meet with you individually a few weeks into the semester to ensure your work in this course achieves a goal that contributes to advancing your research agenda and/or interests.

The syllabus is subject to change. You will be notified of any changes, and the online version of the syllabus will always be up-to-date.


Week #1: Introduction to the Course

  1. Choose one object and one film from the Re-Envisioning Japan digital archive and write a response to each on the Discussion Board thread, as discussed in class
  2. (Alternative/additional assignment) View the earlier (1981, 1968) versions of the film seen in class (Japan an Introduction Part I,  dir. Wayne Mitchell, 1998) and write a response comparing the three versions.

Week #2: Tools and Contexts

  1. "Creative Curating: The Digital Archive as Argument," J. Bernardi and N. Dimmock, in Making Meaning and Drawing Boundaries: Experiments in the Digital Humanities, ed. J. Sayers, 187-197.
  2.  “Animate Objects,” J. Bernardi. Recollecting Collecting: A Film and Media Perspective, ed. Lucy Fischer (Wayne State UP, 2023): 93-111.
  3. “How Objects Speak,” Peter N. Miller. The Chronicle Review of Higher Education (Aug. 11, 2014): 2-16.
  4. “Introduction,” Kenneth Haltman. American Artifacts: Essays in Material Culture, Jules David Prown and Kenneth Haltman, eds. (Michigan State UP, 2000): 1-10.
  5. "Tracking the Dinosaur," Harry Harootunian. History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice and the Question of Everyday Life (Columbia UP, 2000): 25-58.
  6. "Confessions of a Specialist," Donald Keene. Appreciations of Japanese Culture (Kodansha, 1971): 338-341

Suggested for further reading:

  1. “Either/Or? Both/And? Difficult Distinction within the Digital Humanities,” Michael Roy. Educause Review (May-June 2014): 16-20.
  2. “Beyond Visual Culture: Seven Statements of Support for Material Culture,” Paul E. Bolin and Doug Blandy. Studies in Art Education, Vol. 44 No. 3 (Spring 2003): 246-263.
  • In-class exercise: Introduction to Prownian analysis

Week #3: Early Tourism in Japan

  1. “‛By Other Means’: Tourism and Leisure as Politics in Pre-war Japan,” David Leheny. Social Science Japan Journal Vol. 3 no. 2 (2000): 171-186.
  2. “How Japan Solicited the West: The First Hundred Years of Modern Japanese Tourism,” Roger March. (Perusall test exercise)
  3. “The Historical Development of Japanese Tourism,” Roger March.
  4. “A Traveler’s Paradise,” Frederic A. Sharf. Art & Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era, Dobson, Morse, Sharf (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 2004).
  5. Japanese Tourism: Spaces, Places and Structures, Caroline Funck (Berghan Books, 2013): pp. 1-39.
  6. Start reading Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction
  • World Cultural Heritage Sites in Japan. NHK International, 2008. 5 discs, 100 min. total.
  • Additional programs
  • 2nd FL Rush Rhees Library, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation. Orientation, introduction to RBSCP 

Week #4: Travelers and Tourists

  1. Introduction: “Elsewhereland” pp. 1-10 and Part 1: “Landscapes and Mindscapes,” pp. 13-40. On Holiday: History of Vacationing (California Studies on Critical Human Geography), Orvar Lofgren (1999).
  2. “Origins of Sightseeing,” Judith Adler. Travel Culture: Essays on What Makes Us Go, Carol T. Williams (Praeger, 1998): 1-23. (Perusall assignment)
  3. Suggested for further reading: “18 Must-Visit Heritage Sites in Japan,” Amy Chavez. Japan Today (21 Aug. 2014).
  • Introduction to the Omeka web platform and Dublin Core as a framework for entering metadata for physical objects, adding scanned images, and creating virtual exhibits

Week #5: Japan in the World

  1. Modern Japan: A Very Short Introduction. Christopher Goto-Jones (Oxford, 2009)
  2. “Souvenirs of ‘Old Japan’: Meiji-era Photography and the Meisho Tradition,” Anne Nishimura Morse. Art & Artifice: Japanese Photographs of the Meiji Era (2004): 41-50
  3. "An American Flag in Japan," Barbara Brooks, originally published in Commonplace 8:1 (2007). About the U.S. flag flown by Townsend Harris in Japan, and Harris's journey from Shimoda to Edo.
  4. Suggested for further reading:
    1. "Introduction," Henry Smith II. Hokusai: One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji (Georges Braziller, 1988).
    2. "Introduction," Henry Smith II. Hiroshige: One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (G Braziller: Brooklyn Museum, 1986): 9-16
  • Metadata workshop (RBSCP) 

Week #6: Orientalism and Japanese Identity

  1. "Geopolitics, Geo-economics, the Japanese Identity, H. Befu. Japanese Identity: Cultural Analyses, ed. Peter Nosco (1997): 10-30.
  2. “Complicit Exoticism: Japan and its Other,” Koichi Iwabuchi, Continuum: The Australian Journal of Media and Culture Vol. 8 No. 2 (1994): 1-25.
  3. “Myths: Images and Realities of Japan,” Interpreting Japan: Approaches and Applications for the Classroom, Brian J. McVeigh (Routledge, 2014): 3-9. (Perusall assignment)
  4. Notes on the Preservation of the film The Dragon Painter
  5. Suggested for further reading:
    1. “Japan as Museum: Okakura Tenshin and Ernest Fenollosa,” Karatani Kojin. Scream Against the Sky: Japanese Art after 1945,” Alexandra Munroe (H.N. Abrams, 1945).
    2. The Dragon Painter, Mary McNeil Fenollosa (1906). available online as a free e-book http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/22884
    3. “Mobilizing the Orient,” Tourism, Performance and the Everyday, Michael Haldrup and Jonas Larsen (Routledge, 2010): 75-93.
  • Review problems and questions on metadata entry; form groups and choose objects for midterm metadata project. You will work as a group on 3 objects of different formats per group (RBSCP) 

Week #7 – Japonisme and ‘Fair Japan’

  1. “'The Sole Guardians of the Art Inheritance of Asia’: Japan and China at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair,” Carol Ann Christ. positions 8:3, 2000. 675-709.
  2. "All the World a Melting Pot? Japan at American Fairs, 1876-1904," Neill Harris. Mutual Images: Essays in American-Japanese Relations, Akira Iriye, ed. (1975): 24-54.
  3. “'My Artless Japanese Way’: Japanese Villages and Absent Coolies,” Josephine Lee. The Japan of Pure Invention: Gilbert and Sullivan’s ‘The Mikado’. (Lee, 2010): 39-64.
  4. Suggested for further reading:
    1. “Japanese Novelty Stores,” Cynthia A. Brandimarte. Winterthur Portfolio Vol. 26 No. 1 (Spring 1991): 1-25;
    2. “Imagining Japan: The Victorian Perception and Acquisition of Japanese Culture,” Anna Jackson. Journal of Design History, Vol. 5 No. 4 (1992): 245-256.

[SPRING BREAK no class]

Week #8: Postcards as Global Communication

  1. “Postcards in Japan: A Historical Sociology of a Forgotten Culture,” Kenji Sato. The International Journal of Japanese Sociology No. 11 (2002): 35-55.
  2. “Introduction,” Virginia-Lee Webb, pp. 1-11; “Japonisme and American Postcard Visions of Japan.” Ellen Handy, pp. 91-113. Delivering Views: Distant Cultures in Early Postcards, Christaud M Geary and Virginia-Lee Webb (Smithsonian, 1998).
  3. “Art of the Japanese Postcard,” Anne Nishimura Morse, pp.15-29; “Postcard History,” pp. 69-70, Art of the Japanese Postcard (MFA Publications, 2004).
  4. Suggested for further reading: “International Postcards: Their History, Production, and Distribution (Circa 1895-1915),” Howard Woody. Distant Cultures, 13-47.
  • Floating Weeds, Yasujiro Ozu, 1959, 119 min) 2 disc set, see color/sound version.
  • Discuss object encounters 

Week #9: Globetrotters’ Japan

  1. Felice Felice . . . English language transcription for this week's film
  2. “Globetrotting in Japan,” pp. 3-50; “Picturing Japan,” pp. 51-88. in Christine Guth, Longfellow’s Tattoos: Tourism, Collecting, and Japan (U Washington Press, 2004).
  3. NOTES: Longfellow’s Tattoos
  4. Suggested for further reading: “19th Century Tourism in Japan,” A. Kouwenhoven, Images of 19th century Japan: Travel and tourism, creped paper books, photograph albums (Ukiyo-e Books, 1991).

Week #10: Midterm Presentations

5-8 minute group lightning presentations describing object analysis and metadata midterm project; discussion.

Also Wk #10, Extracurricular field trip to the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG). Curator Visit to see relevant objects in the MAG collection.

Week #11: Photography Comes to Japan (at GEM)

  • Scheduled field trip to George Eastman Museum to view c. 1855 Daguerreotype (subject of Romer article below) and late 19th c. albumen photos for the export market. With Head Archivist, GEM Department of Photography
  1. "Near the Temple at Yokushen…," Grant Romer. Images (Journal of Photography and Motion Pictures of the International Museum of Photography at the George Eastman House, 29:2 August 1986).
  2. Selections from Souvenirs from Japan: Japanese Photography at the Turn of the Century, Margarita Winkel. (1991): 11-40
  3. “Cameras, Photographs and Photography in Nineteenth-Century Japanese Prints,” Allen Hockley. Impressions 23 (2001): 42-63
  4. “Packaged Tours: Photo Albums and their Implications for the Study of Early Photography,” Allen Hockley. Reflecting Truth: Japanese Photography in the Nineteenth Century (N.C. Rousmaniere, M. Hirayama, 2005): 66-85.
  5. Suggested for further reading:
    1. “Ways of Seeing, Ways of Remembering: The Photography of Prewar Japan, ” John W. Dower. A Century of Japanese Photography, Japan Photographers Association (Pantheon, 1980): 3-20.
    2. Shashin: Nineteenth Century Japanese Studio Photography (2005) 6-17
    3. For reference, photographs in Terry Bennett, Early Japanese Images (Tuttle, 1996)

Week #12: Travel Through the Camera Lens

  1. “The Whole World Within Reach: Travel Images Without Borders,” Tom Gunning. Virtual Voyages: Cinema and Travel, Jeffrey Ruoff, ed. (Duke UP, 2006): 25-41.
  2. DVD notes on Exotic Europe: Journeys into Early Cinema Suggested for further reading: “Tourism and the Moving Image,” Ewa Mazierska and John K. Walton. Tourist Studies, Vol. 6 No. 1 (2006): 5-11.

Week #13: Landscapes: Time, Place, Remains

  1. “Learning about Landscapes” pp. 1-18 and “The Necessity for Ruins,” pp. 89-102 in The Necessity for Ruins and Other Topics, J.B. Jackson (U Mass Press, 1980).
  2. “Teaching Godzilla: Classroom Encounters with a Cultural Icon,” J. Bernardi. In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage (Palgrave, 2006): 111-125.
  1. Godzilla (Gojira) original Japanese language version with English subtitles. (Ishiro Honda, 1954, 96 min.)
  2. Recommended for comparison: Godzilla King of the Monsters, 1956, 80 min. Re-edited version of the original 1954 Japanese language film dubbed in English and starring Raymond Burr.

Week #14: “Japan: Endless Discovery”

  1. “Why Japan Cares What You Think,” Ian Buruma. TIMEasia.com Vol. 157 No. 17 (April 20, 2001): 1-9.
  2. “Creative Japan,” 3-15. Published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), edited by the Embassy of Japan in the United Kingdom, 2007
  3. “Japan’s International Challenge,” Dennis C. McCornac and Rong Zhang. The Diplomat, Oct. 12, 2014.
  • Final project presentations of Object Encounters and discussion.
  • Response paper on the premise and process of and your role in your group's Object Encounter, due one week after final Object Encounter presentations