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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 slightly 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 as a platform 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 the creation of a final project, which entails creating an exhibit using multiple objects in the collection or the analysis of 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. This exercise, now a permanent fixture in the course, focuses on 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 in digital humanities, distinctions between teaching and research are often blurred. 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 my teaching. Integrating the Re-Envisioning Japan digital archive into the classroom experience has been a natural extension of the act 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 that are both screened in class and designated as part of their weekly assignments. This hybrid model of teaching by incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches opens up opportunities for new directions in the critical analysis of these objects and the times they reflect.

Tourist Japan

Spring 2020 Syllabus

T 2:00-4:40p

Instructor: Prof. Joanne Bernardi, Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Rochester

Crosslisted at UG/G level: Japanese, Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, Digital Media Studies, 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 course:

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

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

Course website for preliminary metadata exercises (requires VPN):


Course objectives:

  • We will explore, broadly speaking, Japan’s image as a foreign destination, with a focus on the first half of the twentieth century. For the purpose of this course, “tourism” is any act involving travel both real (experiential) and virtual (as in education and/or information about Japan). Japan’s image as a “foreign land” has been promoted (as in tourist campaigns, educational films), denigrated (as in wartime propaganda, an important part of the history of Japan’s image abroad), and appropriated (as in Gilbert & Sullivan's Mikado). We’ll study the malleability of Japan's identity over time in order to better understand inherent continuities, disruptions, similarities and, contradictions.
  • We will learn how to use material culture in historical research by studying images and artifacts generated by the tourist industry and objects that advertise and promote Japan more inadvertently—to construct a rich history of how Japan has defined itself and been defined by others.
  • We will build a critical awareness of the ways in which national and cultural image construction (pro or con) inevitably influences our personal, individual perceptions of Japan.

Core issues include:

  • What is (and historically has been) visual culture’s role in creating Japan's image in the context of tourism, education, and leisure or entertainment?
  • How do illustrations, photography, and film reflect changing concepts of urban space, rural culture, industry, geography, and military and political authority at both 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 provide a link between the visual culture generated by tourism and/or educational, informational, and promotional (pro and con) objects, 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 phenomenon of photography; the subsequent photographic image explosion; and ultimately, the 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, but no prior experience in Japanese studies or Japanese language is required.

Course Requirements

This is a problem-based course in which class and online discussions are extremely important – frequent absences (2+) and lack of participation will affect your ability to stay current and will lower your grade.

Class participation (25%):

  1. Active involvement and participation in class lecture/discussions count for 25% of the final grade. More than 2 absences affect your ability to stay current and will lower your grade (each absence lowers grade by half, e.g., A to A-)
  2. Includes weekly assigned presentations: each student will be responsible for one brief (10 min. maximum), original and reflective presentation identifying key issues and questions raised by assigned readings and screenings that will provide a focus for class discussions.

Assignments (75% total):

  1. Research and metadata midterm group project: 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. 2-3 students per group. This will prepare you for your final project, which will be an individual online “Object Encounter.” 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 will aid in historicizing and contextualizing the object through a socio-cultural lens. (25%)
  2. Mandatory online Blackboard discussion: weekly two paragraph minimum responses to films; you can also reference readings, specific object/image analyses, and discussions 25%
  3. Final project: a) individual presentation of an “Object Encounter,” an online visual presentation of an object with minimal narrative intervention; b) written metadata and a 3-5 page response paper describing the premise and process of creating your Object Encounter. 25%

Graduate Students

All requirements are the same except for the final assignment, which entails a longer 10-15 page paper, in addition to an Object Encounter, describing the process and approach of your Object Encounter. The scope and focus of all graduate assignments will be decided individually in consultation with the instructor.

Syllabus subject to change depending on a change in scheduling and/or the direction of student interests and involvement.


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, as discussed in class, on the Discussion Board thread.
  2. Write a response to the film seen in class, Japan an Introduction Part I (1998).
  3. View earlier versions (1981, 1968, dir. Wayne Mitchell) of Japan an Introduction Part I.

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. “Either/Or? Both/And? Difficult Distinction within the Digital Humanities,” Michael Roy. Educause Review (May-June 2014): 16-20.
  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.
  7. Suggested for further reading: “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.
  • Introduction to Prownian analysis
  • Introduction to Omeka web platform (content management system), cataloging metadata for physical objects, adding scanned images and creating virtual exhibits

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.
  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, Carolin 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.

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.
  3. Suggested for further reading: “18 Must-Visit Heritage Sites in Japan,” Amy Chavez. Japan Today (21 Aug. 2014).
  • Land without Bread/Las Hurdes (Luis Buñuel, 1933, 30 min)
  • Beautiful Japan (excerpt) dir. Benjamin Brodsky, 1918, 15 min clip on TREASURES FROM AMERICAN FILM ARCHIVES
  • Plutzik Room, 2nd FL RRL, Dept. of Rare Books, Special Collections and Preservation. Orientation, introduction to RBSCP with Lori Birrell, Manuscript Librarian, RBSCP 

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. 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
  • The Barbarian and the Geisha (John Huston, 1958, 105 min)
  • Plutzik Room, Metadata workshop (1 object per student)

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.
  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 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.
  • The Dragon Painter (William Worthington, 1919, 52 min)
  • Plutzik room, review problems, questions on metadata entry; form groups for midterm metadata project, 3 objects of different formats per group.

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.
  • The Mikado (Victor Schertzinger, 1939, 90 min)

[SPRING BREAK no class]

Week #8: Globetrotters’ Japan

  1. “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).
  2. 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).
  • Felice Felice . . . (Peter Delpeut, 1998) Felice Felice . . . (English language transcript on e-reserve)

Also Wk #8, SCHEDULED FIELD TRIP: Memorial Art Gallery 

  • Extracurricular field trip to the Memorial Art Gallery (MAG). Transportation provided or meet at MAG at 2 pm. 2-3 pm visit with MAG curator Kerry Schauber to see relevant objects in MAG collection.

Week #9: Japan in Print

  1. Mary E. Berry, Japan in Print: Information and Nation in the Early Modern Period 1-53.
  2. Suggested for further reading: Benedict Anderson, selections from Imagined Communities: 1-46; 67-82; 163-207
  • Midterm presentations in class: 10-minute group presentations describing object analyses, metadata

Week #10: 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.
  • Prep for final project: decide on the object that you will use for your Object Encounter final project 

Week #11: Photography Comes to Japan

  • Scheduled field trip to George Eastman Museum to view c. 1855 Daguerreotype (subject of Romer article below) and late 19th c. albumen photos for export market. With Ross Knapper, Head Archivist, 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.
  • Exotic Europe: Journeys into Early Cinema. Nederlands Filmmuseum, Cinema Museum: 2000)

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: 10 min. each, individual presentations
  • Response paper on the premise and process of your Object Encounter, due one week after final presentations of encounters