Course Descriptions

RELS  351 Japanese Religions: Buddhism, Shinto, and the New Religions  (4 semester credits)

This course provides students with a broad introduction to religion in Japan, focusing on Buddhism but also including Shinto and Japan’s so-called “New Religions.” Interpretations of persistent themes through Japan’s three major historical periods are presented together with the changing patterns of the various religious traditions. Important religious figures and their contributions to Japanese intellectual history are also included. A special feature of the course is the emphasis it places on the dynamics of religious life in contemporary Japan.

Structure and Requirements
Classes will meet in the mornings, three times per week, for a period of 80 minutes. While a lecture serves as the focus of each class, ample time will be allotted for discussion of the assigned readings and material presented. Students will also be given the opportunity to lead in-class discussions and make an in-class oral presentation.

Students are required to attend class regularly, complete all reading and writing assignments, and participate in and occasionally lead discussions. Assessment will be based on class participation, two written assignments, two comprehensive examinations, and an in-class oral presentation.

Course text:

In addition to the above, more contemporary readings, including journal, newspaper and magazine articles, etc., will be incorporated into the course as needed to address more recent religious phenomena and related societal developments.

SOC  331 Japanese Society and Cultural Traditions  (4 semester credits)

Japan has a unique ability to captivate the curiosities of people from all over the world. Student participants in this program are certainly no exception, and this course is designed to give them a chance to discover the most essential and intriguing aspects of Japanese culture and society through both intellectual exercises and hands-on experiences.

The principal aim of this course is to broadly support each student’s study of Buddhism by providing vital cultural contexts. Likewise, this instruction is designed to compliment participants’ study of historical and traditional Japan with a special emphasis on contemporary topics from popular culture and new current trends in Japanese society. Social relationships and aesthetics are the two broad themes for the course, which are explored through a range of individual topics including contemporary dating/marriage, the phenomenon known as “Japan Inc.,” manga (comics), Internet culture in Japan, and secular and religious travel.

Structure and Requirements
Classes will take place three times per week with one class designed around a lecture, another centered on a discussion, and a third with an experiential focus, which will include activities such as the tea ceremony (chadô), flower arrangement (kadô), and calligraphy (shodô).

Students are required to attend class regularly, to complete all reading and writing assignments, and to participate in and occasionally lead discussions. Assessment will be based on class participation, two written assignments, two comprehensive examinations, and an in-class oral presentation.

Sample of Readings
Readings may include, but will not be limited to, selections from the following:

  • Davies, Roger J. and Osamu Ikeno.  The Japanese Mind: Understanding Contemporary Japanese Culture. Tuttle Publishing, 2002.
  • Sugimoto, Yoshino.  An Introduction to Japanese Society. Cambridge University Press, 2002 (2nd edition).
  • Kinsella, Sharon.  Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japan. University of Hawaii Press, 2000.

In addition to the above, more contemporary readings, including journal, newspaper and magazine articles, etc., will be incorporated into the course as needed to address recent cultural phenomena and societal developments.

LLCJ  Japanese Language  (4 semester credits)

Students may choose one of the following Japanese language courses depending on their language level.

LLCJ  161 Beginning Japanese Language

This course is intended for students with no previous knowledge of the Japanese language who wish to develop communication skills in Japanese. The language drills and conversation practice are designed to improve speaking competence. Dialogues used in the textbook are in everyday Japanese so students will develop natural conversational skills. Upon completion of the course, successful students will be able to introduce themselves, ask directions, shop, make appointments, ask permission, and offer assistance. The written scripts of hiragana, katakana, and some kanji are also taught.

LLCJ  280 Intermediate Japanese

An intermediate (second-year) course is also offered. This course is designed for those students who have previously had at least one year of beginning Japanese (or its equivalent). While the focus of the course will be on the development of advanced conversational skills, students will also be exposed to reading texts in which basic kanji are introduced in a graded manner. The level and content of the course may vary from year to year based on the abilities and interests of the students. Both the Beginning and Intermediate classes meet Monday through Friday.

LLCJ  300 Advanced Japanese

Advanced study is also available through an independent study course.

Regular class attendance, active participation in practice sessions, and completion of assignments on time are expected. Oral and written quizzes will be given throughout the course. There will be a midterm and final, as well as a speaking test at the end of the term.

RELS  352 Practice and Theory of Buddhism in Japan  (4 semester credits)

This course will complement students’ understanding of Buddhist thought and culture through the study and practice of traditional Japanese Buddhist disciplines. We will emphasize the history, characteristics, and approaches of three distinct Buddhist traditions: Zen, Shingon (Japanese Esoteric Buddhism), and True Pure Land (Shin). The instructional portion of the course will be broken down into areas of study that embrace these three traditions.

Each of the areas will offer two integrated elements: a practice module and a seminar. The seminar will include lectures and discussions on the theory, transmission, and textual development of the practices. Antioch faculty will teach the seminar, which will include close readings and discussions of translated primary texts related to each form of praxis and its theoretical foundation.

The practice modules will be led by specialists possessing both a theoretical understanding and extensive practical experience of each tradition. Instruction in the representative practices for each tradition will be given to encourage an intuitive understanding of the doctrinal teachings presented. Practices primarily include various forms of meditation, chanting, and ritual practice. Students will be expected to locate their academic and practical understanding of each tradition in the larger context of historical trends in Buddhist theory and praxis and Japanese culture.

The class will meet on a daily schedule for the practice modules, and two days a week for the seminar.

Regular attendance at the practice sessions and a sustained effort in applying each of the practices taught are expected. Each participant will also be required to attend the seminars, complete the necessary background reading, and write three reflection papers connecting the experience of practice with the theoretical framework of each tradition, or between traditions.

Note: Students are not evaluated on how well they learn to do these practices or on whether they personally accept the underlying doctrinal and religious premises of the practices. What is emphasized is the student’s ability to place the experience of engaging in traditional Buddhist practices within the context of various trends and theoretical frameworks in order to facilitate an understanding of each tradition being studied.

BUDJ  396 Field Research: Selected Topics  (4 semester credits)

The focus of this course is an independent research project in which the student has the opportunity to select a subject of special interest and pursue it in depth. The project may be approached through a variety of perspectives and academic disciplines; it involves travel and field study as well as library research and individual creativity. Antioch faculty carefully supervise the planning of the research project and help to identify the physical and textual resources; emphasis, however, is on the student’s initiative in both the design and execution of the work. The project culminates in a written report that is presented at the end of the program.

Previous research topics have included:

  • Women in Mayahana Buddhism
  • Buddhist-Christian Dialogue
  • Shukyo buyo-Religious Dance in Shingon
  • The Esoteric Nature of Shingon / Tendai Buddhism
  • Japanese Calligraphy and the Influence of Zen
  • Butoh and its Buddhist Roots
  • Pilgrimage in Japan
  • Go and Zen Buddhism in Japan
  • Buddhism and Healing
  • Esoteric Buddhism and the Divine Female
  • Buddhist Meditation and the Emotions
  • Bodhisattva-Compassion in Action
  • Ikebana and Japanese Religion
  • Play of Images: Comparative Study of Dôgen and Derrida