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Course Review: Visualizing Japan

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Provider: Harvard and MIT at EdX [course page]
Lecturer: John W. Dower, Andrew Gordon, Shigeru Miyagawa, and Gennifer Weisenfeld
Subject: Humanities / History + Politics + Business + Militarisation
Delivery: intake-based asynchronous study
Recommended Load: 3-5 hrs/week over 6 weeks
Completion Date: 12/10/2014

Japanese military paraphernalia (including Jap...

Japanese military paraphernalia (including Japanese armour, yumi, yari, katanas and tachi among others). Hand-colored glass slide. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Description: This course tells the history of Japan between the1850’s and 1930’s using a variety of publications and artwork created at the time.

Strengths: This course is an oddity to begin, with the collaboration of two reputable universities making it possible. It goes further, making use of numerous collections of artwork and other visual artefacts to understand what was going on in Japan during and after Admiral Perry’s expedition forced the Japanese government to open up its borders after several centuries of isolation. It moves through various areas as well, allowing us to see how some aspects of militarisation began to infiltrate even the cosmetics industry. We also see how various socialist parties attempted to gain traction in the nation. It is a fascinating look at Japanese history through the eyes of the Japanese people.


Conclusion: My recent studies have forced me to rethink my understanding of history in Asia. This course offers insight from Japan rather than China, but we can see some obvious similarities. Each nation sought to hold on to its own identity but was inevitably forced to reincarnation. I highly recommend this course to anyone with an interest in Asia and modern Asian history. I also recommend folks check out Harvard’s ChinaX mini-MOOC series as well as UTokyo’s two-part MOOC series Visualising Post-War Japan, all twelve MOOCs made available through the EdX platform.

Author: keikomushi

Reader, Writer, New Media Buff, Anime Fangirl, Gnome Hunter, Last Action Femme Fatale, Appreciator of Nature, Jack-of-all-trades.

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