Course information 2023 curriculum

Introduction to Soka Akademia
Philosophy-Social Anthropology-Peace Studies

Philosophy I

Core Issues in Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics
This is an introductory course to philosophy for those who do not have any background knowledge about the subject. Philosophy is an active subject in the sense that in learning philosophy we do not just remember what great thinkers in the past said but discuss some fundamental issues which have been the object of interest for centuries. Indeed, Socrates, who is thought of as the father of western philosophy, regards philosophy as a craft. Given this nature of philosophy, the course attempts to enhance students’ discussion skills by facilitating their active engagement with traditional philosophical issues, as well as their good understanding of the topics covered by the course. The course covers core areas of the subject, namely, epistemology, metaphysics, and ethics.
Philosophy II

 Contemporary Philosophy and Buddhism
This is an introductory course to eastern philosophy for those who do not have any background knowledge about the subject. The course covers some basic information about Shakyamuni, Mahayana Buddhism (with special emphasis on the Lotus Sutra), and Nichiren. In this course, we give particular focus on the Japanese Buddhist priest Nichiren (1222-1282). In recent decades, there has been vibrant scholarship on Nichiren, and some interesting research has been done on this controversial Japanese figure, both in Japanese and other languages including English. Given this state of affairs, we choose Nichiren as a sample eastern philosophy from which we may gain some valuable insights for considering various contemporary issues utilizing the recent work available in English.
Comparative Culture Anthropology This is a course in socio-cultural anthropology. The course starts with asking the seemingly simple question: “What does it mean to be human?” Over the weeks we explore this in light of anthropological approaches to the study of the body, personhood, communication, social relations, identity, gender, race, rituals, taboos, consumption, material culture, and processes of globalization amidst times of uncertainty and algorithms. An underlying query concerns the issue of universality and relativism: to what extent do all humans, societies, and cultures have something in common, and to what extent is each of them unique? A hallmark of anthropological comparative work is the ability to see universal human patterns (e.g. all societies have gender stratification, food taboos, marriage and systems of kinship relations, social sanctions, and morality) but simultaneously accounting for how these forms can vary significantly in different socio-cultural contexts and over time, which show us just how socially constructed ideas about who we are is. To avoid placing our values at the center of our analysis (ethnocentrism), students will learn anthropological approaches that aim to understand different societies and people’s behavior from the inside. Students will learn to take cultural relativism as a methodological principle. This module is a requisite for entering the Global Japan Studies seminar in AKADEMIA. Coursebook: Pountney, L. & Maric, T. (2021) “Introducing Anthropology: What Makes Us Human?”
Anthropological Approaches to Contemporary Japan This module addresses a range of topics related to modern and contemporary Japan. Students will learn to analyze the significance of discourses (meaning systems), norms, and embodied everyday practices. We start by considering sources of Japanese identity that have both historical and mythical foundations and move on to study contemporary Japan where a social ethos often expressed as ‘harmony’ (wa) reveal the way social practice embodies social hierarchies where public conformity to social rules is typically regarded as virtuous behavior. Students study various contemporary social issues related to changing family relations, gender, media, minorities, AI robotics, diversifying Japan, popular culture, and Cool Japan, and thinking through how gender socialization and stratification go to the heart of social, cultural, and political life. Students also study the implications of a still strong ethnic-nationalist discourse that predominates in institutional life from school and workplaces to government agencies. Each week students read chapters from Yoshio Sugimoto's (2021) “An Introduction to Japanese Society”, and Brian McVeigh's (2014). “Interpreting Japan”. This module is a requisite for entering the Global Japan Studies seminar in AKADEMIA.
Introduction to Peace Studies I

Violence, Conflict, and Peace in the Contemporary World
Introduction to Peace Studies targets the 1st and 2nd-year undergraduate students who don’t have any background knowledge of Peace and Conflict Studies. These courses aim to introduce and examine the key areas of conflict analysis, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding as well as a few topical issues relevant to Japan and East Asia. Wherever possible, moreover, the courses will introduce theoretical thoughts that may be useful for students’ conflict analysis. Introduction to Peace Studies I specifically pays attention to two main areas of learning: (1) sources of conflict and (2) contemporary issues of Peace and Conflict. The classes between Weeks 1 and 7 will review a range of factors that cause or exacerbate violent conflicts at international, state, and sub-state levels. The classes between Weeks 8 and 15 will overview selected topics that have emerged as the main agenda of the contemporary academic debates.
Introduction to Peace Studies II

 Concepts, Actors, and Modalities of Peace Processes
Introduction to Peace Studies targets the 1st and 2nd-year undergraduate students who don’t have any background knowledge of Peace and Conflict Studies. These courses aim to introduce and examine the key areas of conflict analysis, conflict resolution, and peacebuilding as well as a few topical issues relevant to Japan and East Asia. Wherever possible, moreover, the courses will introduce theoretical thoughts that may be useful for students’ conflict analysis. Introduction to Peace Studies II specifically pays attention to two main areas of learning: (1) key concepts of Peace and Conflict and (2) actors and modalities of peace processes. The classes between Weeks 1 and 6 will critically review a range of concepts and theories of peace-supporting activities. Then, the classes from Week 7 will look into different forms and procedures of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. In addition to reviewing the topic areas, this module will focus on developing students’ skills to critically examine and review scholarly works.



Metaethics is a branch of philosophy that enquires some foundational issues underlying our normative and evaluative judgments such as “torturing a child is wrong”, “we should help others” and “education is important”. It is unclear whether these judgments represent some objective facts or they simply express our emotional reactions, and in metaethics, we ask these questions and consider the theoretical underpinning for those judgments. The course will cover the following topics: the overview of the current metaethical debates in philosophy, cognitivism vs non-cognitivism in metaethics, moral/evaluative realism and relevant epistemological issues, moral fictionalism, moral abolitionism, and moral explanations.
Anthropology of Religion and Morality Students learn theories, debates, and case studies derived from the Durkheim/Mauss and Weberian traditions of the study of moral sentiments, judgments, and social-political practices; students will learn how moral questions are embedded in the substance of the social rather than pertaining to some discrete categories separated from other spheres of human activities (e.g. political, social, economic, cultural). Anthropological studies show how morality - honor, dignity, self-worth, and virtuous comportment - are historically contingent, but also critical to understanding human consciousness and actions. The anthropology of religion has given rise to some of the discipline’s most enduring questions pertaining to cultural difference, community, rationality and legitimization, symbolization and myths, meaning and motivation, relativism, time, emotions, hierarchy, and more. The study of moral life and symbolic meaning, whether classified as ‘religion’, or some other phenomena such as nationalism or Humanoid AI techno-fetishism, involves also the study of statecraft, the modern constructions of ‘race’ and ‘gender’, consumerism, and capitalist values, and the search for social status and dignity, harmony and conflict, processes of alienation, objectification, death, suffering, salvation, well-being and happiness. Readings for each week are taken from Michael Lambek's (2008) Anthropology of Religion, and Didier Fassin's (2015) A Companion to Moral Anthropology.
Workshop in Peace Studies

 Peacebuilding and Development
This module aims to introduce the theoretical, normative, and practical underpinnings of the development and peacebuilding in conflict-affected societies. Some thematic areas that will be covered include the socio-cultural consequences of colonial/neo-colonial rule, the contemporary debates on the liberal peacebuilding models and their alternatives, the complex relations between poverty, economic growth, and conflict, and the roles of external actors in promoting post-conflict peacebuilding. Moreover, the course will offer students an opportunity to develop their critical views on a wide range of challenges facing contemporary practice of humanitarian aid, post-conflict reconstruction, and economic and social development.
Advanced Joined Seminar for Akademia Philosophy-Social Anthropology-Peace Studies

Major in Peace and Conflict Studies
As a seminar in Peace Studies, students can choose a topic relevant to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in conflict-affected societies.

Major in Global Japan Studies 
Social Anthropology
The Major in Global Japan Studies is also a Major in Social Anthropology with reference to Japanese society and with a focus on the intersection of the local-global context. Few societies, including Japan, can be fully understood without considering how social phenomena intercept with their global contexts. In this study program, we take account of the historical, socio-political and economic changes but focus on contemporary social issues and people's actual social practices in their lived realities. To be able to do so students learn from social anthropological research methodologies and studies, which are based on long-term and in-depth empirical research. Such studies provide insights into actual social practices. We consider for example the extent to which human emotions (at the core of our experience) are socially constructed, and how what may be thought of as `normal` and `natural` behavior link to particular socially constructed moralities and hierarchies of power. Understanding normalized behavior and implicit rules are key to understanding human societies including wider issues of conflict and peace.

Major in Philosophy


Details of each course's content can be found on the SYLLABUS.

Graduation thesis

Yoshie Mori (from France)
Yoshie Mori (from France)
I entered Soka University, and specifically the Faculty of Letters in order to learn about the meaning of “global citizen”, and to know how we can analyze society and its culture through a humanistic view. I took classes related to sociological studies in Japanese and some in English as well since I wanted to challenge myself at the linguistic level. I gradually started to have an interest in analyzing Japanese society and its culture. In order to deepen my understanding of socio-cultural studies from an anthropological perspective I decided to enter the seminar in AKADEMIA. Learning about Japanese society in English was a great challenge but with the great support of my professor, studying at AKADEMIA allowed me to develop and discover new potential that I never thought I could gain. I could develop my English skills as well as my ability to critically observe things that are happening around me and broaden my perspective on cultural differences while also keeping a humanistic view of things. Thinking back about my experience at Soka University, I feel grateful to have been able to study in AKADEMIA, and I encourage many people to challenge themselves in this course, to develop and discover new skills and potential. After graduating I will be working in translation, where I’ll be using my first language as well as Japanese and English, and other skills that I could develop during my university years.
Graduation thesis
Yuka Nakamura (from Japan)
Yuka Nakamura (from Japan)
 I enrolled in the Faculty of Letters at Soka University because I wanted to learn about the proposition of "what is human" from an academic perspective. I took courses in Global Japan Studies, Anthropology, and Sociology, and found it interesting to learn in-depth about Japanese culture and society, what kind of "normal" things exist in Japan, and why and how they became "normal". Therefore, I joined the AKADEMIA seminar, where I could learn about the various cultures of Japanese society from a cultural anthropological perspective. Since the language of instruction was English, I was worried about whether I would be able to convey my opinions to others, but thanks to the kind and warm support of the teachers, I was able to speak up in class with confidence and cultivate the language and communication skills to actively exchange opinions with others. The wonderful thing about AKADEMIA is that I can study with international students from all over the world and feel as if I am studying abroad, even though I am at Soka University in Japan. I would recommend AKADEMIA to anyone who is interested in discovering new interests while developing academic and practical language skills. After graduation, I will be working for a security service company as a career track employee, leading Japanese society in a more prosperous direction from the human perspective that I learned at Soka University!
Graduation thesis
Andrew Valenti (from Italy)
Andrew Valenti (from Italy)
I decided to apply to the Faculty of Letters, and to be part of AKADEMIA as my fields of interest have always been related to the sphere of humanities sciences. When I chose my Major at the very beginning I was not 100% sure whether this was the best choice for me. However, I eventually got more and more passionate and interested as I followed the various courses that AKADEMIA offers, in my case regarding social anthropology and Global Japan studies. Not only did I acquire new knowledge, but most importantly I broadened my scale of values as I naturally started to be attracted by various social issues facing contemporary people and society. Especially, I got interested in gender equality upon which I decided to write my thesis. This made me so proud of myself because I did not just write something because I needed to do it as a final task for my graduation; rather I felt I was developing the basis for the person I wanted to be in my future, a person who stands up for injustice, fighting through dialoguing with people. Along with my studies, I could also improve my English skills as well as becoming pretty fluent in Japanese, language skills that I will use in my next step to becoming a teacher here in Japan, applying the special educational values I learned at Soka University.
Graduation thesis
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