Majors

Seminars
Three English-conducted seminars are currently available
Other seminars are conducted in Japanese, so those AKADEMIA students taking these seminars must be proficient in Japanese.
​​​​​​​(Sociology/Anthropology focus) 
1. Global Japan Studies (Japanese Society in a Global and Local Context) 
Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen

The Major in Global Japan Studies is also a Major in Sociology and 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. To be able to do so students will 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.

While we take wider structural analyses into account, our focus is on analyzing how actual norms and attitudes are practiced by people in their everyday, embodied, symbolic and ritualized behavior, and how such behavior and `common sense` link to power hierarchies of gender and race, lived morality and implicit rules, norms, and values. In this way, we link the micro and the macro to understand the formation, change and continuous construction of identity within the modern Japanese nation-state while studying how this `national project` always mediates its own domestic concerns and politics while intercepting with global politics and narratives.

Japan is a diverse place, and issues of identity run through everything we study - gender, popular culture, consumption, schooling and class, migration, work and political cultures, public and moral sensibilities, politics and protest movements, religion and media and so on. We do so by asking questions that may at first appear simple such as - “what does it mean to be a morally good person in Japan”, and “how and why does that differ for women and men” and “with what consequences”; or “how may senses of moral being intertwine with consumer behavior, work ethics or political protest movements”. We consider Japanese religious movements and the complex concept of `religion` and its equally complex idea of the `secular` and the specific ways they become central to modern political ideas about identity and what becomes considered Japanese culture. We consider how mainstream, tabloid and social media play into constructing particular realities about and for people; and the extent to which such `realities` are confirmed or contested. We also look at Japan in a geopolitical context, in relation to the US, China, and South Korea, and consider the use of historical memory and discourses of Pacifism in relation to Japan's role in the world today (Seminar 2). Seminar 2 will end with a field trip to Okinawa in early February (for those who wish to attend).

Each week the seminar (lecture and discussion) will focus on a specific social issue and students will be expected to read an article each week that will be the base for group discussion. Students are expected to have completed Introduction to Global Japan Studies (Spring) and Human and Society: Japanese Society and Culture (Fall), and will be expected to take or have taken Comparative Culture I (Spring) & Comparative Culture II (Fall), and to be taking History of Sociology (Fall) in their second or third year of study, as well as other courses in social studies.

The Major is taught in English and we use English in class discussions, but Japanese can be used outside of class. Japanese resources can also be used but must be discussed in English.

In term 3 and 4, we begin by looking at wider flows and processes of current nationalism and populist politics, gender, and race, while the student will in term 3 also develop their own research theme, and work on designing a research project to go on to undertake interviews or fieldwork as appropriate. This research will become the basis for their graduation thesis. Students in the past have researched themes such as Working Culture, Homelessness and Masculinity, School Lunch and Disciplining Morality, Youth Suicide and Media, Class, Migration and Inequality, Issues of Religion and Faith, Gender and Relationships.
​​​​​​​(Literary focus)
2. Juvenile Fantasy Literature and Society 
Bruce Carrick

In this major, students will grow in their understanding of the whole genre of juvenile fantasy literature. Fantasy literature plays a significant role in contemporary human imaginings. Students will learn to discuss similarities and differences among the representative works. They will become familiar with at least one author, reading several books of that author; or one subgenre (e.g. quests, dragons etc., yokai, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, steampunk, dystopian, Ghibli vs Disney); or a literary device (e.g. gothicism, girls as protagonist, orphans, gateways, magic, superpowers). Past and present students have researched topics such as contemporary use of fairytales, gender, political systems and family/social structures in constructed fantasy worlds, the literary devices in Harry Potter stories and the process of conversion of written stories into cinema/anime storylines.

Courses in children's literature, fairy tales and mythology, Gothic literature; and finally European history of the middle ages, Chinese/Japanese literature, anime studies, Cultural Representation I and II, and psychology, especially course dealing with child/adolescent psychological/intellectual/moral development will be relevant. Applicants are required to demonstrate existing knowledge of fantasy literature through reading (any language), to see if they have sufficient prior reading experience upon which to build and with which we may construct comparisons with the literature they will read in the seminar classes. Successful candidates will be able to analyze and assess a book series or multiple similar books that they have read. All interaction and writing are in English but reading in one's native-language is permitted.

Students are recommended to take the following courses:
Basic: Comparative Culture 1: Cultural Diversity and Similarities and Comparative Culture 2: Globalisation and Nationalism.
Advanced: Sociology 2: History of Sociology and Contemporary Issues.
General Education: Introduction to Philosophy, Introduction to Politics.
(Communication focus)
3. Cross-Cultural Communication (Non-violent Communication in English)
Donna J. McInnis

Throughout this seminar, participants will engage in study of three intimately related strands which strongly emphasize action, engagement, and intentionality: Nonviolent Communication, Personal and Social Transformation, and Deepening Compassion and Self-Compassion.

1. Nonviolent Communication
”The effect of each individual thought or word is very small, yes; but taken together, the effect of our thoughts and images is not at all small. When certain kinds of thought and image become a habit, they can become a worldview." - Michael Nagler

The Nonviolent Communication strand of our seminar will focus on the connection between language, behavior, feelings, attitudes and ideas. Through reading and discussion of Marshall Rosenberg's thoughts on nonviolent communication, we will think about how the way that we communicate can contribute to making our relationships healthy and mutually enhancing or can have quite the opposite effect by hurting our relationships with others.

All seminar participants will engage in a way of communicating and being with self and others by focusing on the whole person and essential skills: not only communication skills; but also, intra-personal skills, interpersonal skills; intercultural skills; and conflict processing skills (Reardon, 2001). People with a well-developed repertoire of skills to use language and to recognize the feelings, needs, concerns, fears, hopes and values of self and other, can avoid the frustration that can produce the anger that so often leads to violence, hostility, and conflict. When mutual enhancement is the goal, then emotions and thoughts are expressed in ways that respect the dignity and humanity of those with whom they interact on a daily basis or with whom they may have differences, thus increasing the potential for people to identify the root causes of problems and to find creative solutions increases.

2. Personal and Social Transformation
Gandhi said, "You must become the change you hope to see in the world".

Many people care about making the world a better place but don't know where to begin. The content of this course offers a step-by-step "blueprint" for creating a better world for conscious global citizens. Lively discussions will surely result as each learner explores her/his vision of a better future.

In this course, we will explore how we can build this better world. We will discuss how we can move beyond the obstacles that keep people from actively contributing to a better world by turning good intentions into actions. A few changes that last for the rest of your life are far more powerful in their impact than dozens of changes that you can only sustain for a few months.

Throughout our study together, we will continually confront the main challenges that humanity faces in the 21st century, provide alternative solutions that we can implement, and examine examples of what thousands of people around the globe are already doing.
Learners will focus on the most practical, effective actions that they can fit into their lives today and in their future - Actions that focus on Money; Shopping; Food; Personal Life; Friends and Family; Community; Home; Work; Media; Politics; Transportation; Travel; Organizations.

3. Deepening Compassion, Self-Compassion, and Self-Care
“Compassion is what it’s going to be that’s going to save our species… When we study compassion, it has significant impact, I believe, on the greater good, because, oftentimes, especially in the busy modern world, it’s easy to forget what is at the core of our humanity, and that which is at the core, is compassion, and when that is brought forth always on the surface of what we do as humans, it profoundly affects every aspect of our lives in a good way.”- Dr. James Doty

A compassionate attitude toward self and others goes a long way in alleviating distress when people are faced with difficult life-challenges and offers a profound personal resource in times of stress. Students will engage in experiential study of not only contemporary psychology and scientific research on compassion but also various techniques for personal growth and professional development. The result will be increased resilience and feelings of holistic connection with others - providing a solid sense of inner peace and well-being. By intentionally deepening compassion and self-compassion, learners will palpably experience the proven beneficial effects on self-care, diminished stress and anxiety, increased empathy and understanding for self and others, and strengthened capacity for kindness and generosity. As “compassion change agents”, with a firm grasp on the mindset, heart set, and skillset needed to effectively work towards sustainable social and global transformation, each participant in this seminar will emerge as a motivating force for embodying compassion and applying it within their communities, future professional organizations, and their world.
The choice of Seminar takes place in Term 5. The Seminar trains the student at an advanced level. In choosing an English-conducted Seminar the student can either continue at an advanced level in the discipline of sociology/anthropology with a focus on Japanese society in a global context (Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen), or they can choose a literary focus and specialize in Juvenile Fantasy Literature and Culture (Bruce Carrick), or Cross-cultural Communication that focuses on non-violent communication in English contexts (Donna McInnis). To take the Seminar in Global Japan Studies students are required to have completed social studies courses in social anthropology, sociology, and Japan studies related courses before they begin their Seminar.

The student will undertake research and write their graduation thesis according to the respective requirements for each Seminar.

For queries about the AKADEMIA program please contact Dr. Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen fanne@soka.ac.jp
Teacher Profiles
Anne Mette Fisker-Nielsen, Ph.D. (Social Anthropology, SOAS, University of London). Anne Mette's (first name) research focuses on Japanese politics, political cultures, political engagement, and social movements, as well as Japanese religion and popular culture. She has also had a long-standing interest in Social Theory (Intellectual History) and Theory in Anthropology and Sociology, and Comparative Cultures. She has undertaken long-term first-hand research on various topics in Japanese politics, particularly in relation to the political party Komeito. Her current research focuses on issues related to politics and emotions, debates about security, Japanese pacifism, and trust in politics, and debates within so-called Critical Religion that look as conceptualization of the ‘secular’ and the ‘religious’ in state-formation in a Japanese context.
Bruce Carrick, MDiv Western Baptist Seminary, MA-TESOL Portland State University. Bruce was an early user of computers in language learning, and eventually became the CALL director at Arizona State University, Hachioji campus. His studies include a concentration in
educational theory, along with extensive readings in European intellectual history. For the past 30 years, he has been teaching English communication courses in Japan, with most of those years at Soka University, Waseda University, and Asia University. In the last decade, he has taken a great interest in the contemporary explosion in fantasy literature, both as an exploration of the creation
of new or alternative cultures and as an expression of the emerging value systems of children and juveniles. Believing that work outside of work is an important part of life, he has during the last 20 years been active as a coach and meet official in track and field, working with the international high schools of Tokyo and throughout the Asian Pacific region.