Sociology of Japan

Course Provider: Professor Takehiko Kariya


The main goal of this course is to develop an understanding of the features of contemporary Japanese society as a non-western and highly advanced society from a sociological perspective and to discuss how Japanese society has changed since WWII.

Rubric: What is Japanese society?; Education; School to work transition and youth problem; Workplace and employment; Family and demography; Social welfare and social policy; Social mobility and social stratification; 'The lost decades' and the post 3.11 disaster.

Note: This course is provided with collaboration with MSc and MPhil programmes in Modern Japanese Studies in School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies (SIAS).

The class content and teaching style will be adjusted to a certain degree based on the interests of individual students and the dynamics of the group as a whole. Both lectures and discussion formats will be utilized. We are keen to foster a lively discussion environment with/among students. In each week, two or three students are assigned to make short presentations of the readings with comments and questions. The class schedules will be divided into eight sections whose key topics are shown above.

On successfully completing the course, students should:

  • understand features of contemporary Japanese society and its changes
  • acquire a "sociological imagination" (a way of thinking "sociologically" both with sociological theories and methods) to understand contemporary (post-)industrial societies including Japan and UK.


Eight classes in Hilary Term. Each student is expected to write a minimum of two essays and to make short presentations.

One three-hour unseen examination in Trinity Term

  • Sugimoto, Y. An introduction to Japanese society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  • Kariya, T. Education Reform and Social Class in Japan, Routledge, 2013.
  • Brinton, C. M., Lost in Transition, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Mouer, R. and Kawanishi, H. A Sociology of Work in Japan, 2005.
  • Schoppa, L. J. Race for the exits: the unraveling of Japan's system of social protection, Ithaca, N.Y. ; London, Cornell University Press, 2006.
  • Ishida H. and David Slater eds. Social Class in Contemporary Japan, Routledge, 2010.
  • Yoichi F. and Kushner B. eds. Examining Japan's lost decades, Routledge, 2015.

*A more detailed reading list will be provided in class.