Field Study in Japanese Historical Culture
(HIST 3625)

ECU Kyoto Summer Study Tour

Travel Dates:
May 10-May 26, 2010

John A. Tucker, Ph.D.
Brewster A-317
Work 328-1028/Home 756-4126

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Description: This course surveys the development of culture in Japan from ancient times through the end of the sixteenth century. After briefly examining the largely prehistoric beginnings of Japanese culture in the Jomon and Yayoi periods, the course focuses on readings and field studies in an around Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital, associated with the introduction of Chinese civilization into Japan by way of Korea, and the various responses to that civilization offered by Japanese from that point forward. Without minimizing the Chinese impact, careful attention will be devoted to ways in which the foreign bases of civilization were modified by the Japanese, especially during the Nara, Heian, Kamakura, and Ashikaga periods. While the intent of the course is to give students a firm basis for understanding the foundations of Japanese culture through extensive field study of relevant sites in Kyoto and nearby, broader questions such as the nature of civilization, cultural borrowing, and the extent to which culture and civilization can or should be distinctive or unique, will also be addressed in relation to the field study sites and the assigned readings.

Students will receive three credit hours for this course, based on a scheduled 45 contact hours of lectures, delivered before, during and after the study tour.

Course Requirements & Grading: Students will be expected to write a journal of their experiences in Japan, noting where they went, what they saw, and how it impressed them.  Reflections on travel experiences are one valuable way of taking the experience to a different, more meaningful level. Journals, submitted the last day of the semester, will count 30% of the final grade.

Students will also be expected to submit a research paper showing how elements of Japanese history, culture, and language are evident in the field study sites we have explored. These papers will count 40% of the final grade.

Regular participation in the daily activities of the Kyoto Study Tour will count for 30% of the final grade.

Goals and Outcomes: By the end of the semester students should have an understanding of the nature of the varieties of Japanese culture, historical and modern. Given this broad background in the fundamentals, students who complete the course successfully should be able to more insightfully assimilate new information and studies related to Japan. Additionally, as is true with the study of any foreign culture, students should have realized significantly more about themselves and their "own" culture.

Required Readings: In order to relate contemporary news to Japanese history, students will be given press handouts on a regular basis. Material in them will be discussed in class, the stuff of quizzes, and possibly exams. In addition, the following are the texts required for the course.

H. Paul Varley, Japanese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2000.

Edwin O. Reischauer and Marius Jansen. The Japanese Today. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1995.

Edward Seidensticker, trans. The Tale of Genji (abridged). New York: Vintage Books, 1990.

Donald Keene. Anthology of Japanese Literature. Grove Press, 1960.

Students are encouraged to read extensively about Japan, using the Joyner Library collection, interlibrary loan materials, postings on the internet, or their personal library. For example, the following internet sites provide daily news coverage of Japan, and are free for those who wish to take advantage of them.

Japan Times   Asahi shinbun   Kyoto News   Daily Yomiuri   Mainichi Daily News    Kansai Time Out

The following museum sites offer a host of information in English about Japanese art, culture and civilization: Tokyo National Museum   Kyoto National Musuem  Nara National Museum   List of Japanese Museums

At the same time, the three texts assigned must be read carefully since they are the material on which students will be tested. Generally speaking, students will not be expected to "know" details which appear only in the readings assigned. However, any material that is mentioned in class and appears in the readings will be considered fair game for the quizzes and exams.

Disabilities Statement: East Carolina University seeks to comply fully with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Students requesting accommodations based on a covered disability must go to the Department for Disability Support Services, located in Slay 138, to verify the disability before any accommodations can occur.  The telephone number is 252-737-1016.


May 10




Departure: RDUNorthwest

 1691 (12:30 pm) to Detroit International (arrive 2:20 pm --- 1 hr 50 minutes in flight)

Northwest 0069 (3:40 pm) to Kansai International Airport (6:20 pm: 13 hrs 40 minutes in flight)

May 11

Arrive: Kansai International Airport to Kyoto Station  to EL INN

May 12

Nara   Todaiji  Japanese Architecture   

Kasuga Shrine   Kofukuji

More information on Nara

Field Study at the Tōdaiji:  (Jane Gardner)

"The Nara Deer Park and Buddhist Sacred Animals" (This field study examines the deer as the sacred animal of Buddhism, given its association with the "Deer Park Lecture" of the Buddha following his realization of nirvana).


"Flower-Garland (Kegon) Buddhism and the Religious Consolidation of Imperial Rule" (This lecture explains how the "Great Buddha" – daibutsu – of Kegon Buddhism was an expression of imperial religiosity and political ambition. The Tōdaiji is a UNESCO World Heritage site).


Field Study at the Kasuga Shintō Shrine with discussion of:

"Shintō, Kasuga Shrine, and the Fujiwara Aristocrats" (This field study examines a Shintō Shrine associated with the Fujiwara, a family of aristocrats known for marrying their daughters into the imperial line).


Journal Reflections: "Ancient Imperial Religion and the Political Order"

Topics for consideration: What separation? Church/State and matsurigoto. (The aim of this session will be to explore the close association of religion, politics and culture in ancient Japan).  

May 13



















Mt Hiei, Enryakuji  (Enryakuji)


Field Study at Mt Hiei, Enryakuji Temple:


"Tendai Buddhism and Ancient Education" (This discussion emphasizes the importance of Tendai Buddhism and its main temple atop Mt. Hiei, the Enryakuji -- a UNESCO World Heritage site -- as an early center for educational training in ancient Japan.


Oda Nobugaga and the Burning of Mt. Hiei

(This discussion includes examination of the history of the Enryakuji, through the time of its destruction by fire in the mid-16th century by the samurai warlord, Oda Nobunaga. The problem of religious sanctuary and political power will be discussed at length, as well as the political roles that Mt. Hiei had come to play over the years).


“Mt. Hiei as a Center for the Study of the Lotus Sutra” (The Tendai teachings extolled the Lotus Sutra above all other Buddhist scriptures. Since so much of later Buddhism in Japan emerged from the Tendai teachings in one way or another, it is not surprising that the Lotus Sutra served as a crucial text for later Buddhist schools).


Journal Reflections: Politics and Religion Revisited in Tendai Buddhism

Topics for consideration: "The Lotus Sutra and Japanese Buddhism" (This reflection session should explore thoughts about the universalistic claims of the Lotus Sutra regarding the inevitable Buddha-hood of all sentient beings. The Lotus Sutra's theories regarding truth and expedient means (upaya) will also be discussed).

May 14

Kyoto International Conference Center 

Kyoto Botanical Garden 

Kamo River

Subway from Kyoto Station to Kyoto kokusai kaikan

Field Study at the Kyoto International Conference Center:

"Japan's 'Love of Nature' and the Kyoto Protocol" (This discussion explores the relationship of the much clichéd Japanese love for nature and the very real negotiation of the Kyoto Protocol).

Field Study at the Kyoto Botanical Garden:

"Kyoto's Botanical Garden and the U.S. Occupation" (This field study looks beyond the beautiful plants of the Botanical Garden to recall the historic role played by the same piece of land in postwar Japan, as the Kyoto headquarters for U.S. forces occupying Japan).


Journal Reflections: Natural Beauty and Modern Kyoto (Although there are many beautiful places in and around Kyoto, much of the city is not in the least attractive, and could easily be described in much worse terms. Participants will be asked to comment on the apparent contradiction between an appreciation for natural beauty and the evident lack of it in urban Kyoto).

May 15

Chion'in      Yasaka jinja     Kiyomizu Temple

Field Study at the Chion'in Pure Land Buddhist Temple, with lecture on:

"Amida Buddha, the Nembutsu, and Pure Land Faith" (This lecture reintroduces the teachings of Pure Land Buddhism at one of the largest and most historic of the Pure Land temples, the Chion'in). 


Field Study at the Yasaka Shintō Shrine, with lecture on:

"Susanoo and Amaterasu in Shintō Belief" (This lecture introduces students to the deities worshiped at the Yasaka Shrine and the Ise Shrine, two of the most sacred of the Shintō shrines in all of Japan).

Field Study at the Kiyomizu Buddhist Temple, with lecture:

"Pure Water and Japanese Buddhism" (This lecture explores the importance of water as a substance and image in Japanese Buddhism. The Kiyomizu is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site).


Journal Reflections: Varieties of Buddhism and Shinto in Kyoto Culture, Topic for consideration: "Purity and pollution in Buddhism and Shintō" (Reflections will focus on the themes of purity and pollution in Shintō, where they are central, and Buddhism, wherein their importance is less doctrinal than distinctively Japanese).

Journal Reflections: The Secular and Sacred, Buddhism and Flea Markets (Participants discuss the apparent contradiction between the Buddhist teaching that attachments are the source of suffering and the rampant commercial activity on the grounds of a hallowed Buddhist temple. Students will share their experiences of Japanese merchandise – used kimonos, etc – at the flea market)


May 16

Nijo CastleOld Imperial Palace  Wikipedia on Kyoto Gosho

Field Study in Monumental Architecture: The Imperial Palace and Nijō Castle:


"Of Power and Impotence: Emperor and Shogun in Tokugawa Japan" (This discussion emphasizes the balance of power created by the construction of Nijō Castle – a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site -- in the 16th-17th centuries, the palatial fortification that came to symbolize Tokugawa power during the last shogunal period, 1600-1868. Consequently, the old imperial palace diminished by comparison. The ironic ties between these two centers of power are explored in detail).


"Guided Tour, in English, of the Old Imperial Palace" (While Japanese and foreigners can walk around the outer walls of the Old Imperial Palace, they are not allowed inside except during a designated period during the spring of every year. Foreigners can apply for inclusion in guided tours, in English, at the Imperial Household Agency Offices on the grounds of the Old Imperial Palace).


"English Audio Tour of Nijō Castle" (There are audio tours in English of Nijō Castle. Participants will take this tour).


Journal Reflections: Locating power through political architecture (Participants will discuss the relative positions of the old imperial palace and Nijō Castle to determine why they were positioned where they were and what were the consequences of such placement. The nature of shogunal power in the imperial capital will also be discussed). 

May 17

Kyoto kyoiku daigaku  (11:00 am)

Fuzoku Momoyama Chugakko (Middle School) -- 1:00 pm

May 18

Heian Shrine and  Nanzenji

Field Study in Monumental Historical Architecture: The Heian Shrine and Nanzenji Temple:

"Of Power and Impotence: The Old Capital in a New Age" (This discussion emphasizes the balance of imperial power and culture created by the construction of the Heian Shrine during the late-19th and early 20th centuries, commemorating the passage of power to a new site, that of Tokyo. The Heian Shrine and its grand torii will be studied in comparison with the huge gate of the Nanzenji temple, a Zen temple nearby that was the object of continual imperial patronage).

Journal Reflections: Varieties of Buddhism and Shinto in Kyoto Culture, Topic for consideration: "Purity and pollution in Buddhism and Shintō" (Reflections will focus on the themes of purity and pollution in Shintō, where they are central, and Buddhism, wherein their importance is less doctrinal than distinctively Japanese).


May 19

Ginkakuji, Philosophers' Walk  Higashiyama

Field Study at the Ginkakuji: (Jenny Gironda)

Ginkakuji and the Beginning of the End of the Ashikaga Shogunate(This lecture notes how historically the Ginkakuji was constructed by Ashikaga Yoshimasa, an Ashikaga shogun who had all but lost interest in governing medieval Japan. Retreating to the Ginkakuji, Yoshimasa left his realm to descend into chaos and civil war. One of the most immediate consequences was the destruction of most of central Kyoto during the Onin Wars of the mid-15th century).


Field Study along the “Philosopher’s Walk:”

“Nishida Kitarō and the Tetsugaku no michi (This lecture explains the identification of the “philosopher’s walk” located just southwards from the Ginkakuji. Specifically, it is referred to as such due to the habit of Professor Nishida Kitarō, a famous Kyoto professor of philosophy, for walking along the canal south of the Ginkakuji during the evenings. Nishida’s philosophy, a blend of German philosophy and Zen, will be explained).


Journal Reflections: Japanese Aethetics and Zen Buddhism (Participants discuss the extent to which Japanese aesthetics can be construed as an expression of Zen, or Zen an expression of Japanese aesthetics).


May 20

Fushimi Inari Shrine  Uji, Byodoin

Field Study at Fushimi Inari Shrine with lecture:


"Fox Worship and Shintō" (This lecture explains the nature of fox worship, and the association of the fox with economic prosperity. Shintō's relationship to success in this world is graphically represented at this shrine of ten-thousand torii (Shintō gates), all of which have been donated by prosperous entrepreneurs).


Field Study in Uji at the Byōdōin:

"The Byōdōin and the Ten-Yen Coin" (This field study calls attention to the presence of an engraving of the Byōdōin – a UNESCO World Heritage site – on the back side of the 10 yen coin. Undoubtedly this building, dating back to the early-Heian period, is one of the most recognizable in all of Japan. The role of the Fujiwara aristocrats in its construction and eventual dedication to Pure Land Buddhist worship will be discussed in detail).


"The Tale of Genji and Uji" (This discussion emphasizes the importance of Uji to the Tale of Genji, the masterpiece of Japanese literature).


Evening Reflection Session: Capitalism and the Spirit of Fox Worship in Shintō (Participants will discuss a newly encountered nuance of Shintō, its connection with economic prosperity and worldly success. Also, they will have an opportunity to reflect upon the meaning of countless Shintō torii, or gateways to the gods, that they will have walked through.

Participants should also consider the relationship of Uji to Kyoto in cultural history. Reflections will also center on the Green Tea Culture that is so associated with Uji).

May 21

Toji Temple (Market Day) 

Field Study at a Buddhist Toji Temple on Market Day:


"Buddhism and Worldly Pursuits: Temples as Entrepreneurial Sites" (This field study emphasizes the compatibility of Buddhism with capitalistic profit seeking. The esoteric teachings of Shingon "True Word" Buddhism, as developed by Kukai, will be emphasized as an early expression of Buddhism as a mystery religion. The grand scale of the Tōji -- its pagoda is the tallest in Kyoto – are explained in relation to imperial patronage. The Tōji is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage site).


May 22

Gion and Gion Corner

May 23

Kyoto University    Wikipedia on Kyoto University

May 24

Hiroshima Peace Park  

Field Study in Hiroshima:

“Hiroshima in War and Peace” (This field study examines the city of Hiroshima, its wartime past, and its role in the present and for the future as a city dedicated to opposition to war and the use of nuclear weapons).

May 25

Osaka Castle More on Osaka Castle

Field Study in Monumental Samurai Architecture: Osaka Castle:


"Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Fate of Osaka Castle" (This discussion emphasizes the balance of power created by the construction of Osaka Castle in the 16th-17th centuries, as palatial fortifications came to symbolize samurai power. The ironic ties between Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo as contending centers of power are explored in detail).

May 26

Departure: Kyoto Station to Kansai International Airport

Kansai International Airport (12:50 pm) via Northwest Airlines 0070 to Detroit (arrive 12:00 pm --- 12 hrs 10 min)

Detroit International via Northwest Airlines 1688 (5:00 pm) to RDU (6:38 pm --- 1hr 38 minutes in flight)