Understanding Japan : The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture

  • by The Great Courses
  • Narrated by Professor Mark J. Ravina
  • Series: The Great Courses: Civilization & Culture
  • 12 hrs and 0 mins
  • Lecture

Publisher's Summary

Japan's extraordinary culture is like no other in the world, and it remains mysterious to many of us. And that's unfortunate, because to truly understand Japan's influence on the world stage, one needs to understand Japan's culture - on its own terms.
In an exciting partnership with the Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents these 24 lectures that offer an unforgettable tour of Japanese life and culture. Professor Ravina, with the expert collaboration of the Smithsonian's historians, brings you a grand portrait of Japan.
From the dawn of Confucianism and the Meiji Restoration to World War II and the economic miracle years of 1955 to 1975, you'll explore landmark periods of Japanese history and learn how broad events and movements introduced, innovated, and revised everything from spirituality to popular entertainment. Along the way you'll get revealing insights into Shinto (Japan's indigenous religion), the art of Katsushika Hokusai, literary works like The Tale of Genji and the haiku of Basho, the everyday lives of samurai, the universal appeal of filmmakers like Akira Kurosawa, foods like yakitori and tempura, and so much more.
You'll come away from Professor Ravina's final lecture with a stronger sense of the very soul of this one-of-a-kind nation.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Informative, entertaining, and well-presented!

I really enjoyed this overview of Japanese culture. My only complaint is that it ended. :)
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- brenty

The below listed auxiliary listen is a must.


Everyone interested in Japan should listen to the librivox reading "Bushido - The Soul of Japan" published before the First World War. The author of this course recommends it. It is notable for, among many other things a frank discussion of ritual suicide and revenge.

Japan is the most extreme honor/shame civilization I have ever heard of or imagined. This is a harmless thing only because Japan was seriously shamed in 1945 by a nation that does not have the corresponding revenge ethos that honor/shame civilizations typically have. Is there or is there not a Japanese saying: "There is no shame abroad!" Think WW II Nanjing.

Japan is a cohesive, orderly, prosperous, representatve democracy going into comfortable and well earned retirement. We are fortunate that it's East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere enterprise failed. Japan is fortunate to have been defeated by a civilization that was not bent on massuve revenge beyond delivering massive defeat.

What I do not know is whether this extreme honor/shame civilization provides routine daily comfort or routine daily anxiety to its peaceful, prosperous and law abiding individuals. They live a very long time and thus I expect it does. But I do not know it does.
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- David "Hellicopter Man"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 07-24-2015
  • Publisher: The Great Courses