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Japanese- JA 130/JA 250: Interpreting Asian Cultures

Block 1 - JA/PA130: Japanese Culture 

Block 2 - JA/PA250: Topics in Asian Studies: Contemporary Asian Cultures

This course satisfies two units of the Critical Perspectives: Global Cultures requirement.

Japanese- JA/PA 130 and JA/PA 250: Interpreting Asian CulturesThis set of combined courses explores the invention of tradition and contemporary innovations in Asian cultures.

Block I: JA/PA130, Japanese Culture 

The first block, “Japanese Culture,” presents a critical appreciation of popular Japanese icons (Shintoism, Buddhism, The Tale of Genji, haiku poetry, tea ceremony, kabuki theatre) that scrutinizes how cultural practices and institutions have evolved and been adapted to symbolize Japan. Through an in-depth examination of innovation in classical and modern cultural dynamics, students acquire the tools to appreciate and appraise how traditions come to be formed in such fields as literary aesthetics (from classical poetry and drama to manga) and artistic artifacts (from calligraphy and gardens to anime).

Block II: JA/PA250, Topics in Asian Studies: Contemporary Asian Cultures

The second block, “Contemporary Asian Cultures,” focuses on the intersection of classical and popular cultural forms with global cultural dynamics that has recast what it means to be Asian. Strategies for interpreting culture that emerged in the American academy, as well as their post-modern critiques, will be put to the test in examining everyday cultural phenomenon, such as McDonalds in China, Disneyland in Tokyo, MTV in India. We will also study intra-Asian cultural influences (the spread of manga and forms of pop music) as well as the political ramifications of the claims for Asian values and Asian identities.

You will have many hands-on opportunities: calligraphy sessions; cooking Japanese, Chinese, and Indian meals; analyzing aesthetics of gardens across Asia; and evaluating cultural artifacts from Asia at the Denver Art Museum. 

A set of linked one-block courses that must be taken together, with a single instructor; separate grades will be given for each block.


  • This course serves as a gateway to the Asian Studies Major or Minor.  Students may also use one of these courses to fulfill one unit of the new Japanese Language Minor.
  • Both of the blocks may be used to fulfill the elective requirement for the Asian Studies Major or Minor.  Either one of them may be used to fulfill the Japanese Language Minor literature or culture elective requirement.
  • There are some afternoon films.
  • We will take one field trip each block (if funding is available).  In Block 1, we will go to the Anime Convention in Denver on a Saturday.  In Block 2, we will go to the Denver Art Museum on a weekday.