Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsHello, everyone. I am Hisayo Ogushi, the lead educator of the online course about Japanese Subculture. In this course, we’ll discuss and reconsider the themes of Vulnerability and Immaturity that are prevalent within and throughout Japanese subculture. I am a professor in the English Department at Keio University, and my main research field is 19th-century American Literature. Now you might wonder why I am your guide in and around the world of Japanese subculture. You may also be wondering about the relationship, if any, between American literature and Japanese subculture. Well, let me briefly tell you about my own background.

Skip to 0 minutes and 51 secondsMy first encounter with America was not with American movies, nor with children’s books, but with Japanese comics-- especially, various works of Japanese shojo manga (manga targeting young women) or anime set in North America. In a way, manga served as a gateway to my current position in Japan as a scholar of foreign literature. My generation, those who grew up with manga and anime, has witnessed the transformation of Japanese subculture from simple childish entertainment to the “soft power” that represents contemporary Japanese culture. The substance of Japanese subculture is now known as “cool Japan.” Due to the development of the Internet and other visual media, Japanese manga and anime, as well as popular music, gained wide-reaching global notoriety.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsWords such as “otaku” or “kawaii,” even without translation, have already been established as keywords to explain Japanese culture. have already been established as keywords to explain Japanese culture. This course is not, however, just a catalogue-like survey of Japanese subculture. The three educators and myself will investigate Japanese subculture in the context of youth culture from 1970s, which positively embraces “immaturity” and “vulnerability.”

Skip to 2 minutes and 22 secondsIn each week of this four-week long course we will cover the four genres: “Love,” “Battle,” “Technology,” and “Fan culture.” There will also be a different and unique theme each week of the course. We hope that you will see Japanese subculture through the perspectives of the four genres and weekly themes. Professor Isamu Takahashi will be with you in Week 2. Professor Susumu Niijima in Week 3. And the fourth week will be guided by Professor Toshiyuki Ohwada. Each week is interrelated. When the course ends, we believe you will get a larger picture about Japanese subculture.

Welcome to the World of Japanese Subculture

Japanese subculture is now a global phenomenon, but we would like to put it into Japanese historical context, which will shed a new light on the significance of the youth culture of Japanese audience. Its significance is surely appealing to audience with other cultural backgrounds.

Think about your own youth culture. Is it similar to that of Japanese youth culture? Or do they have different significance? Why do you like (or are you interested in) Japanese subculture? What is the fascinating point?

A four week journey

In this course, we will focus on the cultural phenomena beginning around the 1970s. This is around the time in which visual culture such as animation and manga began to be exported out of Japan. We’d like to relocate Japanese Subculture in the context of Japanese historical and social situations from that time to the present. We will explore girls comics, boys comics, the vocaloid, cosplay, and J-pop idols. However, we will avoid a typical historical survey of Japanese subculture. Instead, we will pick up four topics which underlie contemporary youth culture in Japan: Love in Week 1, Battle in Week 2, Technology in Week 3 and Fan culture in Week 4. Each week, learners will read reading materials including excerpts of graphic contents, answer to quizzes and also discuss some points with other fellow learners. In some activities, the list of further readings are provided for your future interests. Through our four week journey, let’s find out a new perspective on the young people of Japan, explore how they can be seen to elaborate the world of “immaturity” and “vulnerability” as well as to develop a basic knowledge of key Japanese subcultures, learning the recognizable traits of each.

Organizing team

This course will be led by Professor Hisayo Ogushi with three other specialists.Professor Isamu Takahashi, Professor Susumu Niijima and Professor Toshiyuki Ohwada from Keio university.

Educators and Organizers From the left: Hisayo Ogushi, Isamu Takahashi, Susumu Niijima and Toshiyuki Ohwada.

Haruka Ikebe, Daiki Uchida, Motoki Yasui and Professor Keiko Okawa will assist you during the course!

Follow the team to read their responses to learners throughout the course.

Important notes

  • You can find a PDF version of all the steps of the week in the “DOWNLOADS” section of the first step of the each week.
  • Video subtitles are provided in both English and Japanese. To select your preferred language, please hover over the speech bubble icon in the video player, and choose from the options provided.
  • Some words and names that may be unfamiliar to learners are listed in the glossary located in Step 1.24.
  • All book titles and Japanese keywords will be italicized.
  • Sometimes ō and ū will appear with a straight bar above the letters (i.e., macron or diacritical mark) . This represents long vowels, for example, ō for “oo” or “oh.”
  • When you complete each step, select the Mark as complete button before selecting the forwarded arrow to move on.
  • If you are new to FutureLearn, take a look at the Using Futurelearn section for information on how to get the best out of the course.

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This video is from the free online course:

An Introduction to Japanese Subcultures

Keio University