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American Culture Abroad: Japan

Richard Chalfen
Department of Anthropology
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA 19122 USA

Fall Semester, 2002

"... the Americanization of Japanese culture has been going on since the beginning of our relationship--according to a local historian of Kochi in Shikoku Island, it was John Manijiro, after his return from America where he had stayed 11 years, who first sang Stephen Foster's "O, Susanna!" in Japan around 1852."

Homma Nagayo, "What Does it Mean to Understand America? -- A Japanese View" International House of Japan Bulletin 14(2): 1-7 (Spring, 1994) pg. 6

"I wanted also, while I was in Asia, to see how America was regarded and reconstituted abroad, to measure the country by the shadow it casts".

Pico Iyer, Video Night in Kathmandu (New York: Knopf, 1988), pg. 11.

In this course we will examine versions and varieties of American life that have become a part of Japanese society and culture. There exists a tremendous curiosity for "things American" in Japanese daily life -- but how is American culture in Japan? What kinds of transformations, re-formulations and re-inventions have taken place? We will review Japanese adoptions and adaptations of language, "American" settings, architecture and design, foods and restaurants, clothing and fashions, popular films, television and advertising, and even holidays. We will review and critically evaluate such films as The Japanese Version, Mr. Baseball, Black Rain, The Barbarian and the Geisha, Tokyo Pop, The Colonel Comes to Japan.

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Required Readings

Packet: Readings for Anthropology 272
This packet is available from Docucare, located at 900 North Broad Street (call 215-235-8740 before going to make sure of availability and stated cost).

Re-Made in Japan--Everyday Life and Consumer Taste in a Changing
edited by Joseph J. Tobin, New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1992.

Japan Made in the U.S.A. edited by Zipangu, New York: Zipangu, 1998

Video Night in Kathmandu by Pico Iyer, New York: Knopf, 1988.

Recommended Texts

From Bonsai to Levi's by George Fields, New York: Macmillan, 1983.

You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting, New York: Vintage, 1990.

Japan and the Pursuit of a New American Identity by Walter Feinberg, 1993

Transactions, Transgressions, Transformations -- U.S. Culture in Europe and Japan edited by Heidi Fehrenbach and Uta Poiger, 1999

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To contact Richard Chalfen, email: rchalfen@temple.edu