TTC Video – Understanding Japan: A Cultural History
Course No. 8332 | .M4V, AVC, 1700 kbps, 640×360 | English, AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24×30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.66 GB
.MKV, x264, 1020 kbps, 1024×576 | English, AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24×30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 5.96 GB
Lecturer: Mark J. Ravina, Ph.D.
Japan’s extraordinary culture is like no other in the world. The 2,000-year-old civilization grew through periods of seclusion and assimilation to cultivate a society responsible for immeasurable influences on the rest of the world. What makes Japan so distinctive? The answer is more than just spiritual beliefs or culinary tastes. It’s the ongoing clash between tradition and modernity; a conflict shaped by Japan’s long history of engagement and isolation.
We’re all aware of Japan’s pivotal role in global economics and technological innovation. We know that the future of the West (and the entire world) is inextricably linked with the island nation’s successes and failures. But Japanese culture-its codes, mores, rituals, and values-still 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.
Only by looking at Japan’s politics, spirituality, cuisine, literature, art, and philosophy in the context of larger historical forces can we reach an informed grasp of Japanese culture. One that dispels prevalent myths and misconceptions we in the West have. One that puts Japan-not other nations-at the center of the story. And one that reveals how this incredible country transformed into the 21st-century superpower it is today.
In an exciting partnership with the Smithsonian, The Great Courses presents Understanding Japan: A Cultural History-24 lectures that offer an unforgettable tour of Japanese life and culture. Delivered by renowned Japan scholar and award-winning professor Mark J. Ravina of Emory University, it’s a chance to access an extraordinary culture that is sometimes overlooked or misrepresented in broader surveys of world history. Professor Ravina, with the expert collaboration of the Smithsonian’s historians, brings you a grand portrait of Japan, one that reaches from its ancient roots as an archipelago of warring islands to its current status as a geopolitical giant. The journey is vibrantly illustrated with stunning images from the Smithsonian’s vast collections of Japanese artwork and archival material. Here for your enjoyment is a dazzling historical adventure with something to inform and delight everyone, and you’ll come away from it with a richer appreciation of Japanese culture.
Uncover How History Shapes Culture
Japan’s cultural history, according to Professor Ravina, is something of a paradox. It’s insular. It’s exclusive. It prides itself on adhering to traditional ways of life. And yet it also owes much to historic interactions with other countries, from China and Korea to Great Britain and the United States. Professor Ravina guides you through landmark periods of Japanese history, from the struggle between ancient Japan and the Asian mainland, through the long peace of the Tokugawa Dynasty, to the totalitarian nightmare of World War II. This approach illustrates in vivid detail how broader events and movements introduced, innovated, and revised everything from spirituality to popular entertainment. Tour Japan’s rich history through:
Early mainland influences (700 A.D. to 900 A.D.): Travel back to the formative centuries of Japanese history, where you’ll bear witness to the codification of ancient mythologies, the rise of Confucianism and Buddhism, and early styles of statecraft and writing-all of which, in some manner, were adapted from those of mainland China and Korea.
First contact with the West (1300 to 1600): Discover the roots of Japan’s complicated relationship with Western civilization by getting the full story on how Japan established international trading posts, how it engaged in its first contacts with Europe, and the surprising effect of guns and Christianity on Japanese life.
The Meiji Restoration (1868 to 1905): Visit the revolutionary years that gave birth to the modern Japan we’re familiar with today, and learn how this iconic period of imperial rule was the catalyst for modern approaches to everything from clothes and food to educational policies and human rights.
Global war and defeat (1931 to 1945): Get a perspective on World War II that goes beyond kamikaze pilots and Pearl Harbor (which Professor Ravina considers a defeat for the Japanese military) and reveals how a cacophony of political voices and a lack of military planning led to a crushing defeat for a once-powerful nation.
In exploring these periods and others (including the rise of the first warrior dynasties and the economic miracle years of 1955 to 1975), each lecture has the feel of a journey into the past with an expert guide right by your side. Instead of just being told a litany of facts, you’ll actually make connections between history and culture, time and place-and how they’ve all come together to shape the millennia-long story of Japan.
From Food to Art to Philosophy
One of the greatest joys of Understanding Japan: A Cultural History is what Professor Ravina reveals about Japan’s culture, covering everything from food to art to philosophy. His lectures masterfully introduce you to cultural practices you never knew of-and add new levels of understanding to ones you may already be familiar with, such as:
Myths and legends: How was Japan created? Who were the nation’s foundational heroes, divine beings, and natural spirits? Join Professor Ravina for an unforgettable walk along the “way of the gods” (Shinto)-Japan’s indigenous religion.
Art and architecture: Learn what defines a Japanese aesthetic by strolling through transcendental gardens (including Kyoto’s Temple of the Golden Pavilion) and poring over Katsushika Hokusai’s massive collection of sketches (manga).
Religion and philosophy: Several lectures take you inside Japan’s spiritual history, including intricate Buddhist schools of thought and the warrior ideology of bushido, which, it turns out, is less about the fire of war than nostalgia for the past.
Novels and poetry: From Lady Murasaki’s epic novel The Tale of Genji to the haiku of Basho, read between the lines of excerpts from Japan’s rich literary heritage and see how novels, poems, and plays cemented cultural norms-and changed them.
And there’s so much more to enjoy in these lectures, including:
the daily lives of freelance samurai (known as ronin) coping with political changes;
the distinct eating and cooking rituals of foods like tempura and yakitori; and
the international appeal of Akira Kurosawa and other Japanese filmmakers.
Fascinating Visual Archives
Every lecture of Understanding Japan: A Cultural History draws extensively from the Smithsonian’s vast collection of art, photography, and artifacts, making this cultural journey come to life in lavish visual detail. Instead of relying on mere description, Professor Ravina lets the country’s art, architecture, landscaping, literature, and food speak for itself. Along with helpful maps and timelines, hundreds of carefully curated images from the Smithsonian give you the chance to examine Japan’s cultural history up close, including:
terracotta figures recovered from royal burial grounds;
Hokusai’s iconic woodblock print The Great Wave of Kanagawa; and
historic photographs of samurai dressed for battle.
Encounter the Soul of Japan
The cultural exactitude in these lectures is impressive; so much so that the attention to detail goes right down to the design of our studio set (which itself pays homage to Japanese aesthetics).
With the same superb lecturing ability he’s demonstrated during public appearances on CNN, NPR, and The History Channel, Professor Ravina knows how to make Japan accessible and familiar to you-while at the same time honoring and respecting cultural traditions. You’ll come away from Understanding Japan: A Cultural History with a stronger sense of this one-of-a-kind nation-its history, its attitudes, its very soul.
01. Japan: A Globally Engaged Island Nation
02. Understanding Japan through Ancient Myths
03. The Emergence of the Ritsuryo State
04. Aspects of the Japanese Language
05. Early Japanese Buddhism
06. Heian Court Culture
07. The Rise of the Samurai
08. Pure Land Buddhism and Zen Buddhism
09. Samurai Culture in the Ashikaga Period
10. Japan at Home and Abroad, 1300 – 1600
11. Japan’s Isolation in the Tokugawa Period
12. Japanese Theater: Noh and Kabuki
13. The Importance of Japanese Gardens
14. The Meaning of Bushido in a Time of Peace
15. Japanese Poetry: The Road to Haiku
16. Hokusai and the Art of Wood-Block Prints
17. The Meiji Restoration
18. Three Visions of Prewar Japan
19. War without a Master Plan: Japan, 1931 – 1945
20. Japanese Family Life
21. Japanese Foodways
22. Japan’s Economic Miracle
23. Kurosawa and Ozu: Two Giants of Film
24. The Making of Contemporary Japan
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