Japanese Language and Culture

This course is designed to be more than the traditional foreign language course of reading, writing, and speaking. Scholars will be provided with a broad exposure to the culture, customs, religion, politics, economy, arts, and educational system of Japan. The US-Japanese relationships will be also discussed.

Instructor: Akehiko Takahashi (Retired from Wentzville School District)
BS in Mathematics and MA in Political Science
Email: edokko@hotmail.com or taisomaster@yahoo.com

There is a need for a deeper exploration on things Japanese in order to understand the dynamics and dimensions of confrontation, competition, and cooperation that have characterized the relationships between Japan and the US. The US and Japan are two of the largest economic superpowers of the world, and together they are responsible for 45% of the world’s GNP. Therefore, there is a serious need for people who possess expertise on Japan. Gifted students are more likely to appreciate learning about the impact, challenges, and opportunities created by cultural and economic differences and overcoming stereotypes, and misinformation and look for possible solutions for reducing tensions between the two countries.

Major Topics:
  • Kanji, Hiragana, Katakana
  • Cultural Differences
  • Daily Expressions
  • Bonsai Viewing (Columbia)
  • Shodo Calligraphy
  • Elements of Japanese Garden
  • Origami and Kirigami
  • Japanese Educational System
  • Trade Relations
  • Manners and Customs
  • Americans of Japanese Ancestry
Pre-requisite knowledge:


Learning Objectives:
  • Recognized 250 Kanji
  • Master Hiragana, Katakana
  • Understand basic elements of Bonsai and learn to appreciate the beauty of living arts
  • Create Origami and Kirigami Objects
  • Discover and Identify Cultural Differences
  • Practice on Japanese Calligraphy
  • Learn daily conversational expressions
  • Understand the historical relationships between US and Japan
  • Zen and meditation and the role of religion in society
Primary source
  • Japanese for Everyone by Gakken
  • Introduction to Japanese Culture editor: Sosnoski
Supplementary materials
  • Paper Architecture by Chatani
  • Bonsai by Harry Tomlinson
  • Various Origami Books
  • Easy Kanji by Kaneda

Computing and the Internet

Students will spend some time looking for useful websites on Japanese topics and make a list for references.

Typical classroom strategies

Students will learn Hiragana and Katakana using flash cards. Kanji characters are learned through pantomime. Students will form two groups in order to study and research US-Japanese relationships. They will then present their case on trade issues as well as others. Cultural information is presented by lecture.