Japan at Play: Cultural Orderings of Leisure and Asobi

Course Type: Seminar
Study Focus: KBRSEG
Term: Fall

Teacher: Björn-Ole KAMM
Course Code: JK21002

The focus of this interactive seminar lies on theoretical concepts and analytical techniques useful to study transcultural phenomena such as nation-branding from a perspective of cultural ordering and power relations.



Nation-building or regional marketing at first glance appear as matters of politics but they also penetrate deeply into the sphere of play, amusement, and leisure. This course revolves around the question how certain actors seek to create a specific “Japan” through leisure policies, domestic tourism, or the recent “Cool Japan” country-marketing campaign. Who decides what is play and non-play? Who decides about “good” play (asobi) in Japan? What role do regions outside Japan as well as leisure’s supposed opposites, seriousness and work, play in these attempts?
By tracing play as a matter of concern for policy makers, intellectuals, and ordinary people, the course further introduces a new theoretical and methodological approach to Cultural Studies that is less concerned with meanings and values but with contested, contingent modes of cultural ordering: narratives about, for example, a given nation’s place in the world and their material embodiments, such as written laws or metropolitan redevelopment projects.


Course Information

Module: Research 1-3
CATS Requirements: BA 3rd. year or above
Link to course material on CATS eLearning.

Day/Period: Tue/3
Location: 9講/Lect. 9
Credits: 2


Course Goals

Students will receive basic instruction in the etymology of asobi and its role in discourses about the Japanese (nihonjinron). First and foremost, students will learn step-by-step protocols for analyzing cultural phenomena, such as play and leisure activities, by focusing on describable attempts of ordering (discourses, institutions, embodiments) that produce these phenomena using the example of Japan in a transcultural context.

Course Schedule and Evaluation

For a detailed course schedule, please visit KULASIS or the CATS eLearning platform (the enrollment key is provided in KULASIS and also during the first week of class).

The course involves weekly reading and writing assignments. Evaluation is based on an oral presentation in class and a term paper.