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Course Overview
Course Materials

Course Overview

The purpose of JAPAN 301: Japanese Reading and Culture is to help you acquire skills to speak, listen, read, and write Japanese. The text Toward Better Japanese is meant as an introduction to written Japanese for those who have mastered basic language skills. It should help your reading skills, particularly those related to dictionary use, information about kanji, and 520 Kyouiku kanji. The textbook and accompanying CD were put together to assist you in developing your Japanese language skills through articles dealing with Japanese culture and geography. Our purpose is not to require you to simply go through each lesson, but to help you learn skills to communicate with natives like a native. The lessons are prepared in accordance with the most recent findings in language teaching and language acquisition.

The textbook consists of three parts:

  1. Introduction to the Study of Kanji
  2. Famous Stories and Legends
  3. Culture and Geography

Parts 2 and 3 contain twenty lessons. Each lesson in Part 2 and 3 introduces appropriate kanji, vocabulary, and grammatical principles that you can learn as a module. They are introduced not in isolation but in context, which should help you retain the kanji longer. Studies have shown that content-based materials are essential to internalizing kanji and grammar as part of your language system. Be sure to use them in your discussions of the materials you read in conversation or in writing. We have no evidence whether or not the actual writing of kanji will enhance your kanji retention. However, there is a definite correlation between language attrition and the ability to produce writing symbols in Japanese. In other words, the more you remember how to write kanji, the longer you retain Japanese language skills. The exercises were prepared specifically for students who wish to memorize kanji by repeatedly writing them.

The text is also accompanied by a CD. The CD program has been developed to help you achieve maximum benefit from the materials. We recommend that you use all the resources available: the instructor, the CD, and the main text. We strongly encourage you first to contact the instructor to set an individualized study program before you begin the course so that you can take the best advantage of the program. The instructor can set a schedule and program with you so that you can develop language skills using all these materials.

Before you begin, please read the general philosophy behind the design of these materials.

  1. Content-based language instruction: Current language research tells us that content-based language instruction is much more effective once students have acquired basic language skills. We have chosen stories, cultural topics and geography to serve as the subjects of this content-based instruction because these things are common knowledge among native speakers of Japanese who have finished compulsory education in Japan. However, your main focus should be language learning, namely your reading, listening comprehension, speaking, and writing skills. Through the study of culture and geography we are aiming to increase your skill level in all these areas. The idea is not to find out if you have acquired cultural or geographical information from these lessons, but instead to help you improve your language skills using the topics covered in the lessons. To accomplish this, you must do some work to prove your mastery of each task. This program should help you acquire language skills systematically. The computer program is like a tennis ball machine or pitching machine that gives you practice hitting back a response over and over to set exercises. However, the machine cannot learn for you. You actually have to do the practice exercises; if you do not, you will not be able to acquire the skills effectively and accurately.
  2. Internalization of language skills: Internalization of vocabulary, kanji, grammar, etc., requires meaningful repetition. Practice five or ten items at a time and when you master them go on to a new set, but be sure to go back and review the first set after memorizing the second set. Once you finish a lesson, you need to use your newly acquired knowledge, ideally in discussions with natives. It is essential that you use the new material as much as possible in your discussions and learn how to use them correctly. Make sure you repeat the learning-and-using process in the discussion of the unit, and your learning should spiral up as you add new materials upon the old material already mastered. Pay attention to your instructor’s corrections and feedback on your portfolio assignments.
  3. Kanji: The materials in Japanese 301 and Japanese 302 cover approximately 1,000 kanji. All of the kanji introduced in Shougakkou 1-4 as officially designated by the Ministry of Education are included, plus about two-thirds of those taught in grades 5-6. Some kanji beyond sixth grade are presented as advanced kanji in Japanese 302. Again, kanji learning consists of repetition, but be sure to learn them as part of words or as vocabulary items rather than in isolation so that they become meaningful entities in your mind. Most teachers agree that the only way to learn kanji is by actually writing them over and over until your fingers memorize them. One important concept of learning kanji is to see kanji as symbols consisting of smaller parts (radicals). You can come up with your own image of the kanji consisting of these smaller parts, but you should read the explanation given in the text to help you formulate your own image or mnemonic devices. The information contained in this course comes from several dictionaries such as 漢字の語源 by 山田勝美 and 新字源 by 小川環樹, 西田太一郎, and 赤塚忠, both available from 角川書店. However, our focus is to help you learn and retain kanji rather than to explore the accurate history of each kanji.
  4. Translation: When the information is readily available, especially in English, some students fall under the illusion that they have mastered the materials quickly. However, the process that you go through in your mind to extrapolate the meaning from the text is important. The goal is for you to read the text with full native understanding and with native-like speed. To reach that level, you have to practice reading and understanding without translating the text into English. The English translation is provided for you to use only when you come across some difficult part in the text. Be sure to look at the translation only as a last resort and if you do not quite understand how a sentence is interpreted the way it is translated, be sure to ask your instructor for an explanation. Remember the computer cannot find out what you do not understand, nor can it answer your questions. Only human teachers can, so use them for that purpose.

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This course assumes that you have basic abilities in speaking, reading, listening, and writing Japanese. You should be able to carry on basic conversations in Japanese. We assume you have learned Hiragana and Katakana, but have not yet learned kanji. If you score above 30 in the department’s basic grammar test, you have sufficient grammar skills to be successful in the course. However, the course will be quite challenging as the amount or material covered is considerable for non-natives.

Course Objectives

When you complete the course, you will be able to:

  1. Read authentic Japanese materials, using approximately 520 essential kanji.
  2. Gain basic background information (in respect to cultural understanding) that native speakers of Japanese would possess. Students will be able to describe their personal experiences in letters to friends. A written sample will be included in the individual portfolio.
  3. Acquire the basic skills necessary to study and read authentic intermediate level Japanese stories, articles and letters using appropriate dictionaries.
  4. Increase reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities in the Japanese language through using authentic Japanese stories as a subject of study. Students will be able to speak Japanese more like native speakers, using a variety of idiomatic expressions.

Course Materials

Toward Better Japanese by Masakazu Watabe. Bunkyosha, 1979.

Course Organization

The text, Toward Better Japanese, consists of three parts. Part 1 introduces you to the study of Kanji. Part 2 and Part 3 each contain 10 lessons with stories to read. This course is divided into four units. After each unit, you will submit a portfolio of your written work for the unit. After you receive feedback on your portfolio assignment from the instructor, you will take a midcourse exam. To master the materials covered in each unit, you must complete the assignments and exercises contained in the textbook. Part 1 contains the information you need for the study of Japanese. Read it and do all the exercises, then turn them in to your instructor as part of your unit portfolio. For each of the 20 lessons in Part 2 and 3, you should follow this sequence of activities:

  1. Study and memorize the kanji introduced for each lesson. Do exercises 1 through 3.
  2. Read the stories in the textbook using the following guidelines.
    • When you feel ready, take the kanji quiz to check your knowledge without looking at the text or any materials.
    • Read the story or stories for the lesson aloud in your own words in Japanese.
    • Write a paraphrase or summary of the story or stories for the lesson in your own words in Japanese.
    • Do the Content Questions, Opinion Questions, and 漢字問題1〜3. Save them in your portfolio for the unit.
  3. Repeat the above steps for each lesson until the end of the unit. When you finish the last lesson in the unit, send your work to the instructor as part of the unit portfolio assignment.
  4. After receiving corrections and feedback from the instructor, go over the mistakes and learn the correct forms to prepare for the midcourse exam.
  5. When you are ready, request and complete the midcourse exam. Reading will be heavily emphasized in this course of study. A successful study session will include the following sequence for each lesson:
    1. Practice reading along with the CD. In addition to the reading practice, you should clear up any ambiguities, making sure there are no parts you do not understand.
    2. Practice reading for fluency without any help.

After studying with the CD, you should be able to read the story with no help: you should recognize all kanji except proper nouns and other special readings identified with furigana. For your reference, the following are the proper reading times for each story, calculated from previous data on students’ reading (in minutes with the figures under decimal representing seconds). Practice so that you are able to read the stories within these times:

Lesson Story Time
L1 あわて者とつぼ 1
L2 金持ちとへび 1
L3 たこあげ 0.3
L4A けちんぼう 1
L4B さむらいとござ 1
L4C さるのしっぽ 1.3
L5 十二支のはじまり 2.3
L6 十二支のはじまり 2.4
L7 浦島太郎 7
L8 うばすて山 4.3
L9 忠犬八公 2.3
L10A みかんの木の寺 7
L10B チックとタック 7
L11 マルコ・ポーロ 5
L12 ダルマさん 3
L13 七夕 3.3
L14 つるの恩返し 6
L15 村八分 3
L16 日本の始まり 4.3
L17 九州 3
L18 阿波踊り 3.3
L19 横浜の港 3.3
L20 北海道 4

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Formatting Your Written Work

You will submit written assignments to Independent Study electronically through your course. To make sure I can open and read your papers, please save them as a .RTF (rich text format) files. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Type your paper in a word-processing program (such as Microsoft Word).
  2. When you save the file, click the Save as type: drop-down list.
  3. Select Rich Text Format (*.rtf).
  4. Use the course number, your first and last name, and the assignment name for the filename. For example, “JAPAN301_JaneSmith_Lesson1Assignment.rtf.”
  5. Click Save.

Submitting Your Portfolio Assignments

It’s very important that you submit all of the assignments for a portfolio at the same time. Here’s how to submit your completed portfolio assignments:

  1. Click the corresponding Portfolio Submission link in your course.
  2. Click Open.
  3. Attach all of the relevant assignments by clicking the Choose File button, then locating the file you wish to submit.
  4. To attach additional files, click Add Attachment and use the Choose File button to locate and upload the next file. Make sure you attach every file you need to include in the portfolio assignment.
  5. When you are finished, click Submit.
  6. You will be asked if you are sure you want to submit this assignment. Click Yes.
  7. You will receive a message that tells you that you have successfully submitted your assignment. Click OK.

Remember: Do not submit any assignment until you have completed all of the assignments for the portfolio!

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There are four computer-graded, proctored mid-course exams spaced throughout the course, and one final exam.

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Your grade for this course will be based on the following:

Unit Portfolio Assignments 48% (12% each)
Four Midcourse Exams 40% (10% each)
Final Exam 12%

Grade Scale

Grade Percentages
A 100–93
A- 92–90
B+ 89–87
B- 82–80
C+ 79–77
C 76–73
C- 72–70
D+ 69–67
D 66–63
D- 62–60
E 59–0

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


4 instructor-graded portfolios, may be resubmitted once for a fee.

Resubmit an assignment for a fee.


5 computer-graded, proctored exams, may retake each once for a fee, must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Retake an exam for a fee.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. 

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514