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Course Materials

Before You Begin

Before you begin this course, you must install the Japanese language pack for your operating system. This will allow you to view the appropriate kanji for this course.

Course Outcomes

  1. Students will be able to read and discuss texts relating to Japanese history, literature, and culture.
  2. Students will be able to write at the intermediate level on assigned topics relating to Japanese history, literature, and culture.
  3. Students will be able to discuss and give oral presentations on key topics in Japanese history, literature, and culture.

Course Organization

Intermediate Reader: Japanese History and Culture is meant as a continuation of Toward Better Japanese. This text introduces another 367 kyouiku kanji, plus approximately 258 jouyou kanji (called “advanced kanji” in the lessons). The materials were put together to assist you to develop your Japanese language skills through reading materials dealing with Japanese history and culture so you can speak, listen, read, and write Japanese. The purpose is not just to go through each lesson, but to help you learn skills necessary to communicate like a native with native Japanese speakers.

The course consists of twenty stories organized into fourteen lessons and divided into four units. Each lesson introduces the appropriate amount of new kanji, vocabulary, and grammatical principles which you can learn as a unit. They are introduced not in isolation but in context, which should help you retain the kanji longer. Studies have shown that using new materials is essential to internalize kanji as a part of your language system. Be sure to use them in your discussions of the materials you read—in conversation as well as in writing. We have no evidence whether or not actual writing of kanji will enhance your kanji retention. However, there is 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 your Japanese language skills. The workbook was prepared specifically for the students who wish to memorize kanji through the repeated exercise of writing them.

The text also includes a CD. The CD program has been developed to help you achieve maximum benefit from the materials. I recommend that you use all the resources available: the instructor, the CD, the main text, and the workbook. I strongly encourage you first to contact the instructor to set a program of study 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 following 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 Japanese history to serve as the subject of this content-based instruction, because history is common knowledge among native speakers of Japanese who have finished compulsory education in Japan. These reading materials provide information such as the names of historical figures, places, events, and literary works commonly known by most native speakers of Japanese. History (歴史), is not just relating historical facts in the way we think of history in the West. Rather, history, for the Japanese, includes discussion of matters such as literature, philosophy, life style, and life in general, which might be called “culture.” However, your main focus should be language learning, namely your reading, listening comprehension, speaking, and writing skills. Through the study of history we are aiming to increase your skill level in all these areas. The idea is not to find out if you have acquired historical 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 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 you already mastered. Pay attention to your instructor’s corrections and feedback on your portfolio assignments.
  3. Kanji: The materials in Japanese 300 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 the Kanji Korner sections. Again, kanji learning consists of repetition, but be sure to learn them in compound 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 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.


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 and ask the instructor in Japanese what you do not understand. You should be able to read basic reading materials using approximately 500 essential characters. If you score above 30 in our reading proficiency test, you have at least sufficient reading skills to be successful in the course. However, the course will be quite challenging because the number of kanji covered is considerable. Non-natives will have difficulty in catching up to near-native proficiency.

Required Materials

The text Japanese History and Culture: Intermediate Reader was selected to help you improve your reading skills as well as give you the cultural and historical information you need in order to talk intelligently with Japanese natives. It also introduces kanji in a systematic way together with its companion text Toward Better Japanese (a text you should have used in Japan 202 or 221). By the time you finish these two texts, you should know 1,143 kanji, including jouyou kanji, and be able to read the same materials as educated Japanese natives, such as newspapers, short stories, and novels with the help of a dictionary.

The Morton text was selected to give a brief overview of Japanese history. This short text has sufficient information for you to obtain background information for the Japanese textbook. The information you read in English will supplement the Japanese reading articles you are required to read.

Intermediate Reader: Japanese History and Literature consists of four units. To master the materials covered in each unit, you will complete the assignments and exercises contained in the workbook, Intermediate Reader Workbook. After you complete each unit, you will take a Speedback exam.

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Lesson Organization

For each lesson in each unit, you should follow the following sequence of activities:

  1. Read the assignment from Japan: Its History and Culture and do the Morton quiz. Save your answers and send them to the instructor as part of your portfolio assignment for this unit.
  2. Read the article in the textbook using the guidelines on page ix of the text, Intermediate Reader: Japanese History and Literature
  3. Do the 内容質問, 感想質問, and 漢字問題1〜3 and send them to the instructor as part of your portfolio assignment for this unit.
  4. Take the kanji quiz without looking at the text or any supplementary materials. Print your work to submit as part of your portfolio assignment for each unit.
  5. Repeat the above steps for each lesson until the end of the unit. When you finish the last lesson in the unit, submit your portfolio assignment for the unit.
  6. After you receive corrections and feedback from the instructor, go over your mistakes and learn the correct usages. When you can confidently complete the writing assignments without looking at the text or any materials, you are ready to take the midcourse exam. Unit objectives at the beginning of each unit in Intermediate Reader: Japanese History and Literature will help you prepare and review for the test.

A successful study session will include the following sequences for each lesson:

  1. Practice reading along with the accompanying CD. In addition to the reading practice, any ambiguous parts in the meaning should be resolved.
  2. Practice reading for fluency without any help. After studying with the CD, you should be able to read the story in this book with no help: you should recognize all kanji except proper nouns and other special readings identified with hiragana.
  3. Practice writing kanji. After understanding the meaning of the kanji in sentences, you should practice writing them. Writing is the third step because it is often more productive to practice writing kanji after you can recognize and understand them.
  4. Apply these skills in conversations with native Japanese speakers. Also apply these skills while studying the workbook.

For your reference, here are the proper reading times, calculated from previous data on students' reading (in minutes). Practice so that you can read the stories within these times:

Lesson Title Minutes
L1 聖徳太子 7
L2 万葉集 9
L3 藤原道長 9
L4A 紫式部 8
L4B 清少納言 4
L5 源氏と平家 7
L6A 日蓮 10
L6B 神風 7
L7B 方丈記 9
L8A 織田信長 8
L8B 豊臣秀吉 6
L9A 徳川家康 9
L9B シーボルト 12
L10 江戸時代の俳諧 9
L11A 幕末と明治維新 6
L11B 文明開化 9
L12A 伊藤博文 8
L12B 板垣退助 6
L13A 君が代 5
L14A 戦後の日本 8
L14B 世界の中の日 本 10


Japanese is a difficult but fascinating language. You have chosen to take this course through independent study, which will require self-discipline and effort, yet give you more flexibility. You will find the tasks fairly simple once you start. To complete the course successfully, you should make a schedule balancing the coursework with employment and other activities. Spread out the work evenly over the time you have planned, and do the assignments as regularly as possible. I suggest that you plan to complete one article per week. If you do so you should finish this course in four months.

In each lesson, you will be given a quiz from Japan: Its History and Culture. You will type your answers to these quizzes in a word processing program (such as Microsoft Word), save them to your computer, and submit them with your portfolio when you are instructed to do so.

Each quiz is followed by a series of reading assignments and writing assignments. Most of the writing assignments ask you to print out a worksheet or write kanji out by hand. For these assignments, you will scan the completed worksheets and save them to your computer and then submit them when instructed.

After the assignments section in each lesson is a Self Check. These are brief quizzes that will not be graded, but they are there to help you test yourself on your mastery of the course material. Make sure you can answer all of the questions correctly in preparation for the Speedback and Final Exams.

At the end of each lesson is a Portfolio Assignment page, which is a summary of all the work you should have completed throughout the lesson. You should finish all assignments listed for the portfolio before you proceed to the next lesson. You will submit all portfolio components at the end of the unit.

The 作文 assignment involves writing your opinion about Japanese history and culture in Japanese after watching video clips on the CD. You may use a dictionary, but you are not allowed to consult others for help. Either computer word processing or handwriting is fine. If you use a computer, each response should be two pages double-spaced, in 12-point MS-Mincho font. Send the portfolio assignments as instructed below.

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Submitting Written Work

You will submit your completed portfolios to Independent Study electronically through your course. To make sure that I can open and read your paper, please save it as an rich text format (.RTF) file or Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file. For typed assignments, 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, “JAPAN302_RobertFranklin_MortonQuiz4.rtf.”
  5. Click Save.
  6. Submit the file through the appropriate assignment for grading.

For handwritten worksheets or similar assignments, follow these instructions:

  1. Use a scanner (your own if you have one, or you can take a trip to a nearby library) to scan all pages of your assignment onto your computer.
  2. Open the file you saved the image(s) to and right-click one of the icons.
  3. Save your image(s) as a PDF.
    1. If your assignment only has one page:
      1. Select “Convert to Adobe PDF”.
      2. When the PDF opens, click “File”, “Save As”.
    2. If it has multiple pages:
      1. Select “Combine Supported Files in Acrobat”.
      2. Drag and drop the files into the order you would like them to appear in the PDF.
      3. Click “Combine Files.”
    3. In the “Save As” box, name your assignment using your first name, your last name, and the assignment name. For example, “JAPAN302_RobertFranklin_Lesson11Assignment.pdf.”
  4. Submit the file through the appropriate assignment for grading.

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 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!


There are four mid-course exams at the end of each unit which covers materials from that unit. The final exam is multiple-choice format, like the mid-course exams, and includes listening comprehesion, kanji, and grammar.

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Your final course grade will be determined by a combination of the scores you receive on the instructor-graded portfolio assignments for each unit and the five examinations. The course components are assigned the following weights:

Portfolio Assignments
Unit 1 Portfolio 16% (4% each)
Unit 2 Portfolio 12% (4% each)
Unit 3 Portfolio 12% (4% each)
Unit 4 Portfolio 16% (4% each)
Four Midcourse Exams 28% (7% each)
Final Exam 16%
Total 100%
Grade Scale
A 100 93 C 76 73
A- 92 90 C- 72 70
B+ 89 87 D+ 69 67
B 86 83 D 66 63
B- 82 80 D- 62 60
C+ 79 77 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 t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at titleix.byu.edu/report 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 titleix.byu.edu 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.


4 computer-graded mid-course exams, one final exam; 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.

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