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What type of computing environment do I need for this course?

The course was tested on recent versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. We’ve found some bugs in assessments that occur on Safari, and do not recommend using it.

While it is possible to access the course on tablet and other mobile devices, some parts of the course do not function, and it is recommended that you take the course on a laptop or desktop in order to have full functionality.

What is the format of the class?

The class consists of lecture videos from primary Professors John Dower and Andrew Gordon, with additional participation by Professors Shigeru Miyagawa and Gennifer Weisenfeld. Lectures are followed by assessments.

What kind of assessments are there?

There are two categories of graded assessments in this course, and several types of ungraded assessments.

Graded assessments include comprehension questions and image-based analysis questions. Comprehension questions are either multiple-choice questions, which have one correct answer, or checkbox questions, which have two or more correct answers.

Image-based analyses will ask you to look closely at visual images and answer questions that follow. Some will require you to manipulate images directly, while others will ask you to answer multiple-choice questions.

Ungraded assessments include polls, discussion boards and image annotations, as well as large-scale gallery sort exercises. These assignments are open-ended, and ask you to submit a word or comment. While these are not required, these assignments allow you to engage with other students and will be moderated by a teaching fellow.

How do I navigate the course?

Start with “Course.” Click to open a section. Click on the “Day.” Click across icons on the “ribbon” to go through the material. Complete the work on each page. Each day’s work will take up to one hour. You can adjust video play speed in the video player.  You can turn the captions on and off, and download the transcripts and videos.

What do the blue clocks mean?

Everything that is graded has a blue clock icon next to it. If the item also has a deadline, that is listed right below.

How do I see the right answers?

‘Check’ will submit your answer for points. If you’re stumped you can click ‘show answer’, but you will forfeit your points. If you click ‘show answer’ before clicking ‘check’, you will receive 0 points.

How does grading work?

To pass this course, you will need to attain a course average of at least 60 percent. Students who pass the course on the verified track will receive a verified certificate upon completion. These certificates will be issued a few days after the course closes.  The course closes on November 4th, 2016 at 12:00 (UTC), so if you want a certificate you will need to have 60% or higher by that time. Please note that you will not receive a certificate for completing this course on the free audit track, but you are welcome to upgrade anytime before the verification upgrade deadline on October 21st, 2016.  

Assessments in this course vary from simple multiple-choice questions, image-based analysis, and more open-ended assignments such as polls, word clouds, and discussion boards. Each module ends with a final quiz worth 8% of the final course score, and there is a final quiz worth 12% of the final score. There are also many more questions appearing after videos, etc. in the 25 days of the course.   Not all of these questions in each day are graded, but in general each question counts towards your score for that day.  Each day counts for 1/25th of the remaining 64% of the course grade, so roughly 2.5% for each day's questions For more details about assessments, please see the FAQ.

Will the text of the lectures be available?

Yes, transcripts of the course will be made available alongside each video.

How much does it cost to take the course?

The course is free, and all necessary materials will be provided.

Will certificates be awarded?

Verified certificates will be awarded to learners who earn a passing grade on the verified track of this course. If you would like to receive a certificate, please make sure you have upgraded to the verified track before the upgrade deadline October 21st, 2016. These certificates will indicate you have successfully completed the course, but will not include a specific grade. Certificates will be issued by edX under the name of MITx, designating the institution from which the course originated.

To pass this course, you will need to attain a course average of at least 60 percent. These certificates can be issued after you have completed enough of the course to get one, but must be completed prior to the course close on November 4th, 2016.  X-Series certificates will be available later on, and we will add more information here when we learn more from edX about the issue dates for the X-Series Certificates.

What is the content of the course?

This co-taught course looks at Japanese history and the skills and questions involved in reading history through images now accessible in digital formats. The course is based on the MIT "Visualizing Cultures" website devoted to image-driven research on Japan and China since the 19th century ( The course considers methodologies historians use to “visualize” the past and explores the themes of Westernization, in Commodore Perry’s 1853-54 expedition to Japan; social protest, in Tokyo’s 1905 Hibiya Riot; and modernity, as seen in the archives of the major Japanese cosmetics company, Shiseido.

Introduction: New Historical Sources for a Digital Age (Professors Dower, Gordon, Miyagawa). Digitization has dramatically altered historians' access to primary sources, making large databases of the visual record readily accessible. How is historical methodology changing in response to this seismic shift? How can scholars, students, and the general public make optimal use of these new digital resources?

Black Ships & Samurai (Professor Dower), parts 1 and 2. Commodore Matthew Perry's 1853-54 expedition to force Japan to open its doors to the outside world is an extraordinary moment to look at by examining and comparing the visual representations left to us by both the American and Japanese sides of this encounter. This module also addresses the rapid Westernization undertaken by Japan in the half century following the Perry mission.

Social Protest in Imperial Japan: The Hibiya Riot of 1905 (Professor Gordon). The dramatic daily reports from participants in the massive "Hibiya Riot" in 1905, the first major social protest in the age of "imperial democracy" in Japan, offer a vivid and fresh perspective on the contentious domestic politics of an emerging imperial power.

Modernity in Interwar Japan: Shiseido & Consumer Culture (Professors Dower, Gordon, Weisenfeld). Exploring the vast archives of the Shiseido cosmetics company opens a fascinating window on the emergence of consumer culture, modern roles for women, and global cosmopolitanism from the 'teens through the 1920s and even into the era of Japanese militarism and aggression in the 1930s. This module will also tap other Visualizing Cultures units on modernization and modernity.


We want to stress that this course will not provide a comprehensive survey of Japan's modern history. It studies history through visual sources as presented in three units published on Visualizing Cultures. This means that certain important and sensitive topics, such as Japan's imperial aggression in East and Southeast Asia, will not receive much attention.

Please also note that we expect all students to participate with respect for one another. It is important to recognize that by showing certain images or discussing certain topics, we do not endorse the views or opinions they present. Rather, we seek to understand the complexity of the past, even when the past is distasteful or offensive to us in the present. This course does not reflect the views of Harvard University, MIT, HarvardX, MITx, EdX or Visualizing Cultures.

Are there follow ups to this course?

Yes! You can sign up for “Visualizing Postwar Tokyo,” a two-part course by UTokyoX. You can find part one here, and part two here. This course will take up many of the themes from “Visualizing Japan” as it explores Tokyo’s postwar history through film, photography, and other visual media.

What if I still have questions?

For edX technical questions, please contact edX technical support.

MITx requires individuals who enroll in its courses on edX to abide by the terms of the edX honor code. MITx will take appropriate corrective action in response to violations of the edX honor code, which may include dismissal from the MITx course; revocation of any certificates received for the MITx course; or other remedies as circumstances warrant. No refunds will be issued in the case of corrective action for such violations. If you have any questions or concerns, please report your experience through the edX contact form.