In this course we’ll try to come to terms with these questions as we view and discuss a number of films about Japan and its past. We’ll look at how different directors have conceptualized the nation and its history (Kurosawa’s epic portrayals of medieval Japan in Kagemusha and the Seven Samurai, for instance, or Mizoguchi’s rather different vision of the same era in Sanshô the Bailiff). We’ll consider filmmakers' attempts to address “difficult” topics (like World War II and the Occupation, as in Imamura Shôhei’s Black Rain or Kamei Fumio's A Japanese Tragedy), and we’ll read what historians have written about the same subjects. We’ll compare their strengths and weaknesses in order to judge how history changes as it moves from print to film and back again. And while we’ll see some samurai swashbucklers, the course will try to show that Japanese history isn’t just about swords and samurai.