In this course we will treat Japan's economy as a laboratory that allows us to to put modern economic theory to a rigorous empirical test. By exploiting Japan's unique geography, history and institutions students will learn how to use natural economic experiments -- like Japan's almost complete transition from autarky to free trade at the end of the 19th century -- to test some of the most well-known economic concepts such as the theory of comparative advantage. Students will learn about several influential economic theories and how their implications can be used to construct empirical tests that try to establish the causal relationships predicted by these theories in the specific regional context of Japan.
The course will follow a two-part structure: In the first half of the term we are going to learn in a weekly lecture about several natural economic experiments that feature prominently in economic literature on Japan. By focusing on these examples students will develop a comprehensive understanding of modern economic theory, which allows them to derive testable predictions and to interpret the outcomes of several quasi-natural experiments from Japan. In the second half of the term students will then have the opportunity to select from a range of recent economic research articles, which will serve as the basis for a presentation and a term paper in which students can demonstrate their newly acquired skills.
Grading will be equally based on a presentation in class and on the final term paper.