This is honestly one of the best classes I have taken at Columbia. I left with a good grasp of Japan's history and its story of economic development. I felt as though I learned really practical things, like how Japan's financial crisis was different from the United States, why Japan's debt is not as bad as it looks, things that you could mention in a conversation and that anyone looking to go into the financial sector/economics should know at least loosely. It's also really interesting to learn about samurai and the political structures in Japan over time.

Also, Professor Weinstein is the rare combination of renowned professor (advises govt institutions, Japan etc), good person who is actually very approachable and cares that his students do well, and good lecturer who actually explains concepts well. Best Econ Professor I've had so far.

A few notes:
There is math but it's honestly not terrible as long as you go to lecture. I got a B+ in Calc 3 and I was still totally okay. The midterm had a lot of math BUT the final had none so it balanced out. Just be sure to go over all the math before exams (versus spending lots of time on history).

The paper was super time consuming BUT it's not difficult, more grunt work based. The bulk of the work is finding your data and then deciding on your topic. The analysis itself is pretty simple (no need to run regressions), and I became pretty well-versed in my topic. They're not expecting a ground-breaking paper from undergrads. Also, the TAs are very nice about helping you with finding and translating data (definitely go to Tanya's OH if you can).

GO TO LECTURE!! The textbooks are pretty much worthless in catching up on what you missed. I only read the papers he mentioned, attended almost all the classes and I ended up with an A. So if you're going to pick one or the other, don't read but do attend the lectures.

Overall: Best econ elective I've taken, crunch time at the end was worth it for the very little work during the semester.
You won't regret taking it!!

Workload:

Not an easy class but also definitely manageable
There is no day to day work and you just have to buckle down for the midterm, paper and final
Psets - 4 spread across the semester, definitely prefer having them because it was good practice of bond pricing etc for the midterm and for finding data for the paper
Reading - you can get by without doing the reading BUT you must attend all lectures and read the papers he mentions during class (just a handful)
Paper - It's a lot. If you don't start at least a week in advance you're pretty much screwed (its time consuming more than it is difficult so it's important to budget accordingly).
Tldr: good for a student who wants to learn about Japan, likes very concentrated amounts of work, and attends lecture