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SOSCI Seminar Japanese Politics and International Relations


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students.


How can we conduct research on Japanese politics and international relations? How have practitioners and scholars debated what Japan’s role in the world should be and how have these debates evolved over time? How are Japanese people impacted by global politics and how have they sought to influence or resist the issues that affect them? How do Japanese politics and international relations impact other states and communities around the world? This course introduces conceptual, theoretical, and methodological tools to answer such questions.
The seminar sessions begin by engaging with the question of whether Japanese politics can be understood as ‘mainstream or exotic’ and how this question relates to debates about Japan becoming a ‘normal’ state. We then turn to the end of the Cold War and debates about Japan’s economic and security responsibilities and contributions to the liberal world order. From then on, the course examines a number of key issues in contemporary Japanese politics and international relations, including gender and the Japanese military, island disputes, nuclear weapons and energy, the 3/11 disaster, and war memory. The seminar sessions conclude by asking about our role as scholars of Japanese politics and international relations when conducting and writing up our research.
The seminar sessions will equip students with the necessary tools and knowledge to undertake a fieldwork research assignment while residing in Japan (the “Japan Project”). Students will write a fieldwork proposal beforehand and stay in contact with the instructor. Regular contact with the instructor is maintained via emails, webposts and/or skype meetings. The purpose of the webposts/skype meetings is to keep track of the student’s progress towards their final project.
Students not traveling to Japan will carry out the project in The Netherlands and will work on an activity related to the course, agreed upon in consultation with the instructor.

Course objectives

By the end of this course, students will:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of key issues, concepts, methodological and theoretical approaches in the study of Japanese politics and international relations.

  • Critically evaluate debates on Japanese politics and international relations.

  • Apply key concepts, methodological and theoretical approaches in a research project.

  • Refine academic skills, such as presentations, locating academic sources in English and Japanese, planning a simple fieldwork activity, writing field notes, reports, and academic papers.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation element (attendance, active participation, web postings, presentation): 40%
Analytical element (written fieldwork proposal 1,000 words): 20%
Research element (fieldwork assignment): 40%

The final grade is established by determining the weighted average of all elements. In order to pass the course, all elements must receive a passing grade (6 or higher).

There are no ‘resits’ for the participation element. Two deadlines will be provided for the submission of the analytical and research elements. Students will have an opportunity to make an appointment with the instructor (in person or remotely) to discuss their grade.

Reading list

Kingston, Jeff. 2019. Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan. London: Routledge.
For additional readings, see the Syllabus on Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Vrieshof


Not applicable.