nl en

SOSCI Seminar Politics, Political Economy and International Relations of Japan


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students. Students must have successfully completed their propedeuse, two BA2 seminars and the course Texts IIb.

Admission to a cluster seminar happens only through application via the head of the programme board or coordinator of studies.


How does Japan’s position in East Asia, its constitutional commitment to pacifism, issues of war memory, and its alliance with the world’s largest military power affect its domestic politics and foreign affairs? How did the Abe Shinzo administration change the direction of Japan’s foreign policy, transforming Japan to make it more ‘normal’? Is Japan ‘back’ as a reliable alliance partner to the US and as ‘Asia’s liberal leader’ or is Japan in decline relative to China’s rise and beset by an ageing population and debt? This course will examine events and issues crucial to understanding the politics, economics, and international relations of Japan from a number of perspectives.
The course opens by focusing on the questions of Japan in decline versus being rejuvenated under Prime Minister Abe. Next the issue of whether Japan can be considered to be a ‘normal’ state and how debates about this shifted under Abe. The subsequent sessions all tackle a key policy area for Japan’s international relations. The emphasis in these sessions is to assess both change and continuity in Japan’s international relations over the course of the Abe administration.
Language component:
At this stage of the curriculum, we will take the next step from reading, translating and understanding short newspaper texts (2 to 5 pages), as was practised in the BA2 year, to developing skills in cursory and comprehensive reading of longer, academic texts (depending on the topic, between 6 and 15 pages). The three main goals will be to learn to determine and to analyze the author's aim, argumentation and conclusion of his/her academic essay, to write a short, academic report of this analysis, and to add your own comments to this. The topics of the texts will connect to or even match the the topics of the content component as much as possible.

Course objectives

Content component:
1. To develop an understanding of and be able to assess key debates on the international relations of Japan.
2. To enhance critical reading and writing skills through written assignments and class discussion.
3. To develop coherent and clear presentation skills.

Language component:
1. To develop skills in how to approach texts that are too long and difficult to read and translate them line by line.
2. To develop skills in cursory reading which in effect means that you will learn to distinguis those parts of a text that require close reading versus those parts of a text that can be skipped without the risk of losing control over the text.
3. To develop skills in applying academic conventions and using relevant instruments required for the understanding of Japanese academic texts.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


  • Participation element (attendance of minimally 70%): 10% for both language and content seminars

  • Webposts/seminar leading exercise (text component): 30%

  • Webposts/seminar leading exercise (content component): 30%

  • Essay (2000 words): 30%

The final grade for the course is established by determination of the weighted average.
To receive a passing grade, you** have to obtain a passing grade for all components**.


There is no resit for the participation element:

  • If you miss more than 30% of sessions, you cannot successfully finish this seminar;

  • Students have to write and post at least 4 webposts for the text component of the course and 4 webposts for the content component of the course.

  • Everyone will receive feedback on their seminar leading exercise, but students do not have an opportunity to redo their seminar leading exercise. Instead, students are expected to use this feedback to improve their research and incorporate it into their essay.
    The resit for the essay takes the format of a first draft and final version. After submitting a draft for the first deadline, you will receive feedback and may always rewrite your draft for a final version. This rewritten version counts as the resit for the final paper.

Inspection and feedback
How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

Content component:
Readings will be provided later on the syllabus. There is no set textbook for this course.

Language component:
Readings and supporting documents and instructions will be provided 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.