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Contemporary Japanese Politics and International Relations


Admission requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for this course. Non-major Japanstudies students will also be admitted so long as there is seating available.


What is Japanese politics? Is it different from politics elsewhere? Who determines Japan’s foreign policy? What normative and structural opportunities and constraints determine how actors influence the direction of Japanese politics and international relations? How have Japan’s politics and international relations evolved over time and what are the key issues and events that shape contemporary Japanese politics and international relations? Which theoretical approaches and concepts are helpful in understanding contemporary Japanese politics and international relations? In this course, we will explore these questions and more through a series of interactive lectures.
The course begins by examining Japan’s ‘entry’ into a Janus-faced European International Society. We explore the nexus between imperialism, pan-Asianism, and internationalism that shaped Japan’s international relations from the Meiji era to the early Shōwa period. The next two sessions focus on the aftermath of WWII and Japan’s subsequent economic rise under the ‘1955 system’. Sessions four and five cover the end of the Cold War, the burst of Japan’s economic bubble, political and postal reform, and Japan’s commitment to the liberal international order. Sessions six to eight cover the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administrations from 2009-2012, during which the Okinawa base relocation, 3/11 disaster, and Senkaku/Daioyu island dispute were key issues in Japan’s politics and international relations. The remaining sessions focus on human rights and demographics, press freedom and Constitutional Revision, non-state actors and Abenomics, and finally environmental politics. Throughout the course, students will learn about key issues, norms, actors, and institutions that shape Japan’s politics and international relations, as well as the concepts and theoretical approaches that help us make sense of how Japanese politics and international relations works.

Course objectives

  • Acquire fundamental knowledge about key issues, norms, actors, and institutions in contemporary Japanese politics and international relations.

  • Acquire an understanding of and be able to explain central concepts and theoretical approaches relevant to the study of Japanese politics and international relations.

  • Develop a critical awareness of Japanese politics and international relations as constructed, multiple, political, and dynamic.

  • Learn how to read academic literature, identify and explain key arguments, and develop the ability to synthesize assigned reading materials.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Exams with open and closed questions
Weekly Assignments

Mid-term Examination (40%)
Final Examination (40%)
Weekly Assignments (20%)

All partial elements (both exams and assignments) of the course must be passed to receive a passing grade for the course. The course grade will be based on the weighted average of all course elements, with the condition that all partial elements must have been completed successfully to receive a passing grade.

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).

Students whose combined average of the Mid-term and Final Exams is below a passing mark will be administered a combined resit examination (hertentamen) covering the entire course material. The outcome of the combined resit supersedes earlier results on the midterm and final exams. Students who pass the resit must also receive a passing grade for the weekly assignments in order to pass the course.

Inspection and Feedback
Students may make an individual appointment with the instructor within 30 days of the announcement of the exam grades in order to view their exam.

Reading list

Neary, I. 2019. The State and Politics in Japan. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Additional readings are on reserve in the library and most readings are available digitally in Brightspace.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte.
Registration Contractonderwijs.


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

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: [Naam Onderwijsadministratie](link naar contactgegevens OA)


This course is an ‘aanvullende eis’, in other words, a required element of the BA Japanstudies. Students enrolled in the BA Japanstudies program must pass this course in order to proceed to the second year of their studies.