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Nation, State and Security in Post-war Japanese Political Thought


Admission requirements

Bachelor’s level courses on Japanese politics and/or foreign policy would be helpful. A grounding in international relations theory and Japanese language skills would also be useful.


How do the citizens of a formally pacifist country that is allied with the strongest military power of all time, and separated from its neighbours by unpleasant memories of war and colonisation, conceive of the nature of their state, its national interests and its security policies? This course explores the relationship between nation, state and security in post-war Japanese political thought. It demonstrates in particular the contested nature of these concepts, and while it introduces works which treat debate on Japanese security policy as a series of consensuses, it tends to emphasise constant contestation between ideological groupings as a more satisfactory explanation for security policy developments in post-war Japan. It is designed for graduate students who preferably already have a sound grounding in Japanese politics and foreign policy.

The course is divided into four parts: Part One briefly introduces students to theoretical issues surrounding the notion of statehood before exploring the specific tensions, grounded in Japan’s experience of war, defeat and occupation, that continue to divide Japanese thinkers on the nature of their state, its interests and appropriate security policies; Part Two provides an overview of types of nationalism in Japan before outlining in turn each of the major strands of thought on the nature of the Japanese state and its interests; Part Three explains how contestation between the different strands of thought has come to influence the formation of such policy since 1960; and Part Four explores different issue areas, showing how domestic thought and discussion on the state and security affect Japan’s contemporary relations with its American ally and Asian neighbours.

Course objectives

Introduce students to the key actors, works and debates on security in postwar Japan.
Foster an understanding of the relationship between domestic discourse and security policy, both in Japan and beyond.
Develop critical thinking and writing skills.


The timetable is available on the Asianstudies website

Mode of instruction



280 hours total.

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours

  • 162 hours for compulsory reading.

  • 90 hours for assignments

Assessment method

  • Three Reading assignments

  • In-class presentation

  • One 4,000 word final essay

The end-term paper is written in two stages: a first version, which will be commented on, and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the final version, will get a failing grade.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the final assignment may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative topic. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same paper. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.

Exam Review

Students may request an oral elucidation of the assessment within 30 days after publication of the grade.


Blackboard for course announcements, course documents, and assignments.

Reading list

No core text. A reading list will be provided before the first class. Please read the compulsory materials for the first class before attending.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


Dr. Bryce Wakefield