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SOSCI Seminar Performing Arts of Japan


Admission requirements

This course is only accessible for BA Japanstudies students.


Tradition, diversity and authenticity

This course surveys the worlds of Japanese performing arts, focusing on the question of what counts as “authentically Japanese”, and why. Japanese traditional theater and music are often defined in opposition to Western and folk repertoires, but this dichotomy is both inaccurate and outdated. In actuality, the traditional repertoires are dazzlingly varied, spanning from local festivals to courtly banquets, spiritual practices, political satire and grandiose theatrical spectacle. The course uses case studies from the entire archipelago and across Japanese borders to highlight processes of inclusion and exclusion, canonization and transformation. The goal is to explore art’s power to unmask the social construction of the categories of authenticity and tradition. Qualitative research methods from anthropology and sociology are used to show the interrelation of Japanese performing arts and their cultural context. Topics will include the music of Hokkaido and the Ryukyu islands; rural festivals; women’s narrative traditions; taiko drumming; shakuhachi music; and contemporary “classical” works for traditional instruments.

In Blok 4, students will conduct independent research (the ‘Japanproject’) in consultation with the instructor.

Course objectives

The main objective of this course is to introduce students to a variety of Japanese performing arts. At the end of the course, students will be able to place traditional and contemporary Japanese performing arts in their historical context and discuss both synchronic and diachronic performance patterns. Students will also become familiar with key issues and concepts in the anthropological study of performance, music, and dance. The course will help students refining academic skills, including group presentations; locating academic sources in English and Japanese; planning a simple fieldwork activity; writing field notes and academic papers.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Assessment method


  • Participation element (attendance, active participation, postings): 40%

  • Analytical element (group presentation): 20%

  • Research element (proposal and research paper 2,000-2,500 words): 40%


The final grade is the weighted average of all the elements. In order to pass the course, all elements need to receive a passing grade.


There are no ‘resits’ for the participation element. Two deadlines will be provided for the submission of the 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

The required readings are either available on the digital course bookshelf or on Brightspace. Before the start of the course, students are encouraged to read:

Abe, Marié. 2021. “Japan.” In Excursions in World Music, edited by Timothy Rommen and Bruno Nettl, 8th ed., 174–210. New York; London: Routledge.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • 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.