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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. The issues surrounding such notions as ‘mainstream’, ‘exotic’, and ‘normal’, are then contextualized by considering Japan’s entry into a Western international society from the Meiji era on and the ramifications of defeat in WWII for post-war Japan. 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 island disputes, nuclear weapons and energy, Okinawa and anti-base movements, 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 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 fieldwork assignment. Students will have an opportunity to make an appointment with the instructor (in person or remotely) to discuss their grade.

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

Kingston, Jeff. 2019. Critical Issues in Contemporary Japan. London: Routledge.

For additional readings, see the Syllabus on Brightspace.


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

Registration Studeren à la carte en 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.