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Focus 5a+6: Tokugawa Japan: culture, religion, art and literature in early-modern political history


Admission requirements

One or two of the following courses required

  • Paramore BA1 History of Japan to 1868

  • Paramore BA2 Histories of Japanese Society or other 2nd year course.


This third year level course looks at the culture, society and history of pre-twentieth century Japan, with a particular focus on the production and utilization of culture, religion, art and literature through the Tokugawa period. The first semester component examines a range of aspects of the social, political, intellectual, cultural and religious histories of Japan, focusing on the interaction between Japan and the rest of the world. The second semester, while gradually introducing readings from Japanese materials, also allows students the opportunity to diversify and specialize in their own area of interest. Students progressing to the 2nd semester will thereby be able to begin to research the period of history, and the social, cultural, intellectual or religious aspect they are individually interested in.

The course is broken into 6 × 2 week periods. In each two week period we read together 3 different kinds of literature. We read: (1) an example of political history, (2) of social history, and (3) a source from the Tokugawa period (a play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon) . In our discussion we look at how each of these readings interact with each other and what they tell us about Japanese society during this period and about the different ways it has been historically, academically and culturally represented.

Course objectives

This course will give students a good understanding of a range of facets of life in Tokugawa Japan and show how those facets link into our understanding of the development of East Asian and world history during this period.
The course will also work towards developing the research and writing skills that students will require for completion of a BA thesis in the 2nd semester.
One aim of the course is therefore to equip the students progressing to the 2nd semester with the knowledge and skills necessary to initiate their own graduation project in the second semester on a topic of their choice relating to this period.


See: timetable

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

  • Mid-term Literature Review 25%

  • Presentation 15%

  • Participation 10%

  • Debate 5%

  • Final Paper 45%



Reading list

A range of exemplary secondary readings on early-modern Japanese society, and a range of primary source materials, notably translations of the dramatic works (Kabuki) of Chikamatsu Monzaemon.


Enrollment via uSis mandatory.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

dr. K. Paramore