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Arts and Material Culture of Japan


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.


This course explores Japanese art from the sixth century CE through the twenty-first century. The first half of the course focuses on early to medieval Japan, and the second part covers early modern to contemporary Japan. Throughout the course, the focus is on selected case studies of art objects: Buddhist architecture and sculpture, paintings produced for the court and military rulers, popular prints, modern painting and contemporary art. The course introduces methods for describing and analysing objects within their cultural and social contexts. We will explore what the stylistic, material and other features of objects can tell us about their functions at the time when they were made. We will develop an insight into the role of art in supporting and also in contesting the power of political and cultural elites.

Course objectives

Students train their visual memory and skills in identifying and describing objects

  • Students learn to interpret the meanings of objects by situating them into their contemporary cultural and historical contexts

  • Students develop an understanding of the historical development of Japanese art in four broad historical sections: early and aristocratic Japan, medieval Japan, early modern Japan, modern and contemporary Japan


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method


Written examinations with short open questions and essay questions.


  • Mid-term Exam (50%)

  • Final Exam (50%)

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average of midterm and final exam.


Combined Resit: The resit examination covers the entire material of the course and the grade will replace all previously earned marks.

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

Readings for the first part of the course will be posted on Brightspace.

The textbook for the second part of the course is:

  • Christine Guth, Art of Edo Japan, Yale University Press, 2010


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

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

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: Vrieshof


Language: English