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Focus 1+2: International Relations of Japan


Admission requirements

Some background in Contemporary East Asian politics and international relations would be beneficial, such as completion of the BA1 ‘East Asia in the Cold War Order’ or ‘Political Economy of Japan’ course.


Japan is often described as an ‘economic giant, but a political pygmy’ and not a ‘normal state’ in the field of International Relations. Whilst policy makers and analysts focused on Japan’s economic rise since the 1960s, recent literature has highlighted Japan’s growing political and security role in global affairs since the end of the Cold War. Japan’s evolving role can be perceived both in terms of Japan’s attempt to gain a security council seat at the UN, as well as in the participation of Japan’s Self-Defence Force (SDF) in Peace Keeping Operations (PKOs). Yet, Japan’s contemporary international relations are constrained by a variety of factors and forces including Japan’s Pacifist Constitution, Japan’s security and economic relationship with the US, and historical animosities between Japan and its neighbours. Understanding how these factors and forces operate is the key to interpreting the complexities of Japan’s international relations.

This module is divided into five sections. The first section provides an overview of Japan’s international relations and outlines how the theoretical tools of structure, agency and norms, together with the ‘mainstream’ International Relations theories, can help explain Japan’s international relations. In the second to fourth sections, students will develop their understanding of foreign policy analysis to examine Japan’s contemporary economic, political and security relations with the United States, East Asia, Europe and global institutions. The course concludes by discussing the future of Japan’s international relations in terms of globalization and regionalism.

The issues addressed in this course will have relevance to a number of disciplines. Students should draw on previous work they have done in other academic fields and demonstrate their knowledge in seminars, as well as in their assessed work. It is also hoped that students will apply the knowledge they gain through studying theories and issues in the international relations of Japan to other courses they are taking.

Students are expected to use additional sources to those in the suggested reading list and to keep up-to-date with current affairs through reading newspapers, relevant internet sites and online journals.

Course objectives

This module aims to provide a critical examination of key issues and processes related to the international relations of Japan. The focus of this module is on developments since World War Two, but with a particular emphasis on the post-Cold War period. By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the complex issues and processes related to Japan’s political, economic and security relations.

  • Apply conceptual tools to analyze key events and processes in the international relations of Japan.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts on Japan’s international relations, and participate in class debates.


Check Rooster under Links on the first page of the Japanese Studyguide 2010-2011

Mode of instruction

Lecturers and seminars

Course load

  • 24 Hours of classes

  • 72 Hours of reading and web post responses/class preparation (6 hours per week over 12 weeks)

  • 24 Hours to complete the Research Essay

  • 10 Hours to prepare for the debate

  • 10 Hours to prepare for the Essay Plan

Total: 140 Hours for 5 ECTS

Assessment method

  • Participation element (incl. attendance, participation, debate, and pop quiz): 40%

  • Analytical element (essay plan (1,000 words)): 20%

  • Research element (research essay (2,000-2,500 words)): 40%


  • A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on blackboard the week before the start of the semester.

  • Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc…) will also be found on blackboard over the course of the semester.
    Students are also required to submit five web posts (short responses to seminar questions based on the weekly readings) over the course of the semester.

Reading list

  • Hook, Glenn, D., Gilson, Julie, Hughes, Christopher, W., and Dobson, Hugo. 2005. Japan’s International Relations – Politics, Economics and Security. London and New York: Routledge.

  • Berger, T., Mochizuki, M. and Tsuchiyama, J. (Eds.). 2007. Japan in International Politics – The Foreign Policies of an Adaptive State. Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner.

  • Smith, Steve. Hadfield, Amelia. Dunne, Tim. 2008. Foreign Policy Analysis – Theories, Actors, Cases. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Enrollment via uSis is mandatory, for more information about enrollment check Links on the first page of the Japanese Studyguide 2010-2011

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

Enrollment for A la carte:
Enrollment for Contractonderwijs:

Contact information

For further information about the course, please contact Dr. L. Black

Room 008, Het Arsenaal
Office Hours: Wednesday 15:00-17:00
Alternative times are by appointment only


This course provides a solid foundation in Foreign Policy Analysis upon which students can build in the BA2 second semester International Relations of China course and BA3 Regionalism and Regionalization in the International Relations of East Asia courses. Students may also be interested in taking the BA2 ‘Modern Chinese Economy A’ and ‘Government and Politics in Modern China’ courses.