Due to the Corona virus it is unclear how the programmes will take place. For the latest news please check the course page in Blackboard/Brightspace.


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Focus 5a+6: Japanese Fascism I


Admission requirements

For Japanse Studies majors: At least one successfully completed BA2 focus in Japanese history or a closely related discipline (for example sociology).
For non-majors: Successful completion of BA1 Introduction to Modern Japanese History or equivalent.


In the 15 years between 1931 and 1945, imperial Japan pursued aggressive military expansion in Asia and social, political, and economic “renovation” at home. Japan’s bid to solve its modern crisis and become “Asia’s Leader” culminated in a disastrous military defeat at the hands of the Allied Powers. The experience had profound consequences for Japan, for its Asian neighbors, and for Japan’s relationship with the wider world, and continues to haunt the present. What drove Japan to follow this ambitious and destructive course? What were the roles of the military, the state, the business community, the media, intellectuals, the masses in country and city? Did Japan go to war because its society was not “modern” or “Westernized” enough, or rather as a result of its very modernity? How much can we learn by comparing the Japanese experience with that of its wartime allies, fascist Italy and Nazi Germany? To what extent was Japan’s experience a product and expression of global developments, trends, and relationships? What exactly is “fascism,” and is this a useful way of describing and explaining what happened in Japanese society and culture in the1930s and 40s? Sixty years on, there remains little consensus on any of these questions, but there are few issues of history that continue to inspire more passion and controversy. For to unravel the mystery of wartime Japan is, in many ways, to unravel the mystery of modern Japan itself. Seen in a broader, comparative perspective, the experience of wartime Japan can also cast light onto more general patterns and processes of 20th-century history. In this course we explore some of the leading international and domestic scholarly works on wartime Japan, and the debates to which they have contributed. In the process we shall attempt to formulate our own answers to the “what” and the “why” of wartime Japan.

Course objectives

The development of:
—a basic knowledge of Japan’s social, political and cultural dynamics in the period of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945) as part of a broader understanding of modern history generally.
—experience and insight into the contemporary challenges, approaches, sources and methods of research into (comparative) modern political, social, and cultural history.
—an awareness of the inherently political, subjective, and controversial nature of history-writing (historiography).
—skills in the critical reading of academic texts, and in written and oral presentations on academic subjects.


Fridays 11-13

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Participation element (attendance,participation, presentation): 30%
Review element (review essay): 20%
Research element (research essay): 30%
Summative element (webpostings / resit exam): 20%


Yes, Blackboard.

Reading list

Course Reader available at Studiepunt Letteren.


Via Usis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the “Study in Leiden” website: http://www.leiden.edu/studyinleiden/sap/application.html for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. E Mark