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Nation, State and Security in Post-war Japanese Political Thought (ResMA)


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Asia Studies (research). Interested students of other MA programmes are kindly referred to the regular MA course.

Bachelor’s level courses on Japanese politics and/or foreign policy would be helpful. A grounding in international relations theory and Japanese language skills would also be useful.


How do the citizens of a formally pacifist country that is allied with the strongest military power of all time, and separated from its neighbours by unpleasant memories of war and colonisation, conceive of the nature of their state, its national interests and its security policies? This course explores the relationship between nation, state and security in post-war Japanese political thought. It demonstrates in particular the contested nature of these concepts, and while it introduces works which treat debate on Japanese security policy as a series of consensuses, it tends to emphasise constant contestation between ideological groupings as a more satisfactory explanation for security policy developments in post-war Japan. It is designed for graduate students who preferably already have a sound grounding in Japanese politics and foreign policy.

The course is divided into four parts: Part One briefly introduces students to theoretical issues surrounding the notion of statehood before exploring the specific tensions, grounded in Japan’s experience of war, defeat and occupation, that continue to divide Japanese thinkers on the nature of their state, its interests and appropriate security policies; Part Two provides an overview of types of nationalism in Japan before outlining in turn each of the major strands of thought on the nature of the Japanese state and its interests; Part Three explains how contestation between the different strands of thought has come to influence the formation of such policy since 1960; and Part Four explores different issue areas, showing how domestic thought and discussion on the state and security affect Japan’s contemporary relations with its American ally and Asian neighbours.

Course objectives

  • Introduce students to the key actors, works and debates on security in postwar Japan.

  • Foster an understanding of the relationship between domestic discourse and security policy, both in Japan and beyond.

  • Develop critical thinking and writing skills.


Check the Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and participation are mandatory.

Course load

280 hours total.

  • Seminars: 2 hours per week x 14 weeks = 28 hours

  • Tutorial sessions for ResMA students = 6 hours

  • 156 hours for compulsory reading.

  • 90 hours for assignments

Assessment method

Three Reading assignments 30%
In-class presentation 20%
One 4,000 word final essay 50%

The end-term paper is written in two stages: a first version, which will be commented on, and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the final version, will get a failing grade.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher. A new version of the final assignment may be written if the overall mark for the course is “5.49” (=5) or lower. If students take this option, they must choose an alternative topic. They will not be permitted to resubmit the same paper. The deadline for this version will be determined in consultation.

The course is an integrated whole. All categories must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.

Reading list

No core text. A reading list will be provided before the first class. Please read the compulsory materials for the first class before attending.

Additional reading for the ResMA students will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ field(s) of interest. This extra literature will be discussed during the (extra) tutorial sessions.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the ‘Registration procedures for classes and examinations’ for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Studeren à la carte nor Contractonderwijs is possible for this course.


Dr. Bryce Wakefield.


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).