Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

This course will give an overview of Japanese history, with an emphasis on the early modern period (1600-1867) and modern period (1868-1945), which are most important to understand the roots of contemporary Japan. The course will have an alternating two-fold structure. In one part we will analyse major developments on the macro-level of politics, international relations and economy. In the other part we will delve into the peripheral, the local and the individual by means of personal histories.

In class we cannot deal with everything. Moreover, we want to stress that history is not ‘one true story’ but rather a perpetual discussion between various competing interpretations. Accordingly, in class we will not re-enact what is already in the textbook. We will focus on a few selected issues which we consider most crucial to the understanding of early modern and modern Japan, and provide views that will encourage you to go beyond the one-sided interpretations (often presented as historical ‘facts’) in the textbooks.

With the exception of the first introductory class, the history up until 1600 of those isles that we nowadays call Japan will be predominantly delegated to the textbook, and thus implies self-study. The postwar and contemporary periods (1945-present) are covered in the course JAP1501 – Present-Day Japan.

Learning outcome

By means of the lectures, textbook readings, and the exams you will acquire:

  • an understanding of the most important political, international and economic developments in the various historical periods
  • an awareness of important continuities and discontinuities in Japanese history
  • insight into the micro-level of society by means of personal histories
  • a critical awareness that history is just as much about different interpretations as historical facts
  • further training in academic writing
  • further training in finding and using academic sources      


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Recommended previous knowledge

The classes will be taught in English and the textbooks and other readings will all be in English, so proficiency in the English language is required.

Overlapping courses

10 credits overlap with JAP1503 – Japans historie (discontinued)


The course consists of a dozen or so lecture classes, which convene on a weekly basis. 

Compulsory activities

  • At least 80 percent attendance

You are expected to participate actively in the classes. This does not merely imply that you need to prepare the various readings for each class, but also that you think while you read and formulate questions, and actively contribute to the discussions in class.

The obligatory 80 percent attendance is valid for the next two semesters that the course is taught. 

All compulsory activities must be approved in order to qualify for the exam. It is the student’s responsibility to check whether or not the compulsory activities are approved.

This is how you apply for valid absence from compulsory activities/compulsory attendance.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


The exam consists of two parts: a school exam of 2 hours, and a term paper of some 6 pages. Both exams make up 50% percent of the final mark. You must pass both parts of the exam: a fail for any of the two exams implies a fail for the course.

Former exams and grading guidelines

Written examination

The written examination is conducted in the digital examination system Inspera. You will need to familiarize yourself with the digital examination arrangements in Inspera.

Read more about written examinations using Inspera.

Submit assignments in Inspera

You submit your assignment in the digital examination system Inspera. Read more about how to submit assignments in Inspera.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Examination support material

You are allowed to use English dictionaries.

Language of examination

The exam text will be in English. You can respond in English or Norwegian. You can write your term paper in either English or Norwegian.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

If you fail one of the part of the exam, you need to take both parts the next semester, in order to pass the course. Both parts of the exam (term paper and written exam) need to be passed the same semester.

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Periodic evaluation Fall 2019

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language