Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Aafke van Ewijk

PhD Candidate

A. van Ewijk MA
+31 71 527 1350

Fields of interest

Early modern Japanese literature and visual culture, cultural memory

PhD research

Memory, modernity and children’s literature in nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan: Legendary warriors as modern icons in popular literature and curriculum

Supervisors: Prof. dr. Ivo Smits, Dr. Ewa Machotka. 

This project revisits from a new angle the creation of national memory during the formation of the modern nation-state in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Japan. It pays special attention to a largely neglected field in existing histories of the forging of a modern Japan, namely children’s literature. The project focuses specifically on the use of popular legends from the early modern period (or Edo period, 1600-1868) in modern children’s literature that appeared around the end of the nineteenth century. While the modern nation-state tended to present the Edo period as a historical phase that needed to be overcome, it also made use of early modern images and stories that had the advantage of being recognizably ‘Japanese’ for all citizens of the new Japan.

Notions of the child and pre-adolescent masculinity/femininity form the first yet often overlooked chapter in any narrative of modern national identity. This project aims to write that first chapter by analysing both the image and text of the modern and early modern literature itself, and asks how notions of ‘the child’ and its proper disposition as a future modern citizen are both created within children’s modern reading material as well as in the discourse on children’s reading. Furthermore, the project will show how early modern illustrated books, a genre that was discarded by intellectuals of the time played a formative role in the creation of a modern, national children’s literature.



M.A. (cum laude) Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East (research), Leiden University, 2013. 
B.A. Japanese Language and Culture, Leiden University, 2011. 
B.Des. Art and Communication Design, ArtEZ Institute of the Arts, Enschede, 2007.  


  • Isaac Alfred Ailion Foundation PhD Fellowship, 2016-2021
  • MEXT Scholarship (Japanese Ministry of Education), 2014-2016 
  • MEXT Scholarship, 2010-2011

PhD Candidate

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Japan

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 2
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 2.06a


External PhD candidate / Guest

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Leiden Institute for Area Studies
  • SAS Japan

No relevant ancillary activities

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