Universiteit Leiden

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Aafke van Ewijk


Dr. A. van Ewijk
+31 71 527 7402

Aafke van Ewijk is a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Area Studies.

More information about Aafke van Ewijk


My specialization is Japanese literature and visual culture of the early modern and modern period. I am particularly interested in the textual and visual representation of warrior legends and history in children’s literature and textbooks, and the various roles that such publications played in Japan’s nation-building process. I completed my PhD at Leiden University in September 2022, with the thesis “Memory, Modernity and Children’s Literature in Japan: Premodern Warriors as National Icons in Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century Literature and Curriculum”. My article in Japan Forum (2021) also addresses some of the key issues of the dissertation. During my PhD I furthermore conducted research on a hitherto unknown early eighteenth-century letter addressed to Philipp Franz von Siebold by his Japanese wife Kusumoto Taki, that I discovered in the Special Collections of Leiden University Library. Not limited to the port of Nagasaki, I am also interested in the geographical imagination and the representation of Others in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century print such as illustrated guidebooks, maps, and primers. I have designed and taught various courses on Japanese literature, cultural history, and art history in the BA Japanstudies.

I am currently involved in the project “Blood, Tears and Samurai Love: A Tragic Tale from Eighteenth-Century Japan” as a postdoctoral research assistant and reworking my dissertation into a book manuscript.


Education and research

2022              PhD (cum laude), Japanese Studies (Leiden University)
2013      MA (cum laude), Area Studies: Asia and the Middle East (Leiden University)
2011     BA, Japanese Language and Culture (Leiden University)
2007     Bachelor of Design (ArtEZ University of the Arts, Enschede)
2018–2019 Research and fieldwork (Rikkyo University, Tokyo)
2014–2016 MEXT Research student (Osaka University)
2010–2011 MEXT Japanese studies student (Osaka University)


  • Isaac Alfred Ailion Foundation PhD Fellowship, 2016-2021
  • MEXT Research Students, 2014-2016 
  • MEXT Japanese Studies, 2010-2011

Courses taught

  • Seminar ‘Heroes and Historical Imagination’ (BA2, spring 2020 and 2021)
  • Seminar ‘Worldviews in Early Modern Japan’ (BA2, fall 2016 and 2017)
  • Lecture ‘Arts and Material Culture of Japan’ (BA1, spring 2022)
  • Seminar ‘Media, Arts, Culture and History’ (50%) (BA3, spring 2017)
  • Academic Skills (50%) (BA1, spring 2020)
  • Thesis supervision (BA3, fall 2017)
  • Modern Japanese language (BA1, fall 2013 / BA2, fall 2017)

Conference organization

  • Organizer, ‘International Workshop: Printed Matter for Children in Edo and Meiji Japan’ Leiden, Museum of Ethnology, September 1, 2022
  • Assistant, ‘International Conference: Healing the People: Popularizing and Printing Medicine in Edo Japan’, Leiden University, May 20-21, 2022

Talks and conference papers (selected)

  • 2022: (panel) British Association for Japanese Studies Conference, Manchester (Sept. 7-9), ‘Exemplary Warriors for Pre-Readers in the Picture Magazine Yōnen gahōwithin the panel ‘The Exteriority of Inner Life: Cultivating Public Images through the Photographic, the Iconic, and the Artistic’.
  • 2022: (invited) Museum Sieboldhuis, Leiden (Oct. 30), “Waar is papa toch? De herontdekte eerste brief van Sonogi aan Siebold, na zijn verbanning uit Japan”
  • 2021: 16th International Conference of the European Association for Japanese Studies, Ghent University (Aug. 24-28), ‘The Boy Who Lived: Yoshitsune in Early Modern Books for Children’
  • 2019: The 58th Conference of the Japan Society for Children’s Literature,
    Shirayuri University, Tokyo (Nov. 23-24), ‘Representations of warriors in Meiji and Taisho period youth literature: the synthesis of national heroes and children’
  • 2019: (invited) 12th Siebold Conference Leiden, Leiden (Nov. 1-2), ‘Kusumoto Taki’s First Letter to Siebold’
  • 2019: (invited) 2nd International East-Asia Forum for Next Generation Researchers,
    Hallym University, Korea (Oct. 26-27), ‘The pantheon of warriors in Meiji and Taisho period youth literature’
  • 2018: (invited) The First Tohoku Conference on Global Japanese Studies: The Meiji Restoration Revisited: Culture, Religion, and the State Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan (Dec. 14-15), ‘Little citizens and great men: Iwaya Sazanami’s re-interpretations of Japanese heroic warriors in Nippon mukashibanashi and Nippon otogibanashi
  • 2017: (invited) International Conference At the roots of visual Japan: Word-text dynamics in early modern Japan, Cambridge University (Dec. 14-15), ‘How to summarize? Biographies of famous warriors in pictorial digests’
  • 2015: (invited) 22nd Japanese Language and Culture Education Seminar, Osaka University (Mar. 14), ‘The nursery-taleing of Yoshitsune legend: representations of Ushiwakamaru in Meiji and Taisho period children’s literature’
  • 2014: The 10th International Symposium for Japanese Language Education and Japanese Studies, Hong Kong University (Nov. 15-16), ‘Yoshitsune legends in children’s books of the mid-Edo period till Meiji period’


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

Work address

Matthias de Vrieshof
Matthias de Vrieshof 1
2311 BZ Leiden
Room number 1.05C



No relevant ancillary activities

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