Hiro Watanabe

Dr Hiroaki Richard Watanabe

Lecturer in Japanese Studies

BA (Tokyo), MA (Yale), D.Phil. (Oxford)

Contact details
Email: h.watanabe@sheffield.ac.uk
Tel: 0114 222 8337
Room: C01

Research Gate


Dr. Watanabe joined the School of East Asian Studies as a Lecturer in 2010. He is a specialist of Japanese/comparative political economy and the international relations of East Asia. He has conducted research on comparative politics of labour market deregulation in Japan and Italy, labour’s social movement as a response to deteriorating working conditions in East Asia, Japan’s regulatory reforms in financial markets, the comparative political economy of working poor, and the Sino-Japanese economic rivalry in pursuit of economic leadership in East Asia. Before he moved to academia, he was a legal analyst in a multinational Japanese trading company. He is interested in learning different languages and cultures and travelled to more than 70 countries (in addition to living in the United States, Australia, Italy and Japan).


Associated Research Groups and collaborators

The Sir Bernard Crick Centre - Associate Fellow

Dr. Watanabe’s general research interests include Japanese/comparative political economy and the international relations in East Asia. Building upon his research on Japanese politics of labour market deregulation in comparison to the Italian case, his current research examines economic inequality and working poor in Japan since the 1990s and labour’s social movement. For this purpose, he analyses public policies and policy-making processes related to labour market reforms and the social security system that contributed to the recent increase in inequality and working poor in Japan from a comparative perspective. Through this research, he aims to contribute to the literature of convergence and diversity in economic and social policies among capitalist economies under neoliberal globalisation. He also investigates the political economy of the Sino-Japanese rivalry in pursuit of regional economic leadership in relation to the rise of China and the economic integration in East Asia.

Research Grants and Fellowships

  • GB Sasakawa Foundation Grant, 2015 (Japanese employees’ working conditions and the deregulation of regular employment in Japan)
  • Santander Research Mobility Award, 2014 (Political economy of the Sino-Japanese relations in regional economic integration in East Asia)
  • Japan Foundation Endowment Committee Grant, 2014 (Japanese labour unions’ engagement in precarious employment and working poor)
  • Japan Foundation Endowment Committee Grant, 2011 (Political and gender analysis of income inequality and poverty in contemporary Japan)
  • Toshiba International Fund, British Association for Japanese Studies, 2008
  • Norman Chester Fund, Department of Politics, University of Oxford, 2006
  • Dr Watanabe also had research affiliations with the Dept. of Welfare and Labour Studies, Università degli Studi di Milano and the Institute of Social Sciences, University of Tokyo.

Research Supervision

Dr Watanabe is currently supervising three PhD students in the fields of comparative political economy of health insurance reform in Japan and South Korea, the impact of regional economic integration on the Sino-ASEAN relations, and the ramifications of constitutional reform proposals in Japan on its relations with East Asian neighbours.

He is willing to supervise PhD research in the fields of comparative and Japanese politics and political economy, Japanese labour market and employment relations, and the international relations and political economy in East Asia.


Dr. Watanabe has taught the following modules:

EAS138 Japanese History
EAS236/ 6236 Postwar Japanese Politics
EAS359 Work and Society in Japan
EAS369 Contemporary Issues in East Asia

EAS 138 Japanese History is a survey course of Japanese history covering the period from ancient until modern time. Students focus on a specific time period of their choice (ancient, medieval, early modern and modern) in addition to learning major political and socio-economic issues in a longer time period. EAS 236/ 6236 Postwar Japanese Politics is a module aimed at understanding of Japanese political economy and international relations in East Asia after WWII. EAS 359 Work and Society in Japan examines Japanese work and employment in relation to human resources management, industrial relations, gender discrimination, labour market deregulation and so on, and their impact on contemporary Japan society, as seen in low fertility and working poor. EAS 369 investigates prominent political and social issues in East Asia such as political discontent in relation to war memory, the rise of China and its impact on East Asian economies and security, regional economic integration, and cultural politics of nationalism under neoliberal globalisation.

Teaching Philosophy

Dr. Watanabe’s teaching philosophy is that teaching should be student-oriented. Based on this philosophy, he aims to avoid his lecture being mere ‘information transmission’ and increase interaction with students not only in seminars but also in lectures by using several teaching methods. This provides students with greater opportunities to engage both in seminars and in lectures. Dr. Watanabe relates general learning outcomes to students’ acquisition of useful skills such as: identification of major issues from a comparative and historical perspective; critical and systematic analysis by applying relevant theoretical and analytical concepts; use of relevant data and academic sources to support arguments; and presentation of coherent arguments. He designs course curriculums in light of students’ achievement of these learning outcomes and use feedback for the purpose of formative assessment so that students can formulate their own effective learning methods. Dr. Watanabe encourages a diverse range of students, especially international students, to actively participate in the class by using teaching methods such as pair discussion followed by class debate after watching interesting relevant videos aimed at assisting student’s understanding of key issues and concepts.

Media expertise

Dr Watanabe welcomes interviews on various issues related to Japanese politics, economy, employment relations and society as well as the international relations in East Asia.

He has appeared several times on live TV programs such as ‘News Pulse’ and ‘Between the Lines’ of Channel NewsAsia in Singapore to provide his expert opinion on such issues as US President Obama’s visit to Japan, Abemonics, Japan’s general election in 2014, and the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) negotiation.

Below you find a video clip of his TV interview with Channel NewsAsia on US Vice President Biden’s visit to East Asia.

Please contact him by email to arrange an interview.



Labour market deregulation in Japan and Italy: Worker protection under neoliberal globalisation, 2014, London and New York: Routledge.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

‘Neoliberal reform for greater competitiveness: Labour market deregulation in Japan and Italy’, Industrial Relations Journal, 46, 1, 2015, pp. 54-76.

‘The struggle for revitalisation by Japanese labour unions: Worker organising after labour-market deregulation’, Journal of Contemporary Asia, 45, 3, 2015, pp. 510-530.

‘Institutional change under neoliberal globalization: Japanese regulatory reforms in labor and financial markets after the collapse of the bubble economy’, Asian Politics & Policy, 7, 3, 2015, pp. 413-432.

‘Why and how did Japan finally change its ways? The politics of Japanese labour-market deregulation since the 1990s’, Japan Forum, 24, 1, 2012, pp. 23-50.

‘Japanese politics under the Hatoyama administration’, Il Politico, 62, 2, 2011, pp. 180-182.

‘Politics of labour market deregulation in Italy and Japan since the 1990s’, in Roger Blanpain and Michele Tiraboschi, eds. Global Labour Market: From Globalization to Flexicurity. 2008, Alphen aan den Rijn, Netherlands: Kluwer Law International, pp. 255-274.

Book Reviews

Jiyeoun Song, Inequality in the Workplace: Labor Market Reform in Japan and Korea, British Journal of Industrial Relations 53, 2, 2015, pp. 384-386.

Claude Meyer, China or Japan: Which Will Lead Asia?, RUSI Journal, 157, 3, 2012, pp. 88-89.

Other Publications

‘Japan’s immigration boost will be small and brief’, Oxford Analytica, 3 October 2014.

‘Abe’s labour market reforms unlikely to boost growth’, Oxford Analytica, 5 June 2014.