One also finds vestiges of a time of profound self-rejection in ordinary expressions. Nihonjin banare shiteiru -- you look different from a Japanese -- was a common compliment among young women well into the s. A poignant sense of inadequacy dates to Japan's first modern contacts with the West in the last century. But defeat in intensified it dramatically. The Japanese wanted somehow to disappear after the war.
And the Americans invited them to do so, to efface themselves before the world, with the idea that they were not nationalists but internationalists. For example, it excused orthodox scholars from engaging the thorny question of wartime coercion on the part of Washington's new friends in Tokyo. But as a piece of logic it is a little preposterous. The Japanese were not a militaristic people, any more than any other ever was or will be.
They suffered under a militarist regime over which they had no control. Neither does Reischauer's conclusion stand up to scrutiny.
It is precisely those at the mercy of others whose sincerity must be questioned. Only those who willingly supported the dictatorship could be considered candidates for conversion. And many of them did not convert; in the reverse course Americans allowed them merely to bury their sentiments or reinterpret them. By embracing internationalism the Japanese were supposed to have repudiated any claim they may have made to nationalism. It is true that the pacifism and neutrality popular after the war remain so today.
But that is not the same as professing internationalism to the point of giving up one's national pride and identity, even for a people who wanted to disappear out of self-loathing. To be internationalist instead of nationalist: This is a false equation, commonly proposed. It has left the Japanese themselves confused and inarticulate as to their place in the world and the meaning of the awkward but often used term "Japaneseness.
If we are to understand Japan today, and what Japan is likely to become, we must recognize that this restlessness has reemerged, as inevitably it would. To put it another way, the Japanese have come to realize that it is impossible to disappear from the face of the earth, or to make the bogus exchange of nationalism for internationalism. Or another way again: the Japanese are outgrowing their feelings of ugliness and inferiority in comparison with others. And these realizations that have now led them to begin redefining themselves.
Among the curiosities of modern Japan are the many slogans it has produced. They are like capsule philosophies, rich in meaning. Fukoku kyohei, wealthy nation, strong defense; wakon yosai, Japanese spirit, Western things; bunmei kaika, civilization and enlightenment: These were some of the phrases Japan used to describe itself when it began to modernize, and each one stood for an idea. During the war the dictatorship exhorted the populace with "Desirelessly on to victory," a telling admonition to suppress the self for the sake of the state.
In the late s Japan invented a slogan in a single word: kokusaika, internationalization. It was a complicated notion, never well explained, but it, too, gave an insight into the age. It was difficult to tell what kokusaika meant when bureaucrats, scholars, and television commentators used the term.
It was supposed to mean nothing less than the reinvention of the national ethos. Somehow, Japan Inc. They would take a greater part in world affairs. But these were rather large projects: Japan Inc.
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That would require American dispensation. In any case, there were too many definitions of kokusaika and too little agreement as to its true meaning. How would Japan internationalize? What would it mean to the rest of us? Japan stammered for a simple reason. Japan was trying to articulate a revived nationalism it feared the world especially its neighbors and the Americans would not accept. Along with "internationalization" came other notions -- less often discussed but more to the point: "soft nationalism," "resurgent cultural nationalism," "prudent revivalist nationalism.
In the mids the yen began a climb in value that put it among the world's strongest currencies. At home, interest rates were dropped to record lows, which quickly produced the "bubble economy," a five-year period of high but frothy, speculative growth. The Tokyo stock market tripled in value. Land prices doubled in a year -- and then doubled again the next year. The bubble brought the Japanese into the world's real estate markets, resorts, and auction rooms.
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Investors bought Hollywood studios and trophy properties such as Rockefeller Center. Japan became the largest aid donor and number one source of credit. At economic summits the world began to bow in Tokyo's direction. Can anyone doubt that these events were a form of national self-assertion -- that the Japanese, so to say, were making themselves visible again? In certain ways the late s resembled a party, as many Westerners who lived in Tokyo during those years understood. And like most parties, it was an occasion for both remembering and forgetting.
The Japanese remembered nothing less than themselves. At home and abroad, they grew more confident -- as a nation and as individuals. They began to assert themselves politically for the first time since the anti-AMPO protests of But in the intoxication of the time they forgot about their larger circumstances. They forgot the immense influence America still exercised over Japan.
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They forgot that Japan had placed its faith in efficiency and technology, not democracy, and that reversing that decision was their greatest challenge. They forgot, too, that all the property deals in the world would not change the fact that Japan was a nation that had "power without purpose" -- a phrase that was famous by the decade's end.
The bubble lost its air in , when Japan tumbled into recession. But something more abrupt than an economic downturn brought the Japanese back to sobriety.
On August 2, , Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. And when the United States began gathering international support for a military response to Saddam Hussein, the Persian Gulf became a critical moment for Japan. What was Japan to do within its constitutional constraints, which exclude it from collective security actions?
The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
As much to the point, what did Japan want to do? As Tokyo dithered, Washington grew shrill. Japanese leaders looked like fools -- at least from America's perspective.
They sent no soldiers to the Persian Gulf -- no troops, no supplies, no ships until it was too late. Twenty-nine nations contributed to the Persian Gulf effort; Washington gave twenty-eight of them regular progress briefings during the assault and pride of place at the celebrations that came afterward. There was singular irony in this obvious snub -- the irony of America's blindness to the history Americans themselves made.
No one seemed to remember the old Yoshida deal, or that Japan's place in the Western security alliance had been imposed upon it. It never seemed to occur to anyone in Washington that Tokyo's fumbled response was partly the consequence of a document Americans wrote for the Japanese and then made law.
And it was a measure of Tokyo's long habit of deference that no Japanese official ever pointed these things out. The memory of those months will be long in fading among the Japanese. The Persian Gulf crisis suddenly ended the party of the late s, the dream that Japan would never have to face the tasks of dismantling the Yoshida deal, rethinking the notion of internationalism, and becoming -- the phrase was soon universal -- "a normal nation.
It is now supported, vigorously and generously, by Japanese institutions. There is a Mitsubishi chair of law at Harvard and a Toyota chair of anthropology at the University of Michigan, among numerous other endowments like them. The Japanese spend many millions on such positions, which are almost invariably occupied by the geisha of the Chrysanthemum Club. Geisha still direct Japanese studies in many of our most esteemed universities, not just Harvard, and as the scholar Chalmers Johnson once pointed out, "You never have to tell a geisha what to do.
Saddam Hussein's invasion was a mere taste of the complex new world Japan, along with the rest of us, entered when the Cold War ended. Neither could the postwar political elite in Tokyo, janitors of our Orientalist creation. The Tokyo political landscape has changed forever since the late s.
Yet our postwar images linger, partly as a matter of inertia. We will eventually have to examine all our old assumptions if we are not to drift dangerously far from reality. But inertia, especially when it is rooted in a fear of change, can be a considerable force. At the brink of the Cold War's end the Chrysanthemum Club was openly challenged for the first time in many years.
It was the challenge of journalists and scholars known as the revisionists. They were and remain a loose group; on many questions they are far from universal agreement. None among them especially likes the revisionist label as members of the Chrysanthemum Club did not like theirs.
But they are legitimately bound by a simple assumption: The paradigm is false; the West should reassess the way it looks at Japan.
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It is time to recognize, the revisionists said, that Japan is different from America and other industrial nations. At least as it is presented, it is a model of nothing. It has assumed the trappings of democracy but does not function as one. Its institutions do not serve the purposes we think they do.
Reverence for Life – A Message for the Twenty-First Century from The Catholic Bishops of Japan
The government is not merely a regulator -- an arbiter, as in the West; it is an advocate. It plays an active role in the economy, with defined social and economic goals, as governments do in many Third World countries. Chalmers Johnson, best known of the revisionists and a scholar who has devoted his career to Chinese and Japanese studies, coined a new term for the Japanese system: He called it a "capitalist developmental state" -- a creature unknown until postwar Japan came along.
The revisionists detonated an explosion with another simple idea: If Japan is different it should be treated differently.