Archive for the 'Ideology' Category

Japan in Diaspora / Diaspora in Japan (2)

Continued from my earlier post , here are some more impressions from Düsseldorf University’s recent “Japan in Diaspora” symposium.

Continue reading ‘Japan in Diaspora / Diaspora in Japan (2)’


「言葉」の「言」 – Heidegger übersetzt:

“Das Ereignis der lichtenden Botschaft der Anmut”


Edit: …aber immerhin, wenn fünf Jahrzehnte später ein schöner Essay über Sei Shōnagon dabei herauskommt…


Japan is bigger than just Japan. Japan is metaphor and allegory, successful case study and cautionary example, tragedy and comedy, Eden and the Land of the Lotus Eaters. All these multiple narratives cannot possibly be correct at the same time, unless we remove Japan from its strict geographical denotation and explore a more abstracted Japan in conjunction with our normal surveillance of reality.

Thus speaks W. David “Marxy” Marx in what he calls the first manifesto to his new group blog Néojaponisme (his co-bloggers are Jean Snow and Ian Lynam, both Tokyo-based like Marxy). Marxy’s old blog was – and hopefully will continue to be – highly insightful, for the often critical and thoughtful posts as much as for the, ahem, passionate debates in the comments section on contemporary Japanese society and pop culture. Some of the friction generated in these debates has obviously spilled over into his new project, as the following passage shows:

As Japan blossoms in the international garden, a few cling to Néo-Orientalisme, a Romantic ideology updating the old lust towards submissive geisha and beautiful ukiyo-e with an obsession for Japan’s post-1980s cultural and technological accomplishments. Japan certainly provides the world with alternate social, economic, and political systems for serious consideration, but we should not make the mistake of believing that we have discovered a utopian parallel to our own society. If we really want to advocate certain policy triumphs in Japan for global betterment, we must fully understand the sometimes painful realities behind the working order.

I wonder who these “few” might be? Anyway, count me among the regular readers of this very promising new web journal.

Juche as Kokutai?

I’ve been reading up on Japanese pre-war ideology and its postwar permutations for my thesis for quite some time now, so I’m always interested in new approaches to explain the workings of kokutai thought. Here is is a fascinating excerpt from a new book by Michael E. Robinson on 20th century Korean history, via ‘Far Outliers’: North Korean Ideology: Juche as Kokutai. The most interesting part reads as follows:

Some speculate that Kim Il Sung developed the idea in reaction to the vague and virtually indefinable concept of kokutai (kukch’e in Korean) used to evoke “national essence” in Japanese ideology before 1945. All North Koreans are enjoined to hold Chuch’e in their minds and hearts, as only in so doing will their actions be appropriate. Since Chuch’e is the leader’s core inspiration, all his subjects carry the leader in their hearts when they hold fast a consciousness of Chuch’e. Just as the emperor embodied the essence (kokutai) of the nation in pre-World War II Japan, so does the leader, now Kim Jong Il, embody the very essential principle that guides all thought and action in North Korea today.

Unfortunately, the excerpt doesn’t give any sources, so I’ll have to order the book to find out just what this theory is based on. Of course, the idea of Kim Il Sung (who is usually celebrated as an anti-Japanese partisan by North Korea’s massive propaganda industry) borrowing his one contribution to Marxist theory from militaristic Japan is deeply ironic. But setting aside the question of whether Juche really does have historical roots in Kokutai, the personality cult so pervasive in North Korean society certainly does bear some similarities to the emperor system of Meiji Japan. Most political scientists explain the North Korean regime as a form of Totalitarianism rooted in the Stalinist tradition, but perhaps they should have a look at those old Mitogaku pamphlets first?


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