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JAPAN: Traditions and Foreign Policy



After capturing Singapore from the British in 1942, Japanese General Tonoyuki Yamashita said: "The White people have originated, according to their scientist Darwin, from apes. But we, the Japanese, are the descendants of gods. Who wins in a war between the apes and the gods is absolutely clear." ' Yet the "gods", however, had tough luck: they lost the war. And for some time Japan was occupied by the Whites--the Americans. The only comfort for the "gods" was the fact that many Americans do not accept Darwin and for this reasons his thesis of their simian origins. Evidently, Americans are descended from the gods, too, but they have different gods. Probably their ancestor is the God of the Golden Calf. This has made it somewhat easier psychologically for the post-war leaders of Japan to put up with the burden of dependence on the United States which Japan has been carrying for over 40 years. But is that dependence actually a "burden"?  "What a question?" would be the answer from anyone. "From anyone, but not from a Japanese", this didactic specification would come from ethnopsychologists and culturologists--experts exploring human souls. Let us take a closer look at the problem.


Let us agree that we are not analyzing the causes of that dependence--those have to do with a whole set of military, political and economic conditions that shaped US-Japanese relations in the post-war period.  It is important to understand how the Japanese mentality combines apparently incompatible traits obedient following in the wake of Washington's strategy and fierce trade and economic competition with US monopolies;  submissiveness and the feeling of superiority assuming the form of predominantly anti-

American nationalism. This is sometimes called the love-hate syndrome.

Not only ethnopsychologists, but also many economists believe that these "incompatibilities" have to do with Japan's culture or, rather, with an interaction of culture and politics. Without going to extremes, let us examine some aspects of that interaction.

Most students of the Japanese' socio-psychological make-up proceed from the premise that it stems from certain unique features of Japanese society's structure. In the West, those experts believe, there have emerged "horizontal" societies: social groups in those societies are united by elements essentially homogeneous in terms of class and social affiliation. Japan is a society with a "vertical" structure, and its basic principle of organization is that of common "place" ("ba"). In a "vertical" society, people are united in groups not by qualitative homogeneity, but by the place of operation, the organizational framework, "home" ("ie"). The notion of ("home") can be applied to a family, a community, a company, a state, or a nation.

The principle of "place" in each "home" establishes an hierarchy of seniority, an intrastructural order: the principle of a "home" shapes the spirit of unity of all its people and the awareness of being part of a particular outfit. Hence the use of word combinations like "our company", "our neighbors", "our country", "our home"... And ie is more important than ba, spirit is more important than order; to be more exact, spirit actually ensures order in ba, since the essence of the spirit is determined by unreasoning submission of juniors to seniors (the oyabun system). This raises the question: what is it that ensures harmony in ie?

According to ethnopsychologists, harmony stems from the special way the Japanese apprehend their ego. Western concepts of ego highlight the individual, regarding individuals as autonomous and integral units with regard to the social environment. The Japanese ego (zibun) does not have so much self-awareness. The English for zibun is "my share" or "my part", which means that the individual is regarded as part of a bigger entity, that there is a larger space in which an individual has a share. This apprehension of self as zibun predetermined the acute need for orientation at dependence (amae).

The approximate meaning of amae is "a benevolent attitude to the spirit of dependence" or "the desire to be loved". The psychological prototype of amae is a child's attitude to mother. In a social environment, amae means that the strong are tolerant to the weak and accept their obligations concerning the weak, defend and take care of them without expectation anything in return. Some experts in US-Japanese relations name amae as the factor that made the leading Japanese textile companies pursue such a hard line in negotiations with American colleagues in 1969-1971. Those companies, the experts say, were aware of the need to take care of smaller firms' interests, but, according to the amae concept those firms had no reciprocal obligations concerning the major textile companies. Experts believe that Japan extends a similar approach to its relations with the United States: the US can well be regarded as a senior partner--an older brother--who can give and be expected to give a lot.3

Some researchers ascribe Japan's subordinate position in relations with the United States to the nation's traditional "conformism which has crossed borders"(4). But conformism means compromise and immersion of one's self in the environment or in relations with a stronger partner. If we adopt this view, we will never be able to account for the constant conflicts between Japan and the United States. Those conflicts, stemming from economic and political contradictions, are aggravated by antagonistic interaction between Confucian morality and the amae principle applied to relations with the United States. Since the US is leader of the Western world, Japan is and should be subordinate to it, and this conforms to the logic of Confucian laws. This accounts more or less for Tokyo's obedience to Washington--at least with respect to problems that do not affect their bilateral relations. But when the United States brings pressure to bear on Japan in issues that have to do with bilateral relations directly, Japan regards this as violation of the amae principle, which says that the senior and stronger partner should show respect for the junior partner's interests. But Washington constantly violates this non-pragmatic postulate, which gives rise to frictions and conflicts in the forms of auto, electronics' and other "wars". In other words, certain differences in cultural traditions and specific features of mentality often lead to misunderstanding and intensify contradictions even among class allies.


That misunderstanding is largely due to the fact that Japan's t decision-making procedure differs from that existing in the United States and Europe.

The Japanese decision--making procedure is based on a traditional system called ringi (or hingi, which approximately means "obtaining consent to the decision by asking opinions without calling a meeting"). It is basically intended to settle differences and to avoid conflicting views. The preliminary stage--nemawashi ("arrangement of the roots", or preliminary preparation of decisions)--actually creates conditions for agreement among all the participants involved. So, actual debates take place at the nemawashi stage, and official discussions are largely a formality. This procedure not only produces a consensus, but also involves every participant (or institutional unit) in decision-making. which is just as important, and thereby the system mirrors the recognition of and respect for the participants' social status.

The ringi and nemawashi system has its advantages and drawbacks. According to A. N. Kuritsin, a Soviet expert on Japanese affairs, the "ringi system as a group method of decision-making seeks to secure agreement among all the members of groups, that is the system's main feature" (5). Ringi involves a great number of people or many elements of the bureaucratic apparatus in politics, thereby creating a semblance of bourgeois democracy Japanese-fashion.

The drawbacks of that system are procrastination and the lack of rapid response to critical situations. But those features are considered drawbacks by Europeans only. The Japanese see the lack of immediate reaction as an advantage. This type of behavior is another feature of Japanese culture (it is called "awase" meaning "agreement" or "adjustment"). A public opinion poll conducted in 1978 showed that 61 per cent of respondents favored a "wait and see" attitude to involved political problems. This peculiar feature of Japanese psychology was shaped by the "wu wei" principle formulated by the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Ji: "By doing nothing you will do the greatest good" (nasazaru-o motte saiko-no zen-to nasu). This philosophy of "doing nothing'* takes the form of "wait and see diplomacy" in Japan-'s foreign policy.

Another system similar to ringi and nemawashI is kharagei (literally "belly movement")--the term was first introduced into the political vocabulary by Professor K. Mushakoji of the United Nations University in Japan to describe the Japanese type of negotiating in contrast to the American type, denoted by the word erabi ("choice").(6)  Briefly, the difference between the two patterns is as follows: in accordance with the erabi pattern, problems to be dealt with are formulated at the initial stage of negotiations, and the main problems are highlighted, and the parties clearly express their stands. General principles are worked out, to be strictly followed by both parties. But the final document may formulate problems on which the parties may still disagree.

The kharagei  system reconciles differences with emphasis on the-problems in which agreement and understanding are the most: likely.

The first, communicative, stage of negotiations (awase) implies establishment of friendly personal relations among; the participants the parties express readiness to understand each other's stands without making any preliminary terms and--most importantly without discussing any specific problems.

The second stage is a gradual transition to the subject of the negotiations, with hints and allegories, but without explication of the stands.

At the third stage, specific problems are discussed without linking them to any general principles. Special circumstances that attend every problem are mentioned, and factors are described that make these problems difficult to resolve. It is assumed that the joint document should enable each party to act independently at its own discretion and according to specific situations that may arise after the document is signed. It is believed that such actions will meet the partners' interests and be in line with the spirit of their friendly relations, established at the first stage of negotiations, instead of following strictly the verbal provisions of the joint document, which can always be interpreted to meet each party's interests.

In other words, kharagei is a typically Japanese negotiating method, which often drives US businessmen and politicians mad. Many Americans have failed to pull through even the first stage of negotiations (awase). But American and West-European businessmen who know more about Japan have come to believe that agreements produced in Japanese-style negotiations have proved to be more reliable than those negotiated with the help of the erabi system.

It goes without saying that the Japanese highly value their style of negotiating, because it helps to establish "friendly relations''. Professor M. Kunihiro writes: "Kharagei brings out emotional community, that is to say, the desire to get special attention from the partner, who, in his turn, seeks to get a friendly disposition in return and to become a member of your group." (7) Kharagei is especially effective when used in negotiations among persons of the same culture. When people of "a different culture" disregard the system, this, Professor Kunihiro says, often leads to "trouble misunderstanding".

The kharagei system is really convenient for the ruling quarters of Japan. It enables them to conduct negotiations for a long time and to gain a better understanding of their partners' intentions.

      Also, they have an extra opportunity to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of an agreement from the viewpoint of their own interests. using the nemawashi method in internal discussions. In short, all the possible components of a future agreement of diplomatic documents are considered in the course of negotiations.  And when the final decision is made at last, it can be finalized and implemented in no time. The Japanese can do it much more rapidly than the Americans, for instance, since what the Japanese do at the preliminary stage of the talks US companies start doing after the talks are completed.


The Japanese behave in a peculiar way when they face an immanent danger. That behavior can be compared with the posture that horses assume to defend themselves against an attack.  A horse turns its back to the attacker and tries to hit him with its hind-leg hooves. This "defensive posture" is characteristic for Japanese, too. To protect her child, a Japanese woman bends over him, turning her back to the source of danger, while an American or a European woman hides her child behind her back and faces the danger.

A Japanese assumes a "defensive position" when a European would poise for an attack. This is type of behavior is mirrored in the word combination se-no kimi ("you who are behind my back").  Awareness of the space behind one's back has led to the establishment of the haigosyugi principle--awareness of danger from behind and the wish to attack from behind.

The Japanese sword is designed for defense against attack from behind, whereas the European sword, for facing an assault. This is why one of the ancient Japanese attack maneuvers was to penetrate a castle through the back gate and launch a surprise attack from behind. This partly explains Japan's typical manner of attacking without declaring war. Japan did not declare war when it attacked Russia in l904, China in 1937, or the United States in 1941.

The principle of "defending the rear" and "attacking from behind" is found in Japan's external economic links with its trade partners-rivals, especially in relations with the United States. It is common knowledge that the Americans disapprove of Japan's domestic market being closed as tightly as it is. Well, formally-- in legal terms--it is more open than the domestic market of the United States. But by using various overcomplicated procedures, so-called non-tariff barriers, etc., Japanese monopolies create a complex of invisible obstacles that make foreign penetration into the Japanese market extremely difficult. From 1985 on, Japan has done a lot under US pressure to "open up" its domestic market, but this has produced little effect on the condition of US-Japanese trade. Faced with this frustrating situation, the US Congress and government recently forced Japan to assume "voluntary" commitments again to cut exports, introduced tougher tariffs, lowered the dollar-to-yen exchange rate, etc. But Japanese monopolies were not discouraged. In response, they used again their favorite principle of "attacking from behind" and sharply increased direct investments in the United States ($35.5 billion in March 1987,  nearly $20 billion had been invested in the previous two years) By mid-1987, 435 enterprises in the US manufacturing industry alone were partly or entirely owned by Japan.(9) We can add that the Japanese are buying up US banks and real estate and are infiltrating the financial system of the United States--all this on an increasing scale. So "attack from behind" is just as effective as "defense of the rear".

It is also curious that the Japanese language mirrors the nature of monopolies' competition with the Japanese government, other Japanese monopolies, and with foreign monopolies. The term yuko kyoso ("effective rivalry") describes rivalry with the government kyotyoteki kyoso ("rivalry on the basis of cooperation") refers to competition with other Japanese monopolies and kato kyoso ("tough or irreconcilable competition") is used to describe rivalry with foreign monopolies.

The "defense-oriented" attack strategy, which enables Japanese monopolies to score victories in competition with other imperialist powers, has not neutralized Japan's "feelings of dependence" on the United States, nor turned US-Japanese relations into equitable partnership, as one would imagine it should. Inequality is still there as well as Japan's dependence on the foreign-policy strategy of the United States. The rise of the current nationalistic sentiments is a reaction to that state of affairs.


 "Anything that's Japanese is a religion in Japan. The Japanese are gods!

The Japanese race should be considered outstanding for since the times of the goddess Amaterasu the Japanese have been pure as the best pure rice wine--sake. "--Foreigners should be able to quote Basho *, the way we quote Reiner Maria Rilke". (10)

Could you try and guess who made these statements? Maybe the nationalist philosophers of the pre-war period K. Nishida, R. Takayama, S. Gondo, or T. Vatsuzi?  Or the militarists G. Tanaka, H. Tozio, or K. Hiranuma?  No. These statements belong to philosophers and politicians of present-day Japan.  Statement one has been made by Professor S. Yamamoto of Tokyo, statement two, by the former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, and statement three, by philosopher and playwright T. Umehara.

Now what are these statements? An accidental upswing of nationalism or a powerful tide heralding a storm? Nostalgia or a claim for the future? Let us try and explore this phenomenon.


In the 19th century, Britain created an international economic order and played a leading role in it. In the 20th century the Americans have done the same. It is time for Japan to create an international system to reflect its greatness and strategic interests." (11)

This statement has been attributed to many Japanese figures. In this case, the Soviet weekly Za rubezhom quoted M. Isizuki, a leading member of the nationalist group Kokumin kaigi. In a story in Der Spiegel  (FRG), T. Terzani attributed practically the same statement to a strategy expert from the Nomura Research Institute. The idea has been expressed by several other Japanese politicians and ideologists. This indicates that it mirrors the sentiments of certain quarters of Japanese society. And, according to those quarters, there are grounds for these sentiments.

It is true that in the 1980s Japan not only strengthened its economic potential but also (and most importantly) began to get ahead of its influential ally, the United States, in the "technotronic" competition. This refers not only to the tremendous imbalance in US-Japanese trade (about $50 billion) in latter's favor; Japan is now ahead of the United States in the development of motor-car industry and robotics and the rate of computerization, and so on. The news media are pleased to report the Japanese' victories over the Yankees. There have been enthusiastic reports of Japan helping "sick" America to revitalize its budget by purchasing bonds issued by the US government. The papers have widely publicized the news that Japan became the world's biggest owner of net assets abroad ($180.4 billion in 1986). The success of the "attack from behind" strategy is reported with unconcealed satisfaction, as Japanese businessmen buy up banks and real estate in the United States. The President of a Japanese company, S. Kobayashi, who has bought 37 first-rate skyscrapers in New York and other US cities worth a total of $2 billion, has been called the "conqueror of America".

This picture of "America's decline", presented by the media, is not quite true to life, of course, but it does reveal some "sore points" in the US economy. The United States is far from a "decline", and Japan is even farther from superiority over the United States. A simple comparison of the two powers' GDPs or spending on R & D shows how far these assessments of the correlation of the two allies' economic might are from reality: Japan's GDP totals less than two-fifths of the American, and the United States spends on R & D over twice as much as Japan does. (12)

But propaganda focuses (in Japan's victories, speculating even on US Congressmen's statements about the "Samurai invasion" of the US market.

This dizziness with success in the competition with the Yankees has contributed to provoking an outburst of nationalism which has affected part of the "intellectual" elite in Japan and has served to intensify the activities of nationalist organizations like Nihon-o mamoru kokumin kaigi (The National Council in Defense of Japan), Kokka nihon mondai dosikai (the Association for the Discussion of Fundamental Problems of the State), and some others.

The exponents of nationalism are reviving the theories that were used to publicize the concept of the exclusiveness of the Japanese race as far back as the pre-Meiji times (Nihonzin ron--"the theory of the Japanese" and Nihon bunka ron--"the theory of Japanese culture"). The revival of these theories in present-day Japan is not just a rise of nationalism, nor is it a tide yet it is both the past and possibly the future. Who knows?

+Matsuo Basho (1644-1694)--a Japanese poet.


 Very curiously, and perhaps predictably, the exponents of nationalism claim that Japan's economic successes and victories over the "declining America" are mainly due to the uniqueness of the Japanese race rather than to economic factors. The use of the word "race" has a special meaning in this case. There are several Japanese words that appear synonymical at first sight: minzoku is "a nation", minsu is "the people", simin is "citizens", kokumin is "the people of the country". The words minsu and kokumin are normally used in official documents the word minzoku is favored by nationalists, especially those of the "Kyoto school".  Nakasone calls himself a Kyoto nationalist, too. He often uses the word combination Nippon minzoku ("the Japanese nation") and even Yamato minzoku ("the nation of Yamato") *. The point is that minzoku is identical with the Nazi concept of the nation--the nation of racial purity and ideological unity. Representatives of the Kyoto school call themselves the "bearers of the spirit of the nation". What is so special about the "chosen race of  Yamato"? The answer to this question has been provided by T. Umehara, who was entrusted by Yasuhiro Nakasone, when Prime Minister, to set up an Institute of Japanese Studies to re-assert and substantiate scientifically the ethnic exclusiveness of the Japanese.

The arguments provided by the philosopher (Umehara studied Western philosophy, mainly German philosophy, for many years, but later got disappointed of it) are  clearly far from trivial. (13) They may look fascinating to any unsophisticated reader. His principal thesis is that the Japanese nation started developing 12,000 years ago--4,000 years before civilization emerged in Mesopotamia. That is the first discovery made by Umehara. Two thousand years later, he says, Japanese culture began to develop, it is known as JOMON culture. The Japanese philosopher is not embarrassed by the fact that archeologists date that culture to the Neolithic epoch, i. e. to the 18th-3rd centuries B. C. (14)  Umehara is not worried by such "trifles". It is more important to him that as far back as ten thousand years ago there emerge   some "spiritual culture" and it is still alive in the Japanese people's consciousness to this day. The philosopher praises that period as much as he can and maintains that "studying the Jomon culture is of vital importance not only for Japan, but also for the entire world, for all humanity" (15). Isn't that impressive?

One could probably find some justification for all this. If Jomon culture is the world's earliest centre of civilization, it should certainly be studied. But is it really the earliest one? Well, who cares about such details?

Umehara has made a second discovery, just as astounding as the first one. He has discovered that the Ainu people are descendants of the people of the JOMON period in other words, the Ainu people are the purest part of the Japanese race. In a conversation with Yasuhiro Nakasone, Umehara flattered the then Prime Minister saying that his face revealed clear signs of descent from the

* Yamato is an ancient name of Japan.

JOMON people. The Prime Minister replied that he indeed was an Ainu. (16) This shows how far the nationalistic studies can be carried by philosophers or politicians. But paradoxically, the Ainu people are the most underprivileged part of the Japanese--a well-known fact denied, however, by Nakasone. These "discoveries" of Umehara's overshadow smaller ones, like the allegations that the concept  of "mutual trust", "equality", and "justice" were formulated by Prince Shotoku Taishi (in the late 6th early 7th century ago.). All this brings to mind the anecdote about the Russian Czar Ivan the terrible, who could see through" people centuries before X-rays were discovered by Roentgen.

The idea of "primacy" of the Japanese nation, with its "unique" cultural values logically leads the adherents of Japanese nationalism to the concept of the "exclusiveness" of the Yamato race. lt should be pointed out that the neonationalists of today have added nothing new to that concept. Similar arguments were advanced by nationalist and fascist ideologists in the 1929s and 1930s. (17)  lt is only natural that the ideas advocated by the apologists of nationalism in the pre-war period and today come from works by German philosophers Nietzsehe, Fichte, and Heidegger. The main thing that Japanese nationalists value in the teachings of those philosophers, especially of Fichte and Heidegger, is their mystical transcendentalism the priority of spirit over flesh and of irrationality over rationality.  According to Japanese philologist S. Watanabe, for instance, the Japanese possess all those qualities, and that's exactly why they are a "unique" nation

lt is only natural that debates over the origin of the Japanese centre the age old subject of the Emperor, the Emperor's role in society, his cult in Shintoism, and his relationship with militarism. The range of issues that used to be "forbidden" as recently as the early 1980s is now discussed in great detail in the mass media. What is especially important is that the general public attitude to the discussion of those issues is that of understanding and even approval. Public opinion polls indicate an increasing interest in the revival of "tradition:" and cultivation of "respect" for the Emperor. The interest is the greatest among younger Japanese (aged 16 to 19), while people over 65 do not show much interest (18).


 This statement, pronounced by Nakasone,(19) has drawn a considerable response in Japan. The question arises: what is it that stimulates support for such slogans?

Just about all experts agree that the upsurge of nationalism has been caused by Japan's spectacular economic achievements. But is that so?

Indeed, Japan's prosperity makes the Japanese proud of their country.  But can prosperity serve as a basis for nationalism? My opinion is open to discussion, but I do not think it can. Why not? Let us recall some historical events. When Britain occupied a dominant position in the world in the 19th century, nationalism was all but nonexistent in the country. But nationalist sentiment grew stronger following World War II, when Britain's importance in world politics declined. That situation caused dissatisfaction, which developed into an upsurge of national chauvinism after the victory in the Falklands conflict. The feeling of dissatisfaction diminished somewhat at that time. In France, nationalist was fanned by envy of Britain that had been there ever since the Hundred Years' War. The desire to force Britain down on its knee was a factor constantly stimulating France's foreign policy an, one of the factors that caused the Napoleon wars. After 1871 French nationalism was fed by the desire to take revenge on Germany.  In Germany the concepts of the exclusiveness of the German race and the German spirit, theoretically formulated by Fichte and Nietzsche stemmed from the dissatisfaction with Germany's position among other great European powers. The country's unsuccessful attempt to ascend the pedestal ended all a humiliating surrender in 1918. The humiliation, accompanied by a yearning for revenge, revived again nationalistic theories featuring the superiority of the "German spirit"--this time in the form o Nazism (the theories were developed by Martin Heidegger, Ju. Streicher,  Alfred Rosenberg, Karl Haushofer, and some other ideologists and philosophers).

In historical perspective, it would be wrong to call nationalism an invariably negative phenomenon. lt plays a historically progressive role when a nation is emerging. We could recall the revival of the Russian national spirit in response to the Tartar-Mongol oppression or Chinese nationalism revived in the face of the Manchurion yoke. Eighteenth-century American nationalism which provided an ideological basis for struggle against the British rule can be assessed in positive terms as well. In other words, nationalism plays a progressive role when a nation is formed as it preserves the nation and promotes its originality. But nationalism immediately turns into its opposite--chauvinism when it is used as a basis for theories of national exclusiveness and superiority.

National-chauvinist ideology leads to hegemonistic policies, once the idea of a nation's exclusiveness invariably leads to the idea of world domination. This logic underlay the aggressive annectionist policies of nazi Germany, fascist Italy and militarist Japan. It is important to point out that such "logic" can be reproduced by the contradiction between a "supernation's awareness that it should fulfill a historic mission in the world arena and its real capabilities.

This phenomenon is clearly observed in Japan today. The country's nationalist quarters claim its economic successes are due to some special features of Japanese culture, traditions, and mentality. Well, it is difficult to say today how Japan would have developed after World War II if it had not been democratized according to Western patterns, if its economy had not received huge dollar subsidies, if it had not had access to Western "thought" in the form of licenses, etc. But despite all that post-war "Westernization", the nationalists say, the most important thing is that Japan has kept its originality intact, and this originality, they maintain, is what has led Japan to prosperity. As for Western civilizations, economic crises there are accompanied with drug abuse, prostitution, crime rates climbing high, and other negative phenomena. All this is especially true of the United States. The Japanese media have been doing their best to lay bare. American society's grave problems, they show it in the worst light, breeding anti-American sentiments in Japanese people and cultivating irritation at the "cheeky Yankees" behavior in Japan. ln the l980s, similar sentiments spread over to Europeans; as for Southeast Asian nations, they are constantly exposed to Japanese haughtiness. In a public opinion poll conducted in 1983-1984 by the daily Asahi Shimibun, 80 per cent of the people said "the Japanese are one of the superior races of the world". (20) Now, everything seems to be clear. But the fact is that the "superiority" syndrome is mixed which feelings of "humiliation" and "dependence". This interrelation has been noted by  researchers. As he explored the roots of contemporary nationalism, Japanese historian and writer Ch. Kato pointed out that it stemmed, "first, from Japan's dynamic economic development and widely advertised prosperity and, second, from its passive foreign policy which largely follows the strategy of the United States. But the United States is not the only problem. Some time ago the neonationalists were outraged by Nakasone s steps, taken in response to official protests from the People's Republic of China, to reverse the decision of the Japanese Ministry of Education  to revise history books in such a way as to present Japan's war of aggression against China as an ordinary military operation.


Japanese sociologist I. Simizu made this call in 1980, and it made him famous. The message is clear: as long as it has no nuclear weapons of its own, Japan will remain a pawn to be used by the superpowers. Only possession of nuclear weapons will make Japan a real power. (22) It should be pointed out for fairness' sake that the idea came under strong criticism at once from the influential quarters of Japan's governing elite, including, for instance scientist and politician M. Inoki (23). The more moderate idea of Japan's etalization or, in other words, of turning it into a political superpower is much more popular.

It should be borne in mind that Japan's governing quarters have been appalled for a long time by the gap between the country's economic might and the role it plays in world politics.  In the early 1970s, Japanese politicians, including the then Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, suggested enhancing Japan's, influence in the world arena. The task was not fulfilled then. In the early 1980 it was reiterated but little was done. The nationalist quarters maintain that the task will not be fulfilled until Japan gets rid of dependence on the United States. This refers not only for military and political dependence arising from the nature of a American-Japanese cooperation and security treaty. A junior partner's role dictated by that treaty forces Japan to strictly follow the US strategy making the Japanese nationalists feel humiliate and inferior. But this is only one aspect of the problem. Another aspect is that things are not so easy even in the fields where Japan seems to have superiority over the United States. This refers to Japan's success in the competition with US monopolies. Those monopolies only took steps to create a confusion at the stock exchange that pushed the yen up and the dollar down, and the price of Japan's exports to the United States grew nearly a hundred per cent. And it should be remembered that nearly 30 per cent of Japan's economy is export-oriented.  So the new exchange rate affected appreciably the country's export-oriented industries and in effect the entire economy. As a result, its industrial output grew by a more 0.3 per cent in 1986 the smallest increase in 11 years.  Although in 1987 the figure jumped back to 10 per cent, the attention was focused on US Congressmen's attacks against the Toshiba kikai company, which allegedly had violated COCOM restrictions. Under US pressure, some of the company's leaders had to resign, others faced charges in Japanese courts. Lastly, in response to US demands Japan had to eliminate customs restrictions on the import of US agricultural produce in 1988, even though Japanese farmers had protested against the move for many years.

Japan's nationalists and right-wring forces probably do not appreciate the real extent of their country's economic dependence on the United States--or they would not have spoken out against the Mayekawa Report in April 1986, which outlined a plan to expand Japan's domestic market in order to "harmonize" its relations with the rest of the world, first of all with the United States. They dismissed the report as proposing Tokyo's surrender to Washington and as another instance of "the great race of Yamato" being humiliated by the Yankees. (24)

So the nationalists believe that the way to make Japan a great military and political power is to get rid of the US tutelage. Various nationalistic and right-wing groups which became especially bold in the 1980s have been operating with precisely that purpose in mind. They draw inspiration from nationalist ideology, whose foreign policy guidelines stress the superiority of Japanese culture. The Umehara-Nakasone dialogue makes it plain that "the human race can not survive if it leans on the principles of European civilization only". (25) Why not? The explanation is that European civilization is founded on the principle of Logos, which has stimulated the development of culture with emphasis on science and engineering, while the human being and spiritual values have largely been ignored. Therefore the only chance for humanity to survive is provided by Oriental culture, for it addresses nature and the human being. The peak of that civilization  is Japanese culture, of course, which dates back to the JOMON epoch, and JOMON culture should be absorbed by the whole of humanity. The West's potentialities have been exhausted, there is nothing else to learn from the West. Now is time to learn from Japan. According to Umehara, "Japan is entrusted with an important global mission today--to provide a bridge between East and West and between North and South". (26)

It would be erroneous to believe that Japanese nationalism is anti-American or anti-European only. It is aimed against the entire world, The question naturally arises: does Japanese nationalism have a future? Answers to this question vary. As to me I'll follow the Umehara's advice for foreigners to quote Basho. Such a haiku stroked me:

Mono ieba

Kuchiburi samushi

Aki-no kaze

If I say a word

My lips are frozen

Autumn's wind

This haiku used to get a proverb meaning: caution makes me silent.


1. Der Spiegel, 12 Jan., 1987, s. 119.

2. In exploring this problem, the author largely used works by Kornilov, Soviet Sociologist and expert on Japanese affairs who has studied a great number of Japanese and Western sources on the subject. See, for instance, his article 'The Typology of Japanese Culture (Japanese Culture in the Theories of "Nihonjin ron" and "Nihon bunka ron") in: Japan: Culture and Society in the Era of the Revolution in Science and Technology. Moscow, 1985, pp. 36-58 (in Russian).

3. See Managing an Alliance: the Politics of U.S.-Japanese Relations, Washington, 1976, p. 109.

4. Y. Sakamoto, "Japan in Global Perspective", in: Bulletin of Peace Proposals, Oslo, No. 1, 1982, p. 5.

  5. A. N. Kuritsin, Management in Japan: Organization and Methods, Moscow 1981, p. 9;  see also V. A. Pronnikov, I. D. Ladanov, Personnel Management in Japan. Sketches, Moscow, 1989, pp. 163-66 (in Russian).

6. See K. Mushakoji,  "The Cultural Premises of Japanese Diplomacy", Japan Interpreter, Nos. 3-4, 1972, pp. 282-92.

7.  U.S.-Japan Communication. Discord in Pacific: Challenges  to the Japanese-American Alliance, Washington 72, p. 167.

8. Japan 1988. An International Comparison, Tokyo, 1987, p. 56.

9.  Japan Times, Aug. 9, 1987.

10. Quoted from Der Spiegel, 12 Jan., 1987, ss. 116, 119, 122.

11. Za rubezhom, No. 26. 1987, p. 8.

12. International macroeconomic comparisons for 1987 put the GDP of the United States at 3,191.6 billion and that of Japan at 1,220.4 billion 1980 "international dollars''. "The Economic Conditions of Capitalist and Developing Countries. A Review for 1988 and Early 1989." (Supplement to The World Economy and International Relations journal. As for R&D spending, the figures cited in the press are often far from realistic, for they do not take into account exchange rate. An objective picture is provided by Japanese sources. They say that the United States spent 193.3 trillion yen on R&D in 1986, while Japan spent 84.2 trillion yen (expressed in dollars, 1986 rate of exchange, the figures are 114.7 and 499 billion respectively). Kagaku giziutsu yoran. A Yearbook of Statistics for Science at Engineering, 1987, Tokyo, 1988 (May), pp. 30, 181.

l3.  His reasoning was formulated in a conversation with Yasuhiro Nakasone published in the February 1986 issue of Bungei Shunju. The dialogue was translated into English and published later that year. The Flow of World Civilization and Japan's Role in the 21st Century. A Dialogue between Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and Professor Takeshi Umehara, Prime Minister's Office, Japan: 1986.  In 1987, those arguments were outlined in Far Eastern Economic Review (FEER), Feb. 1987,

14.  See Yu. D. Kuznetsov, G. B. Navlitskaya, I. M. Syritsin. A History of  Japan. Moscow, 1988, p. 9. However, many authors limit the Jomon period to the 5th-1st century B. C.  K. M. Popov, Japan, Moscow, 1964, p. 36.

15. FEER, Feb. 19, 1987, p. 82.

16. Ibid.

17. For more information see Tosaka Jun, Japanese ideology, Moscow, 1982; Kozai Yosisige, Contemporary Philosophy. Notes  About the "Spirit of Yamate". Moscow, 1974

18. Japanese Society and Culture. A Survey, Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Moscow, No. 2, 1984, p.19.:

19. FEER, Feb. 19, 1987, p. 82.

20. Ibid, p 87.

21. Ch. Kato, "GNP Nationalism on the Upswing", Japan Quarterly, No. 1988,  p.3.        

22. I. Simizu, ''Nippon yo, kokka tare: kaku-no sentaku" (Japan, Be a Power. The Nuclear Option) Syokun, No. 7, 1980.

23. M. Inoki, Kusoteki heiwasiugii-kara kusoteki gunkokusiugi-made (From Utopian Pacifism to Utopian Militarism), Tiuo koron, No 9, 1980.

24  FEER, Feb. 19, 1987, p. 89.

 25. The Flow of World Civilization, p. 11.

  1. 26.Ibid., p. 13.

By Oleg ARIN (Rafik ALIEV), Dr. Sc. (Hist.)

JAPAN: Traditions and Foreign Policy. - Far Eastern Affairs, 1990, No 2.