ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Richard J MillerSubscribe to Richard J Miller

The Real Japan

Japanese people have been peculiar- ly addicted to introspection as to what constitutes their "national character". The ultra-nationalists before and during World War II played heavily upon this tendency in order to create a form of national fanaticism seldom before matched in world history. That nationalism was characterised by its fundamentally fascist ideological structures and tactics, and fused to a mystical and virulent sense of ethnic superiority and religiousity centering on an inviolable "Divine" emperor. But this was the nationalism of the extreme right, whereas the new nationalism that has been developing since the end of World War II, especially since 1960, has been supported by the right, moderate and left wings. The questions must be asked by any observer as to which of a variety of forms of the new nationalism will eventually dominate and whether this future dominant form will be representative of a healthy trend toward an acceptable means of national self- interest and expression. Or will it merely represent a tactic, part of the larger strategy, of extreme left- wing groups and individuals who aim at fundamental changes in the national structure? The fear of this latter development shocked and worried many observant Japanese leaders in 1960.* Rise of Left-Wing Forces The theme of Japanese nationalism runs through the whole fabric of Packard's book. There is no easy answer to the riddle of Japan's prewar nationalism, just as there is no accurate means of tracing postwar nationalism and forecasting its future trends. It would seem to be axiomatic, however, that the nationalistic upsurge represented by the 1960 treaty crisis was potentially as damaging and threatening to true democratic, parliamentary processes as prewar ultra-nationalism had been. However, it is not difficult to understand why the left wing in Japan before 1960 should have constituted itself as the guardian of Japan's national interest through the use of parliamentary and extra-parliamentary mob tactics: after all, it was the extreme right-wing forces that must bear the blame for Japan's almost suicidal involvement in World War II. The Japanese people as a whole suffered dreadfully as a result of that war, and they are not likely to forget that experience for years to come. It was natural that the left wing should emerge and attain a position of national prominence and intellectual leadership during the Occupation and post-Occupation periods; masses of the people respected and admired the left wing because it did not represent the threat that the right wing both before and during the war had so clearly proven itself to be. The left wing in the postwar period championed the cause of "democracy" as a countervail to "feudalism". It is not at all surprising that the views of masses of Japanese people and those of the left wing should have coincided with regard to the un- desirability of war, and that out of such a consensus there should have developed an overwhelming desire to avoid, on the international level, any treaty or alliance which would again lead Japan into war.

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