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The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus
In-depth critical analysis of the forces shaping the Asia-Pacific...and the world.

Philosophy as Activism in Neo-Liberal, Neo-Nationalist Japan

Takahashi Tetsuya interviewed by Lee Hyo Duk

Norma Field, translator

As a public intellectual, philosopher Takahashi Tetsuya is best known for his work on Yasukuni Shrine--the history of its usage and the challenges it presents not only for Japan's Asian neighbors but for those Japanese who object to state-sponsored mourning of those killed in war in the service of the nation. Interviewed here by postcolonial studies scholar Lee Hyo Duk, he turns his attention to the social context in which Yasukuni Shrine has been eminently exploitable by recent prime ministers and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Such reflection also suggests the evolution of Takahashi's own thinking in the course of addressing the "Yasukuni Issue." Focusing on the neo-liberal transformation of the economy, he is compelled to rethink the place of the derridean challenge to the "metaphysics of identity," which had once seemed a singularly appropriate tool for criticizing the totalitarian tendencies of the Japanese state. The neo-liberal program of capital is seemingly countered by the nationalist rhetoric of the state, but the latter is often a mere cover for enthusiastic cooperation in the drive for privatization and deregulation. The dialogue below suggests we can anticipate that Takahashi will be developing tools for confronting this situation, in which there is a simultaneous unraveling of familiar sources of identity before the demands of the market and a consolidation of national identity by the state.

What role does the discourse of "personal responsibility" play in a society being divided into "winners" and "losers"? What are the possibilities for resistance in such times? What can history contribute to this effort? What kind of space does the university need to become? Takahashi explores these questions by drawing on relatively unfamiliar examples such as Hasegawa Teru's solidarity with the anti-Japanese struggle in China and the young Kawakami Hajime's fraught appreciation of Okinawans' relative lack of patriotism in 1911. In this context, he broadens his reflections on communal mourning so that Yasukuni ceases to be only a Japanese problem.

The original interview was published in the inaugural and subsequent issue of the quarterly Zen'ya, of which both Takahashi and Lee were founding members. Takahashi invokes the phrase "hope against hope" as used by colleague Suh Kyungsik to refer to the very struggle to maintain hope as central to continued resistance in the face of crushing and repeated setbacks. Norma Field

The reconfiguration of the nation-state in the neo-liberal, neo-statist order

Lee I have been thinking that we are seeing the reconfiguration of the nation-state. If we can say that one of the goals in establishing the modern nation-state was to produce homogeneity of status, dispensing a uniform education in order to achieve basic literacy and thus raise the social functionality of each citizen so as to make the citizenry as a whole into a powerful base for the continuous development of the state, then I think that this notion is in the process of being reworked. I'm wondering if the ongoing "reforms" in education, in the workplace, and on the level of the law aren't actually tied in with this reconfiguration of the nation-state.

Takahashi Tetsuya

Takahashi If I were to speak to the "reconfiguration of the nation-state" with respect to Japan, I would say that we have to focus on the simultaneous advance of neo-liberalism and neo-statism. [1] And what we have is not just a matter of a parallel synchronicity, but rather, a situation in which neo-liberalism is dependent on neo-statism, and neo-statism has strategically adopted neo-liberalism as state policy. Neo-liberalism, which espouses the supremacy of the free market, has been generally endorsed since the end of the East-West Cold War, signaling the demise of its counterforce, the "actually existing socialist states." The globalization of American-style, so-called "Anglo-Saxon" fundamentalist capitalism has suddenly accelerated, and this is what's come into Japan, too. People treat this development as if it were inevitable, an ineluctable fate presented by history. It has had serious impact on all aspects of society.

The financial world in Japan now makes a strict distinction between the elite and the "disposable" others, in other words workers who can be thrown out in an instant in favor of fresh "raw material." Correspondingly, in education, we are faced with the prospect of a system that discriminates between the "one-in-a-hundred elite student and all those other people without useful talent or without any talent whatsoever" (Mr. Miura Shumon). [2] We are becoming a society that tries to establish this distinction at as early an age as possible and to expand preferential treatment for the elite. We've had for some time a system whereby humans from the time of birth until their emergence in society have to go through the institution of school, but now, stratification begins in school, to be followed by life in the corporate world, so that virtually the whole of life will be lived in a fixed, socially stratified framework. Whether the resulting entities should be called new "classes" or not, it is evident that something like class division is setting in.

There was a time when people asserted that postwar Japan was a "classless society" or a "total middle-class" society, but that is now a thing of the past, and we are beginning to see a new "class society." Neo-liberalism has been adopted as the new national policy, and the notion that this is the only way to survive global inter-national competition, that Japan's status as an economic power is in danger, is pervasive among Japanese officials.

This situation, however, has hardly been recognized as a problem in philosophical circles in Japan until very recently. I myself have come to recognize its importance thanks to the work of people in other fields such as economics, education, or journalism. And that is because, to put it simply, the work I had been doing in philosophy was the critique of the "metaphysics of identity." By dismantling the logic of identity that had been foundational in the history of metaphysics—including contemporary phenomenology as well as analytic philosophy—I had thought that a path could be opened up to reveal the key to new forms of cognition and ethics, including diversity, difference, otherness, and relationality. For me, the greatest hint as to how to proceed in this endeavor came from Jacques Derrida's deconstruction.

When I started thinking about the reality of Japan, about postwar society, from this point of view, the first problem that became evident was that as a result of the failure to rupture the continuity between the pre- and post-war periods, there was a totalitarian tendency in this country and in this society. It has been pointed out that the emperor system survived, resulting in a "nebulous totalitarianism," or a "comfort-seeking totalitarianism," [3] or a hyperconformity—there're many ways to approach this analysis. But in any case, the basic point was that we needed to criticize the tendency toward totalitarianism. Concretely, the target of opposition was statism or nationalism, and we were always focused on trying to dismantle the forces that were trying to unify and integrate and totalize the state and the nation. It was difficult at first to grasp how to connect this with the analysis of the neo-liberal reorganization of the nation-state that we've been talking about. It's only recently that we "got" how neo-liberalism and neo-statism reinforce each other while advancing separately at the same time.

The current globalization of capital even reminds us of the survival-of-the-fittest aspect of early nineteenth-century capitalism. If we take a broad view, the globalization of capital can be traced back to the beginning of the advance of the West into the rest of the world. The westernization of the world encountered opposing forces at several stages and was momentarily arrested, but in the end, it has overcome those forces and is now on the verge of swallowing up the world. It's also possible to describe this as the process in which the USA, a state with the form of a new "empire" that has inherited the West, is now truly taking over the whole earth.

LEE It seems to me that the principle of resistance of socialist and labor movements in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries consisted, at least in one aspect, of regarding the state as an instrument of plunder. What is puzzling, especially in the case of Japan, is that it seems as if the citizens, the object of that plunder, are actively rationalizing such plunder on the part of the state. It's hard to feel any rejection or resistance to such plunder. Rather, people seem to accept state regulation in the form of a simplistic division into winners and losers, thereby rationalizing plunder.

Takahashi That's exactly it. It's impossible to understand the extent to which neo-liberalism has penetrated without taking this factor into account. Neo-liberalism--market fundamentalism--deploys the euphemism of "open competition" to make it seem as if everybody stood at the same starting line. But that is not the case. Whether in the world of finance or education, each person comes to the start with uneven access to "capital." An unequal race is launched in order to produce "winners" and "losers," and the results are justified by the assertion that "they entered the race on their personal responsibility [4], and the losers lost, so there is nothing to be done about it." It's only to be expected that the "winners" would internalize the ideology of neo-liberalism, but those who have been deemed "losers" have also been made to adopt its values, so that they accept domination by the winners and, crudely speaking, seek the protection of their masters.

When this situation gets a little more twisted, the people who have been made "losers" turn their frustration against those who are in an even weaker position than they. This phenomenon is currently taking place in Japan on a daily basis. And it's these people who turn to "strong"-seeming politicians like Ishihara Shintaro and Koizumi Jun'ichiro in order to have their frustrations articulated by them. Despite the fact that these people ["the losers"] are positioned to be cut off by the powerful, they transfer their emotions to them, identify with them, and direct their aggressions at those who are weaker than they or are minorities. This is a phenomenon we can see everywhere.

The 'nation/nationality' as false consciousness [5]

Lee Hyo Duk

Lee Education itself has been moving toward reinforcing this phenomenon.

Takahashi The school is the site where the simultaneous advance of neo-liberalism and neo-statism can be seen most readily. The more social stratification intensifies, the more necessary it becomes to prevent the rebellion of the "losers" by strengthening national unity. For Japanese conservatives, the only national symbols available for unifying the nation are the Rising Sun flag and the anthem that carry with them memories of the old empire along with the emperor system, so these are being newly recycled and have begun to function to conceal the splits and contradictions entailed by the division of society into winners and losers.

The reorganization of the nation-state in the direction of neo-nationalism was ominously foreshadowed from about the time of Governor Ishihara's "sangokujin" [6] statement, but it was dramatically foregrounded from September 17, 2002 (the Japan-Democratic Republic of Korea summit and the emergence of the "abduction" issue) on. Those who are not nationals have been distinguished from those who are, and the former have been excluded and externalized. Those who are not nationals by law have been marked as such and are subconsciously seen as the enemy, the other. That's one thing.

Next, we might ask if anyone who is a citizen can count on the protection of the state. That turns out not to be the case. Those who do not go along with national policy are effectively deemed traitors and regarded as the enemy and the other. As soon as the people who were held hostage in Iraq sought the withdrawal of the Self-Defense Force troops, they were subjected to concerted attack, and even referred to as "anti-Japanese elements" in the Diet. I thought that was a decisive moment.

It's impossible to characterize the imposition of the flag and anthem in the schools as anything other than the persecution of minorities, especially in Tokyo. First, an administrative order is issued to all staff, with the threat of sanctions in the event of violation. Then there is thoroughgoing surveillance, followed by sanctions, with violators pressed to recant in the course of what is called "in-service training." This is a traditional way to flush out the traitors and "anti-Japanese elements" within the nation.

Are those citizens who submit to national policy secure? Not at all. They are made to serve the state and will be sacrificed to it. The Self-Defense Force troops are a typical example, being constantly called upon to serve and sacrifice. And in that process, you get citizens who internalize the state ideology of self-sacrifice "for the sake of the country." This is certainly the path to reconfiguration of the nation-state, but it's one we've seen before, the path taken by Empire Japan.

Lee Still, until recently, we could recognize, however imperfectly, a strand within state policy that was concerned with redistributing wealth as widely as possible within Japan. To be sure, it was for the sake of strengthening and maintaining the national base. Now that national policy has been identified with large-scale multinational corporations, however, there isn't even the pretense of redistributing wealth within the nation, but rather, corporate profit is prioritized. The structure of plunder abroad and exploitation at home is now blatant. This is a big change.

Takahashi That's true. And that's why, once you leave the major cities or those cities dominated by a single corporation, it's really hard to find a job. Incomes have gone down drastically, and there are many students dropping out of college and high school because they are unable to pay tuition fees. We're seeing a totally different Japan from what we had in the 1980s

And precisely because of this, there's a desperate desire to recycle and revive the notion of the nation and to cover over the real situation. There's a national campaign on to get those who are exploited to cheer themselves up by thinking, "At least I'm a citizen, part of the group that's supposed to be protected." They identify with the politicians who speak the language of the powerful, and direct their hatred and frustrations at those who are non-nationals or deemed to be traitors.

But if we look back at the period after the Meiji Restoration, when Japan began racing off to "modernize," we can see, for example, in the arguments of someone like Fukuzawa Yukichi [7] the presumption that the world is organized according to the law of the jungle. It was an age in which, on the one hand, the government preached statism in order to get the new nation-state on track, and, on the other, social Darwinism swept over the world as a "theory of social evolution." Kato Hiroyuki, the president of the Imperial University of Tokyo, was typical. [8] Kato is the sort of person who'd come first if we were writing a history of modern Japanese philosophy, someone who imported social Darwinism from the west and propagated it widely. He held that the rights of the dominant over the dominated, [rights accruing from] the superiority of men over women, were rights properly belonging to the victors in a competition, that rights, in other words, referred to the rights of the mighty. He applied this to international relations as well, even writing a book on how Japan's victory in the Russo-Japanese War was a necessity predicted by the theory of social evolution. No doubt we need to compare and contrast present-day ideology with this, but at first glance, there are certainly resemblances between the ideological climate today and that of the late nineteenth century.

Baron Kato Hiroyuki

Faced with a situation today in which we have to wonder whether democracy and pacifism were only postwar gilding, we need to question the quality of the welcome the nation supposedly extended the Japanese Constitution. To put it bluntly, neither the Constitution nor the Fundamental Law of Education was something won by the nation and the people upon the dismantling of the empire or the national polity, but rather, they were "brought upon" the people as a result of defeat. I want to ask myself about the extent to which postwar Japanese movements to defend the Constitution and pacifism were able to overcome this weakness.

The memory of "resistance"

Lee It's a question of whether "resistance," the word with which Zen'ya has identified itself, was truly ever possible in modern Japanese history, isn't it.

Takahashi Of course, it's not nonexistent, but the examples are astonishingly few. And what little there was has not been officially recognized. It's common to compare postwar Germany and Japan, but I think the decisive difference is indicated by the official recognition given resistance. In his 1985 speech, President Weizsäcker named those who died in the resistance, both inside and outside Germany, and made them the subject of mourning. It would be unthinkable for a Japanese prime minister to do such a thing.

Going back to the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education, in the end, we have to say these were brought upon us by defeat in war. [9] You might say there's a greater element of subjective investment in the case of the Fundamental Law of Education since it partly owes its existence to discussions among Japanese intellectuals. Even if Japan hadn't been driven to defeat in the way it was, it's likely that ultimately, it would not have been able to withstand the resistance of the peoples of the colonies, and the empire would have collapsed. But the Japanese people, who were the subjects of the empire, lacked the strength to bring about the dissolution of the empire. It bothers me endlessly to realize that defeat was the only way that democracy and pacifism could be won. That's what I mean when I say that I'm feeling that Japan's "true character" is showing again.

What can we say truly changed thanks to defeat? True, the "law" changed. But fundamentally speaking, I don't think the "law" can be our ultimate ground. Our ultimate ground—I don't mean in the metaphysical sense—cannot be the law. Our ultimate ground has to do with what we come to desire out of our everyday lives and our experiences of society. The issue is, do we truly desire freedom and equality? Do we truly hope for peace?

It's only when the majority of people truly desire freedom or equality or peace that we can talk about insisting that power guarantee these things. We make power guarantee these things, and to ensure that it will not act so as to violate them, we bind it up with what we call a modern constitution. That's the only sense in which sovereignty can be said to reside in the people.

In other words, it's not as if, on the basis of their historical experience, the people of Japan had said, "We want freedom, we want justice, we want peace," and then proceeded to overthrow or otherwise confine those in power who had denied those values and forced them to accept the [new postwar] Constitution. Just because defeat had brought them into possession of the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education doesn't mean that people who had, up to that point, thought of themselves as a race belonging to a family state with an unbroken line of rulers at its center, a divine nation with an emperor at its center, were capable of becoming the agents of democracy and pacifism.

Lee In such periods, it matters whether a point of reference is available or not. By point of reference I mean historical experience or memory. If there exists a collective memory of resistance or a government-in-exile, then I think that makes a decisive difference for subsequent subject formation. The history of anti-Japanese struggle holds a considerable meaning within the history of Korea, Taiwan and China. Is there no comparable point of reference in Japan?

Takahashi Unfortunately, there isn't anything that looks like a large-scale popular movement. We can find individuals. If you're looking for groups, there're proletarian parties and other such movement-oriented groups that emerged in the Taisho period in association with sociological and socialist thought, but they were crushed beginning with the Great Treason Incident and the passage of the Peace Preservation Law. [10] After that, you can only find exceptional individuals, such as adherents to religious creeds. In the former colonies, in the places that came under Japanese military control, resistance was organized and collectivized, and that memory has since been transmitted. This surely has happened with the democratization movements in Korea and Taiwan, and in the cases of the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, where people won independence through enormous sacrifice, there's also a history of resistance that can serve as a point of reference. If you ask if there's an equivalent experience of resistance in Japan, sadly, nothing comes to mind.

Now, there is a silver lining to this cloud. In the postwar era, the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education have persisted despite the clear displeasure of state power. They've been hollowed out and willfully manipulated, but until they're changed, there are certain things that cannot be done. That's precisely why they are coming under extreme attack now, so that they can be finished off. The fact that the Constitution and the Fundamental Law of Education still exist is the one bright spot in these dark times. We've been pushed to the wall, but we have to prevent their revision and then use these laws as weapons to begin to "normalize" the various situations that exist in violation of these laws.

The hypocrisy of the "discourse of personal responsibility"

Lee Something that's quite unpleasant, indeed, frightening, that's come up recently is the so-called discourse of personal responsibility. Of course, it's all imposed, but people seem to be accepting that everything comes down to a matter of individual responsibility. Questions concerning the social and historical underpinnings of individual responsibility have been suppressed.

Moreover, this is all about affirming the status quo, so that there's no tolerance for criticism of the authorities, and it produces a situation in which any imaginative search for the fundamental rules and principles necessary for thinking critically about the situation at hand is cut short.

Takahashi Philosophically speaking, I think all responsibility is "responsibility toward the other." Among philosophers, it was Husserl who emphasized philosophical "personal responsibility," but this concept expressed his understanding of philosophy as a discipline in which one doesn't begin by presupposing common sense or science but rather must reexamine everything through one's own reason. This methodology emphasizes the mission with which history charged philosophy. In any situation, if we carefully analyze "personal responsibility," it has to do with our recognizing anew the responsibility we bear toward the other; fundamentally, it is "responsibility toward the other."

In the present case, those who insist that [the Iraq hostages] exercise "personal responsibility" are only saying, "You brought your troubles on your own head, what happens to you is of no concern to us." It's the same as when people say "you lost out in an open competition so it's your personal responsibility that you ended up with the losers and you just have to take it." It's only a rhetorical device to discard whoever's in the weaker position at any given moment. What's infinitely comical is that those people who are touting "personal responsibility" are pursuing the responsibility of the [Iraqi hostage] parents, apparently assuming a feudal sort of joint liability.

The atmosphere of Japanese society today is such that anybody who doesn't share in the prevailing values, anybody who acts on the basis of different values, or raises a voice in protest, will be attacked. There's a readiness to ostracize those who demand the withdrawal of the Self-Defense Forces from Iraq for being insubordinate to national policy, and I take that as an example of the revelation of the "true character" of this society.

There was concentrated attack on the hostage families. That was surely painful for them, and from that point on, their attitude changed, and they began to "apologize for the trouble we have caused everyone." It made me think of the case of Hasegawa Teru during the Sino-Japanese War [1937-45]. She was called a "seductress-traitor," in other words, an "anti-Japanese element." She had gone to China as an Esperantist and worked on Japanese-language broadcasts criticizing the Japanese war of aggression. Because she was engaged in action in China hostile to national policy at the time, the Japanese newspapers wrote her up as a "female traitor." Her father was quoted on the pages of the Miyako shimbun as saying, "If that is truly my daughter Teruko, then it is only proper that I, as a subject of the empire, should prepare to terminate my life." A family cannot go against "society" and go on living in Japan. We can't say that the situation today is the same as when there was thought control, but in fact, we might say that even though there isn't explicit control by the authorities, it is very difficult for families to resist the power of "society."

Hasegawa Teru on the cover of a recent (August 2007, Seseragi Shuppan) book tracing her life: Hasegawa Teru—The Woman Who Broadcast Antiwar Messages to Japanese Soldiers During the Sino-Japanese War

Hasegawa Teru herself retorted, "I don't care if I'm called a 'traitor.' Rather, I'm ashamed to be from a country bent on a war of aggression." An U-saeng, the nephew of An Chung-gun, wrote a poem called "Peace Dove" in which he declared his solidarity with her. If we think about the case of Hasegawa Teru, who alone was miraculously able to maintain solidarity with the people of Korea and China through her resolutely "anti-Japanese" stance, then I think you have to say that in the end, it comes down to the individual.

An Chung-gun, Korean independence fighter and
assassin of Ito Hirobumi (1879-1910)

An U-saeng, nephew of An Chung-gun

Lee And I suppose that those individuals who are able to resist hold certain principles regarding humanity or justice.

Takahashi It's the sort of principle that is confirmed through experience, isn't it. Once I was at a gathering with Mr. Koriyama Soichiro, one of the Iraq hostages, and I heard something very good from him. The bashing hadn't stopped yet, and the hardest thing was for him to see his family members being attacked, but as for himself, he said, "It doesn't especially bother me. I want to keep on going back to Iraq." There was no hint of retreat there. This is a different age, and the circumstances aren't the same as for Hasegawa Teru, but I was struck by how he didn't seem to be putting on a show of strength, as if he were forcing himself to meet his "fate" courageously.

"Pro patria mori"

Lee Can we say there's a historical problem in Japan that has to do with the failure to think through the status and nature of religion, with that ambiguity working nicely for state policy from the Meiji Period on?

Takahashi The German-born Jewish historian George Mosse, who took refuge in the UK and subsequently in the US during the Third Reich, writes in his book, Fallen soldiers: Reshaping the memory of the world wars [11] that as long as wars were waged by mercenaries, the notion of dying for one's country did not have general currency. With the French Revolution and the emergence of citizen armies, however, peasants and ordinary people who had previously not gone to war came to believe that it was their task to defend their own country, and accordingly, to die in war for their country became a heroic act. Thus, they came to be mobilized for the wars waged among European nation-states.

But if we turn to someone like Ernst Kantorowicz, we learn that the sanctification of "dying for the country," with the dead becoming heroic spirits, far antedates the French Revolution. It was a view vigorously held in ancient Greece and Rome. The phrase "pro patria mori," to die for the country, comes from the Roman poet Horace. This concept seems to have died out for a time with the advent of Christianity. Under feudalism, vassals were meant to serve their lords, and the notion of serving the nation at large disappeared. Even though the notion of dying for one's country apparently disappeared from view on the stage of history, it was in fact preserved within Christianity, with the notion of the fatherland transferred to heaven above, to the Augustinian heavenly city, with the corresponding idea of Christian martyrdom. Then, beginning in about the thirteenth century, especially with the French monarchy, the older idea began to come back. This was taking place much earlier than Mosse had it, from the time of the European monarchies.

This is a very large historical problem. We can see that the modern nation-state created huge national communities, and it demanded general recognition of the principle that dying for the nation was one of the single most important conditions of being a citizen. But the basic concept of those who sacrifice themselves for the community being sanctified is something we find wherever communities are formed. This being the case, the problem becomes more daunting than ever.

In modern Europe, as the influence of Christianity receded, and Jews, too, became secularized, the religious concept of martyrdom was increasingly replaced by martyrdom for the nation. The Japanese case presents certain commonalities, but compared with Europe, the religious aspect has remained relatively strong, such that Japanese religions, including Christianity, were incorporated into "Yasukuni-ism." Something more-or-less similar occurred in France and Germany, but in Japan, official ideology used Shinto as a nonreligious religion, a "supra" religion. That is precisely why it exerted such power over people's minds.

Lee In religions and creeds that posit a transcendent being, faith makes possible the sublation of a harsh reality by introducing a viewpoint that allows the believer to relativize that reality and even to promote its criticism. As a matter of fact, while Christianity has on the one hand been the source of staggering oppression and tyranny, on the other, it has also served as a basis for pacifism and resistance to oppression. But it's unthinkable for Shinto to become a basis of resistance.

Takahashi That would indeed be difficult. In Japan, the Meiji government tried to place the emperor cult at the center of a modern state. The modern emperor cult had recourse to ancient myths in the course of its elaboration. Nationalism and Shinto ended up in complete unity. Pre-Meiji Shinto preserved aspects of simple animism, a folk belief that did not presuppose a state. Then, when the Meiji state came into being, this was absorbed into what was called state Shinto and reconstituted so that nothing remained of the earlier form.

The Meiji Emperor

Lee These historical circumstances must be one reason why commemoration can't break out of the nation-state framework. How are you conceptualizing commemoration now?

Takahashi My approach has two components. The first is to explore historically the traditions of Europe and East Asia and to see whether heroizing those who die for the country is in a certain sense universal, an inevitable consequence of the process of organizing human beings into nation-state communities. The other strand is to explore the particular historicity of this issue in Japan.

If you strip the "particular Japaneseness" from the Yasukuni cult, what's left? Ritual for praising and for expressing gratitude and respect toward those who died for their country. The state is deified here, and in that sense, what we are talking about is a state religion. The state is made religious. Historically speaking, this might be thought of as the remains of religion, as the world secularized. This is quite clear in Europe. In any case, it is difficult to separate the nation-state community from religion. My hope is to make such separation possible.

Republicanism or communitarianism in North American political philosophy affirms this structure. The idea is that if, in a crisis, people are not willing to risk their lives for the community to which they belong, that community cannot survive. How can we forge a path that will overcome this reasoning?

Imperialistic nationalism and the nationalism of resistance

Lee What complicates things here is the issue of "heroic spirits" in the colonies. Those who died in anticolonial struggle in fact comprise the substance of the memory of struggle for a given people. I think that these deaths represent something decisively distinct from the Yasukuni problem. Of course, it has happened that the post-independence state can usurp these deaths in order to reinforce its own power.

Takahashi I, too, think that we need to make a distinction here. Some people say, what's the difference between Japanese nationalism and the nationalism of the Korean people? But we can't identify the imperialistic nationalism of the sovereign state with the nationalism of resistance.

In Seoul there is a huge national cemetery called the Hyeonchungweon, dedicated primarily to the fallen soldiers of the Korean War. At the highest point in the cemetery are the graves of President Park Chunghee and his wife, and just below it, the grave of Syngman Rhee [12]. On the same grounds are to be found the graves of Resident Japanese Militia Volunteers as well as those who died in the Anti-Japanese Korean Righteous Army struggle. [13]


What astonished me was a river running through the cemetery with a bridge over it, upon which was inscribed "Yasukuni Bridge" in Chinese characters. According to the brochure, the site honors fallen spirits, martyred patriots—in other words, the rhetoric is identical to that of Yasukuni Shrine. [14] We have to take into consideration Park Chunghee's career and his relationship to Japan, and moreover, given the focus on the Korean War, we cannot call the nationalism in this cemetery a "nationalism of resistance." At the same time, there is also a memorial tower to the Provisional Government in Shanghai, so there is no single way to summarize the nature of this cemetery.

At the very least, whether we're talking of Korea or China, we can't deny that the people who died in the name of a "nationalism of resistance" have subsequently been used as "heroic spirits" by state powers to legitimize their own authority.

With these cases, what's important is to figure out how we can redeem their possibilities for popular resistance and liberation without having them usurped by state power. We can see this in Korea and China. Confined though they are by President Park Chunghee's ideology of commemorating the fallen spirits in a cemetery inspired by anticommunist ideology, there are still the graves of volunteer fighters for liberation from Japan. In China, in the Patriotic Education Cemetery, we can also find such graves. Can we find anything like that in Yasukuni in Japan? No. If we cast our minds on the two million five hundred thousand "heroic spirits" enshrined in Yasukuni, not a single one invoking the memory of resistance or liberation comes to mind.

Worrisome "judicial reform"

Lee We can see no awareness of the Yasukuni issue as a problem for all East Asia reflected in the unjust verdicts handed down in the war compensation lawsuits brought by people from the former colonies. The Japanese judiciary is really terrible and seems to be incapable of producing reasonable decisions. And there is little sign of internal effort to change this. There's a marked tendency in recent years for the judiciary to lean ever more toward the state.

Takahashi Never once since defeat has the judiciary in Japan reflected critically on its own responsibility for the war and its involvement in colonial domination. There is an individual, exceptional case, though, but it's hardly known. It is "A judge's war responsibility," by Mr. Aoki Ei-goro of the Osaka District Court, published in 1962 in the Legal seminar. [15] This is the first and it remains the last instance. It seems to have produced no response whatsoever. By comparison with Germany, where the judiciary changed dramatically from the 1970s on, there's much more continuity between the prewar and wartime era and the present.

There have been over sixty postwar compensation suits filed beginning in the 1990s, but almost all of them have ended in dismissal. In terms of age, the plaintiffs are nearing their limit, so it's hard to avoid thinking that the Japanese government and judiciary are hoping to get away with it. Recently, however, victories have been won in cases concerning forced labor in the Niigata District Court and the Hiroshima High Court, giving us a little hope.

Lee A friend who has looked into this tells me that from the 1970s on, a structure seems to have been put in place whereby judges who have delivered decisions unfavorable to the state have been demoted. Despite the fact that freedom of thought and belief are guaranteed, judges associated with the Communist Party have been subjected to attacks from outside the judiciary and refused assignments. In other words, it's a system that deploys various screening mechanisms so that only those judges likely to go along with state policy survive. The appointment of judges by the government is a tension within a system designed to separate powers among three branches

Takahashi In the case of Yasukuni lawsuits, it's been said that after the Sendai High Court pronounced official worship to be clearly unconstitutional, the judge was driven into an extremely painful position. Despite the decisions of the Osaka High Court and the Fukuoka High Court holding the Nakasone visits to be in "possible violation of the Constitution" or "if repeated, unconstitutional," decisions handed down regarding Koizumi's visits show quite a different judiciary. We can't get rid of the impression that the judiciary is now more inclined toward the executive branch. The Fukuoka District Court decision was better than anticipated, but it is said that the chief judge wrote his will before announcing the decision.

Lee It seems to be "national character" that allows this country, a signatory to the International Covenants on Human Rights as well as the Removal of All Forms of Discrimination, to ignore repeated recommendations from UN bodies to address human rights violations and discriminatory practices. It never seems to get around to revising domestic law.

Takahashi This is the case with the "comfort women" problem as well as discriminatory treatment of Korean schools, isn't it.

What I fear is that the Japanese judiciary, which has so many problems to begin with, is going to become even more conservative and pro-establishment as a consequence of current neo-liberal and neo-statist "judicial reform."

In Japanese society, where the power of the executive has been markedly strong from before the war, turning to the courts for redress—whether in the case of the imposition of the Rising Sun and the Kimigayo anthem or Yasukuni or pollution or Hansen's Disease or tainted-blood-induced AIDS cases—and arousing public opinion has been one of the few means of resistance available to citizens. Through involvement with several cases, I have come to feel deeply how meaningful it is for citizens holding minority views to turn to the courts as a site for appeal—even putting aside the question of victory or defeat. That is why, as I have been saying, even though the law cannot be our ultimate ground, I am not one of those who regard legal battles cynically or lightly. All the more reason why I am extremely worried about the current direction of "judicial reform."

Lee In Europe and in the US, there seem to be serious fundamental and theoretical arguments in jurisprudence and legal philosophy that are then tried out in actual legal struggle. In the US, critical legal studies or critical race studies, or feminist jurisprudence or deconstructive feminist legal philosophy seem to have been established on the basis of interaction with practice. It doesn't seem that such practical endeavors are viewed favorably in Japan.

Questioning jurisprudence

Takahashi Even in Japan, though, there are a few legal scholars who are practically engaged. In the lawsuits pertaining to the Rising Sun and anthem, Yasukuni, and postwar compensation, constitutional law scholars, education law scholars, and international law scholars have appeared as expert witnesses and made theoretical contributions to the plaintiffs' arguments.

This kind of jurisprudence exists in Europe and the US as well. Liberal jurisprudence, which is influential in the US, is very pro-establishment. Countering this, something called "postmodern jurisprudence" appeared in the 1980s. My book Derrida, published several years ago, partially introduces this movement. Its core is the view that "Law is politics" [in English in the original]. The law, even natural law, is constructed according to the interpretation of those who perceive it to be natural law and therefore is necessarily a reflection of a given worldview and ideology. Since the law can never be neutral or absolute, or constitute a fundamental ground, it can be the object of political criticism.

Derrida's deconstructive thinking has been utilized in this movement, and he himself, in response, has written such works as Force of law. [16] Even though the law can always be deconstructed, the reason that it is susceptible to deconstruction is that something called "justice" exists on a separate plane. It is precisely because "justice" exists, transcending the law, that the law can be deconstructed. At the same time, however, if "justice" is not concretized within the law, it cannot have any "force." It's important to affirm both aspects. Even though some scholars have introduced postmodern jurisprudence into Japan, I don't have any sense that it has been seriously received as a challenge to jurisprudence generally.

Lee Why is it that scholars of law and political science only interpret and never consider their own subjectivity?

Takahashi That's true in philosophy, too. (Laughter.) But recently, some relatively young constitutional law scholars, political science scholars, and philosophers have issued appeals opposing the deployment of the Self-Defense Forces in Iraq, the use of depleted uranium weaponry, the "war against terror." Some have started up a practical research group on "public philosophy."

Lee Even the Women's International War Crimes Tribunal [17] has not been properly acknowledged, and it has never been seriously discussed.

Takahashi Precisely for that reason, Mr. Abe Hiromi's The horizon of international human rights is an epochal achievement, a book written from the viewpoint of a scholar of international law. [18] According to Mr. Abe, international jurisprudence in Japan began with the goal of justifying the Meiji government's diplomatic policy, so it was very much a "service discipline," and this dimension has remained strong to this day.

By contrast, he argues from the position that international law belongs to the citizens of the world, and presents us with an extremely persuasive logic of criticism. Feminist international jurisprudence [19], to which Mr. Abe has contributed, should be considered the starting point of Japanese feminist international jurisprudence.

"A Statism Peculiar to Japan"

Takahashi When we talk about the spirituality of prewar "Japanese," I always think of Kawakami Hajime's "A statism peculiar to Japan." [20] This was written in 1911, the year after the "annexation" of Korea. Kawakami is best known for the Marxian economics of his Tales of poverty, but his philosophical journeys constitute an interesting example of the history of modern Japanese thought.

"A statism peculiar to Japan" is a criticism of Japanese society immediately after the "annexation" of Korea, following upon the Russo-Japanese War. Kawakami takes up the commonplace observation that if Westerners visit Japan and ask Japanese people what their religion is, most of them reply that they have "no religion." This is false, he says, for they believe in the "state as religion." "In the eyes, brains, and hearts of Japanese, there is nothing so noble as the state. For this reason, even though Japanese would sacrifice any and everything for the state, they would be unable to agree to sacrifice the state for any and everything. The state is the sole divinity to which they would offer any sacrifice, but they cannot even imagine the existence of other divinities to which they might sacrifice the state." Kawakami concludes, "From this obtains the conclusion that the majority of Japanese do indeed have a certain sort of religion." In his view, it was "state as religion" that constituted the spirituality of Japanese at that time.

Kawakami was especially concerned about scholars and priests and said that in Japan, "Scholars sacrificed truth to the state, and priests sacrificed their faith to the state." Scholars and priests were willing to sacrifice truth and faith to the state but were unwilling to sacrifice the state for truth and faith. For that reason, there would emerge neither great thinkers nor great religious figures. Moreover, Japanese had not even understood this to be a problem. Japanese did not have a need to "enjoy" thought or faith that was incompatible with the existence of the state, so they did not find their situation problematic. So pervasive was the "state as religion" that it became like the air we breathe. He even touched on Yasukuni Shrine, concluding that the pervasiveness of state as religion was why those who had died for the state were enshrined there. Kawakami was saying these things before 1930, before the stage of ultranationalism as it intensified around the time of the "Manchurian Incident."

If you say that Japanese life is lacking in spirituality, that is so, but in its place, there is the state, or the community, or an awareness of belonging to a community distinctive to "the Japanese."

What happened to the "state as religion" constructed during the imperial era? Was it broken off with defeat in 1945? I don't think so. It continued on at least as an undercurrent, as the "true character" of this society. Wasn't there a similar ethos in the corporate world in the era of high-growth economics? Isn't there still?

Incidentally, Kawakami was to visit Okinawa just after writing "A statism peculiar to Japan." He had gone as an assistant professor of the Imperial University of Kyoto to investigate the land allotment system but was caught in a "slip-of-the-tongue incident." In Okinawa, the entire prefecture enthusiastically greeted the "visit of Dr. Kawakami" with the result that Kawakami ended up giving a lecture, in which he said the following: "Upon careful observation of Okinawa, in matters of language, customs, manners, faith, and thought, in all other respects, I have come to see that Okinawa apparently differs from the mainland in its history. Accordingly, there are some who say that Okinawans are lacking in their sense of loyalty and patriotism. This, however, is not something to be deplored. It is precisely because of this, on the contrary, that I not only entertain considerable hope for Okinawans but find myself most interested in them. That, in the present-day, in a country such as Japan where patriotic sentiment is more pronounced than elsewhere in the world, there should exist a region where this element is even slightly attenuated numbers among the things that interest me most." (Ryukyu shimpo, April 5 [1911]).

This stirred up a furor. Assistant Professor Kawakami had, of all things, insulted Okinawans by saying that their patriotism was weak. He was denounced as a "promoter of traitorous sentiments." Kawakami lectured once more in order to explain himself, but he seems to have left Okinawa a wounded man. The people who came out in support of Kawakami were Iha Fuyu [21] and his associates. Serializing "A statism peculiar to Japan" in the Okinawa Mainichi shimbun, they tried to undo the misunderstanding about Kawakami.

At this stage, Kawakami had not yet decided to fight statism, but rather, was trying to analyze its problematic aspects dispassionately. To be sure, he was speaking and acting in a delicate situation. A "Yamato person" comes from "the center" on a trip and goes home after pronouncing "Okinawa different from the mainland and [therefore] good." This is similar to Orientalist responses to Okinawa we get today, although the situation has become ever more serious because of the US bases. If we ask whether Kawakami went to Okinawa with such an attitude, the answer is probably not. It was because Kawakami found "state as religion" to be of a dubious nature, because he entertained questions about the nationalism of "loyalty to one's lord and love of country," because he maintained a certain distance from all of this, that he felt a "considerable" "hope" and "interest" in Okinawans, who were relatively uncontaminated by a "statism peculiar to Japan." But that was a time when bureaucrats from the center were coming in with the aim of educating Okinawans to become imperial subjects, and so this [Kawakami's "hope"] clashed with official policy.

Lee What year is this?

Takahashi "A statism peculiar to Japan" appears in the March 1911 issue of The central review [Chuo koron]. He goes to Okinawa right after, in April.

Later, in 1913, Kawakami goes to Europe to study, and he gathers together his writings from that period in 1915 in Thinking back on my country. [22] He must have undergone a terrible case of culture shock, for after reading H. Chamberlain's The Foundations of the 19th Century [23], which preached the superiority of the Aryan race, he writes, "There are reasons for believing that Japanese are a rare, superior race." It's after this that he takes up Marxism seriously, so we can see how he was wavering.

Kawakami Hajime

Confronting the limitations of Japanese intellectuals

Lee Maruyama Masao and Otsuka Hisao are the names that come up when we think of studies of Japanese statism. What do you think of them?

Takahashi I don't think we can avoid criticism of Maruyama's nationalism or rather, his "national subjectivism." [24] As for his overall views on the defeat, we find a discourse on war responsibility, but no discourse on responsibility for colonial domination. It's not just Maruyama. We need to thoroughly examine the historical consciousness of postwar "progressive intellectuals." Those who belong to the "Maruyama School" have reacted too defensively to such criticism.

These matters should be discussed as limitations on the part of Maruyama. That said, Maruyama's discourse on democracy should be acknowledged as holding universal potential. Take Nambara Shigeru, for instance, a very big presence among postwar intellectuals. [25] Nambara called for the abdication of the emperor, but he always stayed within the framework of the emperor system. Compared with Nambara, Maruyama, despite the limitations of his time, offers many more aspects that are fresh even today. This is commonsensical, but we need to distinguish between the things we should inherit and those we should criticize. Isn't that what Mr. Nakano Toshio is saying? [26]

Lee He says that people have attacked him for putting Maruyama down unfairly, but he says that in fact he is valorizing him as well.

Takahashi If there were nothing to valorize, there would be no use in pointing out his limitations.

As for criticism of colonialism, this is a deep-seated problem for Japanese intellectuals. As one who grew up in the former metropole, I myself may have unconsciously inherited the same limitations to a degree. For this, there is nothing to do but be humble before the criticism of others. This is a truly deep-seated issue, comparable to the Palestinian problem for European and American Jewish intellectuals.

The writings of Ms. Kim Chong-mi have pierced me to the quick. Such works as An introduction to the history of popular Korean and Chinese anti-Japanese struggle in Northeastern China, or Studies of the history of the Levelers' Movement, and A world history of home [27] are not only important for their content, but for their sharp criticism of Japanese intellectuals. You can say this about this society as a whole, but intellectuals, beginning with historians, have not tried to learn much about colonialism, and they've ended up producing a gigantic black box. Indeed, more than a few have lent their energies to legitimizing or writing apologias for colonialism.

There are such observations as the following in Ms. Kim Chong-mi's writings: If Japan were to pay compensation and reparations to the people in the regions where Japanese imperialism established colonies, it would likely become one of the most impoverished countries in the world. If the US were to pay compensation and reparations to the Vietnamese people for the damage US imperialism had inflicted, then it would likely become one of the poorest countries in the world.

A World History of Home

Though we have to acknowledge that acts were committed that can't be compensated for materially or monetarily, what she says is right, and it is totally false to suggest that after defeat, Japan was reborn from ground zero. There was an earlier, fundamental accumulation, an accumulation built upon the injuries inflicted on the peoples of Asia subjected to invasion and domination. True, there was some loss as a consequence of total war, but that's where Japan's "postwar" began, and thanks to the "special procurements" generated by the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the economy took off. We can't let ourselves forget this.

Think critically so as not to be deceived

Takahashi In Japan right now, I can't help thinking that the majority of people have stopped trying to think. I recently appended a modest message to Franck Pavloff's little book, Brown Morning, to the effect of "Let's put an end to our state of suspended thinking, let's start thinking." [28] The response was unexpectedly overwhelming, much of it from so-called ordinary citizens who said, "There's something wrong with the way things are now. I didn't like it, but I was swept along by the demands of everyday life and I'd stopped thinking. I realize this is wrong."

The pervasive tendency of the present is being manufactured as "state strategy" by the dominant strata in politics and in finance, by journalism and the "culture industry" that have lost their capacity for criticism and simply follow along, by "intellectuals and cultural figures," as well as the great majority of citizens who have stopped thinking in any regular way about political and social issues. I think we have to begin by examining ourselves to see if we haven't unconsciously fallen into the same trap.

I myself have a certain resistance to the classic image of the "great intellectual," rightly or wrongly identified as Sartrean. Keeping in mind that this sort of image of the intellectual has been subjected to considerable criticism, we nevertheless stated the need "to be intellectual" in the Zen'ya declaration. "To be intellectual" is not a privilege granted to those who are called "intellectuals," certainly not just to "philosophers" or "thinkers."

"To be intellectual" in our context minimally requires that we no longer continue in a condition of suspended thought about political and social problems, that we stop following uncritically the general tendency of our age and society, that we think with our own heads, that we not neglect critical scrutiny, that we not simply accumulate knowledge, but that we seek the knowledge necessary to examine critically, that we make a constant effort to formulate deeper and more fitting evaluations. These are not tasks that only so-called intellectuals can perform, but rather, things that any "ordinary" citizen can do.

As a matter of fact, what philosophy means to me is no different from this. It's neither a pre-established discipline, nor something that can be fitted into the framework of a textbook of the history of philosophy. I'm not very interested in such things. The philosophy that exists as an academic discipline is necessary for learning about the techniques of thought and the accomplishments of past and present philosophers and thinkers, but my own interests can't be confined in that framework.

If I were to put simply what philosophy is for me, it is "thinking critically so as not to be deceived." We need not be deceived by politicians, by ideologies and ideologues of any stripe, by the "mood" or "atmosphere" of the times as produced by the mass media. And if it is in this sense of being thoroughly "intellectual," then yes, philosophy can indeed be a means of "resistance." If asked, "Can philosophy constitute resistance," then I'd like to respond, in this sense, yes, philosophy can constitute resistance.

Lee If there's any possibility in the academicism as represented by philosophy, it would lie in the fostering of the capacity to criticize society from a constructive viewpoint, to look at things fundamentally in the way that the more practical disciplines alone cannot promote.

Takahashi The space that is the university was meant to be a space where one is permitted to be thoroughly intellectual. On the one hand, it is certainly the case that in the contemporary university, numerous "realistic" demands are posed by industrial society, and I understand the ways in which the various disciplines in the sciences are especially pressed to respond to such demands. On the other hand, the university is a space where being thoroughly "intellectual" is something to be permitted for its own sake. It is precisely this feature that, when problems arise in society, enables the university to illuminate them, point out possible directions for resolution, and thus, to "contribute" to society in a profound sense. It should be a space for such "intellectual" activity. Whether civil society is truly realizing a benefit by supporting such a space of "intellectual" activity with public funds is the marker of whether the university system is functioning properly in a given society. In that sense, the university in Japan is presently in a deep state of crisis.

To be thoroughly intellectual, to be thoroughly critical, is the condition for resistance. Whether it's literature or art or some other endeavor, culture cannot constitute resistance without the activity of the intellect. For me, this activity is philosophy.

Lee It's necessary to hold the conviction that to be intellectual leads to redemption and liberation.

Takahashi Well, conviction or at least, hope. We don't want to let go of that “hope against hope."


Notes in brackets and marked "Tr." were added by the translator.

[1] ["Statism" as a term to indicate the strong role of the state in social and economic matters, or as the OED puts it with somewhat different emphasis in its 1989 edition, "Extreme development of the power of the State over the individual citizen," is a less familiar word in English than éta-tisme in French or kokkashugi in Japanese. Even though "ultranationalism" became familiar as the translation of chokokkashugi as used by the late political theorist Maruyama Masao, "statism" will be used here as more accurately conveying Takahashi's sense in using the term shinkokkashugi, or "neo-statism." Elsewhere, if it seems more appropriate, "nationalism" will be used.Tr.]

[2] [Miura Shumon (1926-) is a writer and former Director General of the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan (1985-86). Miura has also served as chairperson of various governmental committees and organizations including the National Curriculum Committee. He is married to writer Sono Ayako, the former chairperson of the Nippon Foundation (Nippon Zaidan), the massive philanthropical organization founded by the late Sasakawa Ryoichi, who was charged with Class A war crimes for his activities in China. Sono Ayako was one of the earlier challengers to the claim that the Japanese military were involved in the collective suicides in the Battle of Okinawa. Tr.]

[3] [Fujita Shozo, “Anraku e no zentaishugi” (originally published in Shiso no kagaku in 1985) in Zentaishugi no jidai keiken (Experiencing the age of totalitarianism, Misuzu Shobo,1997). Tr.]

[4] [A more literal translation of jiko sekinin would be "self-responsibility." This phrase took on new life in April of 2004 when three young Japanese were held hostage in Iraq, condensing the view that the three had gone on their own, brought the fate of captivity on themselves and were therefore responsible for the costs associated with their release and return. The phrase caught on, resonating with other key concepts of a privatizing age such as jiko futan, referring, for example, to the (ever-increasing) portion of health insurance the individual must pay. This will be discussed further below.Tr.]

[5] [Takahashi's own gloss for kokumin is neshon (nation, p. 12), but this usage does not work in English when persons are clearly indicated. The term is a challenge to translate, given the subtle but significant nonequivalence between kokumin and shimin in relation to the English word "citizen." Both "nationals" and "citizens" will be used where kokumin refers to persons, with a preference for the latter when the emphasis is on the "rights of citizenhood" as commonly understood in the U.S. Tr.]

[6] ["Sangokujin" (literally, "third-country national") was a term used in postwar Japan for people formerly under Japanese occupation or colonial rule, principally Taiwanese, Koreans, and Chinese. It is usually regarded as an ethnic slur. Ishihara Shintaro, Governor of Tokyo, paired this term with "foreigners" to refer to a criminal illegal presence in Tokyo in his official speech before the Ground Self-Defense Forces in 2000. Tr.]

[7] [Fukuzawa Yukichi (1835-1901) was a writer, educator, and founder of Keio University. One of the most influential thinkers on modernization, he has also come in for criticism for his position favoring a course of Japanese "de-Asianization." Tr.]

[8] [Kato Hiroyuki (1836-1916) was a political scientist and the first president of the Imperial University of Tokyo. Though Kato was initially known for introducing natural rights theory (tempu jinken ron), he later converted to social Darwinism. Tr.]

[9] [Enacted in 1947, the Fundamental Law lays out the principles of a new education system in keeping with the new Constitution. The ruling coalition pushed through revisions in December 15, 2006. For an analysis of the changes, see here and here. Tr.]

[10] [The Great Treason Incident (Taigyaku jiken) refers to the mass arrest of Japanese socialists and anarchists in 1910-1911 on the allegation that they were plotting to assassinate the Emperor Meiji. Twelve of them were executed despite worldwide protest. The Peace Preservation Law (Chian iji ho), first enacted in 1925, made challenges to the emperor state and to private property illegal. Tr.]

[11] (Oxford U.P. 1990); Japanese translation: Eirei—tsukurareta sekaitaisen no kioku (Kashiwa Shobo, 2001).

[12] [Park Chunghee (1917-1979) was a former army general and then President of the Republic of Korea. Park is officially identified as having collaborated with the Japanese colonization of Korea. Park led a military coup d’état in 1961 and was elected president in 1963. His policies led to high economic growth in the ROK. He was assassinated in 1979 by the director of the KCIA. Syngman Rhee (or Lee Seungman, 1875-1965) was a Korean independence activist and the first President of the Republic of Korea. Lee promoted a staunch pro-US, anti-Communist policy. He resigned the presidency in response to massive protest. Tr.]

[13] [Resident Japanese Militia Volunteers (Zainichi giyu hei): When the Korean War broke out in 1950, a number of Resident Korean students made their way from Japan to Korea as volunteers on both sides. Many of the survivors were refused reentry by Japan at the end of the war. The Anti-Japanese Korean Righteous Army (Konichi gihei toso) refers to militias that engaged in armed struggle against Japanese invasion. They were later succeeded by various Korean independence struggles. An Chung-gun was a member of a Righteous Army militia. Tr.]

[14] [The history of the naming of the Jeongguk ("Yasukuni" as read in Japanese) Bridge is a research topic in its own right. This bridge was constructed in the national cemetery in 1958 as the last in a series of three (beginning in1956), each name invoking a portion of the title conferred on Kim Pu-sik (1075-1151), author of the Samguksagi (Historical records of the Three Kingdoms), for having suppressed an attempt to move the capital to P'yeongyang. Such an invocation from the Korean past must be interpreted in light of the Korean War and the Cold War context in which the bridges were built. For some Japanese rightists, "jeongguk"/"yasukuni" as renderings of a phrase appearing in the Zuo Zhuan invites a conflation that justifies the role of Yasukuni Shrine—"they" have a "Yasukuni," too, so why shouldn't we? See, for instance, Nishio Kanji's site, accessed 29 October 2007. I am grateful to Kyeonghee Choi of the University of Chicago, Jung Keunsik of Seoul National University, and Dr. Jung Hogi, Sunggonghoe University and author of the recently published Yeok sa gi nyum si seol (Historical commemoration and mourning sites in Korea) for information and discussion of this topic. Tr.]

[15] Hogaku semina; (subsequently published as) Saibankan no senso sekinin (Nihon Hyoron Shinsha,1963).

[16] Ho no chikara (Hosei Daigaku shuppankyoku, 1999) [Force of law: the ‘mystical foundation of authority,’” in Deconstruction and the possibility of justice (Routledge, 1992). Tr.]

[17] [The Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal was a "people’s tribunal" held in Tokyo in 2000 to try Japanese military sexual slavery in World War II. Through the examination of documents and testimonies by former comfort women and legal experts from Asia and the Netherlands, it rendered a final judgment finding Emperor Hirohito and other top military commanders guilty for their role in the perpetration of the comfort women system. The verdict has incited a considerable backlash from Japanese conservatives. For an analysis of a recent Tokyo High Court decision on national broadcaster NHK's handling of the Tribunal, see N. Field, "The Courts, Japan's 'Military Comfort Women,' and the Conscience of Humanity: The Ruling in VAWW-Net Japan v. NHK" here. Tr.]

[18] Kokusai Jinken no Chihei (Gendai jimbunsha, 2003).

[19] Feminizumu kokusai hogaku no kochiku (Chuo Daigaku Shuppanbu, 2005).

[20] "Nihon dokutoku no kokkashugi," Kawakami Hajime hyoronshu (Kawakami Hajime: Selected criticism; Iwanami Bunko, 1987). [Kawakami Hajime (1879-1946) was an economist and member of the economics faculty at the Imperial University of Kyoto. His Marxist inclinations led to his expulsion. He first joined the legal Worker-Farmer Party, then the underground Communist Party in 1932. He was arrested in 1933 and imprisoned until 1937.Tales of poverty (Bimbo monogatari [Iwanami Bunko, 1965]) was first serialized in the Osaka Asahi shimbun in 1916. Tr.]

[21] [Iha Fuyu (1876-1947) was a scholar of Japanese and Okinawan culture and linguistics. Regarded as the father of Okinawaology, Iha is known for his "theory of the common ancestry of Japanese and Okinawans (Nichi-Ryu dosoron)." Tr.]

[22] Sokoku o kaerimite (Jitsugyo no Nihonsha, 1915; Iwanami Bunko, 2002).

[23] [Houston Chamberlain (1855-1927) was a British-born, naturalized German author and a proponent of anti-Semitism. His most influential work, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century (1899), proclaimed Teutonic supremacy over other races. The pioneering Japanologist Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850-1935) was his older brother. Tr.]

[24] [The first term is kokuminshugi, the second, kokuminshutaishugi. Maruyama actually seems to have used the term kokuminshugiteki shutai ("nationalistic subject"). Tr.]

[25] [Nambara Shigeru (1889-1974) was a political scientist and president of the University of Tokyo (1945-51). As a "Non-church" (Mukyokai) Christian, Nambara maintained his liberal position even during the war years, during which time Maruyama Masao was his student. He was an influential leader of liberals in a number of early postwar causes, including education reform and defense of the postwar pacifist Constitution. Tr.]

[26] Otsuka Hisao to Maruyama Masao: doin, shutai, senso sekinin (Otsuka Hisao and Maruyama Masao: mobilization,subject, and war responsibility), (Seidosha: 2001). [Nakano Toshio (1950-) is an historical sociologist and intellectual historian. Tr.]

[27] Chugoku Tohokubu ni okeru konichi Chosen Chugoku minshushi josetsu (Gendai Kikakushitsu, 1992). Full titles of the last two works are Suihei undoshi kenkyu-minzoku sabetsu hihan (Studies of the history of the Levelers' movement: A criticism of ethnic discrimination, Gendai Kikakushitsu, 1994), and Kokyo no sekaishi—kaiho no intanashonarizumu e (A world history of home: Toward an internationalism of liberation, Gendai Kikakushitsu, 1996).

[28] Chairo no asa, Fujimoto Kazuo trans. (Otsuki shoten, 2003). [Le matin brun (Editions Cheyne, 1998); Brown Morning, an allegory of the unacknowledged advent of fascism, is available in a bilingual edition co-published by the University of Wisconsin Press and the O'Brien Press, Dublin, 2005. Tr.]


The text for this abridged translation is a revised version of an interview published in issues one (Autumn, 2004) and two (Winter, 2005) of Quarterly Zen'ya, reprinted in Takahashi Tetsuya, Kono kuni de 'seishin no jiyu' o motomete: tetsugaku wa teiko tariuru ka? ([In pursuit of 'freedom of the spirit' in this country: Can philosophy constitute resistance?]; Zen'ya Booklet no. 2, 2006). Norma Field thanks Takahashi Tetsuya, Lee Hyo Duk, and the publisher for their kind permission to translate; Aiko Kojima, graduate student in sociology at the University of Chicago for assistance with the notes and images; Scott Mehl, graduate student in comparative literature, for editorial assistance; and the Japan Committee of the University of Chicago for support of this project.

This article was posted on Japan Focus on Nov. 3, 2007.


Takahashi Tetsuya is a professor in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Tokyo; Lee Hyo Duk is an associate professor in the Faculty of Foreign Studies at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, specializing in postcolonial studies. Norma Field teaches in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago.

For a podcast of Takahashi Tetsuya's March 2007 lecture at the University of Chicago on "Postwar Japan on the Brink: Militarism, Colonialism, Yasukuni Shrine," see here.

See also a Japan Focus article, Takahashi Tetsuya, The National Politics of the Yasukuni Shrine, here.

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Authors: For all articles by the author, click on author's name.   Tetsuya Takahashi, H D Lee