Meiji B: Japan's History

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Topics: Japan treaded through a compendium of contemporary world thought which fashioned the Meiji Ear's modernity.


Japan’s Modern Myths

I argue that the Japanese were disciplined into dialectic with historiography of not pursuing an ideology between 1886―1887; because they were too busy caring out necessary functions to avert a foreign takeover. Carol Gluck argues that ideology comes after the settling period of the Meiji Restoration, but ideas began early on, and put into practice in the later period of the Meiji era.

Ch. 1, 2 take up the prospects of understanding what ideology is for the Japanese and everyone else.

The theme of ideology was promoted by the elite commoners and rulers, but the people looked to practicality and initiated their own nationalistic renovations. People did the commonsensical things, like forming clubs, curriculum, and groups on their own time, without the central rule telling them so. Nationalism can only come about by identifying a viable other, and this is true for all peoples in all countries. The Meiji, like any other modern state, experimented with social, economical and governmental theories. Periods in the Meiji saw furious changes from what discourses entered the realm from the outside.

“Since the original education act of 1872, administrative and curricular change had been dizzying. An administrative structure was first established in 1872 on a highly centralized French model. It then moved in the space of one year (1879) to an American-style local control, returned to national intervention in 1880 (though without national subsides), changed slightly in 1885, and subsequently in 1886, to a hybrid European statist system  which featured German influence. The elementary curriculum had meanwhile shifted from Anglo-American egalitarian emphasis on the individual intellect, with textbooks literally translated from Wilson’s Readers or Wayland’s “wisdom,” to a mixture of Confucian and European elitism and moral emphasis that used texts ranging from the most ancient Analects to the latest Herbartian example.”1

By 1890s, Both British and French legal battles of ideas erupted into an arguments pitted against indigenous customs. “European models threatened to overwhelm “our distinctive ways and customs,” which, such commentators always lamented, had yet to be determined. Moreover, few suggested that they had been determined when, in 1898, a civil code, now based thoroughly on German models, was finally put into effect. Since the 1870s, the army had also moved from a French model to a Prussian system with major industrial changes occurring against in 1886-1889, the draft alone underwent a handful of revisions between 1873 and 1889. In 1889 it was suggested that Chinese naval superiority was do to the Ch’ing having “single- mindedly” molded its navy on England, which Japan had no “ stick-to-itiveness.” 2

Patriotism and the Use of Foreigners.

The Shrine Bureau, a part of the Home Ministry bureaucrats between 1904―1921 promoted the ideological function of the shrines in unifying sentiment of the people in the spirit of “reverence for the gods and respect for the ancestors” (Keishin sūso). 3

Civil Morality: The Shrine Bureau evolved into a central player in the ideology constructs of Meiji Japan. It worked in behalf of Shintō  and Buddhist proponents who saw Christianity as a non-nationalistic conscript. Rescript, in Japanese meaning, meant nationalism, and nowhere to be found in the teachings of Christ were concepts of ‘us against them.’ Instead, a mere universal love, implying a tolerance for outsiders indicated less than a practical usage for this religion. Instead of disregarding it, for its already momentous inclusion into Japanese social strata during the 1870s and 1880s, the problematic of overthrowing something so complexed and integrated within the family unit, and constructed homu, forced the Shintō ists to succumb to a resolution that contrasts can coexist together and function positively.

The Sino- and Russo-Japanese Wars diverted attention away from the religious arguments of Christianity’s positives and negatives verses the so-called traditions of Shintō , and adopted Buddhism, that these issues took a back seat to all public and immediate discourse. In effect, later on after World War I, Shintō  benefited from all the previous wars of Japan after the restoration, and Shintō  proponents placed themselves into key social functionaries such as cemetery and ceremonial companies. These projects helped keep Shintō  in the public’s eye and promote it as the model of tradition.

Christianity had deeper ideological consequences for Japanese social constructionists. It came from beyond, and therefore, it needed to be contained, or at least managed. When the Buddhist attacked Christianity, they stressed that Buddhist countries didn’t colonize the way Christian countries did, and therefore they were dangerous. They of course attributed this new militarism to Christianity, and not the west or technological world paradigm shifts.

Wartime created what Christianity could not do, but was wished upon by the ideologues, and that was patriotism, a national spirit, a unification of all religious parties. The Meiji didn’t want to perforate any religion. The elite who gathered the necessities of modernity on foreign soil saw first hand the successful relationship between Christian family settings and objects of progress needed to solidify the rise of civilization, or the abolition of feudalism. 

Fickleness can be seen in the Meiji as well as part of the vacillation of choice of the type of European model. “Since the original education act of 1872, administrative and curricular change had been dizzying. An administrative structure was first established in 1872 on a highly centralized French model. It then moved in the space of one year (1879) to an American-style local control, returned to national intervention in 1880 (though without national subsides), changed slightly in 1885, and subsequently in 1886, to a hybrid European statist system  which featured German influence. The elementary curriculum had meanwhile shifted from Anglo-American egalitarian emphasis on the individual intellect, with textbooks literally translated from Wilson’s Readers or Wayland’s “wisdom,” to a mixture of Confucian and European elitism and moral emphasis that used texts ranging from the most ancient Analects to the latest Herbartian example.”4

By 1890s, Both British and French legal battles of ideas erupted into an argument pitted against indigenous customs. “European models threatened to overwhelm “our distinctive ways and customs,” which, such commentators always lamented, had yet to be determined. Moreover, few suggested that they had been determined when, in 1898, a civil code, now based thoroughly on German models, was finally put into effect. Since the 1870s, the army had also moved from a French model to a Prussian system with major industrial changes occurring against in 1886-1889, the draft alone underwent a handful of revisions between 1873 and 1889. In 1889 it was suggested that Chinese naval superiority was do to the Ch’ing having “single- mindedly” molded its navy on England, which Japan had no “ stick-to-itiveness.” 5 In this scenario of vacillation, the people took control by way of inclusion into a new Japanese political system of freedom (Japanese liberal and Conservative movements are discussed in other parts of Japan on

The theme of ideology was promoted by the elite commoners and rulers, but the people looked to practicality and initiated their own nationalistic renovations. People did the commonsensical things, like forming clubs, curriculum projects, and forming study groups on their own time, without the central rule telling them so. Nationalism can only come about by identifying a viable other, and this is true for all peoples in all countries. The Meiji, like any other modern state, experimented with social, economical and governmental theories. Periods in the Meiji saw furious changes from what discourses entered the realm from the outside. “This ideology use of foreigners had two aspects. Not only was the foreign used to define the native, but once defined, the native was used to nationalize the foreigner. The Christians served as a mean to enshrine the civil morality expressed the Rescript, which then became the test of Christian loyalty. Thus Christians were permitted to continue being Christians, provided they were also willing to take the oath as Japanese”. 6  

The Christian model of the home (Discussed in another page on MR) contained the valued extension of private space and family time as a new model for the Japanese to undertake to form this new experiment of democracy-like nationhood. As discussed, more books and magazines, at least double to the American output, had discussed the widely promoted Christian home ethics, and morality.  Articles in women’s magazines and national periodicals focused on all aspects from living space, table etiquette, family time, importance of privacy and architecture according to the needs of a Christian home. Christianity’s success contributed to the ideology of Japans understanding toward modernity. However, the deconstruction of this made up invention of Christian historiography came tumbling down with intellects arguing some of the factors pointed above, and the other was a strong argument of private individuals verses the collective communities. “In Tokyo, intellectuals and legal scholars theorized about the “deterioration of the family system,” quoting form the Confucian “Great Learning” and John Ruskin, for they feared that a deteriorated family would mean rampant individualism.” 7 The Japanese understood by western books socialism meant the end of democratizing, and this, of course, vied as the enemy of progress; but Japans’ past exhibited a socialized construct in feudalistic ―Tokugawan ideology, complicating historiography,  of communal togetherness working for the state’s success in stability. There were many commonalities of socialistic law within the Tokugawa era. Villages were taught to act in communal spirits, the Daimyo were taught to work together serve their lords, the samurai, and the samurai were told to work in communal spirit to appease and pleasure the Bakufu and the Bakufu were taught to communally stabilize and entertain the Tokugawa leader ( See Tokugawa era to get a grasp of the feel of these laws in affect and see how they relate to socialistic emblems of the 19th century). The Japanese fought tooth-and-nail to keep democracy on the push. However, the ideology of blending Christianity and democracy failed to foment in all parties encumbered in political issues.

“The Meiji emperor, whom Shintō  scholars described as a manifest deity (arahitogami), the living representative of a divine imperial line, did not appear to his subjects in so distinct a theological definition. The emperor was known both to be “sacred and inviolable” (shinsei ni shite okasu bekarazu), in the formidable words of  the Constitution, and also to be an awesome personage before whose photograph one bowed one’s head in reverence. But the emperor was not formally worshipped in Shintō  shrines, since legally he could only be enshrined after his death. He was first enshrined in fact at Meiji shrine in 1920. During his lifetime there were instances, however, in which the emperor was worshipped as a living god (ikigami) – that is, a god-like man, or a man worshipped as a god – in the folk tradition.”  In most cases this took place at private shrines constructed by imperially minded members of the elite to commemorate sites the emperor had visited in his early travels. The emperor’s appearance as an object of reverence in folk tradition and popular religion thus strengthened sentiment toward the rule, but it did so at first outside the ranks of shrine Shintō  and with different religious meanings than that put forward by the official Shintō  establishment. Recognizing this, the Shintō ists persisted in the quest to promote their version of emperor worship and institutionalize Shintō . As the ideological environment changed in their favor in the 1930s, they were more successful. 8

The figure of Christ verses the Emperor plays a key role in fomenting trust of a people. Christ was an object of foreign transportation, and the emperor entailed lineage of permanency in Japanese’s antiquity. As the emperor a figure head of Japanese-y-ness, when the foreign wars forced a nationalism to take place, nationalism suppressed Christianity by way of ideological historicism. In this way the 1930s saw a reemergence of the prominence of Shintō  adherence, and a backward trend toward the inroads that Christianity played on the ideology of the 1870s and 1880s in Japan. “And finally, after almost seventy years, a separate office of Shintō  (Jingi-in) was re-established in the government in November 1940, giving State Shintō  an institutional center that lasted until the Occupation authorities abolished it five years later.” 9 Shintō  was seen by foreigners in Japan as not conducive to positive projects. Capitalism and individualism were key facets to the United States version of Democracy. The problem arises when the Japanese use the English, French, Prussian and Netherland diversified models, a mixture of moral, social and political constructs ―  all complicated by fickleness, and used United States Christianity as the family backbone to modernizing the homu system.  A problem arises because Christianity in England was not the Christianity in America, and Prussian Christianity was not attuned to England or America. How can one utilize so various ideologues and come to a consensus. This is what in fact happened to Japan. Disillusioned by nationalism verses individualism verses communality verses militarism verses domestic harmony all bundled into a construction of confusion. And how does one or a group or individual combat chaos? They go back to what is comfortable and known – that was Shintō .

Christianity has had a militant past despite interpretations of the biblical text. Nationalism bears it notion from a viable other. “ In the three decades between the end of the Meiji and the end of the Second World War, ideological effort did not flag. For from the viewpoint of later generations of ideologues, the task of influencing (kyōka) the people remained ever incomplete. And during the era of militarism and increasing state control in the 1930s the content and apparatus of ideology reached an intensity that required police enforcement and culminated in the  “Spiritual mobilization” for war. Thus the ideological process that had begun in the Meiji period continued. Yet it is also true that in the course of the prewar years few wholly new elements appeared. Instead, the late Meiji formulations were reinvoked and reinterpreted to meet whatever current crisis most concerned commentators in the government or the arbiters of the “public opinion of the people.” 10 In fact, it was not nationalism, per se, that caused unawareness to modernity, but the model of modernism creates uncertainty, a risk, and a new frontier that brings new problems along with solutions.

With these new frontiers, ideologues question Japan’s direction. “[…] From 1907 to 1911, the ideological concerns with socialism mounted, as socialists participated in union-organizing and anti-government activity. The press explained the rise of socialism in terms of conflict between capital and labor, the government’s dilatory handling of labor problems, and once again, the oversupply of middle school graduates.”  At the same time the Katsura government, urged on by Yamagata, seized on the Red Flag Incident of 1908 and called “social destructionism” (shakaihakaishugi). In a document of that title drafted with the aid of the scholar Hozumi Yatsuka in 1910, Yamagata presented the views on socialism that informed government policy on that subject, in part because such Tamagata-line bureaucrats as Katsura Tarō, Hirata Tōsuke, Komatsubara Eitarō, Ichiki Kitokurō, Kiyoura Keigo, and Ōura Kanetake were responsible for implementing it. The document begins.

In considering the changes in popular sentiment that occur in modern society, the people (minshū) begin by claiming political rights, and, once they are allotted these, they demand food and clothing and wish for the wealth of society to be equally apportioned. Realizing that such demands are incompatible with current national and social institutions, they first turn their efforts to the destruction of the foundations of the state and society. Herein lies the genesis of what is called socialism. Its immediate causes are the extreme division between rich and poor and the marked changes in ethics that accompany modern culture. It is now urgently necessary both to construct a policy that will remedy this affliction as its roots (byōkan) and also, for the sake of national and social preservation, to exercise the strictest control over those who espouse its doctrines. The spread of this infection (byōdoku) must be prevented; it must be suppressed and eradicated.

The message was clear: “to prevent order and stability” the contagious epidemic” (ryūkō densen) of socialism must be forcibly crushed.” 11 With the rise, as seen in the European experience, social problems arise hand in hand with modernization; buy way of the industrialized apparatus. Japan was no different than another country. Why did China succumb to backwardness in the 1950s-1970s when Japan succeeded in experiencing fabulous modernization? It remains that China’s communist socialism brought on the communality of social justice at the behest of non-modernization. Japan’s conservative spokesmen in the elite and government catechisms evoked a power, yet positive argument to suppress socialism, even at a belittlement of character by the militant socialists. The Christian nations were succeeding, and the atheistic nations were depleting. If ideology is defined with the concept of perfection, as often it has been, then socialism had a keen understanding in their use of the word. For a perfect society, all people were equal in economic terms. These labor unions fashioned themselves from western books disseminating socialistic concepts of militancy to overthrow government and take reigns of power to do something, because as defined by Marx, after the overthrow, he knew not what to do? Like modern liberalism, closer to socialism, there are no solutions to after the overthrow of government. It is simple and astute to claim the conservatives in Japan had already understood this, and they would be vindicated with Mao, the Chinese communist founder, exemplified the frailty of socialistic argument for modernism by implementing rash programs that lead to millions of innocent people’s deaths. The Japanese leaders understood a gentle rearing with ups and downs toward a productive democracy meant there would be radical decent among the have-nots, but following this program, hopefully the next generation of have-nots would then have. This seemed the case by the 1980s when Japan was the world’s economic producer and power.  However, China has sense remodeled itself in modernity, that is the concepts of free market and capitalism, in their birth from the Zones, and now proceed to be making headways into the 21st Century as economic powerhouse.

Socialism, like the communality of the reinvention of Christianity, lay at the heart of the religious polemic.

1880- 1915 ideology of inspiration.


1 Gluck, Carol. Japan’s Modern Myths : Ideology in the Late Meiji Period (Princeton: Princeton University, 1985), 19.

2 Ibid, 19,20.

3  Ibid, 141.

4 Ibid, 19.

5 Ibid, 19,20.

6  Ibid, 135.

7 Ibid, 13.

8  Ibid, 142, 143.

9 Ibid, 143.

10 Ibid, 279.

11 Ibid, 176.

Vlastos, Stephen, ed. Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan

Ch. 4

Frank K. Upham, “Weak Legal Consciousness”

Of course the Hozu dispute alone proves nothing about historical tendencies of Japanese to use formal dispute resolution.” 4

The lurch toward "tradition" in the final stages of the Hozu dispute is consistent with other trends in Japanese legal culture since World War II. At least by the conventional standard of litigation rates, Japan in the 1990s is a dramatically less litigious society than it was seventy years ago.

Hozu Village, the  Burakumin the lowest level of the hierarchy, experiences the  fight against small farmers to establish equality with common forest land.  From 1809 the filing of a request in the village headman’s office for the shogunal official to interfere in the land dispute; 1809, the magistrate granted temporary relief for the Burakumin

1871.    Four cases result in the first two from litigation and the second on non-litigation.  Gōmyō, everyone except the Burakumin,  succeed in retaining the village, as opposed to the prefectural, ownership and control of the commons.

In Hozu we have the reverse. In 1809 and 1907 the Burakumin used the courts or their formal equivalent to seek equality in access to the commons; in 1883 non-Buraku villagers went to court to block Buraku demands for equality. It was only in the 1950S and 1960s, after the promulgation of the 1947 Constitution with its array of new legal rights, including the right of access to the courts, that neither party used litigation. If nonlitigiousness is a "traditional" value among Japanese, at least the Japanese of Hozu, Burakumin and non-Burakumin alike, seem to have become more traditional in the postwar period.

Of course the Hozu dispute alone proves nothing about historical tendencies of Japanese to use formal dispute resolution.


Upham's essay demonstrates most forcefully that political elites "have reified one among many historical processes as 'tradition' while denying equally valid ones" and have developed institutions to reinforce their chosen tradition (p. 58). Webreview.

Ch. Nine
Chiho Yanagita Kunio's "Japan"

Hashimoto Mitsuru

In the Beginning...


Tradition Past/Present Culture and Modern Japanese History

Stephen Vlastos

The Invention of Japanese-Style Labor Management

Andrew Gordon

·       More recently, Takashi Fujitani has expanded our understanding of the mechanisms of imperial myth making by focusing on "material vehicles of meaning" such as national ceremonies, holidays, emblems, and monuments, which created "a memory of an emperor-centered national past that, ironically,... had never been known." Fujitani extends his analysis to "a torrent of policies" regulating everything from hair styles to hygiene, which "aimed at bringing the common people into a highly disciplined national community and a unified and totalizing culture." Yet it is important to remember that instilling a consciousness of being imperial subjects was only part of the process of (mis)using history to create a cohesive Japanese identity. The process involved—in fact it required—the wide circulation of common practices that claimed to represent continuous and stable culture. In other words, "tradition" contributed to the formation of national identity though the ideological function of collapsing time and reifying space. Troping new or newly configured cultural practices as tradition removed these practices from historical time. They were read back into the undifferentiated time of "the Japanese past," to be recuperated not merely as values and practices that had withstood the test of time, but as signs of a distinct and unified Japanese culture. 31

·       Like the invention of the "abiding folk," Yanagita's remarkable assertion that Japan alone had achieved modernity without cutting itself off from its original culture has meaning only as the assertion of an ideological position. Nevertheless, it draws attention to the specificity of the historical conditions of Japanese modernity. Unlike most of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, Japan was never colonized; infringement on Japanese sovereignty through the "unequal treaty system" was largely limited to the commercial sphere. Its retention of sovereignty, in turn, accelerated political, social, and economic modernization, creating the material basis for new forms of cultural production, including "tradition," which appeared only after modernization was well under way More directly, sovereignty ensured that Japanese elites (rather than colonial administrators) did the inventing. The result: in Japan the invention of tradition furthered the national project of modernization. Here Japan presents a striking contrast with India, where "the British were ... implicated in the production of those very components of Indian tradition that have in postcolonial times been seen as the principal impediments to full- scale modernity." Simply put, Ito Hirobumi, the principal architect of` Japan's modernization project in the latter part of the nineteenth century, enjoyed a luxury denied to Jawaharlal Nehru more than a half century later Nehru, because of the powerful, prior Orientalizing of precolonial Indian culture by the British, had to find evidence of modernity in Indian tradition; for example, he went to pains to argue the "scientific temper and approach" of Indian thought. Ito, Andrew Barshay tellingly observes, had the freedom to look upon Japan's "feudal" legacy as an "enormous historical opportunity" for promoting, for example, "the bond between patron and protégé " in Japan's modern factories. 33


·       Shinano: The strategic use of tradition did in fact further the state's modernization project. The discourses of "the spirit of peace and harmony" and industrial benevolence are only the most obvious examples, but there were others. Kären Wigen analyzes the forging of a shared, primordial "Shinano" identity among residents of the newly drawn prefecture of Nagano. The invention of regional identities in Meiji, she suggests, played a critical role in extracting financial sacrifices from prefectural residents by giving them an affective stake in the progress of their prefecture. 34

·       Physical Space and Privacy, Democracy Living, Protestant liberalism: Traditions, I noted early on, are normative and establish themselves through repetition. Two essays on gendered cultural practices of the prewar period suggest that tradition is amenable to reform but not to radical change. Jordan Sand analyzes the new gendering of domestic urban space initiated in the late Meiji period by social reformers and middle-class professionals. Focusing equally on architecture and ideology, Sand traces the evolution of the concept of katei , a neologism for home / home life, from its origins in nineteenth-century Japanese Protestant reformers' moral criticism of "feudal" family life, to the point where it became a societal norm. A great deal had to be invented: for example, architectural innovations such as the interior corridor (nakaroka ), which divided interior residential space into separate spheres, and the short-legged dining table (chabudai ) which introduced the common dining table into the Japanese house and made it possible for the family to eat together. While conservative state ideologues wrote the patriarchal family into the Meiji Civil Code, a more democratic, affect-centered family prevailed in the redesigning of actual living space. What became the iconic (and today nostalgic) image of the "traditional" Japanese family—consanguine members seated on tatami and gathered around the chabudai to share tea or a meal—in fact originated in turn-of-the-century discourses of architectural and social reform, which drew heavily from the West.

·       In the decade following World War I, Japanese capitalism entered a new stage, characterized by the explosive growth of modern media technologies, mass marketing of items of personal consumption, and new forms of entertainment and pleasure seeking. The stylish moga (modern girl) of the 1920s represented bourgeois women's challenge to established gender norms. As Miriam Silverberg argues, the cafe, where rural and urban lower class young women sought employment as waitresses, created a narrow but new social space for the renegotiation of gender relations. But while the care and the care waitress drew from a long history of female sex workers in food service occupations, the social indeterminacy of the cafe waitress, whose role allowed seduction to go both ways, posed too radical a challenge to gender norms. First restricted, and finally prohibited, in the period of wartime mobilization, the culture of the cafe and care waitress, Silverberg claims, died out. It never became a tradition. 35

·       The Edo period (1600-1867), Carol Gluck argues, has functioned since early Meiji as the invented past in relation to which Japan's modernity defined itself. Identified as "tradition," Edo was to Meiji Japan what the ancien régime was to revolutionary France: a historical imaginary that evoked the past to get to the future. The original invention of Edo occurred in the late nineteenth century, when commentators conceived the national project in terms of a telos of progress on an East-West axis and made Edo the obverse of the Meiji vision. They mapped Edo using tropes like feudalism, the cultural and economic energies of commoner society, the era of great peace, and sakoku , "a closed country." Depending on the vision of modernity, images of Edo sometimes affirmed and sometimes opposed the direction of the Meiji state. Whatever the initial political and social valence of the tropes, they constituted an allegedly indigenous tradition. In every case, from the anti-Edo of the fascist 1930s to the rose-colored Edo of the postmodern 1980s, the period is constructed as the mirror image of a particular modern future. A final point concerns the ideological modalities of the invention of tradition. One of the interesting issues that Chakrabarty raises in his Afterword concerns the tropes of temporality and affect. Addressing the articles on Yanagita Kunio by H. D. Harootunian and Hashimoto Mitsuru, he distinguishes two modes of temporality in Yanagita's writing: "nostalgic" and "epiphanic." The nostalgic mode corresponds to the familiar sense of belatedness in invented traditions, the ideological construction of a past that must be recovered by adherence to practices of quite recent origin. However, the epiphanic mode rejects the figure of loss and recovery. It escapes from historical time and constructs a vision of eternity, a "modern nationalist epiphany" produced by a performative agency resistant to state institutions. Citing the examples of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, and carefully noting that "the shadows of both capitalism and the nation-state fall much more heavily and lengthily on our discussion of Japanese history" than in South Asian studies, Chakrabarty argues against the notion that the romantic/ aesthetic nationalism leads inexorably to statist and jingoist fascism. Certainly not everywhere at all times, and probably not again in Japan. The changes in domestic and world political economy since the Pacific War have been epochal, and historical coordinates are always decisive. The evidence of the essays in this volume is sobering, however. In the 1930s and during the Pacific War only Marxism, with all its modernist baggage, held its ground as an oppositional discourse. Judo, harmony, industrial paternalism, folklore studies, "home": these and the other new cultural practices of the prewar period either actively collaborated with militarism and imperialism or were severely compromised by not resisting. The subject of my essay, the populist strain of agrarianism, is illustrative in this respect. I characterize the social imagination of Tachibana Kozaburo and Aikyokai as romantic and utopian— epiphanic, in Chakrabarty's formulation. In its populist phase—that is, prior to Tachibana involvement in the Incident of May 15, 1932—the rhetoric of the Aikyokai was neither nostalgic nor jingoistic, suggesting that utopia posits new social relations in imaginary political space. […] Nevertheless, it would be wrong to view the invented traditions of modern Japan only in terms of the ultimate failure in the prewar period to establish intellectual and cultural autonomy from the state. One also sees many examples of creative responses by ordinary people who resisted the norms and values that conservative elites and the state sought to impose. Upham shows how the Burakumin of Hozu village turned the state-sanctioned norm of cooperation and the mechanisms of informal dispute resolution to their advantage in winning restitution of their ancestors' property. Gordon observes that Japanese workers have taken the grant of "warm-hearted" labor-management relations to resist changes inimical to their interests. Sand shows how the ideal of the emotionally bonded residential family promoted by social reformers and given material expression by progressive architects compromised the coldly hierarchical and patriarchal ie family system beloved by conservative ideologues. Finally, Scheiner shows that notions of community have remained a conflicted discourse in the postwar period. These are only a few examples of the significance of individual agency in cultural production. They are all the more meaningful in light of the unrelenting efforts of conservative social forces to monopolize the invention of tradition. 37

The Invention of Japanese-Style Labor Management

Andrew Gordon

·       In the prewar and wartime years, capitalists and bureaucrats, in particular, flailed each other by invoking tradition, either to protect business from legal regulation or to justify such intervention.  An alternative would have been to justify their position or program by proudly presenting their Japan as a nation in the modernizing, universalistic vanguard, be it a form of liberalism in the 1910s-1920s or fascism in the 1930s, but these men shied away from such logic. Why? I think the answer lies in the ambivalent response of so many people, in Japan and elsewhere, to that which we call "modern." From the moment they apprehended a "modern" condition in their midst, the people introduced in this essay anxiously identified it with the decay of social order. These people did not usually reject modernity outright, for they saw it as a source of power, wealth, or even welfare. But insofar as they also viewed (or still view) the modern as a carrier of social disease or disorder, they responded by reinforcing, reconfiguring, or simply fabricating what they defined as their "tradition." This said, it remains to revisit briefly two further questions. What is the relation between the "rhetoric" of tradition and the "reality" of practice within companies, between invented tradition as a discursive practice and a social one? And what have those inside the organization—the workers described as "servants" in the early rounds of paternal discourse—made of this tradition-mongering? 41

·       Shibaura Engineering Works (forerunner of Toshiba) in 1923 wrote in his union's magazine:

One day, a supervisor got hold of me and asked whether I thought community life was important. "In order to live in this community, everyone must take responsibility. If you only do what you want, or freely do whatever comes to mind, we can't maintain a community." All this talk about community spirit is amusing. I can't recall ever voting for a foreman.... The motto here is supposedly, "We all eat from the same pot." Since none of us has ever shared a meal with any of the big shots, it's no wonder the message doesn't get across.

·       While he scoffed at his supervisor's use of the adage about eating from a common pot, this man nonetheless implied that if the bosses were ever willing to respect workers by sharing a meal with them, the community message would find a sympathetic audience. In postwar history, notions of Japanese traditions of mutual respect and harmony facilitated the accommodation that evolved from the 1950s through the 1970s between the right wing of the labor movement, business management, and the state. In ideological terms, this accommodation was founded on a consensus about the elements of a modernized Japanese style of "cooperative labor-capital relations." Unions are recognized in rhetoric as equal partners in a cooperative endeavor of production and shared benefits, a settlement accepted by many employees as a Japanese way of replacing an older paternalism in which workers had to accept what they were given.Critics of this labor-capital accord have written with insight on the gap between the ideology of shared benefits under "Japanese-style" management and the reality of meager distribution of corporate profits to workers.[And the left wing of the labor movement has consistently refused to join the chorus that celebrates harmonious workplace life. But in the postwar history of worker interactions with employers, as in the prewar era, the invented and reconfigured concepts of cooperation and Japaneseness have been prominent features of the cultural landscape. In addition to framing Japanese explanations of their society directed at outsiders, they have informed union and employee self-conceptions that lead workers to accept their place inside the system. 42  

The Invention of the Martial Arts Kano Jigoro and Kodokan Judo

Inoue Shun

Ch. 11

  • Although bugei and bujutsu have a long history, the Japanese martial arts known today as budo are a modern invention. This is not to say that the word budo was not used before the modern era. As can be seen in Ihara Saikaku's Budo denraiki and Daidoji Yuzan's Budo shoshinshu, however, in the Tokugawa era budo meant bushido , "the way of the warrior," signifying the code of conduct and ethos of the samurai class. Today budo refers to Japanese martial arts such as judo, kendo, aikido and kyudo .[2] According to Nakabayashi Shinji, however, this usage of budo dates from the last decade of the nineteenth century. 43


  • The word 'judo', Kano was fond of saying, "is no longer merely a martial art but names a principle applicable to all aspects of human existence."[15] Accordingly, in publicizing Kodokan judo, Kano stressed its character-building aspect. The ultimate goal of judo training, he maintained, was to "perfect oneself and contribute something to the word." 44


·       In May 1882 Kano Jigoro established the Kodokan as an "academy for the teaching of judo," by converting a study at the Eishoji temple in the Shimoya Kitainaricho district of Tokyo into a dojo. When Kano opened the Kodokan, judo was not yet fundamentally different from jujutsu in terms of technique; nor had Kano fully developed the organizational and theoretical principles that enabled judo to overwhelm competing schools.[ The great success of Kodokan judo, I will show, wv created a new, "scientific" martial art by selecting the best techniques of the established schools of jujutsu. Initially, he combined wrestling moves and techniques of delivering blows to vital points of the body emphasized in the Tenjin Shin'yo school with throwing techniques that were the mainstay of the Kito school. But Kano did not limit his research to the techniques of these two schools. Owing to the declining popularity of bujutsu , he was able to purchase at used bookstores previously closely guarded martial arts instructional manuals. 45


  • Kodokan magazine, Kano juku dosokai zasshi , in 1894. Devoting much of his energy to publicizing judo and its philosophy through the print media, Kano also brought out Kokushi (1898-1903), Judo (1914-18), Yuko no katsudo (1919-22), Taisei (1922), Sakko (1924-38), and Judo (Kodokan Bunkakai, 1930-38). Thus, we see that Kano was much more than the founder of a new and improved school of jujutsu. He was a man of letters who successfully incorporated judo into the discursive space of modern Japan and established its raison d'être in a society that no longer possessed bushi , feudal warriors. In this sense, the prosperity and growth of Kodokan judo can be understood to represent the triumph of the word over the sword; of the literary (bun ) arts of the samurai over the martial (bu ) arts. Continuity and Discontinuity with Tradition. Through his speaking and publishing activities, Kano propagated a new conception of the martial arts. In modernizing jujutsu, he had frequently stressed that judo not only differed from jujutsu but was better suited to the modern world. At the same time he was mindful of judo's connection to the older tradition of bujutsu . The two sides of Kodokan judo are evident in the various reasons Kano offered for choosing the name "judo." First, there were practical considerations behind the new name. When Kano founded the Kodokan, the traditional martial arts were in decline and the popular image of jujutsu was rather unsavory. Therefore, he thought that "at least the name should be new in order to draw in pupils."[ Second, since the word jutsu denotes practical application, he substituted do (way), which signifies underlying principle, thereby implying that Kodokan judo embodied the fundamental way while jujutsu was merely one application.  But why do ? The third factor in the choice of judo was that Kano "didn't want the old masters' contributions to be forgotten."[The word "judo" had been used by some schools of jujutsu. The Kito school of jujutsu, which Kano himself had studied, was sometimes called Kito judo , and the diploma Iikubo Tsunetoshi awarded Kano in 1883 read Nihonden [Japanese tradition] Kito judo . Kano followed suit in adopting the name "Nihonden Kodokan Judo." With these resonances of "tradition," judo, which began as a new type of the martial arts made suitable to the modern world, developed into a "body culture" associated with Japanese national identity, something unchanged in the midst of the changing times. Here we see a form of what Eric Hobsbawm has called the "invention of tradition." 46


·       The association with "tradition" facilitated the development of Kodokan judo and benefited Kano in a variety of ways [….] enjoyed the patronage of influential politicians of the conservative-nationalist camp such as […] In 1910 the International Olympic Committee appointed Kano as the first Japanese member. Kano was not a narrow cultural nationalist. […] He established the Japan Amateur Sports Association (Dai Nihon Taiiku Kyokai) in 1911 as the central body for selecting athletes and sending them to the Olympic games.  In his later years Kano made great efforts to host the Olympics in Japan. At the 1936 International Olympic Committee convention in Berlin, he succeeded in attracting the Twelfth Olympic Games to Tokyo […]  but his dream was not realized. In July 1938, as the clouds  of war gathered, the Japanese government decided to decline the invitation to host the 1940 Olympics. 47

·       Kodokan judo was instrumental in the formation of budo The modern form of Japanese martial arts, of which judo served as prototype, had a two-sided character. On the one hand, budo ncorporated such modern elements as the scientific investigation of technique, the dan-kyu ranking system, verbal instruction, and emphasis on character building. On the other hand, budo built upon practices of the old martial arts to which it was linked discursively Kano's conception of budo was neither narrowly nationalistic nor socially conservative. Kano both promoted the development of Western sports in Japan and sent one of his star students to introduce judo to America. He also opened the Kodokan to women who wished to study judo. As time passed, however, budo was appropriated by strident nationalists, who propagated an essentialist conception of Japan's martial arts. In the 1920s and the 1930s budo experienced a remarkable growth. The Kodokan, among others, continued to prosper. By 1926 approximately two thousand new students were enrolling each year, and the total enrollment in that year reached almost 37,000. 48


·       In addition to state education, such best-selling novels as Yoshikawa Eiji's Miyamoto Musashi and Tomita Tsuneo's Sugata Sanshiro played an important part in spreading the ideologies of budo . 49


·       Reinvention argument: In the 1930s and 1940s, Western-style sports were discouraged and the state vigorously promoted a nationalistic and essentialist conception of budo . Budo , it increasingly stressed, had an ancient history and embodied wakon . The emphasis on modernity and a discontinuity with tradition, which was so central to Kano's conception of budo , disappeared. "Modernity" came to be regarded as a characteristic of "imported sports," undesirable and something to be denied. In the rhetoric of the day, "imported sports" were contrasted with "traditional" budo . Because the former were based on Western individualism and liberalism, ideologues argued, they should be "Japanized" through budo , which embodied Japanese spiritual values. Noguchi Genzaburo exemplifies this ideological current. 50


·       Facing a difficult situation, interested parties made every effort to "democratize" budo ; that is, to re-create budo as a sport. In contrast to the "budo -ization" of sports in the 1930s, budo had to be "sports-ified" to survive in the political climate of the occupation, which insisted on democratization. For example, shinai kyogi , a new martial art using bamboo swords, was invented as a "sport" version of kendo acceptable to the occupation authorities.  The revival of budo began around 1950. The All-Japan Judo Federation and the Japan Kyudo Federation were organized in 1949; following the end of the occupation in 1952, the All-Japan Kendo Federation was established. School budo was also revived: judo in 1950, shinai kyogi in 1952, and kendo in 1957. In 1956 the first World Judo Championships were held in Tokyo. In 1964, when Tokyo hosted the Olympic Games, judo was adopted as an official Olympic sport. Judo as an invented tradition had come full circle. 51



The Invention of the Yokozuna and the Championship System, Or, Futahaguro's Revenge

Lee A. Thompson


Ch. 12


·       Sumo wrestling only dates back to the 17th century, and modern reconfiguration and adaptation of modern sport rules contrast the older applications of ritualistic fighting, or traditional scenes of wrestling sports in the Tokugawa period. Thomson, makes a case of invention, while stressing the negative connotations that (some) Japanese are stupid because they do not know their history. Everything morphs and reformulates in history because history is relative to fact. No one knows for sure what historical prime sources are factual or not. Therefore, a more productive dialogic aptitude is forthcoming for addressing this so-called” reinvention of history.”


·       […] the yokozuna as we know it dates back to the supposedly ancient origins of the sport. Because of its roots in the Edo period and the ritual trappings surrounding it, the rank of yokozuna is commonly thought to be a venerable tradition. On inspection, it turns out to be largely modern. 52


·       Japanese scholars of sumo also emphasize continuity with the past, even to mythical antiquity. The basic story told is the same: in Sumo ima mukashi the historian Wakamori Taro, for example, cites myths in the early eighth-century chronicles Kojiki and Nihonshoki , speculates on the ancient practice of sumo as an agricultural rite, and then moves on to sechie sumo, performed at one of the main court banquets of the Heian period.The essay on historical sumo in an authoritative twenty-volume encyclopedia of sport and physical education quotes Wakamori extensively in locating the origins of sumo in Japan's ancient myths. The very same writers, however, are well aware that most of what we know as sumo today is of much more recent origin. Cuyler admits: "The present form of sumo is of relatively recent evolution, for most of the ceremonial traditions as performed today ... date back no earlier than the late seventeenth century."Indeed, the stories of fights in the ancient chronicles that are incorporated into the history of sumo in no way resemble the sport as we know it today, and are not referred to as sumo in the texts. Where the term does appear, the activity it refers to is not described. 53


·       Traditional argument: “Sechie sumo was quite different from modern sumo. The most obvious difference is that it was not performed within a ring, thereby precluding the means of victory most common today—delivering your opponent out of the ring. Wrestlers won by throwing their opponents to the ground, much as in judo today”. 54 Therefore, what is being said is that because rules adapt to modern cultural choices, it is therefore an invented Japanese tradition, which is utter hogwash. This implies no agency and no progress can have it part in historiography. “Indeed, judo also claims sechie sumo in its own history. What has become two sports began to differentiate only in the middle of the Edo period, when the wrestlers were separated from spectators by a boundary, which eventually developed into the ring. Sumo as we know it today developed during the Edo period as a spectator sport, while the elements that emphasized the martial arts were later refashioned into judo by Kano Jigoro.” 55 Because of change, a natural occurrence to all human beings, westerners imply Japanese as stupid because of their redefining a sport, making ‘changes’ to placate the spectators desires and wishes, most likely competition, as wrong. Change is a vital port of history, and we cannot delineate an entire race to adapt an attitude that change is bad, as with these discursive rants. So wrestling evolved and it was a pastime, a tradition that adapted a change to rules and regulations. Is that wrong? People comment ( invent history) because they do not study it well enough or have the time to make educational decisions, and this is part of society. Hollywood reinvents, using this discursive tool, to retell and invented history with most of their Hollywood productions. So by this statue of delinquency, we can calls westerns, or imply that is, stupid.


·       The conventional genealogy of yokozuna begins with Akashi Shiganosuke in the early seventeenth century. However, there is no record that such a wrestler even existed, much less that he was awarded the yokozuna license. 56


·       Instead, the origins of the yokozuna system can be dated to November 1789, when two wrestlers, Tanikaze Kajinosuke and Onokawa Kisaburo, were each allowed to perform an individual ring-entering ceremony wearing a white rope around the waist. 57 That is what the price source tells one, but do you know for a fact that this didn’t happen in history of the Japanese before hand and was not recorded, or its recording survived. Were you there and witnessed it; how do you know this prime source was telling the truth, and not just making it up, or a bunch of prime sources were conspiring to bleed your mind by making this all up to trick people like you?


·       The ceremony was the inspiration of Yoshida Zenzaemon, a referee who was in the process of successfully arranging for sumo to be performed before the eleventh shogun, Tokugawa Ienari, in 1791. The invention of the yokozuna , and indeed much of the lore surrounding sumo today, originated with Yoshida's efforts to elevate sumo's status. He introduced many of the rituals. He also created a great deal of spurious history going back to the ninth century, history that asserts his family's intimate involvement with the sport. Much of this pseudo-history is still widely accepted.Yoshida introduced the individual ring-entering ceremony with the white rope for a specific occasion, and no further licenses to perform the ceremony were issued for almost forty years. The license was revived in 1828, but by the end of the Edo period only nine had been awarded. By comparison, fifty-three have been awarded since the beginning of the Meiji period. The invention of the yokozuna system involved a series of innovations dating from the late nineteenth century, which led to the emergence of the yokozuna as the highest rank in sumo. Even after Tanikaze and Onokawa, the highest rank was ozeki , while yokozuna merely referred to the rope worn by the wrestler licensed to perform the ring-entering ceremony by himself. 58


·            Shortly after the term yokozuna entered the banzuke rankings, a private campaign was started to distinguish ozeki with the yokozuna license from those without. The Sumo Association finally recognized yokozuna as a rank in 1909 and wrote it into the rules. However, the Yoshida family continued to award the license and did not accept the association's interpretation of yokozuna as a rank. Only in 1951 did the Yoshida family finally agree that the yokozuna could be a rank.59


  • The emergence of the yokozuna as a rank was only one of a number of changes in sumo ritual and practice in the early twentieth century that reinforced its "traditional" status. In 1909, for example, referees began to wear new costumes for the main tournaments. From the Edo period referees were bare-headed and wore  kamishimo , but now they dressed in the more picturesque garb of the suo and eboshi . 60


·       Ranking system denotes negative ‘ reinvention of tradition.’ From around the middle of the Meiji period, individual wrestlers began to be singled out for their performance over the course of a tournament. This practice evolved into the championship system, in which an individual wrestler is declared the champion at the end of each tournament. The champion is simply the wrestler with the best record during a tournament. Champions are now determined for each of the divisions, while the tournament champion is the winner of the upper division, the makunouchi . 61

·       Argument: It is often said that Japan has preserved or maintained its traditions while undergoing modernization. In the case of the yokozuna , however, it has been shown that "tradition" was largely a modern invention. This finding raises the question of the relationship between tradition and modernization. I will argue that the two concepts are interdependent: awareness of modernity is impossible without awareness of tradition, and vice versa. The simultaneous development of the "traditional" yokozuna alongside the "modern" championship system demonstrates the complexity of the relationship. 62

·       Conclusion: As one commentator wrote at the height of the controversy over Takanohana's promotion: "The yokozuna is an illogical sort of thing. And that's what gives it the essence of a uniquely Japanese traditional performing art." Quite aside from the ironies of invoking "tradition" in this context, we see that the tensions between the achievement-oriented championship system and the ascriptive aspect of the yokozuna make the rank inherently problematic. While the development of the championship system can be easily explained as part of the modernization of the sport, the yokozuna is popularly perceived as a traditional institution. But as we have seen, rather than the yokozuna system being older and the championship system newer, they arose together, and, if anything, the "traditional" yokozuna system is in large measure a product of the championship system. The image of the omnipotent yokozuna represents security and assurance in the face of the indifferent objectivity of statistically measured achievement. Together, they illustrate the complex relationship between tradition and modernity. 63


Ch. 13

At Home in the Meiji Period Inventing Japanese Domesticity

Jordan Sand

Unfortunately for the author, ‘Home’ , in the western sense is considered analogues to house, family or lineage, just like the Japanese. The House of Tratensburg, a lineage way of identifying one’s house and can also connote family, as in everyone under the umbrella of influence within one’s personal realm. What the author wants to cite, is a Protestant liberalism, a way of defining Christianity, was sought as a model by many Japanese who went searching for western ways in the west. The Christian house, somewhat, not totally, redefined the functionary aspects of daily Japanese life in all of its manifestations, but was not an invented tradition. More aptly put a borrowed attitude to domestic relationships and streamlining productive outward projects, encountered the Japanese adoption of these Protestant Christian attitudes of daily home life. The negative aspect of reinvention assumes or implies that Japanese are idiots. One thing we must get away from is that Protestant or Christian is a home-life invention and that the Japanese borrowed it and reinvented their history of the home. Both the Japanese and westerners didn’t invent anything new, they only adapted to changing technology which provided a ‘change’ to adoption of new family projects. Some of these family  projects were influenced by outside forces form the immediate family and resulted in inward reformulations of the household.

The English word "home" is a curious conflation, embodying elements of both place and affect. A historical narrative plotting the gradual union of these elements and the growing importance of "the home" in modern Western societies is now familiar to many readers. This history typically describes the intensification of emotional ties within the nuclear family group, and the nineteenth-century development of what has been called a "cult of domesticity," accompanying the proverbial "separation of work and home" and the retreat of the middle class from the industrial city to the suburbs. 64  

Like many short, evocative English words, "home" has entered the Japanese lexicon. The modern history of domestic life in Japan, however, has not been described in terms analogous with the West. Until recently, to speak of the prewar Japanese family was to speak of the distinctly Japanese institution identified by the term ie , a word implying house, family, or lineage. 65


1 Vlastos, Stephen, ed. Mirror of Modernity: Invented Traditions of Modern Japan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 49.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid,55.

5 Ibid,54,55.

6 Ibid, 55.

7 Ibid, 57.

8 Ibid, 58.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid, 59.

11 Ibid.

12 Ibid, 59,60.

13 Ibid, 60.

14 Ibid,135.

15 Ibid,133.

16 Ibid.

17Ibid, 135.

18 Ibid,136.

19 Ibid,136,137.

20 Ibid,137.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid, 138.

23 Ibid, 138,139.

24 Ibid, 140.

25 Ibid, 142.

26 Ibid, 2.

27 Ibid, 4.

28 Ibid, 2.

29 Ibid, 8.

30 Ibid, 8,9.

31 Ibid, 11.

32 Ibid, 12.

33 Ibid, 12,13.

34 Ibid, 13.

35 Ibid, 14.

36 Ibid, 12.

37 Ibid, 15,16.

38 Ibid, 19.

39 Ibid.

40 Ibid, 26.

41 Ibid, 34,35.

42 Ibid, 36.

43 Ibid, 163.

44 Ibid, 168.

45 Ibid, 164,165.

46 Ibid, 169.

47 Ibid, 170,171.

48 Ibid, 171.

49 Ibid, 172.

50 Ibid.

51 Ibid, 173.

52 Ibid, 174.

53 Ibid, 175.

54 Ibid.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid, 176.

57 Ibid.

58 Ibid.

59 Ibid, 177.

60 Ibid, 177,178.

61 Ibid, 178.

62 Ibid, 182.

63 Ibid, 187.

64 Ibid, 191.

65 Ibid.

Fujitani, Takashi, Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan

From Court in Motion to Capitals

In what way was Meiji period emperor system an "invented tradition"? Who "invented" it and why?

In the middle ages, including the Mughāls in the sub-continent of South Asia, the notion of moving the court through the countryside to show your symbolic and real presence was a disciplinary function,  a show of sovereignty and legitimacy. In France in the 16th Century, King Henry II, and Regent Catherin de Medici, also toured the French realm to show that the country was stable in a time of potential and somewhat unstable social circumstances. In fact most countries leaders did this and this was normalization. However, in the pre-modern times, that is to say re-pre-modern times, capitals were favored for symbolic legitimacy. Buildings, such as monuments, were symbolic signs of authority, nationalism, and legitimacy. These were important distinctions in civilized region. Before the western civilization middle ages, Capitals were built in antiquity to symbolize legitimacy, from Sumerian temple-cities, to Babylonian hanging gardens, and the tower, to the Great Pyramids and Egyptian religious structures, to Acropolis in Greece to the Pantheon of Rome. For Japanese studying aboard for the 1871 Iwakura missions, some took back to Japan this notion of the fluid court, while others observed a standing court, the Capitals, such as the monuments in Washington DC. Apparently, the discourse to what was best for Japan became an important issue, as for their past a murky memory, long standing debates slowed down the projects of modernization. Where, how, and in which city to build the imperial palace mattered, and if one should build them all over Japan for a fluid monarchy touched off a discourse on tradition and trepidation.

Obuko Toshimichi, Restoration activist and one of the most powerful men in the Meiji government, petitioned before the court on 16 February 1868 for the government to take on radical new measures because it was faced with unprecedented troubles. The military had not eradicated all  the opposition forces, the han of the land had not been completely won over, and people lived in fear. It was imperative that the leaders look far back into the national past and widely throughout the world for political models; only then could they take the bold measures necessary to unify the nation under the emperor. 1

Futjitani argues that disciplinary power pervades the capillaries of Japan, but “ the belief in the emperor-centered Tradition has a kind of a flatness or uninspired quality to it. Power is now increasingly decentered and operates not while the emperor disciplines the people with his gaze, but as the people peep in on an increasingly de-auratized imperial family.” 2

Kido Takayoshi, had indicated in his dairy, had been urging the government to allow the emperor “ to travel freely to al quarters of the land” – proposed three capital plan that would have designated Kyoto as the Imperial Capital  (teito), Osaka as the Western Capital (saikyō), and Edo as the Eastern Capital (Tōkyō). The imperial Edict through with the government’s leaders established Edo as the Eastern Capital on 3 September 1868 stressed the need for the emperor’s presence at two capitals in order to unify the nation.3

Shishido Tamaki – vice president of the office of Palace  Construction and holder of a number of official positions during his career – explained why a new a very lavish palace was necessary. “ All things,” he maintained, “ have an inherent essence.” The emperor’s essence is to perform national rites for domestic and international audiences, but without a central location in which to perform them he would lose this essence. As Shishido put it:  “the emperor occupies an intermediate position. He reigns over the people below. Outwardly, he faces the foreign countries. When court ceremonies, banquets and rites, both major and minor, are not conducted, the public order (chitsujo) becomes disarrayed. This would not be the so-called way of ruling the country through rites and music.” He also stressed the palace should not become his living quarters. 4 This indicates that the emperor should not be secluded by any reasoning.

The Imperial Gaze, according to Fujitani disciplined the people by acting as an all-seeing monarch who could dominate the people through his sight.  The discernment of the gaze focused to institutions such as “schools, factories, barracks, and almost ever other manner of social organization.” (241) This, of course, is the imperial vision. Therefore, “schoolchildren […] mobilized to the area fronting the emperor’s palace in order to submit their souls and bodies to the imperial look. These disciplinary ceremonials took place most regularly on Tokyo’s Yoyogi Parade Grounds[…].” (241) Other ceremonials offered reassurance of the patriarchal and matriarchal gaze, and some didn’t accept the gaze at all. The Gaze is something a westerner like me cannot comprehend, because my small reckoning seems to be if you didn’t do what you were told you would be disciplined, more like a social peer-pressure, but here it is on a grander level of state pressure. To me the imperial gaze was something that happened throughout history and is not indicative to Meiji Japan. Obeying your emperor is patriotic displays of fashion, regalia, pomp-and-circumstances, and not let along the nation of duty was a discipline all by itself contained a normal procedure in many periods and realms. I’m not sure why it is such a bid deal to believe ‘ceremony’ was adamant to Japan’s reconstruction. Ceremony was always a way to understand you have loyal subjects, and it was a courteously and a disciplinary action of many of culture in all parts of the world to show fortitude to your leaders. Why would Fujitani single out the Meiji Japanese in this account by making it such a big deal when it was more a common place understanding of the psychological structure of all worldly states in history? He is correct that ceremony as symbolic dress our destiny, influence our actions, and drives our emotions, but reason derives our personal decisions, and one such reason not to take part in state sanctioned ceremonials was not an absent of disciplinary or gazical apprehension, but fear of actual pain or emotional suffering.

Apparently the common people didn’t know the history of the station of Japanese emperor or its ceremonial images and symbols of power in the Meiji period. “ Emperor Meiji also took with him two of the imperial regalia, the Scared Sword and Curved Jewel, and he passed through the villages and towns that had been ornamented with Rising Sun and national flags. But again, the great masses of people were not familiar with any of these symbols.” (49). “The authorities, it must be remembered, had difficulty enough explaining that the emperor was descended from the Sun Goddess.” (49). This is hard to grasp in that schooling must have been teaching nothing to the effect of Japanese history. I guess we can look upon this claim such as the periodic fad of pop-culture interviewing  people on the street and asking them who the United States of America Secretary of State is or the Secretary of Defense, and most cannot name the current administrator.

  1. Fujitani attempts to link imperial ceremonials such as weddings and funeral to larger questions about the nature of modern(izing) Japan. Discuss his argument with reference to one or more of the following: the development of Japanese nationalism, city planning, gender issues, discipline, the role of historical memory, and of course, the character of Japan's modern state.
  2. What is Fujitani's main argument? Why did he write the book? What interested you when you read the book? What did you learn? What questions do you still have?

            (Week 4 Chicago University syllabus)

In the "Introduction" of Splendid Monarchy, T. Fujitani writes:

I am proposing that we remember -- not the entire history of the imperial institution, for such a project, even if it were to be a critical one, would inadvertently contribute to the myth of the imperial institution's continuity. Rather... I want to remember the instant of historical rupture, the moment of the imperial institution’s new emergence in modern Japan. Thus my approach is absolutely opposed to the overall project of many and widely read works on the Japanese emperor that either attempt to produce generalizations about Japanese kingship over time, or explain modern kingship in Japan by resorting to metaphysical assumptions about Japanese mentality.

Assess Fujitani's argument in relation to the type of discourse that Edward Said calls "Orientalism." Does Fujitani's project resist Orientalist discourse? If so, how? If not, in what way does it fail?

Week 5
How does Soseki's celebrated novel, Kokoro, address the problem of modernity in late Meiji Japan? Consider such phenomena as the emergence of the "self," the relation of the individual to the state (and to other individuals), and the relationship of Japanese culture with its own past.

Syllabus, EALC 109/ Hist 152/ SocSci 236, Introduction to Civilizations of East Asia II (Japan) (Chicago: Chicago University, 2001).


1898, 13th anniversary celebration of Meiji, the biggest festival since the promulgation of the Meiji.

1 Fujitani, Takashi, Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 43.

Ibid, 244.

Ibid, 45.
Ibid, 69.
8 Ibid,.


Takashi Fujitani, “Splendid Monarchy: Power and Pageantry in Modern Japan” ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

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