These engaging tomes, a two-volume collection of translations on pan-Asianism and a collection of articles in an edited volume on the same topic, offer a mint of scholarship on what has long been a troubling issue to decipher for students limited to the English language – namely, what is the deal with Pan-Asianism? What does it all mean, who talked about it, why and where? This is a complex enough question when one can read in the Japanese, Chinese, Korean and even Turkish languages, but for most of us, especially for younger students starting out or for those in less specialized fields, the question has long been of interest but few were the tools one could employ to gain insight or even access to more than mere cursory introductions. These books change the nature of that game.
At the heart of this sea change is the two-volume set of fine translations covering the 19th and 20th centuries (with a bit into the 21st), focusing on a wide variety of well-known, and some lesser known, ideologues (Japanese and other) on the topic of pan-Asianism. The editors, and translators themselves, have tracked down competent original language tracts, admirably and clearly cited, and produced mostly lively and smooth translations. And the selection is mostly what both teachers and students will want – this is a set for any library and to serve as a reference on office shelves when researchers who cannot read the original languages now need a source they can easily access and on which they can rely. These books bring an enormous span of disparate writings together – an exceedingly admirable goal even without the translations and introductions.
In both of the translation volumes, each selection is preceded with a clear explanation from the translator, noting the significance and providing some background on the text itself. Sometimes the introductions or explanatory sections are longer than the actual translation, and that is fine because these volumes offer precisely that to the beginning reader – an introduction. I can think of no better set of current volumes on the market that offer this wealth in terms of both coverage, depth of explanation, and then actual translation of primary text, to readers in English. In volume one, the usual suspects emerge: haven’t we already heard enough for the time being from Kita Ikki or Okakura Tenshin? Luckily, the editors also scoured the ends of the earth for a more international approach and we get to choose from a smorgasbord of individuals. So Chaep’il, the early Korean reformer makes an entry, as does Abdurresid Ibrahim, who connects Islam and the rise of Japan in the early 20th century. Particularly pleasing was the choice to include a tract on An Chunggun, the assassin of Meiji statesman Ito Hirobumi. Sun Yat Sen puts in an appearance in a discussion of his relationship with Germany, as do the more standard historical personages that normally get associated with this topic. I noticed the consideration of pan-Asian thought among Koreans, but the dearth of analyzing the broader Chinese discussion of this issue is a lacuna. This may be because other scholars are covering this aspect and, in the end, a book only has so many pages. That being said, one of the key moments for this collection, followed up in volume two, is that it demonstrates that the theme of Pan-Asianism is a topic of concern to more than just scholars of Japan. The attention to detail is spread over a wider geography to explore the historical significance of the topic. This is a worthy pursuit.
Volume two arguably has to deal with a more well-known cast of characters so the editors must have debated their selections for quite a while. At the same time, the editors push the envelope and do not let the debate close with the end of the Second World War. In fact, they demonstrate the startling vibrancy, or at least relevance, of the idea of pan-Asianism in the post-war period through the Bandung Conference in 1955, and even a piece from Wang Yi on China’s new Asianism in the late 20th century. The selections in volume two have perhaps a tougher job, with the need both to analyze the ideology during the Second World War and also to detail why the theme of pan-Asianism continues to enthral some, such as former prime minister Mahatir Mohamed in Malaysia, and simultaneously repel others.
Saaler and Szpilman should be commended on being able both to corral an army of able and intellectually gifted scholars from around the world and get them to produce translations and introductions in this multi-layered collection of tracts from the last century and a half. One could always have quibbles about choices and tone, but what would be the point? I can only imagine the effort put forward in producing this publication and the two volumes sit proudly on my shelf, already well-thumbed as I paw through them looking for insight. I am sure their bindings will continue to soften as I man-handle them for use in future research as well.
The third book in this review is a related collection of 15 different essays shepherded into several themes that emerged from a conference on the topic of pan-Asianism, published several years before the translation volumes. The initial thrust that I drew from my first reading concerns the vast and amorphous blob that is the ideology of pan-Asianism. If there is one consistent concept on which the authors agreed, it was that pan-Asianism adheres to no one idea or set of ideas but rather exists within a vortex of competing ideologies that swirled around Japan and East Asia for a half century before transforming into separate motivating forces after the war, but with some vestigial attachment to their pre-war roots. In some measure this conclusion was later reflected in the varied choices for translation in the two-volume collection of tracts. Thus, pan-Asianism was and remains, at once, an abhorred and adored philosophical scheme. It does, however, appear to stand on two somewhat shaky foundational pillars. One of these was an actual plan to unify Asia as some sort of political bloc and the other scheme essentially masked the Japanese desire to lead East Asia toward that goal. That being said, while the ideology led a fruitful earlier 20th–century life it has subsequently died, only to really retain some value in the right or nationalist fringes in Japan. No ties really remain across the geographic span of East Asia as existed in those heady pre-revolution or pre-war times. This conclusion stands in some opposition to the last section of volume two of the translation collection where the editors seemingly go out of their way to find texts that suggest pan-Asian is still being broached in East Asia.
Regardless, this edited volume is loaded with some fascinating in-depth case studies of pan-Asian ideologues of various stripes but authors and the editors, with the exception of Saaler’s fine introduction, spent little time in drawing comparisons between chapters. This would have been a nice addition since one misses the sort of debates that might have taken place at the conference and readers here are only presented with 15 independent essays that do not necessarily always make for a coherent whole. We learn much, but there was much more room for expanding the sort of themes chosen.
The questions that arise from this genre of research centre on the issue: how does one clearly distinguish between right wing political ideology and pan-Asianism? Is there or was there a difference? Did it depend on the decade or the political appearance? Did pan-Asianism wear a certain uniform and goose-step while it marched, or could it take the form of a consultative approach at school or as a journalistic angle for the media? Moreover, how do we avoid referring to the inevitability of the Second World War in ascertaining the ultimate shade of ‘ism’ it truly was? Did history necessarily have to end as it did? Were there regional differences or was this a national paradigm? How did these ideologies play out in the larger empire itself?
Many of these questions remain unanswered in the edited volume, in part because a majority of the chapters focus on the intellectual history angle and not necessarily on the transnational aspects of pan-Asianism, a strange absence given the topic. Li Narangoa, Roger Brown, the introduction by Sven Saaler, and to some extent Kristine Dennehy, in their essays point in the right direction and actually delve into the ‘pan’ aspect of the ideologies that cut beyond Japan’s national borders. The bulk of the other excellent essays stood more geographically bounded, demonstrating that much of how we entertain the thought of pan-Asianism remains an intellectual or philosophical exercise mostly relegated to Japan’s four main islands. In this manner, there is much heady talk about the Kyoto School, philosophy, and related notions but little discussion of what overseas Japanese in their links to the US, Hawaii or South America were doing. (Many of these nitpicky points are rectified by the two-volume collection of translations where readers are treated to a much richer array of texts concerning the ideas of pan-Asianism). Likewise, the China connections are obvious and yet rarely show up in the bibliography, nor is there any detailed discussion of relations with nationalist-minded Asians like Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Chandra Bose in India, Ba Maw in Burma, or others throughout South and Southeast Asia as well as the rest of the Far East. These are serious points, particularly when taken in light of what Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper have noted in Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia (1), where they write that Japan’s intervention in Asia created new nations without states, in the end causing even more bloodshed and discord after 1945. One would have hoped for maybe a hint of coverage regarding the Indian National Army traitor trials at Red Fort in late 1945 – were they not influenced in some measure by their wartime association with the Japanese, Nehru as the emerging Indian leader, and under the spell of pan-Asianism that grew on the subcontinent?
We need more actual pan-Asian coverage of pan-Asianism if we are going to move beyond the somewhat obsessive concern with the already well-trumpeted holy trinity of pan-Asian Japanese philosophers: Miki Kiyoshi, Royama Masamichi, and Tanabe Hajime. This conference volume expounded on some of these key nodes but did not exactly offer the sort of relief I had hoped for, and which certainly shines through in the excellent two-volume collection of translations.
Saaler leads off with a solid introduction on pan-Asianism throughout Japanese history. In part, he sees pan-Asianism as a precursor to regionalism. In one of its initial incarnations, pan-Asianism, Saaler writes, mostly emphasized the need for Asian unity in the face of pressure from the West. Asia was the space where Japan defined itself and thus its roots are mid 19th century. When the Sinocentric and Tokugawa worlds collapsed, there was a sudden and great need to re-identify how the people saw themselves. Katsu Kaishu, a bakufu official, early on proposed a ‘Nisshin teikei’, an 1860s union of Sino-Japan to ward off the West. Many early Meiji intellectuals, with the exception of Datsu-A (leave Asia) promoter Fukuzawa Yukichi, saw solidarity with Asia as a safe move forward. The Koa kai, (Society for Raising Asia), in 1880 and the Toa Dobunkai (headed by Konoe Atsumaro) in 1898 were some of the earliest and strongest private groups that arose to support the idea of a unified Asia under Japan against the threat of the West. There were also the more nefarious Genyosha, (Dark Ocean Society) in 1881 and the Kokuryukai, founded under Uchida Ryohei in 1901. Ironically, while many of these groups have received their share of academic attention over the years, most of them did not gain significant traction with the government since Meiji leaders were wary of feeding to Western fears of the supposed great yellow peril. As Saaler instructs and others in their essays point out, the supposed sheen of pan-Asianism took decades to actually form into a viable and cohesive political force in Japan, not really emerging until the turn of the 19th to the 20th century. Saaler (p. 6) assesses that until the First World War, pan-Asian rhetoric in Japanese government circles did not matter that much. Suematsu Kenchô, one of the first Japanese to study at the University of Cambridge and who went on to first introduce parts of the Tale of Genji in English, had to reassure London society when he was a diplomat that Asia was not going to unite against the West. There were resonating signs toward pan-Asianism in China – in 1919 Li Dazhao, a Chinese scholar, pushed a new sense of Asianism to get weak Asian nations to band together. In 1924, Sun Yat Sen gave a talk in Kobe, which criticized the fact that Japan believed it had to choose between belonging to the east or west. Miyazaki Toten’s support of Sun Yat Sen is well known but did this ever grow into anything? I was struck several years ago when I visited the small museum devoted to Miyazki in the distant suburbs of Kumamoto that Sun traveled all the way to deep western Japan to pay his respects to Miyazaki. Photographs of the two together abound, but ultimately the friendship that is often touted in history books resulted in precious little mutual political action. Is that a testament to the lasting impotence of pan-Asianism, in that it appears to be a sexy topic but in the end never delivers?
One of the problems with the original Japanese essays that were ably translated in this edited volume is they deliver less punch, with the exception of Oguma Eiji’s, than the majority of other chapters. Miwa Kimitada’s ‘Pan Asianism in modern Japan’ is one such example, even though Miwa is a grand master of the field. This chapter is a rehash of the evident. He breaks pan-Asianism down as a sort of ideology that follows Japanese nationalism overseas, where it develops a stronger regional identity, p. 21, which arose to compete with yellow peril fear from the West. Japan’s struggle during the Meiji era was trying to decide if it was leaving or leading Asia, a question also referred to in Oguma Eiji’s essay. Oguma quotes a Japanese intellectual in 1950 who announced that he was pleased to have rejoined East Asia. I remain somewhat dubious of Miwa’s claim that pan-Asianism created any support for itself by relying heavily on the Second World War propaganda ideal hakko ichiu, ‘eight corners of the world under one roof’. Who really understood this idea at the ground level? Even towering intellectuals – Miki, Royama and others – had reservations about the true thrust of what they were claiming.(2) Miwa concludes with a rather anodyne assertion that while pan-Asianism is now lifeless, during its heyday it witnessed a battle between the hakko ichiu and kokutai. I offer that such a proposition would have been more convincingly argued as a struggle between domestic issues and internationalism. In this way, the content could have tied in very nicely with the essays by Li and Scheider.
Kuroki Morifumi, in ‘The Asianism of the Koa-kai and the Ajia Kyokai,’ delivers an informative piece that tended to list organizations more than analyze their impact. He explains that these groups were forerunners of the Toa dobun Shoin. Kuroki defines Asianism as the rise of thought to resist Western encroachment. These pan-Asian groups started language schools to teach Chinese, provide translations, and to open cross cultural doors of communication – admirable goals in the purest political sense. They also provided key intelligence information and reported back on the situation across China. Essentially, Kuroki sees such groups as promoting ‘Asian ideals’, offering a new way of justice to supplant the western way of the despot. But their numbers were always small, so how do we judge their influence? Surely, investigating pan-Asianism does not mean that we are going to try and search out every tiny group and tie them together to demonstrate how active the ideology was? We need a stronger set of methodological tools to help us gauge impact and influence. Kuroki’s somewhat reductive conclusion is that these several small groups laid the groundwork for the Toa dobunkai, which operated from 1898–1945. The Toa meddled in China affairs, other groups prior did not, and there is located the shift in pan-Asian ideology he concludes.
Li Narangoa, in her chapter, ‘Universal values and Pan-Asianism: the vision of Omotokyo’, offers one of the tastier essays in the book. Founded by Deguchi Nao and then furthered by son Deguchi Onisaburo, Omotokyo was a new religion that grew during the Taisho era. Founded in response to the Meiji crisis, at first the leader called for yonaoshi, ‘redoing the world’, announcing that Japan would only heal after an Armageddon like crisis. The question then is, what were the religion’s links with pan-Asianism? First World War Omotokyo leaders started to see Japan’s problems in the greater context of the world and Onisaburo believed that by boosting Shinto principles Japan’s philosophical treasures could be shared with others to create a world family system. His overseas mission sought to affirm that goal. Working with the Chinese Red Swastika society in 1922, Omotokyo also sent missionaries to Manchuria and North China. In 1924, while supposedly under house arrest, Onisaburo escaped and traveled to Mongolia, the cradle of East Asia he thought. With help of Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin, Onisaburo raised a small army but failed to rally religion and unity with Japan. When he returned to Japan (p. 61) he was now a much larger mythic figure around which a small media frenzy grew, and the founder of the Kokuryukai, Uchida Ryohei, finally began to view him as something other than a comic figure. Omotokyo combined missionary zeal with ethnocentric pan-Asianism within a Japan-centric universe. The religion’s followers tried to disseminate the ‘great truth of Japan’ as the central leader tied such ideology in with gods and the mythic ideology of Shinto.
Christopher Szpilman is exceedingly knowledgeable about the history of the right wing in Japan and demonstrates his erudition in, ‘Between Pan-Asian and nationalism: Mitsukawa Kametaro and his campaign to reform Japan and liberate Asia’. It is a nicely packaged chapter that starts and finishes by commenting on Ishihara Shintarô, the headline seeking former mayor of Tokyo. Szpilman’s inclusion of Ishihara leads one to believe that maybe there is a smidgen of value left in pan-Asian ideology in contemporary Japan given the mayor’s consistent foot-in-mouth comments over the years. Szpilman does not analyze the mayor but Mitsukawa Kametaro, a late Meiji prolific writer and networker. The Kokuryukai hailed him as a thinker and he pulled Kita Ikki and others up from obscurity through the ranks, including Okawa Shumei. Mitukawa’s success demonstrates how one rose in the right wing ranks. This essay is sort of a genealogy to show how right-wingers supported one another and developed over time – they never emerged sui generis. Born impoverished in Osaka, Mitsukawa became a journalist for a while to pay bills. During the First World War, he founded the Rosokai as a study group to exchange ideas. Then he split off (p. 88) and founded the Yuzonsha (Those who remain) with a pan-Asian and radical domestic agenda. The groups had nebulous ideologies and we cannot really assert they were fascist. Mitsukawa felt Asia’s glory was in the past and needed to return to the ideology of the time to be able to push against the West. He detected stirrings in Asia but said that they needed Japanese help to rise up. In the 1930s Mitsukawa promoted Japanese colonialism into Asia and his chief hypothetical enemy had become the United States. He believed America coveted China but had planned to get rid of Japan first because it was in the way. He also announced that a race war was brewing. Mitsukawa admired American might but was also disgusted by it by the 1930s, although with the Great Depression such anxiety dissipated. In Mitsukawa’s mind, by 1935, pan-Asianism was (p. 99) ‘unbridled Japanese chauvinism’, and this was not considered a bad thing.
In a similar vein, Dick Stegewerns chose to focus his chapter on one individual, in ‘Forgotten leaders of the interwar debate on regional integration: introducing Sugimori Kojiro’. There are several problems, though, with these sorts of chapters in an edited volume. I think we have to offer more than just an outline of someone’s life if we hope to present that person as somehow key to our understanding of pan-Asianism. We must refrain from just plucking personages from archival obscurity, not that Stegewerns does, but Sugimori’s relevance was never explained in my opinion satisfactorily to the reader. As such, Stegewerns never really completely ties in the story of Sugimori with his importance, or lack thereof. Why do we need to know about him, and one could likewise ask the question of Szpilman’s choice as well.
Eventually, Stegewerns asks the same question that Saaler threw out in the introduction: how does regionalism differ from pan-Asianism? Until recently, Japan never focused on Asia as a region and now this topic is quotidian. What pushed regional integration? Around the time of the First World War Japan began to grasp the deeper problems of nationalism in Europe as a root cause for the tremendous unrest that led to war. Sugimori saw the union the United States constituted and admired the project (p. 107), believing the same was possible in Asia, with Japan in the lead. How did Sugimori see the world? He did not see East and West as separate, only a world civilization with superior and inferior levels, where the East was inferior. Sugimori opined that Asia had to help itself, it was not a white man’s burden. In 1927, with the KMT on the verge of unifying China, he believed such a step would potentially threaten Japan’s position in Manchuria. One of the lingering issues with the Szpilman and Stegewerns essays was that they pulled on many threads, chased down leads and started topics, but in the end I remain confused where they wanted to leave us. In this vein, maybe it is appropriate that both authors were a bit vague since it parallels their assessment of the pan-Asianists in general; these ideologues were unable to really grasp Chinese nationalism and denied it in a bid to see Japan as the preordained leader of East Asian regionalism. This, too, is not exactly a robust set of conclusions. Was Sugimori emblematic of this set of beliefs, or did he help create this mindset of a greater East Asia that predates the Second World War?
Roger Brown delves into some compelling questions about government and political philosophy in his analysis of Yasuoka Masahiro, in ‘Visions of a virtuous manifest destiny: Yasuoka Masahiro and Japan’s Kingly Way’. Unlike the other chapters that focus on individuals, Brown is more careful to delve into the larger context surrounding the person, not just providing a brief biography that will supposedly speak for itself. Yasuoka, a Confucian scholar, had a long standing career as private advisor to government officials, counsellor to Kita Ikki, confidante of Okawa Shumei, and manager of his own polishing school for ‘men of character’. Yasuoka also more famously helped rewrite Japan’s imperial surrender. After the war he, like many other pan-Asianists, was purged, but then rebounded and educated post-war bureaucrats and prime ministers. Yasuoka blended a Confucian focus on self-cultivation with Neo-Kantian interest in cultural authenticity; proper government in his estimation originated from the imperial house of Japan. This was Japan’s kingly way, a sort of reaction to despotism, that gave Japan the mantle to rule East Asia (p. 135). Yasuoka assessed that China and Japan should play up more their shared common heritage and along these lines Yasuoka was a Neo-Confucian devotee to the Sung dynasty Chinese philosopher Wang Yangming. Yasuoka was not strictly a militarist, though like many pan-Asianists of his ilk, he pushed the idea of cultivating the self, living the way of the gods as he termed it. Countries could follow suit, he believed. Nations that followed ‘the way’ could employ military force as ‘an exemplar of bushido’, which we learn from recent scholarship is more a late Meiji if not turn of the century construct and not a traditional value as so often vaunted in philosophical tracts.(3) Fundamentally, the pan-Asianists who stuck to this nascent idea to impress others wanted to find an ideology that competed with Victorian England and early Prussian ideas of patriotism and duty. Essentially, Yasuoka’s ideas promoted the concept that Japan as a nation could be ‘the true samurai’, which of course they were not. To keep the country stable and ordered was key, he felt, to help officials avoid revolution. A constant renewal of the belief in centrality and an orientation toward the centripetal importance of the imperial house was also vital. Education helped foster this quality in students who then grew up and served as leaders. Yasuoka championed Japan’s empire because it helped keep out communism and Western influence. He was eager to establish an ‘international Showa’ and he relied on new interpretations of the Chinese classics to proclaim that Japan was destined to be the leader of East Asia and needed to be. Of course there was supposed to be a plan, such ideology cultivated learning, and one can recognize why this might have been attractive to many at the time and in the post-war period as well. The belief linked Japan into a much longer and deeply philosophical historical memory channel of thinkers than it actually possessed. In 1937 when the fighting grew fierce on the Chinese mainland Yasuoka supported the empire but urged the Japanese to behave in a ‘kingly’ fashion. The Nanjing Massacre proved otherwise. Yasuoka could not see Japan’s failings and like so many of his intellectual brethren he eventually blamed the Chinese for the war’s excesses because Japan’s cause was supposedly righteous. We see similar evidence of such deeply held beliefs in the diaries of Japanese generals and high officials in the immediate post-war periodwhen they reflected on the war.(4) Elite Japanese persuaded themselves that the Chinese were ignorant if they did not welcome Japanese action on the mainland. After all, Japan was there to assist China and one could theoretically observe on the ground the ramifications of Yasuoka’s philosophy. Japan’s ‘just war’ was not an idea of the past but lives on. Yasuoka also believed that men of talent, who were not numerous, needed to go forth to China and persuade the Chinese what was required of the future. If they did not, Japan would fail.
I admit my bias from the outset – maybe I am being unfair to John Namjun Kim and his piece on ‘The temporality of empire: the imperial cosmopolitanism of Miki Kiyoshi and Tanabe Hajime’. Many of us have already drunk from this reservoir of knowledge surrounding scholastic infatuation with Miki and Tanabe. How much more can be said about these two that impacts the field? I enjoyed the opening of the chapter, where colonialism was discussed as practice; imperialism is generally ideology. These two major intellectuals were stalwarts of the Kyoto school, where the theory of subjectivity supposedly girded Japan’s empire. I still have my doubts that this was so central an issue except to post-war intellectual historians, because the subjects that I read in archives rarely mention this topic. One wonders how important the idea of pan-Asianism was to wartime intellectuals or was it and ideology more reflective of economic class differences based on how one viewed the usefulness of empire? To what extent did Japan’s empire have intellectual foundations? No one ever seems to discuss the role of the media and pan-Asianism in the same breath yet arguably the news industry had a far larger impact on the idea of empire and Asia. A corollary might be to ask how much American society hinged on political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s idea of the end of history in the early 1990s or was it more affected in recent years under the Bush administration by John Yoo’s twisted legal theories about the acceptability of torturing ‘enemy combatants’ to gain supposedly necessary intelligence? Maybe we need to assess a combination of the two strands, but surely not only Miki or Tanabe’s ideas in isolation? If we are going to overemphasize the influence or importance of intellectuals within the discussion of what pan-Asianism was then we need to also offer stronger evidence about its influence. Kim is a bit obtuse with sections that evaded me. For example (p. 152) he states ‘the individual subject only attains subjectivity through a temporal identification with an imagined social totality that promises freedom’. What exactly does that mean? If this book is to be enjoyed by a variety of scholars, including advanced students, such prose needs to be parsed out for the laymen, not only the specialist. And how about at some point touching on the personal lives of these intellectuals, as Paul Johnson once famously did when taking grand European scholars down a notch.(5) Miki studied with Nishida Kitaro and then went off to Germany to engage with Heidegger. What an opportunity here to discuss religion, to dig into Heidegger’s interesting relationship with his much younger Jewish protégé, Hannah Arendt, and what that meant. Did Arendt ever meet him? Did she see things differently than Heidegger and was Miki at all interested in the fact that a Jewish woman had a Nazi lover? We need more of that German-Japan interchange and less of the obsessive concern with the story of subjectivity – a topic I would argue few undergraduates grasp and that needs to be more pulled into the working life of pan-Asian ideology.
In relating to the chapter on female pan-Asianists – did these guys ever have social lives or did they only eat, sleep and drink extreme political philosophy? Did their family lives engage in any manner with their intellectual pursuits? Should we care or does that detract from the historical investigation? The fact that these pan-Asianists were often multi-cultural and multi-lingual, but at the same time fiercely nationalistic, also runs against our contemporary dogma that studying foreign languages and cultures is the source of diversity and understanding. What was different about the pre-war period, and how did that create such fissures? Unfortunately, these sorts of questions are not mixed in so at times in this edited volume we seem to be treading over familiar academic ground, and I am not convinced the chapter really illuminates anything significantly new. It obviously details and expands but there is also a tendency in intellectual history to over-intellectualize. In Tanabe’s philosophy there was a ‘promise for a future with full membership in a transformed community that marks the imperial moment’ (p. 165). Tanabe certainly encouraged students in 1943 to die for the empire but was that an imperial moment? In the end the author explains, ‘Tanabe’s argument here is that individual freedom is only won within the state’. Kim tells us that empires are not only military; there needs to be a bureaucratic class, where theory trains new leaders. To be sure, we saw this in the Brown chapter on Yasuoka and the point is well taken. One need only examine contemporary China which then begs the question: with all the corruption and such, is there a theory behind the state? The anthropologist of China, Frank Pieke, would say one place to start such an examination would be in the cadre training schools.(6) And we know that Miki worked at the Showa Research Association, and Tanabe taught, so such pursuit is not mere sophistry. In conclusion, Kim was prescient in anticipating the questions we would ask at the opening of his chapter and he provides good use of a quote from former United States deputy secretary of defence Paul Wolfowitz to demonstrate this his analysis is not all ethereal but ties into similar debates, including the issues the United States is currently struggling with. Unfortunately, in the end, the chapter does not quite deliver on what it promises.
Kevin Doak decodes ‘the concept of ethnic nationality and its role in pan-Asian imperial Japan’ in his essay. Japan’s inter-war period placed emphasis on the idea of minzoku, centering on a common racial identity, which was at the core of Japan’s imperial project. One of the main issues with this supposition, of course, is that this idea crumbled so very quickly in the summer of 1945, which alludes to the secondary question of how serious or important such notions were if they failed so suddenly without a trace? The fact that Japan created a racially stratified empire does not mean that there were not strains within it that called for more equitability For example, University of Tokyo Students in the early 1920s clamored for Koreans to get the vote during the Taisho era. Yoshino Sakuzo wrote that Japanese youths were supportive of giving Korea a say in its future, proclaiming, ‘Give her independence or autonomy!’(7) Doak posits that the Japanese were interested more in ethnicity than race; local identity was labeled as minzoku and regional as the East Asian community. The First World War had started people thinking about clashes between ethnicities and Okawa Shumei started selling the idea of Asia as one Volk, turning on the idea of liberating themselves from a western yoke. While they acknowledged race, his supporters saw Asia as a large region comprised of peoples in opposition to the Anglo Saxon bloc. With Japan’s 1905 victory in the Russo-Japanese war, Okawa, like many others, came to believe that the coloured races had value. But how to create a community in East Asia where arguably not much of one existed? During the 1920s a crisis occurred in the Japanese state, combined with a severe economic downturn, which caused Marxists and socialists to find the answer in their doctrines. They developed ideas of a new order, minzoku chitsujo, which helped to justify Japan’s rule of East Asia. Pan-Asianists began to proliferate but they never really agreed on any one course to execute their various plans. Doak sums up the main issue and writes (p. 181) ‘[o]ne searches in vain for a single, coherent policy on regional integration during the era of imperial Japan’. Shouldn’t that idea lead the essay? Were all these pronouncements Japanese intellectual posturing or did they mean something? Who attended and read these lectures, I am always dying to know. Doak presents his magic trick and then seemingly puts the rabbit back in the hat, with a knowing nod and a wink that suggests at times he wants to present these ideologues as having wielded masterful influence but simultaneously wants to hedge his own assertions.
J. Victor Koschmann, in ‘Constructing destiny: Royama Masamichi and Asian regionalism in wartime Japan’, says that he wants to look at the margins of pan-Asianism. Royama Masamichi, another elite member of the intellectual wartime field, pushed for what became the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. With colleagues at the Showa Research Association, Royama pursued studies that supported Japan’s expanding empire but, Koschmann argues, he was a rationalist. There is a continuity between his pre- and post-war thinking, and here Koschmann moves a bit away from the normal reworking of wartime intellectuals into some newer and fruitful territory, where we can question if pan-Asian thought remains valid post-war and for what reasons. Maruyama Masao wrote that pre-war Japanese political science was sterile since academics could not question the status quo. (Does the example of the anti-war politician Saito Takao not oppose this idea a bit?) Koschmann raises a salient point that Japan moved into its imperial state not only due to ‘irrational obscurantism’ (p. 187) but also because it was ‘supported by the most recent social scientific approaches to politics and international relations’.(8) Royama became a political scientist during the 1920s when he turned away from the rumblings of Taisho democracy and was arguably more impressed with the Soviet five-year plans and Nazi organization. Royama developed the idea of the ‘community of destiny’ as he termed it, that Asia would come together in its commonality against the white West, which, he explained, was why the Chinese nationalist project was doomed. In much the same way that the US has consistently misinterpreted the history and values of the Middle East and Afghanistan, there is immense room here for an expanded notion of comparing Japan’s intellectual debates during the war and what is happening in America today.(9) Royama chastised the Chinese for not understanding Japan’s goals and that gap supposedly caused the friction. How could Japan expand and maintain its empire in a way that would maintain connections through high level transport links and communication hubs?(10) A unique sort of cross discipline analysis could have been accomplished here if this line of reasoning had been pursued. In the post-war period, Maruyama Masao and Royama Masamichi became part of a team (p. 198) that signed the December 1950 petition that opposed a one-sided Japanese peace treaty which excluded the Soviet Union and other nations not aligned with the United States. Koschmann points out that there was little disparity between the wartime pursuits of total war social science advocates and post-war democracy because both still saw the global confrontation as a pitched battled between East and West as an inherent part of the story. In this sense, pan-Asianism retained a relevance for de-imperialized Japan as much as it did for pre-war Japan. Koschmann’s article may have done the most to shake up our convictions that pan-Asian thought has little relevance left in the post-war period.
Oguma Eiji delights in a short essay, ‘Postwar intellectuals view of “Asia”’, but leads into his argument by reminding us that in 1950 the pop intellectual Shimizu Ikutaro commented, ‘now, once again, Japanese are Asians’ (p. 200). The actual conditions of the Second World War had clearly demonstrated how shallow Japan’s modernity was and in 1949, Oguma writes, the Japanese pejorative view of China began to erode with the rise of the people’s revolution. China scholar Takeuchi Yoshimi also started gaining prominence in the 1950s and it is interesting to note his focus on something other than the holy trinity of Royama, Miki and Tanabe. Here Oguma seems to be able to relieve himself of the genuflection paid to the three wartime philosophers and reflect on a solidly different topic. During the 1950s Japanese became interested in minshu (the people) as they reflected on intellectuals’ devotion to enlightenment thought focused mainly and over-dependently on the West. Similar to communist Chinese behavior after the revolution, the Japanese spoke of learning from the masses. A 1948 essay by Takeuchi, comparing Chinese and Japanese modernity, was considered in the 1960s to be one of the ten most influential essays in post-war Japan. The Japanese Communist Party started to gain prominence at this time and talk about minzoku independence. This Japanese re-evaluation of Asia, importantly as Oguma points out, did not include soul searching about responsibility for the war in Asia. Until then such discussions mostly focused on politicians, the military and bureaucrats; regular Japanese still defined themselves as victims and gave little thought to the Asian victims. In September 1951 the magazine Sekai published a special issue on problems relating to the San Francisco peace treaty, opposing China’s exclusion but only two out of 120 writers mentioned reparations. By the 1960s the domestic Japan economy was soaring and the country was no longer associated with the poor and backward; by 1963 Japan had joined the OECD, entering the ranks of developed nations, and left behind somewhat its discussion about pan-Asianism.
Kristine Dennehy, in ‘Overcoming colonialism at Bandung, 1955’, explains that Japan joined the conference to promote solidarity and wanted to use the occasion to showcase its re-entry into international society. Takasaki Tatsunosuke was the lead delegate and most Japanese officials attending were from the dominant conservative political leadership. In Dennehy’s assessment, Bandung served two somewhat contrasting functions. One was to let progressive intellectual groups like Rekishi kagakukai push a critique of Japan’s imperial past to link up with other formerly oppressed Asians. The conservatives, on the other hand, wanted to promote Japan’s economic reintegration with Asia and use the Bandung conference as a launching off platform. They also used the meeting to discuss reparations with Burma, Thailand, and the Philippines. Many of the delegates were conservative, as were their advisors. One advisor was Fujiyama Aiichiro, president of Ajia Kyokai and head of the Dai Nippon sugar manufacturer. Fujiyama had been purged in the immediate pre-war period but by 1957 was appointed as Foreign Minister under Kishi Nobusuke. Fujiyama took over economic direction as director general of economic planning under Ikeda following that. As a former imperial capitalist, Fujiyama had interesting ideas about pan-Asianism considering his position as a colonial elite in Taiwan during the war. It is a tantalizing suggestion that would have gone much further; Dennehy lays out the interesting line of questioning but then does not really provide proof for the argument. She details the politics but does not probe the core of whether pan-Asianism was a motive force or not at Bandung. In the end the gathering was important because it did allow Japan to realign itself with Asia but how precisely that worked is not explained. Japan and its colleagues at the conference pushed new anti-colonial goals with a pan-Asian flavor but did that ever move beyond rhetoric? A new pacifist agenda Dennehy points to as one new goal, and the Japanese put themselves in a good position to critique the Cold War and escalating arms race from that vantage point. The fact that dissolution of their empire was a direct cause of the situation seems to not have been considered.
Hatsuse Ryuhei, in ‘Pan-Asianism in international relations: prewar, postwar and present’, aims to show that pre-war pan-Asianism was political and after the war it had stronger economic leanings. This is an interesting point and supported by Dennehy’s article that precedes it. NGOs and aid to Asia could be considered a post-war form of pan-Asianism, if some form of ideological thrust underpinned the efforts. So, what were the post-war changes in international relations in Asia that led to this? Hatsue informs us that after the war nations were no longer colonies of Japan or elsewhere but sovereign in their own right – and this included Burma, India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, the two Koreas, Laos, Cambodia, Taiwan, Vietnam – an important to list to consider. Their goals after 1950 (p. 228) shifted from striving toward independence to furthering economic development. After the Cold War (presumed to be over in East Asia, a debatable point unto itself) during the 1990s Asian countries established a stronger interstate system of trade and relations. APEC (the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) grew in 1989, and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) was created in 1996. Since most Asian nations had become independent after 1945 Japan’s wartime pan-Asianism had lost its fundamental raison d’être, which its propaganda had touted as the liberation of Asia. The larger idea itself also became discredited because it was linked with the Greater East Asian Co-prosperity Sphere. But, according to Hatsue, when offering aid and credit the post-war Japanese government and companies would place similar emphasis on the idea of cooperation and co-prosperity in Asia. Unfortunately, after offering up this intriguing morsel, Hatsue delves into detail about Nakamura Tetsu and his Peshawar-kai medical services, an NGO in north Pakistan. Supposedly Nakamura goes to places where no one else will and wants to protect human rights in Asia. Precisely what he is an example of, or a lone extreme of, remains unclear. Is Nakamura supposed to be an example of the new co-prosperity sphere, or just a case study? I was never sure. In sum, this chapter offers the most modern and up to date case study of the idea of pan-Asianism even if the author does not bring the argument expressly to the forefront. We do not know how much impact or media footprint this doctor has in Japan. Is it really pan-Asian or humanitarian aid and is there a difference? As some of the authors tried to show with their philosophers, there was always a mix of ideals concerning this nebulous cauldron of pan-Asianism that provided such a large label attached to many products and beliefs. Such a range confused many, including countries like China, which could not understand how the Japanese insisted they were there to help. Maybe Japan’s pan-Asianism, though this doctor, has transformed into a more humanitarian form and thus is something different?
In conclusion, this edited volume spurred conflicting responses. On one hand, while challenging many stereotypes concerning pan-Asianism, it offered essays that sought to extend our knowledge beyond the mainstream core of what we already know. At times this effort fell a bit flat. On other counts it provoked new thought in other areas. My first inclination upon completion was: can we finish with the holy trinity centered on the Kyoto school and move forward? There are many as yet unexplored areas of pan-Asian thought and history, including transnational issues, such as how was pan-Asianism seen outside of Japan, on the periphery of empire where it arguably mattered more? Some of my concerns were allayed with the two-volume collection of translations that really needs to be purchased with this edited volume of essays. In addition, I have a few editorial queries, which might seem a bit extraneous. The index was interesting; it contained some of the minor characters but nothing on the fringe of important movers like the Meiji right wing ideologue Suzuki Chikara, and nothing on bushido. There is also no mention of the cultural links through pan-Asianism that affected the consumer product world, like the inventor of Calpis, Mishima Kaiun, and his notions of Mongolia and pan-Asianism that would tie in so well with Omotokyo and Deguchi’s foreign trips. These are a few ideas concerning future possibilities for exploration of pan-Asian thought but as a way toward expanding our ideas in English about this vast topic, reading through this edited volume should still be our first step. In fact, go and buy all three books, the edited volume of essays and the two volume translation set, as they work best together as a unit.
- Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper, Forgotten Wars: Freedom and Revolution in Southeast Asia, (Cambridge, MA, 2007)Back to (1)
- Miles Fletcher discusses how these men viewed the intellectual underpinnings of the war through their work in the Showa Research Association, in The Search for a New Order: Intellectuals and Fascism in Prewar Japan , University of North Carolina Press, 1982.Back to (2)
- Oleg Benesch, ‘Bushido: the Creation of a Martial Ethic in Late Meiji Japan’ (PhD, UBC, Canada, 2011).Back to (3)
- Such comments from General Okamura Yasuji, commander of China Expeditionary forces and his second in command, Imai Takeo occur frequently in the immediate post-war period. See Okamura Yasuji taishô shiryô jô, sensô kaisôhen, Hara shobô, ed. Inaba Masao (1970); and Imai Takeo Nitchû wahei kôsaku, kaisô to shôgen 1937–1945, ed. Takahashi Hisashi and Imai Sadao (Misuzu shobô, 2009).Back to (4)
- Paul Johnson, Intellectuals (London, 2000).Back to (5)
- Frank Pieke discusses cadre education in China and we might wish to think along the same lines concerning how Japanese bureaucrats were produced. See The Good Communist: Elite Training and State Building in Today's China (Cambridge, 2009).Back to (6)
- I am indebted to my student, Don Q Kim, for pointing this out. Yoshino Sakuzo, ‘Liberalism in Japan’, in What Japan Thinks, ed. Kiyoshi. K. Kawakami (New York, NY, 1921), p. 91.Back to (7)
- Tessa Morris-Suzuki has made this point as well, in ‘Ethnic engineering: scientific racism and public opinion surveys in mid-century Japan’, positions, 8, 2 (Fall 2000), pp. 499–529.Back to (8)
- John Dower has formed and discussed this question somewhat in Cultures of War: Pearl Harbor/Hiroshima/9-11/Iraq (New York, NY 2010).Back to (9)
- There are interesting links with Daqing Yang’s work in Technology of Empire: Telecommunications and Japanese Imperialism, 1930–1945 (Cambridge, MA, 2011) concerning the interaction of technology and imperialism. These are often ignored as elements of pan-Asianism which tends toward an over exuberant emphasis of the purely intellectual pursuit of the ideology.Back to (10)