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The Australian Journal of Media & Culture
vol. 8 no 2 (1994)
Critical MulticulturalismEdited by Tom O'Regan
The steady, systematic work to which we Nordic people were educated is unknown here on the average. (Eggert '89', quoted in Linhart 27')
The Japanese worker is hardly willing to submit himself to the military discipline which according to our standards must rule the modern factory. He takes his holiday whenever he likes, he comes and goes as he pleases, and if he is scolded for such behavior, he leaves the company. (Paalzow '908, quoted in Linhart 27')
These western observations of Japan are both familiar and unfamiliar. Made by German missionaries around the turn of the century, these remind us of a familiar colonial discourse which draws a sharp distinction between "us" and "them" ("their" otherness is always spoken about in terms of the difference from us"; "our" superiority is unmarked by marking "their" inferiority). These observations can be read as western Orientalist discourse on Japan; after all, they are strikingly similar to those discussed by Richard Minear. Drawing on Said's Orientalism, Minear argues that western observers of Japan (like Chamberlain, Samson and Reischauer) shared ontological assumptions about the West and the exotic but inferior Other, Japan. They were fascinated with some exotic parts of Japan, and lamented the loss of "authentic" Japanese tradition in the process of modernisation. But, they were all quite sure that Japan's future was to be modelled on western civilisation:
All the causes which produced the Old Japan of our dreams have vanished...Old Japan is dead, and the only decent thing to do with the corpse is to bury it. (Chamberlain, quoted in Minear 509)
"Their" present laziness is "our" past, and "their" future is "our" present diligence.
But equally, nothing could convince us more about the artificiality, historicity, partiality and falsity of "Japaneseness" than precisely these observations of Japanese indolence and incapacity for systematic work. After all, diligence, loyalty and systematic work are now widely acknowledged as national cultural "traits" of the Japanese and are expected as such. These now unfamiliar observations suggest that such national "traits" are cultural constructs in dynamic process rather than a static set of given essences. National identity is not authentic so much as a battleground where various social groups compete with each other to define the meaning of the "national".
To construct a unified nation, various ideologies, myths and 'invented traditions' (Hobsbawn and Ranger) have to be represented and disseminated. In Japan, the process through which the dominant ideologies or myths have constructed "Japaneseness" since the mid-nineteenth century, has been one of 'samuraisation' (Befu Japan 50). The Confucian values of the samurai (warrior) class which composed only six per cent of the population were massively disseminated through education and the workplace. Such values included loyalty from below, benevolence from above, respect for hierarchical order, diligence, and the low status of women. The observations of those German missionaries eloquently testify to the unnaturalness and imperfection of 'samuraisation'. They also indicate a fragmented Japanese social formation that is by no means homogeneous.
Japan's constructed and celebrated unity has never been a monolith but is precarious. However, debunking the myth of "Japaneseness" is quite different from understanding the symbolic power of national identity. In spite of the easily-known falsity of a unified "Japaneseness", and of the inequalities which exist in the "real" national society, why and how are 'imagined communities' (Anderson) maintained? The crucial issue here is how the differences 'stitch up'...'into one identity' (Hall "Question" 299).
Hodge argues that national stereotypes which can be read in multifarious ways within the nation, serve to construct 'unity while sustaining difference within the national groups' and to 'mark off those who belong to the nation from others through their possession of the secret... to read it'(443). Thus, it can be argued that internally, the 'imagined community' may be supported by people's diverse and complicated readings of ideological constructions of national identity. At the same time, this ambiguous inclusion is sustained by unambiguous exclusion, and
the critical factor for defining the [national] group therefore becomes the social boundary which defines the group with respect to other groups...not the cultural reality within those borders. (Pistoi, quoted in Schlesinger 235).
Purity cannot mark itself through itself. Only impurity marks purity.
I would argue in the same vein that "Japaneseness" has maintained its precarious unity not only by differentiating itself from an "Other" but by being differentiated by the Other. Both the Other and the Self deploy the same discursive strategy, and the 'reciprocal recognition of others' (Schlesinger 237) solidifies each identity as somehow factual, confining internal divisions and differences to the realm of the domestic secret. In the eyes of the Other, the complicated and contradictory reality of Japan, where a dialectic between the ideological construction of "Japaneseness" and people's diverse readings of and resistance against it is always at play, disappears. Japan tends to be represented only as an entity, no matter whether the people are described as "lazy" or "diligent". And this, together with Japan's self-representation, confirms in its turn the distinct otherness of Japan to the Japanese. It is this interaction between Japan and its Other that makes it possible for Japan to differentiate itself from other nations in a more or less unambiguous manner. "Japaneseness" has to be "imagined" by the Other as well as by its own members, though differently.
The western Orientalist discourse on Japan has supported the construction and maintenance of "Japaneseness": Japan's own construction of "Japaneseness" has successfully utilised the difference from the "West". It is what Miller calls 'self-Orientalism':
It is rather as if the Japanese were...determined to do it to themselves and to their own culture before others can do it for and to them...what Said calls establishing the Other...in the case of Japan, we have to deal instead with the rare spectacle of a culture vigorously determined to Orientalise itself. (209)
In the process of Japan's self-Orientalisation, the geographically and culturally imagined entity of the "West" has been discursively created in a quite systematic way. Although this has been done intensively in the last fifty years, even around the turn of the century we could discern the construction of the "West". As Gluck argues, what had mattered was the idea of the West that the Japanese had created for the purposes of self-definition. The real West was irrelevant ('37).
Images of the West for this purpose were contradictory; on the one hand, western nations were imagined as superior, enlightened and civilised entities to be emulated, but on the other hand, they were condemned as individualistic, selfish and cold-hearted (Dower War, Robertson "Japan"). Both positive and negative images coexisted as two sides of the same coin, and either side was emphasised, depending upon circumstances.
Even if Japan has developed such a dehumanised discourse of "the West", Japan's self-Orientalism cannot be seen as Occidentalism which Said rejects as 'the answer to Orientalism' (328). This is because Japanese self-Orientalism lacks the power to dominate the West. Moreover, Japan talks about the Self, while the West talks about the Other.
However, it is simplistic to see Japan's "self-Orientalism" as a passive strategy of the inferior. Japan's strategy to construct and self-assert its national cultural identity has been the active exploitation of "the West" which effectively counters Orientalism. Especially when Japan got ahead of most western countries, at least in terms of economy and technology, and developed an institutionalised style of thought based upon a binary oppositioning of Japan and the West, self-Orientalism stopped being a merely defensive dichotomising tendency (Morley and Robins, Robertson "Japan"). Ironically, it is the very change of supposed "Japaneseness" which western Orientalists anticipated about the future of "pre-modern Japan" that makes "Japan" quite scandalous to "the West", and Japan's "self-Orientalism" problematic to Orientalism. In this sense, the observations by German missionaries also confirm the subversiveness of "Japan" against the "West".
But it would be also misleading to see Japanese self-Orientalism as a serious challenge to western Orientalism. On the contrary, the relationship between the West's Orientalist discourse on Japan and Japan's discourse on itself is characterised by a profound complicity. Both tend to use the Other to essentialise the Self and to repress the heterogeneous voices within. This perspective opens up a dimension of power/knowledge alliance within the nation and between nations; how the discursive construction of dehumanised Others has been subtly utilised by the power bloc to instill nationalist sentiment into people's minds; how the heterogeneous voices of people within the nations have been repressed through the homogenising discourses of an imaginary "us" versus "them".
As for Japan, in the path to Japan's modernisation, the emphasis on "Japaneseness" has been crucial for the power bloc as a means of mobilising the people. This strategic "Japaneseness" is something which maximises national interests and minimises individualism, consisting of traits such as loyalty to or devotion for the country. As Gluck noted
in the imagined West, people were incapable of loyalty and filiality, and this was sufficient to define these traits as essentially Japanese. ('37)
Thus "the West" has been utilised to counter "undesirable" consequences of modernisation such as the rise of individualism or labor unionism, which give priority to people's rights. For example, it was when social movements like labor unionism became popular in the '9'0s that ie (household) ideology was intensively advocated (Crawcour). This ideology stressed the traditional values of paternalism, through which Japan itself and companies were compared with families. Clearly, this myth of "Japaneseness" was utilised to repress people's demands for "democracy" or human rights, by attributing social conflict and dissent to western "disease".
Through selective comparisons with key significant Others, self-Orientalism also unmarks the exclusion of the voices of the repressed such as minority groups like Ainu, Koreans and burakumin (Japanese Untouchable) which make up four per cent of the population, and women or the working class. By asserting "we Japanese" as opposed to "them, the westerners", the discursively constructed "Japaneseness" is reified. Kano has argued that the strength of the concept of "the Japanese" lies in its all-inclusive meanings and that the concept of "the Japanese" implicitly includes all aspects of land, inhabitants, language, race, ethnicity and the nationality, all of which have not been historically differentiated from each other (quoted in Nishikawa 226-7). Any discourse of "Japaneseness" tends to start with taking such an ambiguous definition of "the Japanese" for granted. Thus, Japan's self-Orientalism has been quite selectively manipulative and repressive. Self-Orientalism obscures the fact that Japan's particularism is actually hegemonic within Japan. "The West" is necessary for Japan's "invention of tradition", the suppression of heterogeneous voices within Japan, and the creation of a modern nation whose people are loyal to "Japan". Self-Orientalism is a strategy of inclusion through exclusion, and of exclusion through inclusion. Both strategies cannot be separated from each other and work efficiently only when combined together.
Japan's particularistic view of itself colludes with Orientalist discourse in that it defines the West as the universal referent. Both complement one another (Sakai). No matter how willingly Japan tries to differentiate itself from the West in order to represent itself on its own terms,
this is nothing but the positing of Japan's identity in Western terms, which in return establishes the centrality of the West as the universal point of reference. (487)
The more eagerly Japan attempts to talk about itself in its own language, the more seriously Japan is represented in western terms.
But Japan and the West 'are never in real conflict'. The universal center marks its own position by unmarking itself; it only has to confirm its superiority by speaking about 'the Other'. By contrast, the particular marks its own position by using the universal frame of reference, without which it could not even speak about itself, much less assert its superiority. In short, Japanese particularism and western universalism demand each other.
Last but not least, in its views of other non-western countries, Japan shares the Orientalist discourse of the West. Combined with self-Orientalism, Japan has developed an "oriental" Orientalism through the uncritical acceptance of the hierarchy of civilisations constructed by Orientalism, as a slogan of the Meiji era, "Datsua-Nyuo" (escape from Asia, enter the West) shows. After all, Japan has been the only non-western imperial power in modern history. Japan's defensive strategy of speaking about itself is never innocent. Japan's imperialist aggression manifested in World War II, suggests that the rhetoric of Japanese national identity not only helped it catch up with the West, but helped it become the centre, at least, of Asia.
More recently, this manifests itself in the facts that Nihonjinron (theories of "Japaneseness") hardly deals with relations between Japan and other non-western countries. Indeed Japan is surprisingly insensitive to how these other nations look at it. Japan does not have to mark its position in relation to the non-West, because it is absolutely certain about its superiority. Inferiority to the West could be compensated by superiority to the non-West (Russel). Japan's challenge against the western hegemony tended to lead less to the deconstruction of western hegemony than to changing the dichotomy of "the West" and "the rest" into the trichotomy of "Japan", "the West" and "the rest" without changing the binary logic. "The rest" has changed from the "marked" inferior to the "unmarked" inferior.
Nihonjinron is a non-fiction genre of literature consisting of theories of "Japaneseness". Most works are based upon the construction of binary oppositions between "Japan" and "the West", particularly "the USA". Many excellent works have been done concerning the history and criticism of Nihonjinron (Mouer and Sugumoto Images and "Cross-currents", Kawamura "Historical", Befu "Ideorogii, Aoki), and below I will follow the periodisation basically developed by Kawamura and Mouer and Sugimoto, in order to show how the interplay of "Japan" and "the West" has supported the continuity of stereotypical representations of "Japan".
Nihonjinron literature emerged in the '930s as a genre (Mouer and Sugimoto Images, Kawamura "Historical"), when Japan gradually moved towards World War II. Japan's imperialist expansion was carefully scrutinised by the Western powers, and Japan was becoming isolated from and aggressive towards the West as well as Asian countries. In this context, the power bloc and those intellectuals who were disillusioned with the West, searched for a distinctive Japaneseness in "indigenous" theories which could explain Japanese society, through various fields such as climatology or the vertically structured family system (Mouer and Sugimoto 4'-44, Kawamura 46-49). A romanticised and narcissistic "Japanese essence" was sought after in a systematic manner to contrast it overtly and covertly to the idealised West. Common assumptions were to see 'Japanese society as an integrated and harmonious whole and...that all or most Japanese possess the same national character' (Mouer and Sugimoto 43-4). These essentialist assumptions are the core of Nihonjinron discourse.
In this same period, naked racism became conspicuous on both sides, Japan and the West, particularly the United States. The American government actively promoted national character studies of Japan, most of which tended to 'reinforce a whole series of assumptions about the Japanese that were also commonplace to racist thinking' (Dower War '22). In contrast, the Japanese national character studies concentrated upon the search for its own uniqueness. But a huge amount of racist portraits of the United States and Britain appeared in the Japanese mass media and through the government's propaganda. If western racism against Japan was based upon an orientalism, Japanese racism was 'embedded in an occidentalism which centered upon claims as to the selfish individualism, materialism, decadence and arrogance of westerners (particularly Americans)' (Robertson "Japan" '92). The status of imperial power allowed Japan to speak actively and dismissively about "the West".
In spite of the sharp confrontation, however, there was an interesting collusion in the way both sides looked at each other. Both saw "Japan" as collectivistic and "the West" as individualistic. What differentiated one side from the other was the valuation of the stereotypes. Especially, the Allied Forces appropriated the Japanese self-images promoted by the Japanese government's patriotic propaganda to portray the Japanese as 'an obedient mass with but a single mind' (Dower War 3'). More importantly, not only Japan but also the Allied Forces enthusiatically emphasised Japanese "uniqueness", although in quite opposite ways. These bipolar views on "Japan" and "the West" have not changed since then. It is this reciprocal recognition of Japanese "uniqueness" that has made Japanese self-Orientalisation solidly hegemonic.
Since World War II, the valuation of "Japan" has been intermittently shifting. Immediately after the defeat of the war, many aspects of supreme "Japaneseness" were regarded as "feudal remnants", obstacles to Japan's democratisation. Although the dominant evaluation of "Japaneseness" changed from positive to negative in Japan itself, there was a continuity in that Japanese society remained to be seen as a culturally integrated whole (Mouer and Sugimoto 44-47, Kawamura 49-52). Theorists of democratisation such as Maruyama or Kawashima still tended to rely upon 'static description and popular theories tied to the premodern-modern dichotomy' (Kawamura 50), by idealising western democracy and individualism and deploring Japan's failure to produce "modern democratic individuals".
An important political and cultural trait in the postwar period was the strong influence of the United States on Japan. In this context, it was Ruth Benedict's study of Japan through its POW's in US detention camps, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, that has most strongly influenced and supported Nihonjinron in both Japan and the United States in the postwar period. Benedict begins her book with the statement that
The Japanese were the most alien enemy the United States had ever fought...Conventions of war which Western nations had come to accept as facts of human nature obviously did not exist for the Japanese'. (')
In this work, a fundamental assumption for the comparison was that the USA is modern, democratic and rational, while Japan is feudal, undemocratic and inconsistent; the USA is characterised by individualism, Japan by collectivism; the USA by a culture of 'guilt', Japan by a culture of 'shame'.
She argued that Japanese behaviors are characteristically paradoxical in that two contradictory traits can be discerned in them, as symbolised by the title of her book:
the Japanese are both aggressive and unaggressive, both militaristic and aesthetic, both insolent and polite, rigid but adaptable, submissive and resentful of being pushed around, loyal and treacherous, brave and timid, conservative and hospitable to new ways (2)
In short, chrysanthemum and sword. This paradoxical view of "Japan" has dominated western discourse on "Japan" since then (Glazer).
Although the book was criticised in Japan for treating Japan like a small community where all people share common cultural traits and values, and although its purpose was to help the USA know the hated enemy, it has long been appreciated by the used-to-be-enemy, the Japanese themselves. This is because many Japanese have thought that the work sharply pointed to the weakness and essence of "us", the Japanese (Yoshino ch.6, Aoki). While this was the beginning of a marriage between politics and academic theory in the field of Nihonjinron in the West, especially the United States, the importance of the work also lies in its persuasive endorsement of Japanese otherness, all of which could be reduced to Japan's "unique culture". This time, the national character of Japan was endorsed not by nationalist ideologues but by a "democratic" American intellectual who had never been to Japan. The defeat of the war pushed the Japanese people back to being hyper-sensitive to how Japan is seen by "the West". Benedict's work nicely matched such a trend in Japan. Since then "the West", particularly the USA, has been seen as the positive point of reference. As long as Japan admitted its inferiority to the West, the myth of Japanese unique otherness satisfied the needs of both Japan and the West.
The political nature of Nihonjinron became clearer in the '950s when Japan was selected as an honored student of the American version of modernisation in the Cold War era. Japan's modern history was presented as a positive model of capitalist development in opposition to the Communist bloc. The defeat of the war made the Japanese Left quite powerful and active. In order to repress the Japanese Left and to mobilise the Japanese towards an ideal capitalist development, the United States tried to implant a sense of superiority against the Communist countries in the Japanese. John Foster Dulles, who was assigned to negotiate the peace treaty with Japan argued in '950 that
it might be possible to capitalise on the Japanese feeling of racial and social superiority to the Chinese, Koreans and Russians, and to convince them that as part of the free world they would be in equal fellowship with a group which is superior to the members of the Communist world. (quoted in Dower Norman 40).
For this purpose, Japan's traditional values and structures and its modern history were for the first time positively defined and valued by the West.
The rapid economic growth of Japan also lent itself to Japanese scholars' recovering confidence in their society. The peculiarity of Japanese industrial relations such as lifetime employment, seniority wages and enterprise unionism, came to be emphasised as the secret of successful modernisation. This tendency increased especially in the late '960s when Japan's economic power became much stronger. From the perspective of modernisation theory, Japan's "miracle" could not be totally explained because western experiences of modernisation and the Japanese one did not entirely converge. Thus, reasons were sought in the realm of culture. The cultural characteristics which had been regarded as feudal remnants came to be evaluated positively 'as the driving force behind Japan's economic miracle' (Mouer and Sugimoto Images 49). This led to a revival of a positive emphasis on Japanese uniqueness which was so strong in the '930s.
Anthropologist Chie Nakane's work Tate Shalai no Ningen Kankei (Interpersonal Relationships in a Vertically Structured Society '967) marked the beginning of a Nihonjinron boom. (The English version of this book, Japanese Society was published in '970.) Her work was quite similar to Aruga of the '930s and Benedict in that it treated Japan as a culturally holistic unity and emphasised group-orientation and vertical structure as core cultural values, although she does not mention these previous works (Mouer and Sugimoto Images, Kawamura "Historical"). Nakane emphasises the importance of 'vertical relationships' in institutions rather than 'horizontal relationships' within classes in analyzing Japanese society. She argues:
Even if social classes like those in Europe can be detected in Japan, and even if something vaguely resembling those classes that are illustrated in the textbooks of Western sociology can also be found in Japan, the point is that in actual society this stratification is unlikely to function and that it does not really reflect Japan's social structure. In Japanese society it is really not a matter of workers struggling against capitalists or managers but of company A ranked against company B. (Japanese 87)
The fatal flaw in Nakane's work is the neglect of power relations. She regards vertical relationships as a static and ahistorical cultural phenomenon. It is true that Japanese social relationships are predominantly vertical or hierarchical, but this is not a cultural given. We should pay attention to how this verticality has historically developed and been maintained and by whom. Nakane, however, just insists that because Japanese society is basically vertically structured, Japanese social relationships are vertical.
What makes Nakane's work so powerful in spite of these shortcomings, is its appeal to a cultural relativism. At the beginning, she argues that one cannot judge Japanese society with a western yardstick, but only with an indigenous Japanese yardstick, kujirajaku (whale measure) (Tate ''-'4). This call for cultural specificity is a challenge to eurocentric modernity and suggests the possibility of alternative ways of theorising modernisation, without regarding the western experience as the model path to the modern stage.
However, Nakane's discourse does not escape the idealised dichotomisation of "the West" and "Japan". Her implicit assumption is that western social theory completely fits the West, where people are supposedly completely individualistic and rational, and that modern Japan is essentially and absolutely group-oriented and emotional (Mouer and Sugimoto Images). And this leads her to searching for a Japanese 'informal structure' which governs human relations (Tate '85-6). As the subtitle of her book, Tan'itsu Shakai no Riron (A Theory of a Homogeneous Society) clearly shows, the presumed homogeneity of Japan is the unquestioned basis upon which her theory is constructed. Nakane argues that 'there seems not to exist such a homogeneous society as Japan in the contemporary world' ('88). And in such a homogeneous society as Japan, the similarities within the society are much more important than the differences.
It is not surprising that the power bloc welcomed and disseminated this view. The fact that Nakane's work was frequently quoted by members of Japanese elites and was promoted to be published overseas by the government, shows how it was seen as ideologically useful for supporting the status quo in Japan (in that it naturalises the group-orientation displayed by many Japanese and their relative lack of class consciousness (Kawamura "Historical" 55, Mouer and Sugimoto Images '77)).
To do justice to Nakane, I must admit that she neither "admires" the verticality of Japanese society as the secret of economic success nor "intends" to contribute to the government's strategy of ideological manipulation of Japanese people. However, what is at isuue is that Nakane's discourse on "Japan", like many other Nihonjinron 'tends to minimise the importance of or need for control and coercion', by mixing up culture and ideology (Mouer and Sugimoto 403). Under the disguise of cultural relativism, Japanese "culture" was reified as "essential", free from power relations and historical changes. Thus, the Japanese self-assertion of its own uniqueness is necessarily an ethnocentric "Japaneseness" and the national self-confidence aroused by the economic "miracle" adds a sense of superiority to this uniqueness.
Following Nakane, a number of books which tended to essentialise the Japanese collectivist "culture", using varying approaches such as psychology, anthropology, management studies or biology, were published in the '970s. They were consumed to such an extent that Nihonjinron became a popular commodity (Befu Ideorogii). In the '980s the number of Nihonjinron books published in Japan decreased. This may be because 'Japan's improved status internationally has reduced the need to stress constantly the uniqueness of Japanese society in order to establish an acceptable national identity' (Mouer and Sugimoto "Cross-currents" 9). Yet, this does not mean that Nihonjinron is disappearing; Nihonjinron is still well-received (5) and more sophisticated theories are emerging such as exploring the ie (household system) as a continuing norm in Japanese society or the unique pattern of Japanese civilisation (Murakami et al). No matter how seemingly sophisticated, the fundamental assumptions of Nihonjinron are still shared, namely homogeneity, group-orientation and intuitive comparison with a supposedly monolithic West (Mouer and Sugimoto "Cross-currents" 5-9).
These developments of Nihonjinron in the '980s have much to do with the Japanese government's support for the search for Japaneseness. In order to circumscribe Japanese "uniqueness" and to disseminate the correct image of "Japan" in the world, several official research centers were established. In '979, then prime minister Ohira Masayoshi started the research programme of Bunka no Jidai (Age of Culture), declaring that time had come for "us" to reevaluate Japanese 'traditional' culture and values, lost in the path to modernisation. Japanese 'tradition' was seen as the key to restore 'warm human relationships in the family, workplace and local regions' (quoted by Harootunian 462).
Along the same line, the government of Nakasone Yasuhiro established an International Centre for Japanese Studies in Kyoto in '986 where many scholars are engaged with research on Japanese "essence", including the Emperor system. As Japan's economic power became stronger, the connections between the power bloc, Nihonjinron and the official construction of national identity became obvious. The purpose of such official and institutional support for the discourse of Nihonjinron is to disseminate the essentialist view of "Japaneseness" not only among the Japanese but also throughout the world, so that "Japaneseness" would be 'properly' recognised by Others (Mouer and Sugimoto "Cross-currents").
Japan's "economic miracle" also changed western views towards Japan, because Japan has emerged as a strong competitor. However, the secret of its success was still sought less in terms of modern rationality than in the cultural otherness of Japan. As a threat to western power, the future of Japan's economic power was the main focus of concern in "the West". Around '970, there was a clear ambivalence in western commentaries on Japan's "miracle". An optimistic view was expressed in Kahn's The Emerging Japanese Superstate, in which Kahn referred to Japan as 'Japan Inc.', declaring that the twenty-first century would be the Age of Japan. A more pessimistic view however paints the dehumanised image of the Japanese as 'economic animals'. As Wilkinson argues, '"Japan Inc." is more easily understood as an echo of the age-old fear of "Oriental Despotism"', which 'is a negative image easily evoked at a time of war, and one which satisfies the emotional need to identify a single malefic enemy' ('39).
Glazer points out that American images of Japan have not fundamentally changed since Benedict. Americans continued to see Japan as paradoxical, alien, unpredictable and unstable. Moreover, he argues that 'the American image of Japan I have described is based in large measure on Japanese images of Japan' ('66). As a result of the efforts of the Japanese power bloc to disseminate Nihonjinron overseas, books such as Nakane, which I discussed above, have been influential on the shaping of American images of Japan. And, in turn, Japan's own image of itself has been influenced by the American view. Here we see clearly the complicit relationship between Japan and the West.
As Japan's economic status became firm and American economic power relatively declined, some scholars in the West, mainly the United States, advocated learning from "Japan" (Dore, Vogel). Although Vogel's Japan as Number One, in which he advocated 'yokon-wasai' (western spirit, Japanese technology) awakened a great reaction both in Japan and the United States, the book must have had opposite appeals. The reciprocal Self-Other relationship has been constructed as a kind of zero-sum game: when Japan gains points, the West loses. Unlike the '930s, "the West" had now lost so many points that it began to speak about itself. As Robertson argues,
the decade of the '980s was one which witnessed the emergence of something like an American equivalent of nihonjinron with much debate about the ways in which American national culture could be enhanced and protected from global relativisation. ("Japan" '89)
At the same time, against the essentialist view of the uniqueness of Japanese culture, which is produced in Japan and the West alike, a considerable amount of criticism has appeared in Japan and the West since the '980s (Mouer and Sugimoto Images, Kawamura Nihon, Dale, Befu Ideorogii, Lummis). Many such works try to demystify notions of the uniqueness of Japanese society, instead of hypostatising cultural attributes. These works deny Japanese exceptionalism and attempt to pull "Japan" back to the rest of the world.
However, there is a thin line between this kind of debunking and a more aggressive criticism which is vehemently anti-Japanese, contaminated with the interest of "the West". Around the mid-'980s, many scholars, together with the power bloc in the West, mainly the United States, began to blame Japan for unfairness in playing the trade game. These so-called revisionists, interestingly, share with the Japanese Nihonjinron theorists the view that Japan and the West are irreducibly different (Fallows, van Wolferen). Although they rightly criticise Japan for utilising cultural uniqueness as an excuse for Japan's trade surplus and as a legitimation for Japan's underdeveloped democracy, they still treat the Japanese 'system' as 'alien' or totally different from the West. As a result, this view easily leads to western ethnocentrism. As Morley and Robins argue,
The comparative lack of success of the European and North American economy must then be a consequence of abiding by universal principles and moral code. Through such reasoning, it is possible, even in the face of competitive failure, to reaffirm the essential (that is, civilisational) supremacy of western culture. ('52)
Ironically, however, Nihonjinron's strength was only reinforced by the aggressiveness of Japan-bashing, because of its strong emphasis upon the difference between "Japan" and "the West". In response to Japan-bashing, the Japanese power bloc stressed that Japan was used as a scapegoat to justify the decline of western economic power. The more Japan was criticised as a homogeneous cultural unity, the more the differences between "us" and "them" were absolutised, and the better the defensive nature of Nihonjinron worked. Here came America-bashing.
'No' to Ieru Nihon (The Japan That Can Say No) written by right wing politician, Ishihara Shintaro and Sony chairman, Morita Akio became a million-copy bestseller in Japan in '989. As a popular Nihonjinron, it marks an important shift from defense to aggression. Ishihara's arguments boast especially of Japan's superior technology, condemning the racist tendency in Japan-bashing and declaring the opening up of a new era where Japan will share world leadership with the West.
According to Ishihara, Japan is of the future; it is riding on the crest of a great historic wave and will shape the next age, a more human age beyond western modernity. (Morley and Robins '38)
Japan has begun to speak about the Occident again and Nihonjinron is becoming a weapon in the economic war between Japan and the West, mainly the United States, in the '990s (for details of Japan-bashing and America Bashing, see Morley and Robins and Miyoshi). Japan's economic power made its self-assertion of uniqueness no longer merely a matter of the construction of Japanese national identity, but also the construction of the western Other (Morley and Robins, Robertson "Japan").
It should be stressed, however, that in spite of considerable historical, political, economical and cultural changes in both Japan and the West and in the relationship between the two, we can see how the construction of Japan as a "unique" cultural entity has remained essentially the same. The 'intriguing overlay of hostile stereotypes and positive self-stereotypes' which Dower (War 3') observes in the propaganda of both sides during World War II, has never really stopped. And Japanese Otherness, in turn, confirms the western universal Self. Both need each other in order to define themselves.
A complicit relationship between Japanese self-Orientalism and western Orientalism comes in sight when the previously unmarked superiority of "the Occident" has to mark itself, when the boundary between the dominant and the subordinate is blurring. In the age of globalisation, which increases the political, economical and cultural interconnectedness of the world, this tendency will be intensifying. It is to the inter/national context of the complicit relationship between Japan and its western Other that we will now turn.
The popularity of Nihonjinron has been inseparable from the discourse on kokusaika (internationalisation) which has accompanied the impact of globalisation in Japan. In the discourse on kokusaika in Japan, Japan's "backwardness" in internationalisation has been repeatedly lamented and the necessity of promoting it strongly stressed. In so doing, however, globalisation is subtly substituted for inter/nationalism, the other side of nationalism. Japanese self-Orientalism transforms global homogenisation into domestic homogenisation by appropriating the western gaze through which Japan's otherness is defined. It may be that "Japan" is now most fascinated with its own "exotic otherness", which can be somehow shared among many inter/nationalising Japanese.
Since the defeat of World War II, Japanese elites have always advocated a popular slogan. Minshuka (democratisation) in the '950s, kindaika (modernisation) in the '960s and kokusaika (internationalisation) since the '970s. Each slogan has been closely related to the political circumstance and discourse of Nihonjinron, serving as 'a new symbol and torchlight to guide the people' (Befu "Internationalisation" 262). Of all these, kokusaika has been the most popular and lasted the longest. Although the precise period of its emergence cannot be determined, kokusaika seems to have appeared and become popular around '970 (232-3). Since then, it has been a dominant guiding principle.
What is kokusaika? How does it relate to the historical processes of globalisation? Hall argues that globalisation refers generally to
those processes, operating on a global scale, which cut across national boundaries, integrating and connecting communities and organisations in new space-time combinations, making the world in reality and in experience more interconnected. ("Question" 299)
The main characteristic of globalisation can be described as 'time-space compression' (Harvey), through communication technologies, transnational corporations and the massive trans-border flow of people. Although the resulting forms of interconnectedness are too complex for a single definition, and 'for convenience can be summed up under the term "globalisation"'. (Hall "Question" 299)
Kokusaika can be seen as a Japanese version of the discourse of globalisation. The emergence of the term kokusaika almost paralleled the acceleration of the globalising process which is generally agreed to have taken place in the '970s. By the '970s, Japan had become an economic superpower. It had achieved its earnest wish to catch up with the West economically and joined the First World club as the only non-western member. It was time for Japan to change its role from a mere importer of western technology and ideas to 'an exporter of Japanese technology and ideas' (Mouer and Sugimoto "Cross-currents" '9). What distinguished internationalisation from westernisation for Japan was the prominent status and role of Japanese multinational corporations in the modern world system. The ultimate purpose of kokusaika has been, thus, to promote national interests; the other side of internationalism is nationalism (Yamamoto).
This overtly nationalistic purpose tends to be softened by the positive connotations of the ambiguous term, kokusaika. It does not have an exact meaning, but sounds attractive, because it implies the rise of Japan's economic status, affluence and cosmopolitanism. In addition to this, there is another sort of ambiguity concerning kokusaika. Mouer and Sugimoto (Images) found that when asked what kokusaika meant to them, most people could not point to its purpose, although they associated it with various means of achieving kokusaika, such as 'learning English', 'learning about foreign countries' or 'stop behaving like an economic animal' (380-'). In other words, most of respondents evaluated kokusaika positively as 'a desirable process of change' towards 'an undefined goal' (380).
It might be that these two dimensions of positive ambiguity have made kokusaika so popular and hegemonic in Japan. The term manufactures an empty space within the dominant ideology, into which people can invest their own desires differently but positively. The empty space is being filled with "how to" internationalise Japan and the Japanese "correctly". The popularity of Nihonjinron since the '970s has to be understood in this context of kokusaika. Nihonjinron tends to function as a "manual" for kokusaika.
The Nihonjinron boom was enormous. According to a survey by Nomura Sogo Kenkyusho, at least seven hundred Nihonjinron books were published between '945 and '978. The number of books published annually doubled around '970, and in '977 there were five times as many books as in '960. '982 estimates have Nakane (Tate) selling over 760,000 and Doi (Amae) over ',250,000 copies. Vogel and Reischauer have also sold more than 400,000 copies (Mouer and Sugimoto Images 86-7). Japan's self-Orientalism is no longer a monopoly of intellectuals. In the kokusaika period, it became a part of popular culture. No longer a mere ideology it offers reading pleasure to many Japanese. How, then, should we understand the enormous popularity of Nihonjinron in the context of kokusaika?
The reason for this popularity is often connected to the search for identity. Befu ("Internationalisation"), for example, argues that massive westernisation and globalisation have given rise to cultural insecurity and identity crisis among the Japanese. Some argue that the excessive interest in its national character is itself a part of the Japanese national character or reflects a psychological trait of the Japanese (Minami). Kano argues, for example,
psychologically, a Japanese tends to be insecure, uncertain of his [sic] relationship with others around him, his relative position in the community or the group(s) he belongs to. This tendency...creates a national hyper-sensibility about international reputation and image. ('57)
This kind of explanation is typical of Nihonjinron discourse itself, and displays an upside down logic of cause and effect. However, "I like what I get" and "I get what I like" is not the same. As a popular commodity, most Nihonjinron are written for commercial purposes, on the principle of 'commodify or die' (Morris). To this end, audiences are 'imagined' (see Ang, Audience) as having an identity crisis, and wanting to know how they are seen by and are different from "the West" in the age of internationalisation. Of course, the popularity of Nihonjinron must have to do with something people can identify themselves with, but before taking for granted that the Japanese have an insatiable hunger for national cultural identity, we should ask whether they are really in an "identity crisis" in the first place. Perhaps the question is not posed properly. We should not start with an a priori assumption about the influence of globalisation in weakening Japanese national cultural identity.
Yoshino's ethnographic study of Japanese educators and businessmen [sic] on the reception of Nihonjinron and the perception of Japanese national identity shows this tendency. He finds that although there are diverse reasons for reading Nihonjinron and diverse reactions to it, many people read Nihonjinron for practical reasons rather than for the search for identity, as we shall see in detail shortly. Moreover, Yoshino discerned a strong tendency that Nihonjinron makes readers more actively conscious of abstract Japanese identity. By 'abstract' he means 'the more intangible aspects of culture' such as 'cultural ethos, national character or modes of thinking and behaving that exist and are believed to exist behind objectified institutions and practices' (''3). Many respondents associate "Japaneseness" with interpersonal communication (contextualism), groupism, homogeneity and active emulation and innovation of foreign cultures (''4), all of which are the main themes of Nihonjinron. Indeed, the massive publication of Nihonjinron functions as a self-fulfiling prophecy (Mouer and Sugimoto Images '86-8).
The construction and maintenance of national identity is a precarious project which constantly has to reproduce abstract "naturalness" out of inherent incoherence. National identity might be most stable when it is so taken-for-granted that it does not have to be clearly marked. The globalisation process which tends to make people encounter foreign people and cultures more often and more directly than before, may activate a consciousness of "Japaneseness". However, the discourse on kokusaika did this before people "really" experienced the effects of globalisation on their own lives. As Yoshimoto ("Postmodern") argues, the purpose of kokusaika is 'to transform the real into the imaginary or to establish a discursive space in which the distinction between imaginary and real is not preserved even as an imaginary one' (22). Kokusaika tries to erase 'any direct encounter with Others' and instead encourages people to meet abstract "Japaneseness".
As mentioned before, the strength of a concept, "Japaneseness", lies in its multiple meanings which cover ethnicity, race, language and nation. Nihonjinron starts its argument with unmarking this myth and kokusaika reinforces this unmarking by emphasising inter/national differences. It takes for granted and romanticises the "coherent" national community, all members of which presumably share the same ethnicity. That is to say, kokusaika tends to evoke a nationalist sentiment while encouraging people to become internationalist. As Martin-Barbero argues concerning Latin American countries,
identity not only has to face up to the blatant homogenisation at the transnational level but also to another, disguised, form of homogenisation which comes from the national level as it acts to negate, deform and de-activate the cultural pluralism that constitutes these countries. (453)
But it would be misleading to attribute the latter form of homogenisation, which could be the Nihonjinron boom in Japan, totally to the conspiracy of the power bloc. As I mentioned before, the boom was not only forged out by the collusion between Japan and the West but also based upon the capitalist logic of marketing. Cultural industries were also playing a significant role in it. As Robins argues, globalisation 'exploits local difference and particularity' (3'). Cultural otherness sells in the age of globalisation.
The Japanese case seems similar to what Hall ("Local") calls 'the world of the global post-modern' in which 'exotic cuisine' and traditionalism coexist. On the one hand, global differences are softened and consumed pleasurably in the affluent local, and, on the other hand, traditionalism is also keenly advocated. What is significantly conspicuous in Japan is that its own traditionalism is exoticised and becomes a part of the range of postmodern, international cultural commodities available to the domestic consumer. This is internationalism through nationalism and nationalism through internationalism. Both are strengthening one another; internationalism masks and tries to absorb all domestic diversity and nationalism makes internationalism less threatening and more pleasurable. In so doing, the gaze of Others appreciating Japanese otherness or exoticism sells perhaps most to the Japanese themselves.
The myth that Japan is too unique to be understood by others exploits "the western gaze": how we are seen by "the West". The popularity in Japan of books written by westerners such as Vogel is an indication of this. Some Japanese Nihonjinron authors are believed to pretend to be western, using western names (Ben-dasan). Furthermore, Japanese mass media repeatedly report on how stereotypical images of Japan circulate in western countries. The most well-known image is a paradoxical combination of traditionalism - samurai, geisha etc. - and high-technology, which can be seen in Hollywood films such as Bladerunner or Black Rain. This image of paradoxical alienness has a long history since Benedict, and suggests a western desire to enclose the otherness of Japan with "knowable" mysteries in order to control it. This is what Morley and Robins call 'Techno-Orientalism'.
The Japanese response to this "postmodern" stereotype is first of all one of frustration: "we are misunderstood; we have to make an effort to disseminate correct images of Japan". Many Nihonjinron are written about how "we" are misunderstood, particularly in the late '980s when Japan-bashing became harsh (Kawatake, Ayabe).
But, many people read Nihonjinron for practical reasons, to get advice on how to communicate with westerners smoothly as an internationalised person. As kokusaika reaffirms the notion that Japan as a nation is not internationalised, because it is a "homogeneous mono-racial" country and too unique to be understood by foreigners, one of kokusaika's purposes is conceived in terms of the need to explain the cultural differences between Japan and its Other (the West) in order to reduce international cultural friction.
Some large corporations publish books whose original purpose is to educate employees who do business with foreigners. Two books published by the Nippon Steel Corporation became quite popular. Their attractiveness lies in their concise explanation of Japanese "culture", in Japanese and English. Following the popularity of Nippon: The Land and its People which sold more than 400,000 copies (Yoshino '76), Nippon: Talking about Japan uses the form of practical conversation between a Japanese and an American. For example, the Japanese explains Japanese uniqueness as follows (J:Japanese, A:American):
J: Foreigners often criticise us Japanese for not giving clear-cut yes or no answers. This is probably connected to our being basically a homogeneous society and our traditional tendency to try to avoid conflicts. (405)
J: I believe they [reasons for Japan's high quality products] are all closely related to characteristics of the Japanese people.
A: That's interesting! I'd like to hear more about that. (255)
A: Why then are there so many people working overtime and coming to work on non-working days?
J:...This comes from the long-term employment policy of Japanese companies, which gives the employees a sense of the company being 'their company'. There is also the group mentality that we Japanese have. (4'7)
Apart from essentialist explanations offered here, what is interesting is the "imagined" but "realistic" attitude of the American. He or she is portrayed as someone who is puzzled by the otherness of Japan. Interestingly, this kind of book also clearly recommends readers not think of Japanese culture as too unique. However, the very problematisation of Japanese particularity also lends itself to instilling and endorsing the abstract knowledge that Japanese culture is unique, to the extent that "uniqueness" itself becomes one of the abstract features of "Japaneseness".
This suggests that the stereotype of paradoxical alien strengthens a feeling that "they" cannot understand "us". It is unusual for people to be worrying about contradictory aspects of their own society. No matter how westerners stress what they see as the paradoxes of Japan, the Japanese do not experience them as paradoxical, but as "natural". This leads to the decisive difference between Orientalism and self-Orientalism. While Orientalism enjoys the mysterious exoticism of the Other, self-Orientalism exploits the Orientalist gaze to turn itself into an Other. It is something like declaring that Japanese possess "the secret and ability to read the stereotype". "Japan" is not an inferior orient any more, and, no less importantly, has become "pleasurably exotic" to the Japanese themselves.
In '984, there appeared a massive campaign of domestic tourism by the Japan National Railways, called 'Exotic Japan'. This was the second campaign, following the 'Discover Japan' campaign in the '970s. 'Discover Japan' was a nostalgic campaign. The copy was written in English, suggesting that "lost tradition" as a result of westernisation was to be "discovered" in the countryside. Caucasian-like young female models were used together with "typical" Japanese countrywomen in the campaign to stress Japan as a westernised modern nation. This was when Japan had achieved its "economic miracle" and when "Japaneseness" was reevaluated positively, as indicated by the Nihonjinron boom.
In contrast, 'Exotic Japan' was written in katakana as 'ekizochikku japan'. Katakana is square Japanese syllables used mainly for words borrowed from foreign languages. The use of katakana both signifies an indigenisation of the foreign and marks a difference from Japanese tradition. Katakana-written "japan" signifies that "Japan" has indigenised westernisation to an extent that there is no longer a traditional Japan anywhere. The difference between the urban and the rural has disappeared. So, in order to promote domestic tourism, the "exoticism" of the countryside has to be "invented" (Kogawa).
However, as Ivy points out, this invented "exoticism" is based upon western stereotypes of Japan, such as geisha or Fuji-yama (Mt Fuji). Such images are playfully and stylishly exploited in the campaign. Ivy argues that here we can see an interesting coexistence between 'the non-Japanese seen through Japanese eyes' and 'Japan as seen through Western eyes' (26). It seems that this is a moment of declaring the triumph of an Orient which is no longer "Other", and has indigenised both "tradition" and "the western". "We" have both "tradition" and "modernity", while "they" have the only latter, because "their tradition" has "melted into air". The struggle with westernisation is over.
This is a self-confident self-Orientalisation, which boasts about its own cultural "hybridity". Ang ("Chineseness") urges westernised overseas Chinese, who are often called "banana" (which means yellow skin, white content), to take their hybrid identity positively ('3). What is happening in Japan may be a similar celebration of hybridity. But the decisive difference is, of course, that while the cultural hybridity of people of the Chinese diaspora would serve to deconstruct essentialist notions of "Chineseness" Japanese hybridity tends to essentialise "Japaneseness". Japanese cultural hybridity has a long history to an extent that it has become part of the essence of Japanese identity (see Robertson Globalisation ch 5), and is often related to the secret of the Japanese economic "miracle". And there is a thin line between self-confident self-Orientalism and arrogant cultural nationalism.
Many observe the emergence of neo-nationalism in Japan. For example, Tsukushi Tetsuya refers to Nihon wa Saiko Sindoromu (Japan is best Syndrome) (quoted in Goodman 222). Also Nishikawa found that the majority of university students mention Japan as their most favourite country, responding to a question about favourite countries (35-6). This is a recent phenomenon and suggests the resurgence of nationalist sentiments (ibid.) (but Nishikawa does not mention the exact year when Japan became "the most favorite country" for Japanese themselves). At the same time, interestingly, Japan ranks high as a disliked country as well (37-8). On the one hand, this ambivalence towards Japan reflects an anguished, divided self, torn between Japan and the West. On the other hand, however, it also suggests a narcissistic obsession with one's own national identity.
The Japanese word "Japan" is usually written in Chinese characters and is pronounced as nippon/nihon. Recently, however, "Japan" is frequently written in katakana, "nippon"/"nihon". This usage suggests, like "japan", that Japan has indigenised westernisation and has been internationalised to such an extent that there is emerging a new "Japan". The use of katakana also connotes "Japan" seen through the Other's gaze and its distance from the "real Japan" known only by the Japanese. But the use of katakana, "nippon"/"nihon" unlike "japan", also reflects a cultural confidence that Japan's economic status is increasing the number of those foreigners who speak Japanese and appreciate Japanese "culture", thus making "nippon"/"nihon" a universal term. It signifies the Japanisation of the world.
The title of a popular film of '993 in Japan was Sotsugyo Ryoko: Nihon kara Kimashita (A Memorial Travel on Graduation: I came from Nihon). "Nihon" is written in katakana. The story is about a male university student who becomes a pop star in a fictional Asian country. He travels to the country where people are immersed in a "Nihon boom" and is scouted as a pop singer. The film is described as 'cultural gap comedy', and the media refer to the story as 'quite likely' (Shukan Posuto, '993 July 30:26). It does not seem improbable any longer that Japan's "artificial" exoticism is profitable to Japan itself as well as to the West.
However, in this film, the object of exploitation of Japanese otherness is Asia, not the West. It suggests Japanese hegemony over Asia and reminds me of Miyoshi's argument about the aggressiveness towards the West of Ishihara's book, The Japan that can say No!;
the danger of Ishihara's challenge is that his anti-Eurocentricity is always on the verge of being transformed into a perverse program of alternative hegemonism, proposing Japan's leadership in Asia. (92)
The film claims that as Japan has admired the western culture, other Asian countries are now worshipping "Japaneseness".
It is also possible, however, to read the film in a different way. What is "worshipped" as exotic is not Japanese tradition per se but the hybridity of modern Japan, postmodern Japan. It is less the "westernised" Japan than the "Japanised" West that matters; any country can be westernised, but cannot indigenise the West like "us". Such a reading, however, would reflect not only pride but fear: the fear that "we" are being caught up with by other Asians, are being indigenised by the Other as Japan has done to "the West", and are losing a "halo" of Japanese particularism; the difference between "nippon"/"nihon" in katakana and that in Chinese characters, or "Japan" seen through Others and "real Japan" understood only by the Japanese, is disappearing. "Japan" is being multifariously simulated and is becoming beyond the reach of the Japanese themselves.
As Japan's economic status became stable, other countries, particularly Asian countries, began to try to emulate the Japanese model which is supposed to be based upon "unique" Japanese culture. Malaysia's government policy, 'Look East' is a good example. But the Japanese themselves have displayed ambivalence about this export of abstract "Japaneseness". While many Japanese think that traits of "Japaneseness" like groupism, which are thought to be the secret of the "economic miracle", are worth imitating, they believe they are still exclusively Japanese and that others cannot acquire it perfectly (Yoshino '26, Breger '90). Indeed, there is no guarantee that "Japaneseness" will ever 'melt into air' in the age of globalisation. I would argue that Asian countries, not the West will be in a position to deconstruct Japan's self-exoticism. One reason for this is that they are too well familiar with Japan's hidden ambition of becoming the centre of Asia through their experience with Japanese imperialism earlier in the century.
It seems true that Japan's power has reached the point where the notion of hegemony has to be reconsidered to understand the relationship between Japan and the West (Brannen). However, Japan's challenge against the West has not changed the status of other non-western countries. The otherness of the non-West, particularly of other Asians and blacks as inferior others is still an indispensable basis upon which both Japan and the West can assert their cultural superiority. For Japan, the supremacy over the non-western Other is a crucial psychological buffer to secure the collusion with the West, because, as Russel argues concerning the black Other, the non-western Other 'serves...as an uncomfortable reminder of the insecurity and ambiguity of Japanese racial and cultural identity vis-∑-vis an idealised West' (22). It might be precisely this uneasiness that most urges Japan to foster its complicity with the West.
As Japan has become an economic world power, kokusaika has fortified it by softening the cultural impact of globalisation. Kokusaika successfully utilised western Orientalist discourse on Japan. "Japaneseness" has become a "universally" acknowledged particularism, as "Japan" and "the West" alike image the Japanese as exotic. Kokusaika urges the Japanese to transcend this particularism by becoming actively conscious of it. Japan-bashing in "the West" only strengthens the mysterious alienness of Japan and Japan's sensitivity to how it is seen through the western gaze. It seems a vicious circle.
The "Japaneseness" which most Nihonjinron point out and many Japanese identify with concerns characteristics having to do with social relations and communication, such as groupism and contextualism. These "cultural traits" have been crucial to Japanese national identity, because of their supposed inexportability and their persuasiveness as binary opposites to western "individualism". In the age of globalisation, which tends to deprive all "things" of their origin and makes them hybrid, "quasi-natural" cultural traits would be the last resort in the claim to an exclusive national identity. This is what is called a 'new racism' which 'has taken a necessary distance from crude ideas of biological inferiority and superiority and now seeks to present an imaginary definition of the nation as a unified cultural community' (Gilroy 53).
Yoshino's ethnographic study among Japanese business people and educators shows that most respondents seem to think about the "uniqueness" of Japanese in terms of what Yoshino calls the 'racially exclusive possession of particular cultural characteristics' rather than 'genetic determinism', though he strangely attributes the latter to western racism (see chapters 2 and 6). This suggests that many Japanese still link racial homogeneity to distinctive Japaneseness. It might be argued that Japanese racism is more "primordial" than the new racism, as exemplified by the then Prime Minister Nakasone Yasuhiro's '986 assertion of the low intelligence of coloured Americans such as Blacks, Puerto Ricans or Mexicans. Because he stressed that the superiority of Japan was due to it being mono-racial and homogeneous, Nakasone's remark was not only directed against coloured Americans but also against minority groups in Japan such as Koreans, Ainu or foreigners... However, as Mouer and Sugimoto point out, many Japanese did not think that Nakasone's remarks were racist at all ("Cross-currents" 2').
Nevertheless, "fortress Japan" is becoming more and more precarious. Increasingly its "reality" can only be found in representation. This is a "reality" of which people have to be actively conscious, with the help of the Other's gaze and whose plausibility is based upon a presumed Japanese homogeneity. However, the very popularity of Nihonjinron seems to prove how Japanese identity is neither homogeneous nor coherent. Japaneseness always faces challenges both from the inside and the outside.
For Arjun Appadurai, global cultural flows can be analysed in five dimensions: ethnoscapes (people), technoscapes (technology), mediascapes (image and information), ideoscapes (political ideas) and finanscapes (money). Appadurai emphasises the disjuncture between these. Indeed the globalisation of ethnoscapes is the most "undeveloped" in Japan. It cannot remain so undeveloped as "Japaneseness" becomes emulated in the West and the East alike, and as the diversity of the people living in Japan becomes more conspicuous, due to the massive influx of foreign labor, the increasing number of Japanese either living abroad and or married to foreigners and the existing and long-standing minority groups (Koreans and Ainu). They are all challenging the taken-for-grantedness of who is or is not Japanese. In this respect, the katakana-written word, "nippon"/"nihon" also reflects a profound transformation of Japanese society in terms of the hybridity of people.
"Foreigners" who speak fluent Japanese, live their everyday lives with Japanese food and in "Japanese" ways are, gradually but definitely, changing the meanings of the "Japanese". Such foreigners used to be called "hen'na gaijin" (strange foreigners). The increasing number of such foreigners is making that phrase more and more out of date. In the sports scene it is an Hawaiian, Akebono, who represents the Japanese national sport, sumo wrestling, as the first foreigner yokozuna grand champion. A Brazilian-Japanese soccer player, Ramosu Rui, is a popular representative of the national team. His significance lies in the fact that he plays soccer for the nation, not only for the money. Ramosu often emphasises this and even urges other Japanese soccer players to be proud of wearing a uniform with the Japanese national flag - 'the most beautiful in the world' (Shukan Bunshun '993 October '4).
The threat to "Japaneseness" from inside is represented by the kikokushujo (returnees) who lived and were educated for several years overseas (mainly in western countries) due to the transferrence of their fathers to an overseas branch of corporations. This kikokushijo problem has attracted public attention since the '970s, because all of them have been categorised as problematic youth who are too 'westernised' and 'individualistic' to adapt themselves to Japanese society (Goodman). They are thought to have to 'peel off their foreignness' (Befu "Internationalisation" 247). Recently, however, the status of kikokushijo has significantly improved. Globalisation dynamics have placed pressure upon Japanese corporations to employ 'internationalists' who are supposed to be creative and fluent in English (Goodman). Princess Masako who married Prince Naruhito this June is also a kikokushijo who graduated from Harvard and worked for the foreign ministry. She is the symbol of an internationalist who serves Japan in the age of kokusaika. Kikokushijo has emerged as a new elite class (Goodman).
Of course, we should not applaud these examples without reserve. They might equally be read as a process of domestication and hegemonic incorporation of "non-Japaneseness" into the existing structure of "Japaneseness", through exaggerating discursively constructed entities such as "foreigners" or "kikokushijo". As for the latter, over 40% of Japanese children overseas now attend Japanese schools, where they are educated to acquire "Japaneseness". They live in Japan outside "Japan" so as to be accepted in Japan. Significant changes of "Japaneseness" might be limited within the field of entertainmant or be gendered (Interestingly, a recent survey by a private preparatory school of lower high-school students in Japan shows that females tend to be more "pro-internationalism"; 83% of female students want to be a friend with foreigners as opposed to 59% of the male students; about 60% of the female students want to study abroad as opposed to about 40 percent of the male (Asahi Newspaper '5 March '993)). Even Ramosu's emphasis on 'for the nation' can be read as a new Nihonjinron in which "Japaneseness" is evoked by a non-Japanese Japanese who wants to be accepted in Japan. After all, they are the elite which constitute a small part of Japan's neglected diversity. No doubt there still exists considerable discrimination against minority groups and foreigners in Japan.
But, at least, those example show that Japan is neither static nor homogenous and closed as a society. The crucial next step for demystifying "Japaneseness" would be to find ways of recognising this irreducible diversity and the heterogeneous experiences it represents in terms of their own specificity, transcending "natural boundaries" and resisting their incorporation into the categories of (self-)Orientalist discourse. As Tobin points out, the boundary between Japan and the West, 'though vigilantly maintained and universally ackowledged [is] continuously shifting' (26). What has made the shifting boundary keep its rigid line is the complicity between "Japan" and "the West".
As long as the logic of identity is based on the binary opposition between self and other, we will always categorise the world into the dominant cultural map. In response to the rise of Japanese power, some western left critics tend to be too preoccupied with self-criticism to participate in global critical discourse. In criticising western Japan-bashing, Morley and Robins argue that 'we should be less concerned with what we think it [the Japan that can say no to "the West"] reveals about "them", and more attentive to what it could help us to learn about ourselves and our own culture ('55, emphasis added). A well-intentioned critique, but it reproduces the "us" versus "them" logic.
Anthropological criticism further encourages this tendency. Geertz recently reevaluated Benedict, arguing that the exaggerated differences between Japan and the United States result less in emphasising Japanese mythical alienness than in deconstructing 'occidental clarities' ('2'). 'Benedict dismantles American exceptionalism by confronting it with that...of a spectacularised other' ('22). According to Geertz, historical and political circumstances deprived Benedict's work of its subversiveness. Now the time has come for Americans to see the Self rather than the Other in her work.
It is true that "Japan" is offering an opportunity for "the West" to abandon the binary opposition between the modern "West" and "the pre-modern others". Modernity is no more a monopoly of "the West". It is time for "the West" to recognise the Other 'as truly Other, that is, the Other in its own Otherness...The Other that does not just serve the purpose of being a foil or contrast to the Western self' (Zhang '27). However, Japan's challenge against western hegemony suggests that Zhang's remark must be directed to the modern non-West, that is: Japan and increasingly other Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan as well. Indeed, it is all too tempting to see Japanese exoticism as a corollary to western domination, and to raise the question of 'whether Japan is controlling or being controlled by westernisation' (Savigliano 25'). But this kind of question, which has haunted Japanese intellectuals for more than a century, not only essentialises "Japan" and "the West" but also obliterates attention to Japanese domination over other parts of the non-West. Although Japan's self-Orientalism proved effective in countering western Orientalism, it cannot recognise the heterogeneous voices of those in other non-western countries, in Japan and indeed the West itself.
If we want to transcend eurocentric Universalism of "the West" and ethnocentric Particularism of "the non-West", criticism must eschew the collusive, binary opposition of self/other and be directed towards deconstructing this complicity itself. Japan's self-Orientalism and western Orientalism strengthen and require each other. They are the opposite sides of the same coin. If we want to disenchant ourselves from the essentialist view of national cultural identity, we have simultaneously to debunk reciprocal imaginings of other communities as monolithic entities, and recognise the fragmented, multiple and mobile nature of all identities. We have to ask 'what process rather than essences are involved in present experiences of cultural identity' (Clifford 275).
This project is one of anti-Orientalist secularisation. It releases us from any abstracting categorisation of "lived reality" and takes the specificity of heterogeneous voices all over the globe seriously. Differences are always within "us" and "them". Similarities are always between "us" and "them". Any identity is always becoming, not fixed. We have to start authorising such diversity to transgress rigid national cultural boundaries, in favour of people-to-people rather than nation-to-nation, speaking and listening to each other rather than speaking exclusively about the self and the other.
Yoshimoto ("Difficulty") argues that 'the Other cannot be misrepresented, since it is always already a misrepresentation' (257). And the same must be true of "the self". Anti-Orientalist securalisation does not mean the total suppression of culturally specific ways of life or thought, but the 'decoupling of ethnicity from the violence of the state' (Hall "New Ethnicities" 257). Even if we still tend to cling to any "ontological security" which provided existential meaning for people in "traditional" society, such sentiments do not have to be exploited by exclusivist "imagined" nations. Anti-Orientalist securalisation can release all of us from the prison of complicit exoticism which has positioned us into the closed space of the nationally unified identity, and urges people to speak to each other from their own specific, different experiences, without 'marginalising, dispossessing, displacing and forgetting other ethnicities' (Hall "New Ethnicities" 258).
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