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Culture and Identity

Culture and Identity: Japanese Intellectuals during the Interwar Years

Edited by J. Thomas Rimer
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Culture and Identity
    Book Description:

    This collection of essays represents the first attempt in this country to examine systematically the nature and development of modern Japanese self-consciousness as expressed through culture. The essays reveal eloquently the extent to which important aspects of Japanese intellectual life in the early twentieth century were inspired by European models of cultural criticism, ranging from Kant and Hegel to Nietzsche, Marx, Durkheim, and Bergson. Implicitly comparative, this collection raises the question whether "late" industrialization and related processes call forth cultural convergence (as between "East" and "West") or whether a living culture transforms these processes and makes one nation's experience significantly different from that of others.

    Together with the editor, the contributors include Brett de Bary, Thomas W. Burkman, H. D. Harootunian, Germaine A. Hoston, Nozomu Kawamura, Stephen W. Kohl, William R. LaFleur, Hajimu Nakano, Donald Roden, Miriam Silverberg, Eugene Soviak, Jackie Stone, Shuji Takashina, and Makoto Ueda.

    Originally published in 1990.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6125-5
    Subjects: History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
    J. Thomas Rimer

    • [PART I: Introduction]
      (pp. 3-6)

      The generation that came to maturity in Japan between the turn of the century and World War I was faced with new and difficult challenges. In one sense, young intellectuals believed they required some kind of basic understanding of the functions of society; on the other hand, they found themselves encouraged to respond to a growing sense of a need to search out the authenticity of their own interior selves. If any synthesis was to be created between the sometimes congruent, sometimes conflicting demands of civilization, self, and society, each element would have to be examined and defined before any...

    • 1 Abe Jirō and The Diary of Santarō
      (pp. 7-21)

      The passing of the Meiji emperor marked not only the end of an age; it was a watershed in the development of Japanese thoughts and attitudes about the world in which they lived. The Meiji period had begun with great determination and enthusiasm as Japan undertook to modernize and Westernize. Forty-five years later when the period ended, Japan had achieved many of its goals. The entire political structure of the nation had been reorganized, a new educational system was in place and functioning, a modern judicial system had been installed, and a modern military had been established. In its relations...

    • 2 Kurata Hyakuzō and The Origins of Love and Understanding
      (pp. 22-36)

      In Mori Ōgai’s 1910 novelSeinen(Youth), Jun’ichi, the protagonist, writes moodily in his diary, “… what to do? That is the problem. For what purpose has the self been liberated? That is the problem.”¹

      Ōgai was attempting to record the feelings of the young would-be intellectuals of his time, and certainly in this novel, at least, he did so with remarkable precision, if the writings of the much younger Kurata Hyakuzō (1891–1943) can be taken as a sample. Kurata’s essays, begun when he was a student in the First Higher School in 1912, were first collected in the...

    • 3 Taishō Culture and the Problem of Gender Ambivalence
      (pp. 37-56)

      Central to the iconoclastic spirit of the 1920s was the fascination for gender ambivalence in both the high and middlebrow cultures of the industrial world. What some called the “sexual madness” of the postwar decade was all the more striking because, as Stefan Sweig observed, the promoters of the new decadence were those very “bourgeois circles” that formerly had been “unshakable in their probity.”¹ Sweig had Berlin in mind when he made this statement in 1926. With its cabarets, “wrestling salons,” all-girl revues (the Tiller Girls, the Admiral Girls, the Paris Mannequins), and transvestite balls, Berlin clearly stood out as...


    • [PART II: Introduction]
      (pp. 59-60)

      The search by intellectuals for models of society constitutes a second phase of Japanese intellectual history in the early decades of the century. In one sense, this search provided a new stage for those who had begun by probing the nature of the self. This second stage amounted to an attempt to locate that self in a larger social context. Such a psychological thrust, first inward, then outward, can be seen in the work of even such a self-absorbed writer as Abe Jirō. Kurata Hyakuzō, too, tried to place the individual back in a social context through the commonality of...

    • 4 Sociology and Socialism in the Interwar Period
      (pp. 61-82)

      The interwar period in Japan witnessed a sustained attempt by intellectuals in many fields to make use of imported methodologies to understand and analyze the often dislocating processes through which their culture was moving. The discontinuities with traditional thought were great in every field of endeavor, and nowhere more so than in the field of sociology, where traditional concepts of social order, and of its purposes, were based on assumptions considerably different from those on which the great nineteenth- and twentieth-century European social thinkers, so much admired by the Japanese, based their own theories. In this regard, an examination of...

    • 5 Tsuchida Kyōson and the Sociology of the Masses
      (pp. 83-98)

      Of some celebrity in his own brief lifetime in intellectual-philosophical circles, Tsuchida Kyōson (1894–1934) passed into undeserved obscurity within a decade of his death. Perhaps the sheer quantity of the estimated forty-five volumes, fifteen of which have been published, that were produced in a relentless torrent in twenty years (under the compulsive goad of fragile health) may have intimidated the academically faint-hearted.¹ Perhaps, too, the astonishing range of his intellectual appetite (natural science, philosophy, religion, history, law, society, literature, aesthetics, poetry) and the synthetic virtuosity with which he manipulated this multiplicity of data dampens enthusiasm for him as a...

    • 6 Disciplinizing Native Knowledge and Producing Place: Yanagita Kunio, Origuchi Shinobu, Takata Yasuma
      (pp. 99-128)

      If it is true that folkloric study (minzokugaku) originated in Yanagita Kunio’s objections to a series of political decisions leading to the administrative merger of shrines in 1908, it is also arguable that the conceptualization of a new social object—the folk and its place—and the subsequent formation of a discipline were sustained by a larger cultural discourse that was already contesting assimilated forms of new knowledge, developmental theories of history and institutions, and practices based upon industrial production and exchange. The prewar discussions on the category of “society” and the “social” were principally prompted by a profound distrust...


    • [PART III: Introduction]
      (pp. 131-132)

      Marxism, both as a philosophy and as a call for social action, has had a powerful effect on various aspects of Japan’s political and social history. Much of this influence has been studied and explicated with skill and understanding by Western scholars. The importance of Marxism as a form of cultural criticism as practiced by Japanese writers and thinkers, however, has as yet drawn less attention. Recent interest in England and the United States in such continental figures as Lukács, Adorno, and Benjamin suggest that it may be time for an examination of the important Japanese figures who used their...

    • 7 Marxism Addresses the Modern: Nakano Shigeharu’s Reproduction of Taishō Culture
      (pp. 133-153)

      Any attempt to provide a biographical context for the legacy of Nakano Shigeharu must be prefaced with a qualification recently awarded his contemporary, Langston Hughes: “Who he was is a smallish part of what he was.”¹ Nakano Shigeharu’s autobiographical fiction on coming of age in the closing years of the Meiji era, his account of provincial student life, his chronicle of the agony of a youth drawn to an incomprehensible ideology in a hostile city, and his rendering of the emotional costs of betraying the cause of the Japanese Communist Party have received the respectful hermeneutical exegesis accorded the Confucian...

    • 8 “Credo Quia Absurdum”: Tenkō and the Prisonhouse of Language
      (pp. 154-167)

      Studies of the development of structuralist and poststructuralist thought in the West often emphasize the role of the avant-garde text in challenging realist literature’s ability to represent a “vraisemblable,” or accepted natural view of the world. Rosalind Coward and John Ellis, in introducing their studyLanguage and Materialism, for example, observe that it was “in analyzing texts by Mallarmé, Lautréamont, Joyce,” and others “that semiology’s assumptions about the speaking subject (parole) and its relation to language (langue) became increasingly untenable.”¹ In Japan, too, the short-lived claim to preeminence of Naturalist-style realism had been challenged, by the early 1920s, by the...

    • 9 Ikkoku Shakai-shugi: Sano Manabu and the Limits of Marxism as Cultural Criticism
      (pp. 168-186)

      In June 1933, Sano Manabu and fellow imprisoned Japanese Communist Party (JCP) leader Nabeyama Sadachika repudiated their Communist affiliations, thereby launching a massive wave of tenkō (conversions) by Japanese Marxists to the “national cause.” As imperial officials coopted the movement to engineer public unity in support of the war against China, tenkō engulfed the Left and finally culminated in the collapse of the Japanese Communist movement by 1935.¹ That Sano’s and Nabeyama’s recantation had such a great impact is in large part attributable to their status as leaders of the Communist movement. Sano (1892–1953) was a graduate of Tokyo...


    • [PART IV: Introduction]
      (pp. 189-190)

      As sophisticated intellectual methodologies inspired by European models became increasingly assimilated in Japanese thought, the various means used to develop a modern and self-conscious understanding of the true nature of Japanese culture helped generate in turn a renewed understanding of the nature and importance of historic and contemporary Japanese ties with Asia. In the case of China and Korea in particular, these connections, at various points in history, had certainly been as important culturally and intellectually as the European ties had become to Japan by this century. Now, ironically, these Asian bonds were to be renewed both by geographical proximities...

    • 10 Nitobe Inazō: From World Order to Regional Order
      (pp. 191-216)

      A subject as broad in its scope, as high in its aspirations, and as delicate in its operations as foreign policy must be discussed in its various aspects—geographical, political, economic, cultural, and intellectual. Ideas are crucial determinants in diplomacy, and diplomatic historians often stress the intellectual foundations of foreign policy decisions. Thus, standard treatments of the Spanish-American War or the annexation of Hawaii devote much attention to such doctrines as social Darwinism, the White Man’s Burden, and navalism as bases for American action abroad at the turn of the century.

      Studies of Japanese diplomacy between the world wars, however,...

    • 11 A Vast and Grave Task: Interwar Buddhist Studies as an Expression of Japan’s Envisioned Global Role
      (pp. 217-233)

      Ui Hakuju (1882–1963), Buddhologist and scholar of Indian philosophy during the Taishō-Shōwa periods, in reviewing the achievements of his own generation of Japanese Buddhist scholars, wrote the following in 1951:

      By now, with respect to Buddhist studies, we may say that we have reached a point where ours excel those of any other nation…. Thanks to the lifetime zeal of many Buddhist scholars, Buddhist studies in our country have developed and advanced as Japanese Buddhist studies, producing something unique and not to be found in either India or China. From the broad standpoint of culture as a whole, Japanese...

    • 12 A Turning in Taishō: Asia and Europe in the Early Writings of Watsuji Tetsurō
      (pp. 234-256)

      Squeezed between the Meiji and the Shōwa, two eras of considerable length and monumental changes, the Taishō era (1912–1926) often seems diminutive by comparison and an era whose best projects—democratization, for instance—all either withered away or were crushed by the overpowering historical developments of the subsequent Shōwa period. The Taishō, its ideas, and the men who conceived them have been good subjects for studies of monumental “failure.”¹ Marxist analyses have tried to show that the intellectuals, in spite of their high ideals and lofty rhetoric, merely demonstrated and worked for the interest of their class.² But even...


    • [PART V: Introduction]
      (pp. 259-260)

      In many civilizations, and certainly in Japan, the arts have long represented a privileged domain in which the expression of various mentalities and attitudes seen as fundamental to human experience have been given pride of place. For the Japanese, the arts for many centuries have served not only as a means to enter into a dialogue with their cultural past, but as a way to achieve an authentic grasp of a significant level of truth that can arise from a contemplation of values that have often been regarded in Japanese thought as lying outside and beyond history as narrowly defined:...

    • 13 Kuki Shūzō and The Structure of Iki
      (pp. 261-272)

      Of all the modern writers on Japanese aesthetics, judged in terms of their artistic and social significance, none has been as admired and studied as Kuki Shūzō (1888–1900), whose writings oniki, a Tokugawa category of aesthetic approbation that might be roughly translated as “chic,” are among the most widely read and appreciated philosophic works in the cultural field.

      Kuki Shūzō’s life as an independent thinker spans the entire interwar period of Japan. In 1921, ten years after graduating from Tokyo University, where he studied European philosophy under the instruction of Raphael von Koeber,¹ he traveled to Europe at...

    • 14 Natsume Sōseki and the Development of Modern Japanese Art
      (pp. 273-281)

      Of all the cultural figures in modern Japan, none has been more read, studied, and appreciated than the novelist and critic Natsume Sōseki (1867–1917); it is perhaps no surprise that his portrait has been chosen to grace the new thousand-yen note. Yet for all the sustenance that later writers, scholars, and intellectuals have drawn from his responses to a changing Japanese culture, surprisingly little attention has been paid to Sōseki’s observations on the visual arts of his time. It is true that, while he made a number of casual references to art and artists in his stories, journals, and...

    • 15 Yūgen and Erhabene: Ōnishi Yoshinori’s Attempt to Synthesize Japanese and Western Aesthetics
      (pp. 282-300)

      Ōnishi yoshinori (1888–1959) began teaching aesthetics at Tokyo University in 1922 and continued doing so until his retirement in 1949. Shortly before his death, he recollected that the ultimate aim of his work throughout those years had been to digest Western aesthetics and reorganize it from a Japanese point of view.¹ Those who studied with him or read his books knew that all along. After publishing such works asGendai bigaku no mondai(Problems in modern aesthetics, 1927),Kanto no handanryoku hihan no kenkyū(Kant’sCritique of Judgment: A study, 1931), andGenshōgakuha no bigaku(Phenomenologist aesthetics, 1937) to...

  9. Contributors
    (pp. 301-302)
  10. Index
    (pp. 303-308)