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Imagining Japan

The Japanese Tradition and its Modern Interpretation

Robert N. Bellah (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 254 pages
ISBN: 9780520235984
February 2003
$34.95, £24.95
One of the most influential sociologists living today, Robert N. Bellah began his career as a Japan specialist, and has continued to contribute to the field over the past thirty years. Imagining Japan is a collection of some of his most important writings, including essays that consider the entire sweep of Japanese history and the character of Japanese society and religion. Combining intellectual rigor, broad scholarship, and ethical commitment, this book also features a new and extensive introduction that brings together intellectual and institutional dimensions of Japanese history.
Introduction: The Japanese Difference
1. The Contemporary Meaning of Kamakura Buddhism
2. Ienaga Saburo and the Search for meaning in Modern Japan
3. Japan's cultural Identity: Some Reflections on the Work of Watsuji Tetsuro
4. Notes on Maruyama Masao
5. Intellectual and Society in Japan
6. The Japanese Emperor as a Mother Figure: Some Preliminary Notes
7. Continuity and Change in Japanese Society

Robert N. Bellah is Elliott Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, at the University of California, Berkeley. He is author of Beyond Belief (California, 1991) and Tokugawa Religion: The Cultural Roots of Modern Japan (1985), and coauthor of Habits of the Heart (California, 1985).
“A valuable contribution to the field and essential reading for anyone interested in discussions of modernity, religion, and culture in Japan.”—Ian Reader Philosophy East & West
"Bellah is a sociologist with a grand vision of history, deeply concerned with the twists and turns of religious values, weaving pre-modern religious thinking into the debates of modernization and modernity. He takes a reflective turn with Imagining Japan, evidencing his profound concern with religious evolution."—Tetsuo Najita, University of Chicago

"One of the most original attempts to understand some of the psychological and symbolic roots of the central problems in Japanese history. Bellah masterfully brings together intellectual and institutional dimensions of Japan, making a very important contribution to Japanese Studies."—S. N. Eisenstadt, Professor Emeritus at Hebrew University and author of Japanese Civilization: A Comparative View

The Japanese Difference


Understanding Japan has preoccupied Japanese intellectuals for centuries and Westerners ever since the discovery of Japan in the sixteenth century. In the recent past the effort to understand Japan, variously to imagine it, has become, if anything, more frenetic than ever.1 If one is overly influenced by the welter of popular publications coming from within or outside of Japan on this subject, then one will be tempted to adopt either the latest Japanese self-interpretation, which comes in several closely related versions, but which can be summarized under the common term nihonjinron (the discourse about the Japanese), or one of the several Western interpretations that emphasize the exotic nature of Japan or its formidable combination of "tradition" and "modernity," views that are closely related to "Orientalism." These usually turn out to be not two temptations but one, for both of them emphasize Japanese uniqueness, Japanese exceptionalism, or Japanese particularism.

Although much of this writing is superficial, it is not my point that either the Japanese or the Western versions are wholly mistaken. Much contained in them is undoubtedly true. Nor does the weakness of this literature derive only from the fact that it emphasizes uniqueness but lacks a comparative perspective. There often is a comparative perspective but comparisons are used only to show how different Japan is, and has always been, from everybody else. It will be one of the purposes of this Introduction to locate Japan within a comparative spectrum, and not outside it; for the Japanese, like all peoples, are indeed unique, but they represent a set of possibilities within the normal range of human culture and society.

Although I will discuss some of this recent literature in this Introduction, the essays collected in this volume are largely concerned with an earlier period. The Japanese or Western "discourse about the Japanese" of recent years has taken place within a relatively benign international atmosphere in which Japan is considered an advanced industrial society and accepted as such in a variety of international organizations. During the 1980s there was some talk in the West of the Japanese threat to dominate the world economy for its own exclusive advantage, but since the collapse of the Japanese bubble economy at the beginning of the 1990s, there has been much less talk of that sort. If anything, Japan has been treated as something of an economic basket case, which should get its act together in order to emerge from its economic doldrums. None of this is particularly frightening, though the pressures are real enough.

The period with which most of the chapters in this volume are concerned was much more ominous: the years before and after 1945, the defeat of Japan at the end of World War II and the first occupation of Japan by a foreign military power. In that period Japanese identity was a matter of life and death, and the ways in which Japan was imagined were strongly contested. Watsuji Tetsuro and Ienaga Saburo, the figures treated most extensively in this book (in Chapters 2 and 3, respectively), though they wrote about many of the same subjects, could hardly be more different in their assessment of the Japanese tradition. Much recent nihonjinron literature reiterates, often with less subtlety and insight, what Watsuji had already said in the 1930s and early 1940s and much of the criticism of it reiterates what Ienaga said in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Maruyama Masao, treated briefly in Chapter 4, which is devoted to him (I will have more to say about him later in this Introduction), enormously influential in the decades right after 1945 but largely ignored today, is perhaps the most penetrating mind to appear in twentieth-century Japan and has his own interpretation of the Japanese experience. The issues with which the essays collected in this book are concerned, then, are still very much on the table in Japan and the world today, but Japan has not produced intellectuals of the stature of Watsuji, Ienaga, and Maruyama in recent years.


Previous Work

Before I turn to the main task of this Introduction, namely, to develop a comparative framework adequate to make sense of Japan, it may be helpful for me to make a brief autobiographical digression, especially since many readers will think of me primarily as a student of American society and religion and have no knowledge of my prior interest in Japan. I might begin by mentioning the connection with Japan of one of my best-known contributions to American studies, namely, my 1967 essay, "Civil Religion in America."2 The first version of what was to become that essay was delivered as a Fulbright lecture in the Spring of 1961 during my Fulbright year in Japan, soon after the Inaugural Address of John F. Kennedy, which plays a significant role in the essay. It was not an effort to speak to an American audience, but rather to explain to the Japanese, who had been so sternly lectured to by the Occupation authorities on the critical importance of the separation of church and state, why no American president could be inaugurated without mentioning God in his inaugural address. So my first tentative approach to American studies was from the point of view of Japan, and some acute reviewers have seen an East Asian perspective in all my work on the United States, work that emphasizes informal thought and practice as much as legal and institutional structures.

My doctoral dissertation, which was completed in 1955 and published in 1957 as Tokugawa Religion, was an effort to think of Japan not as "different" or the "Other" in any absolute sense, but as sharing similarities and differences with other modern societies in a comparative framework.3 In the first chapter of the book I used two sets of what Talcott Parsons called "pattern variables," a scheme that he developed from Max Weber's typology of social action, to describe Japanese society as characterized by the pattern variables of particularism (as opposed to universalism) and achievement (as opposed to ascription). By particularism I meant that in Japan considerations of relational context usually took precedence over considerations of abstract and universal principle. And by achievement I argued that in Japan persons were evaluated more in terms of what they could do than of what status they occupied. The latter point was more controversial than the former in terms of the general understanding of Japan, particularly in the Tokugawa period when social status was of great importance. But I argued that in the actual practices of life achievement was highly valued. As an example I gave the instance of a peasant boy, Tomita Kokei, who, when starting off from his home to attend the Confucian school in Edo, heard footsteps and turned around to see his mother running after him. He asked what was the matter and she replied, "If you do not succeed you need not return home."4 Since I described American society as characterized by the pattern variables of universalism and achievement, I was arguing that Japan was at this most general level as similar to as it was different from my own society.

But my effort to characterize Japan in terms of sociological variables was only introductory to the main purpose of the book, which was to argue that, though there was nothing like the Protestant Reformation that could have inaugurated modernity in Japan, there were functional equivalents of aspects of Protestantism that made the Japanese more capable than most other non-Western societies of responding effectively to the challenge of modernization when it came. In this case, where I was extending Weber's argument on religion and capitalism beyond what he had written, I was not arguing for Japan's uniqueness, but for some basic similarities to the West.5 It was just concerning this point that Maruyama Masao believed I had gone too far. Maruyama, Japan's leading social scientist at the time, criticized me for eliding too easily the differences between Japan and the West and for being insufficiently aware of the negative aspects of the Japanese tradition, and of Tokugawa society in particular. I will return to some reconsiderations of the Tokugawa period below.

My view of Japan in comparative perspective was developed further in a series of lectures that I delivered at International Christian University in Tokyo in the spring of 1961 under the title "Values and Social Change in Modern Japan," in which I developed a more critical perspective on aspects of the Japanese tradition, partly in response to Maruyama.6 In those lectures I described a series of Japanese efforts to attain a transcendental perspective, beginning with Shotoku Taishi in the seventh century, continuing with the major figures of Kamakura Buddhism in the thirteenth century, especially Shinran and Dogen, touching on Tokugawa Confucians such as Ogyu Sorai, and concluding with Christians since the Meiji period, particularly Uchimura Kanzo. I pointed out how in each case the moment of transcendence was quickly submerged. The particularistic "ground bass" of Japanese society that I had described in Tokugawa Religion reasserted itself, soon drowning out the transcendental melody that had appeared in the upper register. I did not use the term nonaxial, which S.N. Eisenstadt would use in his book Japanese Civilization, but the germ of that idea was present in those lectures.7 Although a comparative framework is implied in all the essays contained in this book, none of them returns to a consideration of a basic framework for thinking about Japanese culture and society in a comparative perspective as did Tokugawa Religion and "Values and Social Change in Modern Japan."8 I want to use the rest of this Introduction to develop such a framework.


Modernity and its Precursors

In both popular and scholarly discourse the distinction between societies that are "modern" from those that are "traditional" is hard to avoid, yet the current usage of the modern/traditional dichotomy is so riddled with untenable and unexamined presuppositions that it is virtually useless. The stereotypical contrast of a rapidly changing modernity with a stagnant and unchanging traditional society, an idea that, unfortunately, owes more than a little to Max Weber, is surely wrong. But something about modernity makes it different from earlier social conditions, and it has been sociology's task from the beginning to try to explain what that something is. It would not be an exaggeration to say that sociology began as an effort to explain modernity to itself. In so doing it was necessary for the founders of sociology—certainly for Marx, Weber, and Durkheim—to think systematically about what came before modernity in order to understand how modern societies are different from all preceding ones. Weber's notion of a development from societies based on kinship and neighborhood, through societies organized by bureaucracy or feudalism, to modern capitalism was a version of a story told in different ways by Marx and Durkheim as well. Coming out of this sociological tradition, my own effort to situate modernity in relation to what preceded it was first set forth in my 1964 article on religious evolution.9

In my version, drawing directly from Weber, religion played an important role in the emergence of modernity. Weber began his study of religion in 1904 with his famous The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. It is clear, however, that we must consider not only that essay but the place of the Protestant ethic argument in Weber's work as a whole. He believed that ascetic Protestantism was an indispensable catalyst for the emergence of a new form of society that he called "modern capitalism"—but which he saw as a new kind of civilization, not just a new kind of economy. Although circumscribed markets had existed for millennia within what Randall Collins calls "agrarian-coercive societies," never before the Reformation in the West had ideological, political, and economic resources crystallized to form such a new kind of civilization.10 Once established, however, capitalism became a worldwide phenomenon, even though taking different forms in different civilizational areas. Thus Protestantism, though occurring in only one tradition, was, indirectly but crucially, an indispensable precondition for the cross-cultural emergence of modernity.

In searching for the root causes of modernity and why it arose first in the West, Weber embarked on the most ambitious set of comparative studies ever undertaken. In the course of his study of the great traditions he came to believe that religious events in the first millennium b.c. were of critical importance. Within each of the world religions that emerged at that time arose prophets or saviors who radically rationalized previous forms of what Weber tended to call "magical religion." In each case the emergent figure (Confucius, the Buddha, the Hebrew prophets, Socrates, Jesus) preached a systematic form of ethical conduct quite different from the diffuse ritual and sacramental practices that preceded them. By calling these new symbolic forms "rationalized" Weber was pointing to the fact that they were more coherent, more cognitively and ethically universalizing, more potentially self-critical (reflexive), and more disengaged from the existing society than what preceded them. Karl Jaspers, Weber's close friend and student, called the period of the emergence of these religions, the first millennium b.c., the "Axial Age."11 S.N. Eisenstadt speaks of the world religions as axial religions and of their related civilizations as axial civilizations.12 If one follows Weber's argument that religion is the indispensable catalyst for the emergence of modernity, as I do, then one can see that the axial religions, even though they emerged millennia before modernity, were its indispensable precondition.

In my 1964 article I proposed a simplified way of looking at the shape of religious evolution. I argued that whereas tribal and archaic religions were primarily this-worldly in orientation, which is what Weber, perhaps unwisely, meant by the word magical, the axial religions were world-rejecting (and thus, for Weber, crucially, magic-rejecting), although they differed as to whether this rejection was to be worked out within the world (ethically), or as far as possible outside the world (mystically). It was the leverage of axial religion in a transcendental reference point, outside the world so to speak, that made it possible to criticize and in principle to revise the fundamental social and political premises of existing societies. Whereas in tribal and archaic societies self and society were seen as embedded in the natural cosmos, the axial religions and philosophies made it possible in principle for the self to become disembedded from society and society from the given world of nature. It should be remembered, however, that in its radical consistency axial religion was never more than the religion of a minority; the majority continued to entertain beliefs and practices continuous with archaic or even tribal religion, which is what Weber meant by the return to the garden of magic.

With the Protestant Reformation the belief in a radically transcendent God had dramatic this-worldly consequences: the consistent demands of an axial ethic were to be expected from everyone and in every sphere of daily life. An entirely new degree of disembeddedness of self from society and society from nature became possible. But in the subsequent development of modernity, though the this-worldly dimension remained dominant, its transcendental basis became transformed into immanentism, thus returning the modern world in a much different way to the this-worldly immanentism of preaxial times. The new form of immanentism, however, did not lead to a reembeddedness of self and society in the cosmos but rather to ever-increasing degrees of differentiation and disembeddedness. Weber clearly observed this transition, but viewed it almost entirely negatively. The modern world of rationalization would run on its own bureaucratic and economic energies without any transcendental sanction, would become an iron cage.13 Thus, although Weber was the modernization theorist par excellence, his was a dark view, not at all a triumphalist one, of where modernity is heading.

Let me try to place Japan within this evolutionary framework. In Japanese Civilization S.N. Eisenstadt speaks of Japan as a nonaxial civilization. It is not that Japan has not been exposed to axial religions and civilizations. Since at least the seventh century Japan has been deeply influenced by Buddhist and Confucian ideas, as well as by Indian and particularly Chinese civilization. And since the sixteenth century Japan has been influenced by Christianity and Western civilization. But in the face of these religious and civilizational influences the Japanese have not rejected their preaxial civilizational premises; instead they have continuously revised them without abandoning them. Outside cultural influences have been appreciated and understood with intelligence and sensitivity, but then used to bolster the nonaxial premises of Japanese society rather than to challenge them.

Because the Japanese have been aware of axial principles, have understood them thoroughly, and yet have rejected them, preferring instead to adapt them to the reformulation of their own archaic heritage, and because they have done so with dynamism and an openness to change so that they have not been "traditional" in the pejorative sense of the term, Eisenstadt argues that they should be called nonaxial rather than preaxial. Yet there is one sense in which Japanese civilization can be called preaxial. The underlying premises of Japanese society, though they can be reformulated with great sophistication, cannot be challenged. They are off the board, so to speak, when it comes to serious discussion of fundamental change. When in my essay "Values and Social Change in Modern Japan" I spoke of the Japanese "ground bass," I was referring to this preaxial element in Japanese culture; when I spoke of the "tradition of submerged transcendence," I was referring to the presence of axial traditions in Japan—Buddhist, Confucian, Christian, Marxist—that never quite succeeded in replacing the preaxial premises of Japanese culture. This is a first approximation in placing Japan in a comparative framework, one that relies heavily on Eisenstadt, but it needs more specificity.


The Formation of an Archaic State

The treatment of Japan so far in terms of cultural, and even specifically religious, traditions could be criticized as too "culturalogical," that is, as treating culture as an autonomous causal variable rather than as one always embedded in social structures and, more particularly, structures of power. Although Eisenstadt's Japanese Civilization has far more to say about structures of power than I have so far mentioned, it will be helpful to turn to another extremely valuable analysis of the Japanese case, Johann Arnason's Social Theory and Japanese Experience, to reflect on the ways in which power and culture have interacted in Japanese history from the beginning.14 Arnason suggests that it is key to understanding the Japanese case to see that it was in a process of state building when it first emerged on the historical stage. What preliterate Japan, that is Japan before the sixth century a.d., was like can only be reconstructed from archaeology and later, often problematic, written accounts. It appears that Japan had been divided into a large number of what can probably be called chieftainships (the Chinese records referred to them as "kingdoms" because that is how they thought of peripheral peoples), who were gradually being united by a paramount chieftainship located in the Yamato region of central Japan. Sometime, probably not long before the sixth century, this paramount chieftainship developed into an early state, something that could be compared to the state created by King Kamehameha I in the Hawaiian Islands at the end of the eighteenth century.15

Finally by the seventh and eighth centuries, when the evidence, though still problematic, becomes much more extensive, what one can observe is the conscious creation of an archaic state, using resources from the considerably more advanced civilization of the Chinese mainland to do so. By an early state I mean a paramount chieftainship that is just moving beyond a tribal confederation to establish a centralized government. The fact that even in the seventh century there was no fixed capital suggests just how tenuous this early state really was. It was not until 710 that a "permanent" capital was established at Nara (though it was only seventy-five years before it was abandoned for another capital). But it was from the rather fragile early state structure of the sixth century that the effort to establish a full-scale archaic state began. The effort is associated with the name of Shotoku Taishi (Prince Shotoku, 574-622). He sent large-scale embassies to China in 607, 608, and 614. These ambassadorial visits involved much more than diplomacy. Buddhist monks, scholars, artists, and artisans studied for a year or even several years, bringing back a wide range of material and ideal cultural artifacts on their return to Japan. Undoubtedly elements of Chinese culture had been imported from China or the Korean peninsula for centuries—rice agriculture had been spreading in Japan since several centuries before the Christian era—and Buddhism, which was probably not unknown even earlier, was officially received at the Yamato court in 552, but the kind of systematic importation that took place under Shotoku's regency was unusual. Many simple societies in history have acquired the culture of more advanced neighbors but in almost every such case it has been because they had been conquered by such a neighbor. It has often been remarked that Japan's deliberate self-transformation without the experience of conquest was repeated in the late nineteenth century when it was not Chinese but Western culture that was imported on a grand scale.

It is important to note that the transformation of Japan in the seventh and eighth centuries was in considerable part a response to changes in China, namely, the unification of the country after four centuries of disunity, first under the brief Sui Dynasty in 589, followed soon thereafter by the long-lasting T'ang dynasty beginning in 618. Although it is tempting to think of Japan as an "insular" culture developing in its own way relatively independent of the rest of the world, this has never been true. Significant changes in mainland East Asia, usually China, and later in the world at large, have always had important repercussions in Japan.

Stanley Tambiah, working primarily on Southeast Asia, has developed the idea of a "galactic polity" that helps to understand what was going on in East Asia at the time.16 An empire such as the T'ang focuses on an exemplary center, with regional administrations replicating the center. Military and political control in such premodern empires was seldom intense, but even when physical control of peripheral areas weakened, the influence of the exemplary center often persisted. The Sui and the early T'ang, for example, invaded Korea in an effort to make it a Chinese province. They were finally militarily unsuccessful, but the effort produced a unified Korea under the domination of the kingdom of Silla, which forced the T'ang to accept it as a tributary but autonomous state, at the same time that it undertook an internal restructuring on the T'ang model. Vietnam was administered by China through most of the T'ang Dynasty, directly if loosely, and here too a Chinese model of state and society was imposed that long outlasted direct Chinese control.17 Neither the Sui nor the T'ang ever attempted an invasion of Japan, though Japanese contingents were involved with one or another Korean kingdom during the struggles with the T'ang. But the powerful exemplary influence of T'ang China, felt in Central Asia in the west and Manchuria in the north as well as in Korea and Vietnam, had a major impact on Japan. This would not be the last time that changes on the mainland would have profound consequences for Japan.

I want to emphasize that the state being established was not an axial state that the contemporary Sui and T'ang Chinese models would have suggested—the resources for that degree of transformation simply did not exist in Japan—but an archaic state, typologically similar to that of the Shang Chinese state of the second millennium b.c. There are two indices, one structural, one cultural, that I would use to suggest why the new Japanese state that emerged in the seventh and eighth centuries was archaic and not axial. On the structural side, although a centralized state on the Chinese model was established, with a bureaucracy that administered land and tax registers and a conscript army, the hold of the great aristocratic lineages (the descendants of earlier tribal chieftains) was not broken. The Chinese idea of a bureaucracy staffed on the basis of merit as measured by an examination system never took hold. Bureaucratic offices were soon appropriated by lineages as their permanent possessions. The old uji (clan) system was undoubtedly reconstructed, but the principle of lineage was never broken through.

On the more cultural side, the radical (axial) implications of the Chinese conception of monarchy were rejected. Some notion of aristocratic descent from the gods was undoubtedly ancient in Japan as it was in many early societies, and the status of lineages could be judged by the status of the gods from whom they claimed descent in the polytheistic pantheon. That the Yamato chief claimed descent from the sun goddess was an expression of this kind of archaic logic. The Chinese notion that the emperor is the son of heaven could be apparently seamlessly adopted in Japan, but with one major problem. It is exactly what made the Chinese case axial that a polytheistic pantheon had been replaced by an emphasis on a heaven that judged rulers according to ethical standards and could transfer "the mandate of heaven" in cases where the ruler failed to live up to such standards. To replace divine descent by an ethical notion of the mandate of heaven would have been for the Japanese to move from an archaic to an axial conception of rule. Such a move, though available ever since Confucian doctrines were first understood, was never made.

Another aspect of the archaic quality of the Japanese state that was taking shape in this early period was the survival and reorganization of the preexisting religious cult. While in rural areas quite ancient cults have survived in all the advanced civilizations, in early Japan there was an effort to preserve and rationalize the older religious forms that would considerably later be referred to by the Sinified name of Shinto (the way of the Gods). Although in remote parts of the country early forms of ritual practice have survived for millennia, what would later be known as Shinto was a dynamic reformulation of indigenous beliefs and practices occurring as part of the state building of the seventh and eighth centuries and should not be confused with some timeless past before the introduction of Chinese influences. Indeed Chinese influences were essential in the reformulation of the native tradition. The two primary documents of Shinto, the Kojiki of 712 and the Nihongi of 720, were modeled on Chinese dynastic histories, even though they began with an account of the age of the gods. Undoubtedly the form they took was itself partially influenced by ideological considerations with respect to the Yamato ruling family and other aristocratic lineages and was thus part of the state-building process. In short, autochthonous and Chinese culture existed in a dynamic relationship in the newly forming archaic state and neither can be fully understood without the other.18

Buddhism is indeed one of the great axial religions, emphasizing the tension between the existing world and ultimate reality, one of the key marks of axial religion, as strongly as any known religious tradition ever has, but we must not imagine that the statues, texts, and rituals that were being gradually introduced to Japan at this early period added up to any such entity as we would envisage with the modern term "Buddhism." Although the transcendental Buddhist beliefs may have been appreciated by some Japanese intellectuals, as the remark attributed to Shotoku that "the world is a lie; only the Buddha is true" would indicate, the primary meaning of Buddhist beliefs and practices in early Japan was not axial but archaic. It was the magical power associated with Buddhist artifacts and rituals that was most desired, and it was Buddhist devotion as providing good fortune for the ruling house and the aristocratic lineages that brought it into favor.

During the Nara period (roughly the eighth century) six schools or lineages of Mahayana teaching were established, each with one or more temple-monasteries devoted to its study. For a long time, these were referred to by scholars as the six Nara sects (shu). It is now generally accepted that shu cannot be translated as "sect" except perhaps in Tokugawa and recent times. The translation "schools" is not entirely adequate either, but at least it gives the notion that these were nonexclusive teaching traditions—a monk could be inducted into more than one—and being trained in one did not mean lack of knowledge and interest in others. The newly emerging Japanese state in the Nara period was modeled on T'ang China; its fundamental ideology was Confucian. Confucian texts provided the basis for the education of officials, court ritual was largely Confucian, and the emperor was conceived of as the son of heaven in Confucian terms (an idea thought to be perfectly consistent with continued belief in his descent from the sun goddess). Yet the idea of the mandate of heaven was rejected. Confucianism explained natural disasters and military setbacks as caused by the failure of imperial virtue, and if they became serious enough, as justification for a change of dynasty. Because this possibility was not open to the Japanese, they turned to the Buddhists for alternative explanations of such disasters. Thus the temples could provide defense against the occurrence of such untoward events; and when they did occur, they provided both explanations of them in terms of the acts of evil spirits or demons and propitiatory rituals to mitigate their consequences.19 In accordance with T'ang precedent, Buddhist monks and nuns were regulated by state law, with ordinations strictly limited to authorized ordination platforms, only one of which was in Nara. While state control of ordination and the necessity to provide spiritual assistance to the state did limit the independence of the monastic community, or sangha, still the Nara schools developed considerable sophistication in their traditions and provided support for serious Buddhist practice for monks and a growing number of lay followers as well.

Early in the ninth century after the capital had been moved to Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto), an entirely new form of Buddhism that would become pervasive for many centuries was introduced by the monk Kukai after he had returned from China in 806. In Japanese Buddhist studies this is called Esoteric Buddhism, but is also known as Vajrayana Buddhism or Tantric Buddhism, best known today from its Tibetan form. Ryuichi Abé in an important recent study has argued that Kukai should not be seen in the first instance as the "founder of the Shingon school," though he was later considered to be such, but as the person who introduced a whole new form of Buddhism, Esoteric Buddhism, which saw itself as a new "vehicle" (yana), that is, the Vajrayana, that included and superseded Mahayana, just as Mahayana had included and superseded Hinayana.20 That Kukai could have succeeded in this enterprise virtually single-handedly is a tribute to his stature both as a thinker and as a monastic politician. He persuaded the six Nara schools to accept the legitimacy of his new teaching and begin the process of integrating it with their older Mahayana traditions and he persuaded the imperial court to integrate Esoteric ritual at the heart of its annual ritual cycle.

One must not neglect to mention the other figure normally paired with Kukai, Saicho, who had returned from China in 805 and who really was, quite self-consciously, the founder of the Tendai school.21 Saicho had studied Esoteric Buddhism in China but had not reached nearly so advanced a stage as Kukai, with whom he studied after his return to Japan. Doctrinally Saicho was intermediate between the older Nara schools and Kukai because he believed that Tendai, focusing on the Lotus Sutra, was the only true Mahayana teaching and that the older sects (all of whom acknowledged the importance of the Lotus Sutra) were virtually Hinayana teachings. Without ever giving up its stress on the Lotus Sutra, Tendai did become in later centuries a major channel for the dissemination of Esoteric Buddhism. Institutionally, however, it was Tendai that insisted on its separate identity. Although a tradition tracing its origin to Kukai did develop as the Shingon school, Shingon, which is really another way of saying Esoteric Buddhism, permeated all subsequent teaching traditions. The spread of Esoteric Buddhism and its fusion with Exoteric teachings led to important institutional changes.

Kukai's teaching, as Abé has shown, brought a whole new level of Buddhist practice and embodiment into Japan. In this teaching Vairocana (Dainichi, "Great Sun") Buddha was the Buddha's dharma body. Unlike the humanly incarnated Buddha, Sakyamuni, or the heavenly Buddhas such as Amida, Vairocana Buddha did not use "skillful means," or teachings adapted to the condition of the believers, but rather taught the unmediated truth through every element in the universe. Indeed the universe was seen as a form of writing, a supreme mantra, although it required the appropriate practice to be able to "read" it. Kukai's Esoteric Buddhism can be seen both as a new level of doctrinal sophistication and as a reappropriation of an archaic form of spirituality.

Thomas Kasulis has described Kukai as "philosophizing in the archaic."22 Kasulis's point is that while philosophy is usually seen as antithetical to myth, as holding up the mythical to critical inspection, Kukai used Buddhist philosophy to defend an archaic structure of thought. At one point Kasulis speaks of Kukai as engaging in the "philosophizing of the archaic," which seems to be a good description of a long line of Japanese thinkers.23 They have used the materials of an axial tradition (in this case Buddhist, but in many cases Confucian as well), to justify a nonaxial position, often in a way that shows them thoroughly at home in the axial way of thinking. This might be called using the axial to overcome the axial, just as some Japanese thinkers early in World War II sought to "overcome the modern."

At the core of both Shingon and Tendai traditions is hongaku (original enlightenment) thought, namely, the idea that all beings are already enlightened and their only task is to realize it.24 This position was not an unusual one in the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism in China and it became even more widespread in Japan, but it is one that comes close to affirming the world as it is rather than holding it in tension with ultimate reality, thus undermining the axial core of Buddhist thought. As Ienaga Saburo puts it, the essential Buddhist logic of negation was overridden (this point is further discussed below in Chapter 2).

It might be noted that Confucianism and Buddhism, for opposite reasons, lent themselves to an archaic reinterpretation. As has often been noted, among the axial religions and philosophies, Confucianism has the heaviest "archaic mortgage," to use Eric Voegelin's term, in that it emphasizes the sacredness of kinship to an extraordinary degree, as well as respect for the authority of rulers. What makes Confucianism axial is the recognition of a transcendent heaven exercising a moral judgment over the rulers of this world. But ignoring that element of the teaching, as Japanese Confucians normally did, left most of the remaining Confucian views quite consistent with a particularistic archaic ethic. Buddhism, by contrast, pushed world-denial further than any other axial tradition. But it pushed it so far that in one important Mahayana teaching, namely, the idea that samsara (this world of suffering) is nirvana (enlightened release from this world), which was meant as a paradoxical declaration calling on the believers to open themselves to the possibility of enlightenment, could easily turn into a teaching of world acceptance consonant with an archaic worldview.

What is impressive about seventh- and eighth-century Japan was the degree of creativity and innovation displayed at both the structural and the cultural level. New institutions were set up wholesale, including a legal system based on Chinese models that would long endure, though not unchanged. Not only were the major traditions of continental thought, Buddhist, Confucian, even Taoist, thoroughly explored, but also the tradition of native myth and ritual was profoundly reconstructed. If Japan remained, as, given the materials at hand, it probably had to remain, archaic in terms of its underlying social and cultural premises, then it was an extremely dynamic archaism, indeed a newly constructed archaism, that was at issue.25 Far from a continuous "native" culture simply absorbing new cultural imports without being affected by them, the entire structural and cultural package of Nara and early Heian Japan was newly created from the ground up, using native and foreign materials to be sure, but reorganizing everything to form a distinctly new pattern.

One further feature of the Japanese pattern that became evident from early in the period of the great transformation was a system of rule that Maruyama Masao calls the basso ostinato of Japanese politics, using a musical metaphor similar to but more restricted in meaning than my use of ground bass.26 This is a pattern of thinking of government always from the point of view of those serving from below rather than from the point of view of those ruling from above. This could be interpreted as an archaic feature indicating that the governing function has not yet been clearly differentiated from the rest of society, though if this is the case it points to a pattern that is even prearchaic. The result in which Maruyama is interested is the tendency in different ways but at almost every period of Japanese history for effective rule to devolve to levels below, sometimes well below, those in titular authority. This pattern is clearest in the case of the imperial family itself, which, except perhaps briefly in the late seventh century, almost never ruled directly, but always through those who "served" it, who held the real power.27 Two consequences of this pattern are evident. One is the difficulty of placing responsibility for political actions or, in certain circumstances, finding anyone who will take responsibility for action when it is needed. Another was the impossibility of applying the mandate of heaven theory of responsible government to the highest levels of authority who practically never had themselves taken significant action. If the theory could be applied at all it had to be applied to the effective rather than the titular rulers. While this pattern created difficulties at many points in Japanese history, and was clearly frustrating to Maruyama who wanted to establish the idea of responsible constitutional government in Japan, it was also highly flexible and even dynamic, encouraging initiative from below rather than the stagnation of authority from above. So, as usual in Japan, what might be thought of as "primitive" has had powerful creative and innovative potentialities.


Military Rule

Arnason refers to the creation of an archaic state from the seventh to the ninth centuries, with the help of Chinese models adapted for Japanese use, as an example of primary state formation.28 The last official embassy to China was sent in 838. All contact was not lost, but the Japanese government felt official embassies were no longer safe in a period when the power of the T'ang Dynasty was collapsing. The end of official embassies was symptomatic of the fact that the period of intense institution building with the help of Chinese models was over.

What followed has been interpreted as the disintegration of the centralized state on the Chinese model and the resurgence of particularistic Japanese patterns. While this is not entirely wrong, more recent interpretations have stressed the spread of new social and cultural forms from the originally quite limited area of the old Yamato heartland to the rest of the archipelago. Growth in the agricultural economy, in part stimulated by the opening up of new lands for rice cultivation, went hand in hand with the slow but continuous increase of trade. Provincial elites nominally holding title from the imperial court were becoming ever more independent and relying on their own military power for protection.

But the warriors and the court were not the only major institutional players in medieval Japan. A third "influential party" (kenmon) was the great shrine/temple complexes that grew up in Japan from early Heian times.29 The erosion of the T'ang model of the Japanese state during the long centuries of the Heian period (roughly ninth to twelfth centuries) was nowhere more evident than in the religious institutions. Effective legal control of monks and nuns did not last much beyond the ninth century. As the shrine/temple complexes grew in wealth and power, high offices within them were monopolized by the offspring of aristocratic lineages who were promoted much more rapidly than the normal course of study would allow. As land holdings increased and military might supplied by "armed monks" (seldom ordained monks, but retainers of the complexes) grew, these institutions became virtually states within a state.

Allan Grapard has given us a superb study of one of the largest and most powerful of these complexes, the Kasuga Shrine/Kofukuji Temple complex in Nara.30 Grapard emphasizes the degree of interpenetration of "Shinto" and Buddhist elements, each requiring the other to make sense, in what he calls a combinative rather than a syncretic pattern. The shrine dates back to the eighth century and its deities were ancestral or tutelary deities of the Fujiwara family, the most powerful of the aristocratic lineages, closely related by marriage to the imperial line. Kofukuji served as a memorial temple for the spirits of departed members of the Fujiwara family. The temple continued to be one of the main centers of the Hosso school of Nara Buddhism, but permeated with Esoteric teachings as well. By the Kamakura period the complex had become the biggest landholder in Japan, effectively controlling Yamato Province, the heartland of the ancient dynasty. Naturally the abbot was normally a Fujiwara. Though ostensibly devoted to the imperial lineage through its reverence for the Fujiwara family so closely related to it, the complex had become a power so great that neither the court nor rising military groups could easily impose their will on it.31

Although great religious complexes such as the Kasuga Shrine/Kofukuji Temple could be seen simply as exploiters of peasant labor because of the land rents upon which they depended, they did, in turn, supply the populace of the province with cultural meaning through a grand ritual cycle and religious understandings of time and place. The idea of a Pure Land was brought down to earth through the notion that the shrine/temple complex was itself a "Pure Land in this world" (gense-jodo). According to Grapard, Kasuga was seen as "a sort of paradise on earth," a vision appearing in "the texts, paintings, rituals, and theatrical performance created at the multiplex over centuries."32

With the growth of the shrine/temple complexes and the pervasive influence of Esoteric Buddhism, the understanding of the imperial institution shifted gradually from a Confucian to a Buddhist one. In the Nara period the essentially Confucian state used Buddhism and its already associated native forms of worship to bolster its power. By the eleventh and twelfth centuries the idea of "the oneness of kingly law and Buddhist law" (buppo obo ichinyo) had developed, an idea that gave equal weight to both sides of the equation. Indeed the kingly law and the Buddhist law were said to be like the two wheels of a cart or the two wings of a bird: one could not survive without the other. Such was the degree to which the amalgam of Exoteric and Esoteric Buddhism ( the so-called kenmitsu-taisei, with its closely associated "Shinto" components very much part of the picture) had enveloped Japanese society by medieval times.33

As military power on the peripheries grew, especially in the northeast in the Kanto region, the area around present-day Tokyo, the possibility of a new locus of power appeared, leading to what Arnason, whose views on primary state formation we have found helpful above, calls "secondary state formation." In 1185 the process of secondary state formation was actualized in the founding of the Kamakura shogunate, a system of military rule that in some respects is comparable to European feudalism, with its headquarters in Kamakura, far from the old capital of Kyoto. But the imperial court in Kyoto was not displaced; it continued to wield some degree of power and a considerable degree of influence. Thus the primary state formation was not abandoned, but continued in reduced circumstances alongside the new secondary state formation. Although the Japanese case was in many ways unique, it has more similarities to the West than to China. In China the primary state formation, which was completed under the Ch'in and Han although it was recreated several times with significant innovations, remained faithful to its original pattern until the twentieth century, and no secondary state formation occurred. But in the West, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the rise of feudalism was an example of secondary state formation, that is, not the creation of a state from tribal beginnings, even though tribal peoples were involved, but the formation of new states after the collapse of, but to some degree on the basis of, an old one. And though the Roman emperor and his court did not survive in the West as the emperor did in Japan, the shadow of the older empire remained in the form of the Catholic Church with its monarchical leader, the pope, residing, significantly enough, in the old imperial capital, and wielding, if not power, then more than a little influence.

The Kamakura shogunate added new structures to the old state forms rather than replacing them, developing in the warrior (bushi) class a consciousness of its own importance and its right to a significant share of the agricultural surplus. I cannot here give the Kamakura regime the attention it deserves but can only comment on two significant moments that occurred during it. One of these was its successful defense of Japan against the attempted Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281, successful in considerable part due to typhoons that destroyed the enemy ships, but nonetheless mobilizing the country in its own defense and thus contributing to its sense of common identity. The other is the emergence during the thirteenth century of the founders of several new Buddhist movements that would dominate popular Buddhism ever after.34 These new forms of Buddhism both recovered the radical "logic of negation," to use Ienaga's term, of original Buddhism and opened the door to new ways in which world denial could be collapsed into world affirmation.35 The most significant thing about the "new" forms of Buddhism was their emphasis on exclusive practices such as reciting the name of Amida Buddha or the title of the Lotus Sutra or "just sitting" in Zen meditation.36 These exclusive practices in some cases broke through the Esoteric/Exoteric system characteristic of earlier forms of Japanese Buddhism, though the capacity of the older forms to reappear even in the "new" sects should not be underestimated.

The whole subject of Kamakura Buddhism has been revolutionized since the following Chapter 1 was written.37 The new work particularly stresses that "old Buddhism," that is the Nara and Heian schools, continued to be vital and productive, participating in their own way in the new trends of the Kamakura period, and that the movements we think of as "new" were responding in complex ways to long-standing tendencies and problems in the older traditions. The use of the term "reformation," particularly if it carries Protestant Christian overtones, has been strongly criticized. In Chapter 1 I use the term reformation in a generic sense, indicating that Kamakura Buddhism is in no significant way parallel to the Protestant Reformation. Japan's relative geographical isolation—the Tsushima Strait is much wider than the Straits of Dover—protected it from foreign conquest and may have contributed to the capacity of the archaic religious tradition to resist radical reformation. In any case the Japanese state was not shattered by foreign conquest and the moment of religious transcendental insight, though not without significant consequences, never resulted in radical reform.

The very extent to which the Japanese economy was growing in both the Kamakura and its successor Ashikaga shogunates contributed to the increasing centrifugal tendencies, as outlying feudal lords became strong enough to assert their independent power, and the jerry-rigged combination of primary and secondary state formations proved incapable of maintaining centralized control. By the early sixteenth century the country was more or less continuously at war, and the period is referred to, on the analogy with pre-Ch'in China, as the Period of the Warring States (Sengoku Jidai). The result of these incessant wars was the emergence of three successive unifiers at the end of the sixteenth century—Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1600 the third, Ieyasu, founded a military regime of unprecedented strength and stability, lasting unchallenged until the confrontation with the West in the mid-nineteenth century. It is worth considering for a moment the radical implications of Nobunaga's assault on the inherited institutional pattern.

Nobunaga used a term for the realm, tenka (literally, all under heaven), which had been used by the Ashikaga shoguns, but he gave it a radical twist. In Chinese terms, the tenka included ruler and people and legitimated the ruler by the at least tacit acceptance of the people. Nobunaga identified the tenka with his own person and with his sheer military power, taking as his motto tenka fubu, which Neil McMullin translates as "Rule the Realm by Force."38 Not only did Nobunaga eliminate the last of the Ashikaga shoguns, but it was not clear by the time of his early death whether he might not have eliminated the imperial court as well. Unlike his two successors, he based his legitimacy on himself, not on some assumed delegation from above. Although he did not live to make clear the ultimate shape he would have given the polity, he did carry out one transformation of epic proportions: the destruction of the independent power of Buddhism. Even in the late sixteenth century when Sengoku daimyo had built up centers of regional power greater than ever before, some of the great shrine/temple complexes could still rival them. In addition, the followers of the Honganji school of Jodo Shinshu had created a new form of military power, founded more on the alliance (ikki) of independent farmers and local samurai than on the landed estates of the temple complexes. In any case, when Nobunaga set out to unify the country he faced three great opponents, the other daimyo, the shrine/temple complexes, and the Honganji federations. The fact that two of these were Buddhist organizations indicates how powerful Buddhism still was. While Nobunaga succeeded in reducing most of the daimyo, he utterly destroyed his Buddhist opponents. His military success against them was by far not the only reason for the subsequent decline of Buddhism from its formerly central influence on Japanese culture, but it was a significant factor in that decline.39 In any case after Nobunaga burned the great temple complex on Mt. Hiei and slaughtered all its inhabitants it was clear that the era of "kingly law and Buddhist law" was over. Whatever tenka was and whatever form it would take in Nobunaga's successors it was something very different from what had existed before. As one court noble lamented after the destruction of Mt. Hiei, "the bird has lost a wing, the cart a wheel."40

According to Herman Ooms in his book Tokugawa Ideology, all three unifiers sought religious legitimation independent of the imperial court, even though Hideyoshi and Ieyasu accepted court office.41 Nobunaga and Hideyoshi each claimed divine status for himself, Nobunaga perhaps going the farthest, constructing a palace designed as a microcosm of the universe with himself at the pinnacle and with quarters for the emperor when he was to come to pay tribute to Nobunaga. Nobunaga's self-divinization was cut short by an early death, but Hideyoshi lived long enough to see his own cult flourishing throughout the country. Ieyasu was deified only after his death. There is nothing surprising in the divinization of human beings in an archaic culture—one has only to think of divinized heroes in ancient Greece or the divinization of rulers in the Hellenistic and Roman Empires. And the divinization of human beings has continued up to the twentieth century: remember the great shrine to the Meiji emperor in Tokyo, but also the shrine to the spirit of General Nogi, who, with his wife, committed ritual suicide on the day of the Meiji emperor's funeral in 1912. What is surprising is not so much the self-divinization of the great unifiers as the fact that they toyed with the idea of surpassing or at least rivaling the emperor.

It is a tribute to the mystique of the imperial line that it survived at all in the Period of Warring States, for its resources were extremely limited and it was treated with little respect by the rival warlords. Yet even the greatest of them hesitated to replace the imperial line. In thinking about the relation of culture and power it is worth remembering that sheer naked military power has probably never been exercised in Japan so directly as by the three great unifiers. Their military control was so absolute that it would have been no problem for them to abolish the imperial house. The survival of the imperial line in such a situation can only be seen as a triumph of powerless culture in the face of military power of doubtful cultural legitimacy.

An occasion that could have posed a severe threat to the imperial line is reported by Ooms on the basis of "soft" evidence, namely, that one of Ieyasu's closest advisors suggested in 1615 that the imperial family be confined to Ise, the shrine of the sun goddess, where it would perform only ritual duties, and Ieyasu would take the title of son of heaven, on an equal level with the emperor.42 That Ieyasu, while severely limiting the prestige and influence of the imperial family, not only did not take that advice but apparently never considered simply extirpating the imperial line speaks volumes about the Japanese pattern.

Another kind of rival to the unification of Japan under warrior rule came from religious groups. It is well known that the unification of the country was accompanied by the persecution of Christian converts, a persecution that was begun by Hideyoshi and completed by the first three Tokugawa shoguns, ending with the brutal repression of the Shimabara rebellion of Christian peasants in Western Kyushu in 1637-38. It is less well known that Pure Land and Nichiren sects that had descended from the Kamakura period and had become well entrenched in several parts of the country were also persecuted by the unifiers. Nobunaga had been particularly brutal in putting down the Honganji federations, peasant groups organized on the basis of their fervent Pure Land belief and who refused to admit the legitimacy of any rulers other than the emperor or the leaders of their own sect. Some extreme followers of the teachings of Nichiren refused to accept the legitimacy of any rule other than that of the Buddha.43 If Pure Land and Nichiren followers were suspect for nurturing a loyalty to authorities beyond this world, so especially were Christians, and though the Pure Land sects and (most of ) the Nichiren sects could be brought to heel, Christianity had to be destroyed.44 Archaic culture is remarkably tolerant of religious diversity except when its own basic premises are called in question. Axial religions can be tolerated so long as they downplay their radical implications, and especially when they can accommodate themselves to the archaic pattern, as Christians later would learn to do, but when they attempt to realize their axial principles or even seem to, particularly in the political sphere, persecution has been severe on more than one occasion.


Tokugawa Japan

The Tokugawa shoguns completed what Nobunaga and Hideyoshi had begun: the pacification of the country, the confiscation of weapons from the peasantry, the carrying out of land surveys for purposes of taxation and other measures that guaranteed a degree of central control not evident in Japan since the seventh century. A two-level system of government was established with the center of the main island controlled by the Tokugawa house, its branch lineages or its direct vassals, and with the feudal lords who had submitted only after Ieyasu's final victory in 1600 confined to more distant parts of the country and required to keep their wives and children in Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the Tokugawa capital, and spend alternate years there themselves. The Tokugawa regime also outlawed firearms, which had begun to be used after the Europeans had taught the Japanese how to make them at the end of the sixteenth century, a ban unmatched elsewhere in the world.

The stability of the complex and not very intensive system of Tokugawa rule was due in part to internal pacification, which precluded internal challenges, and to the remoteness and isolation of the country. Japan's isolation has been, until recently, attributed to a policy of national seclusion (sakoku), which was believed to have been initiated by Tokugawa edicts in the 1630s restricting Japanese trade to the Dutch and the Chinese at the port of Nagasaki and prohibiting contact with all other foreigners. In fact, however, what the decrees did was to prohibit contact only with the Spanish and Portuguese, and that because of their connection with unwanted missionaries, not because of a desire to restrict trade. Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi has shown conclusively that Japan's isolation from foreign trade in the seventeenth century was due largely to the Dutch control of the seas in East Asian waters and their unwillingness to share Japanese trade with others, not with any actions of the Japanese. He shows that the first serious statement of a general policy of isolation (sakoku) came only in 1793 from the hand of Matsudaira Sadanobu, then the effective head of the Tokugawa government, and was not officially promulgated as Tokugawa policy until the Expulsion Edict of 1825.45 In short, it was rising anxiety about foreign contact at the end of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that led the Japanese to project back to the early years of the Tokugawa regime a previously nonexistent policy of exclusion, instead of realizing that Japan's relative isolation had come about de facto for reasons beyond Japan's control.

It is only worth dwelling on the lateness of the closed-country policy as official doctrine because it is one indication that the Tokugawa period was not stagnant as once assumed, but rather full of vital and creative initiatives in many fields. Peace and stability allowed for continuous economic growth in agriculture and trade, increasing urbanization, and the rise of literacy beyond the level then current in any Western country. The Japanese economy had reached an early modern level of mercantile capitalism comparable to the West before the Industrial Revolution, and through the export of silver and copper (largely to China) played a significant role in the world economy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.46 Although Japan rejected firearms (until toward the end of the Tokugawa period when self-defense became an issue), it did not reject other Western technological advances. Dutch studies (Rangaku) kept the Japanese abreast of developments in the West in science and medicine through the one Western language that was available to them.

How to think of the Tokugawa state in comparative terms has not been easy and has produced no general consensus. "Centralized feudalism," which approaches being a contradiction in terms, nonetheless makes a certain sense, although the government was not completely centralized and feudalism survived in only a very diluted sense: there were feudal lords (daimyo) who held fiefs, but most samurai were not landholders but officeholders. One of the other options sometimes suggested, "absolutism," does not apply to the Tokugawa state in any strong sense. Perhaps the most accurate way of characterizing the Tokugawa polity would be to call it, in Weberian terms, a somewhat decentralized patrimonial bureaucracy. Tokugawa rule was, on the whole, indirect; the shogunate issued instructions for just about every social unit in the country—family, temple, village, guild, feudal domain—but allowed a great deal of autonomy to them, including the responsibility of self-policing.47 The "social capital" of modern Japan owes more than a little to this Tokugawa pattern of delegated authority, which allowed a great deal of initiative from below.

Given how advanced Japan was in many respects, behind the West in economic development, but certainly not far behind at the moment of the opening of the country, it might seem awkward to insist, as I do, that Japanese culture and society in the Tokugawa period can still be characterized as nonaxial, with a powerful archaic ground bass. The capacity to use the axial against the axial, while continuing to be strongly creative and innovative, is evident in the intellectual and religious life of the period. Again I would like to turn to Herman Ooms's remarkable book Tokugawa Ideology to clarify something central about the role of thought in Tokugawa political life. Ooms has shown that the idea that Ieyasu or any of the early Tokugawa shoguns established Neo-Confucianism, as taught by Fujiwara Seika and Hayashi Razan, as an official orthodoxy is simply false and has become the accepted view only because the self-aggrandizing retrospective account of the Hayashi school has been taken as fact. Actually there would not be anything like an official orthodoxy until Matsudaira Sadanobu's (1758-1829) Ban on Heterodoxy of 1790 (the same Matsudaira who first made the sakoku policy official).48 What served to legitimate the new Tokugawa regime, and what was uppermost in the minds of the early shoguns and their closest advisors, was not ideas, but ritual.

Ooms describes a number of ways in which the early Tokugawa shoguns used ritual to give themselves legitimacy, but I will mention only one, the worship of the divinized spirit of Ieyasu at the newly created shrine complex at Nikko, a shrine given the same status as the great shrine of the sun goddess at Ise by imperial decree. The Nikko cult was not intended to appeal to the general populace, though in late Tokugawa times it did attract commoner worshipers. It was above all a political cult for the warrior class, that is, the feudal lords and house retainers of the Tokugawa. But the imperial family was required to send an annual mission to Nikko, while the Tokugawa family sent no comparable mission to Ise. Ooms argues that the intention was to establish a parallel triangle of Nikko, Edo, and the Tokugawa house to the triangle of Ise, Kyoto, and the imperial house. The imperial court was not eliminated, but it was isolated and ignored, while the glories of the shogunate were displayed in Edo and Nikko.49 Ritual is one of the most basic elements in human culture and is absent in no society. But axial civilizations base themselves above all on the word, the written word, the book, even though they never abandon ritual entirely. That the early Tokugawa shoguns, in creating the structure of their symbolic legitimacy, were much more concerned with ritual than with any verbal orthodoxy is evidence that archaism survived even in the dynamic society that Japan was becoming.

Ooms describes in detail the first comprehensive effort to give a literate defense of the Tokugawa regime, beginning only in the late seventeenth century, that of Yamazaki Ansai (1618-82), with its combination of Neo-Confucianism and Shinto. Ooms believes that Ansai's elaborate system was prototypical of all subsequent Japanese nationalist ideologies, but he points out that Ansai was neither authorized nor encouraged by the political authorities to produce his synthesis, nor did it have any status as an official ideology.50 Ansai, though he was thoroughly at home in Neo-Confucian texts as few of his contemporary scholars were, "erased," as Ooms puts it, that aspect of Confucianism that would justify replacing an immoral overlord, instead arguing that "rulers, whether virtuous or depraved, had to be served with blind loyalty."51 The nonaxial presuppositions of the most articulate of early Tokugawa ideologists are thus evident.

Although it could not be said that there was a free market in ideas in the Tokugawa period—there were clear limits to what could be said, and some of them are discussed below in Chapter 5—the range of possibilities was still considerable, and Tokugawa interest in thought control minimal. A wide range of Confucian schools flourished, some of them intensely critical of the supposed Neo-Confucian orthodoxy. The Buddhist establishment, which had been the guardian of intellectual life in pre-Tokugawa times, and out of which all the early Tokugawa thinkers came, including Confucians and Shintoists, soon lost its monopoly on intellectual production and on the whole produced only mediocre thinkers through most of the period. Confucianism and Shinto, by contrast, produced original thinkers with widespread influence.

Perhaps the greatest Confucian scholar of the period, Ogyu Sorai (1666-1728), was anything but orthodox. Stimulated by contemporary Chinese philology, Sorai wanted to return to the original Confucian texts, of which he was a great master, and avoid what were to him the distortions of Neo-Confucianism. His position was historicist, as Tetsuo Najita has emphasized, and practical, taking the existing social order as his starting point and avoiding metaphysics on the one hand or institutions that had no current practical meaning, such as the imperial house, on the other.52 He took as his model the human creation of social order by the ancient kings, as described in the early Confucian texts, but believed that rulers had to deal with the social reality that they found in existence and not attempt to recreate any preexisting ideal order. In so doing they were to nurture the potentialities of the people so that the variety of social types could realize themselves in a good social order. His iconoclasm and admiration for things Chinese earned him criticism ever after from those who thought like Yamazaki Ansai. He was singled out for attack in Sadanobu's Ban on Heterodoxy, and he was the only major Tokugawa scholar not to receive honors from the Japanese government after the Meiji Restoration, but during his own lifetime he was not bothered and even served as an advisor to the regime.53 He was the focus of lifelong interest for Maruyama Masao.

Among the popular classes, Ishida Baigan, the founder of the Shingaku movement which I studied in Tokugawa Religion, was only one of many who were opening up new possibilities of social and cultural life in the midst of the Tokugawa period. Tetsuo Najita has studied the Kaitokudo Academy, a merchant school in Osaka, that carried on lively debates about all kinds of issues of the day.54 More recently he has studied the Tekijuku, another Osaka academy, but this one devoted to Dutch studies (Rangaku), and has written about one of its leading figures, Ogata Koan. What Najita found of interest was Koan's self-confidence in the face of Western learning. His interest was in medicine, and in that field there was much new information to be studied and translations to be made. But on matters of hygiene, exercise, and diet, where the Japanese were already aware of what was necessary, he could ignore his Western sources. In short, Koan studied Dutch books not in order to become Westernized or even to become modernized, but just because they contained useful information that was relevant in a vital and growing society.55 Many other examples of creativity from middle and late Tokugawa times could be given. The great printmaker Hokusai lived a long and productive life. Perhaps his most productive period was in his eighties, when, under the sponsorship of a wealthy farmer, he moved to a mountain village in Nagano and painted some of his greatest works, calling himself "the mad old painter."56

What these examples illustrate is that in the midst of the period of the closed country (sakoku) there was a remarkable spirit of open country (kaikoku). What was important was not the source of the ideas—whether they came from India or China or the West—but how they could help in thinking through the problems of the day—scientific, economic, social, or spiritual. We might almost say that although figures such as I have been describing lived under the repressive and closed Tokugawa regime, they were surrounded by the spirit of kaikokushugi (openness).

In short, the Tokugawa government, while quite capable of exercising brutal force when it wanted to, relied more on an implicit public acceptance of the social order than on the enforcement of an official ideology. I am not arguing that the lower classes, particularly the peasants, were not oppressed in Tokugawa times. Barrington Moore, in a review of four important books on peasant revolts in the Tokugawa period, holds that "on the basis of the evidence in these books, the peasants under the Tokugawa shogunate appear as the most oppressed and exploited in any agrarian society known to me."57 Nonetheless the degree and extent of violent rebellion was significantly less than in comparable agrarian societies. Part of the reason was localism: revolts in one area seldom spread to other regions. But a significant factor was the belief in the minds of the peasants that what they wanted was not to overthrow the regime, but to have it act on the principle of "benevolent rule" that it claimed to embody. Indeed, the Bakufu (the term used for the Tokugawa military government), while punishing rebel leaders with death, frequently also punished feudal lords or officials in whose jurisdiction rebellions had occurred, blaming them for the conditions leading to such violence.

Another indication of the unusual nature of Tokugawa rule is the fact that mass pilgrimages to Ise on several occasions during the Tokugawa period occurred with a minimum of social disruption. While in ordinary years some 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims visited Ise, in the great periodic pilgrimage years called okage-mairi many times those numbers were involved. In 1705 as many as 3,620,000 individuals visited Ise, and in 1830 more than 5,000,000 people came. In most agrarian societies the movement of such large numbers of people would have led to serious social disorder and breakdown, yet no such disruption occurred in Japan. We can account for this in part because the government and the wealthier classes, instead of trying to prevent the pilgrimage, supplied aid to the pilgrims in varying degrees, and in part because the thoughts of the pilgrims were devoted either to the idea that worldly blessings would result from making the pilgrimage, or just to the enjoyment of a holiday from ordinary employment. Nonetheless Helen Hardacre notes of the Ise cult that "a connection between the deities enshrined there and the imperial court was generally known," so the Ise pilgrimage kept the existence of the imperial institution alive in popular consciousness.58 In many respects the ee-ja-nai-ka and yonaoshi movements at the end of the Tokugawa period expressed more a hope for the fulfillment of the ethical ideals of the people rather than a desire for revolution.59

With this background in mind, I think we can understand why a movement such as Shingaku, founded by Ishida Baigan, which in Tokugawa Religion I compared to Protestantism in terms of its social function, was neither suppressed nor did it cause great social and ideological conflict. The Bakufu had developed a vigorous religious policy in the seventeenth century, one aimed at outlawing any religious group that explicitly or implicitly questioned Bakufu authority. This policy was aimed mainly at Christians but also at any Buddhist group that attempted to maintain independence of Bakufu authority. One of the Nichiren sects, the Fujufuse, which was particularly recalcitrant to Bakufu authority, was outlawed repeatedly in the seventeenth century, and after the suppression edict of 1663 it was vigorously rooted out.60 But the suppression of religious groups beyond the pale did not mean that everyone had to accept a single orthodoxy, for the Bakufu favored no particular group, insisting only that people belong to one of the "normal" religious sects, that is, those that accepted Bakufu authority. Thus there was no equivalent to an established Catholic Church with doctrinal orthodoxy that movements such as Shingaku had to confront, and such new movements, though eliciting snide comments from older groups, led to no social conflict.

The decline of Buddhism as a creative force in the Tokugawa period has led some to describe it as a period of secularization. Such a description not only overlooks the religious dimension of the vigorous Confucian schools that were flourishing then but also fails to account for the resurgence of Shinto, especially in the form of Kokugaku, which has been translated literally as National Learning, or more loosely as Nativism. Kokugaku has been seen as an ideology supporting the Bakufu or as one covertly opposing it. I believe, however, that the Kokugaku thinkers, especially Hirata Atsutane and some of his students, were attempting to give a religious interpretation to the Japanese tradition that they were trying to recover. They were offering another version of what they took to be authentically Japanese: the idealized village. Kokugaku's appeal in late Tokugawa times to rich peasants in particular suggests their concern with recovering a communal ethic in a period when economic forces were disrupting the rural village. They were more concerned with the recovery of collective solidarity under the aegis of the Shinto gods than with matters of political authority, although at the end of the period they were drawn into the political disturbance leading to the Meiji Restoration.

Although the Tokugawa state was weak and decentralized, under its aegis something like a modern national consciousness was developing.61 This was in part the result of the great development of education in the period and the accompanying growth of literacy.62 The Shinto revival illustrated by the rise of Kokugaku propagated a religio-aesthetic idea of Japanese identity rather than a political one, but one with latent political implications. More obviously political was the kind of fusion of Confucianism and Shinto in the thought of Yamazaki Ansai, but which was more fully worked out toward the end of the period in the writings of the Mito school. The Mito domain was ruled by one of the major collateral houses of the Tokugawa family and the work of the school it sponsored was not conceived of as subversive but rather as supportive to the status quo. Nonetheless, the emphasis of the Mito school on a national polity (kokutai) at whose head was an imperial house that had ruled for ages eternal and that gave Japan its uniqueness and superiority to all other nations would in the last years of the shogunate lead to radical political consequences. Thus the openness of the Tokugawa thought world—no other non-Western society had as good a knowledge of the West as Japan in the eighteenth century, even including the Ottoman Empire which was right next door to Europe—was combined with an increasing particularism as Japan became more self-conscious of its difference from the rest of the world.63

We have already noted that the increasing unwanted contacts with the West due to the growth of world commerce in late Tokugawa times had caused alarm in high quarters and the formalization for the first time of a policy of sakoku (closed country). The defeat of China by the British in the Opium War of 1839-42 and the subsequent infringements on Chinese sovereignty were profoundly alarming to the Japanese as they indicated that the East Asian "world system," with China at its center, which the Japanese had taken for granted, however ambivalently, since the seventh century, was now at an end. Internal difficulties, including widespread peasant unrest, were not lacking in the last years of the Tokugawa regime, but it was the changing impingement of the world on Japan and the struggle over how to respond to it that sparked the regime crisis known as the end of the Bakufu (bakumatsu), beginning with Perry's arrival in 1853 and ending with the Meiji Restoration of 1868. What occurred in this period was the loss of control by the Tokugawa center and the temporary breakup of Japan into its constituent feudal domains.


The Revolutionary Restoration

Explaining the Meiji Ishin (literally, Restoration) of 1868 has been a major industry for students of Japanese history at home and abroad. My interpretation is based on a wide, but not universal, consensus nicely summarized by Johann Arnason.64 The breakdown of the Tokugawa regime in the Bakumatsu period (1853-68) led to a confrontation of three significant sets of actors: the Tokugawa house, including some of its branch lines, the Imperial Court in Kyoto, newly thrust on the scene due to the growing importance of the emperor in late Tokugawa thought, and several powerful "outside" domains whose lords had been defeated by Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1600, but which remained large and prosperous. Chief among the latter were the domains of Satsuma and Choshu, both in the Southwest, far from Edo. These two domains had, in the Bakumatsu period, been taken over by reforming groups of middle samurai whose efforts to modernize, fiscally and militarily, proved more effective than similar efforts mounted by the Bakufu itself. Pledging allegiance to the emperor and defeating Tokugawa troops in the field, the leaders of these two domains entered Edo, which they renamed Tokyo (the eastern capital), establishing the emperor in the old Tokugawa castle and proclaiming the restoration of central rule under the imperial aegis.65 What happened was that one group of samurai (from two outer domains, though including a few samurai from other domains and even a couple of court nobles) replaced another group (Tokugawa retainers) at the political center and proclaimed the restoration of an imperial rule that had never in any literal sense existed. This simple description has serious implications. Fundamentally, the restoration involved a shift in power between political actors within the old regime; it did not involve the mobilization of social classes, nor was it the result of popular protest. In the classical Western sense, modeled on the French Revolution, it was not a revolution. Its consequences were, however, revolutionary, more so than many revolutions that more closely conform to the classical model.66

In order to escape our temptation to think about revolution primarily with the example of the French Revolution in mind, let us turn to recent efforts to theorize revolutions in a comparative perspective to get a better sense of the extent to which the Meiji Ishin can be considered a revolution. Randall Collins summarizes recent research in finding three factors that result in the state breakdown now considered to be the precondition for revolution: "(1) state fiscal strain, (2) intra-elite conflict that paralyzes the government, and (3) popular revolt."67 State fiscal strain had characterized the Tokugawa Bakufu for decades, though it was undoubtedly worsening in the Bakumatsu period. Intraelite conflict was clearly central to the weakening of Tokugawa control. Popular revolt is much more problematic: peasant uprisings were endemic during the Tokugawa period and increased in its final years; there were significant outbreaks of urban disturbances, as well as mass phenomena that suggested signs of widespread unease; yet none of these directly threatened Tokugawa rule, nor were they a major cause of state breakdown. A highly significant causal element in Japan, which Collins notes but recognizes that it lies outside the comparative model, was the real and perceived threat of Western power. It was the slow and inefficient response of the Tokugawa Bakufu to this threat, caused by its decentralized and cumbersome administrative system and its inability to marshal material resources, that opened the door to the intraelite conflict, which eventuated in its fall. It is the lack of a popular revolt, or significant popular participation in the overthrow of the Bakufu, that has led to the notion that the Meiji Ishin was a "revolution from above" and therefore perhaps not radical in its consequences. But if we turn to Collins's definition of a revolution in terms of its results rather than its causes we will see just how revolutionary the Ishin in fact was: "wholesale transformation of the ruling elite accompanied by political and economic restructuring."68

With a couple of intermediary steps along the way, in 1871, only three years after the Restoration, the feudal domains were abolished and replaced by prefectures that, like those in postrevolutionary France, did not follow the boundaries of preexisting feudal domains. Also in 1871 the ban on intermarriage between samurai and commoners was lifted, the beginning of several steps that would lead to the abolition of all the old Tokugawa class distinctions. Universal primary education was proclaimed in 1872 and universal conscription in 1873. Thus a centuries-old feudal system was quickly dismantled with only a modicum of opposition, the most serious of which was a rebellion of disgruntled former samurai in Satsuma in 1877.

The remarkable degree of acceptance of the new regime, undoubtedly linked to its legitimation by a restored emperor, and the self-confidence of its leadership are indicated by the absence of most of the top leaders for nearly two years in a round-the-world mission to visit the major countries of the world, particularly the United States and Europe, from 1871 to 1873. Referred to as the Iwakura Embassy because it was headed by the court noble Iwakura Tomomi, the mission was well balanced in its contingents from Satsuma and Choshu. What the group learned from the West was quickly put to good use on its return as the Meiji leadership embarked on a rapid process of state-building and economic development. But the most significant steps in dismantling the feudal regime were undertaken before the return of the embassy from abroad. The model was surely drawn in major part from the West, but it should be pointed out that educated Japanese long knew of the Chinese model of a centralized empire with no hereditary distinctions in status. There was a not insignificant sense in which the Meiji leadership completed the primary Japanese state-building program of the seventh and eighth centuries, just as it began the new process of creating a modern nation-state. At last a centralized state would be ruled by a bureaucracy based on merit and not on hereditary lineage, even if the examinations that were to determine that merit were based on modern civil service examinations, not the examination system of imperial China. Nonetheless the Meiji state, though primarily modeled on the modern West, had a whiff of T'ang China about it, not least in the imperial ambitions that accompanied it almost from the very beginning.

Thus the military regime came to an end. Or did it? The Tokugawa system was certainly destroyed, but was the regime of military rule that began with the Kamakura shogunate really at an end? Or was the "secondary state" that began then able to reinvent itself in only somewhat attenuated form? When we say "they" destroyed the Tokugawa system, who do we mean by "they"? We mean a remarkably enterprising group of middle-level samurai drawn largely from Satsuma and Choshu who would monopolize control of the Japanese government for decades to come. Could we not say that what had happened is that two major domains who were on the losing side in 1600 finally managed to oust the Tokugawa house and take control themselves? After all it was the combined forces of Satsuma and Choshu who won the final battle against the Bakufu. To the victor belongs the spoils. Of course not literally, for the domains of Satsuma and Choshu were abolished as totally as was the Tokugawa regime, and the feudal lords of those domains were no more in evidence than was the ex-shogun. But what came to be known as the Meiji oligarchs, or, in Japanese, the genro, not only drew quite significantly from their roots in the victorious domains but also on new forms of institutionalization that developed in the Meiji period. Choshu men dominated the army leadership and Satsuma men dominated the navy leadership. Not only did Choshu and Satsuma leaders provide all but two of the prime ministers for thirty years after the beginning of the cabinet system in 1885, but they included the Choshu general Yamagata Aritomo, the most powerful of the genro over the long run, and the Satsuma admiral Yamamoto Gonnohyoe.69 In the Meiji Constitution, promulgated in 1890, the army and navy were to report directly to the emperor, on the model of the German constitution, and not to the prime minister or the cabinet. Independent access to the emperor and the sanction of imperial approval, however obtained, gave the Japanese military a capacity to influence government decisions that would prove catastrophic in the 1930s. In an important sense "military rule" did not end in 1868 but only in 1945.70

Yet, to the extent that modern institutions based on Western models were massively introduced in the Meiji period—from a modern state bureaucracy, to a modern university system, to modern mass media—can we at last say that axial principles were institutionalized in Japan and that we can no longer refer to it as a nonaxial society? Even our suggestion that the T'ang model had finally been fully implemented would suggest as much. To the extent that axial cultures are based on universalistic principles we can say that in the Meiji period Japan incorporated significant elements of axial culture. But so had it done since the seventh century. The question is, were the basic value premises of Japanese society revolutionized along with so many of its institutions? I will argue, somewhat hesitantly, that nonaxial premises survived, though reformulated and in a complex mixture with axial principles, but with the nonaxial premises still retaining primacy.

First of all, it is important to emphasize just how significantly universalistic principles were institutionalized in modern Japan, beginning in the Meiji period. Universal education and universal conscription were clear indications that the hereditary status system had been abolished. Universalistic criteria of merit became the basis for employment in both public and private organizations of any size. A legal system and an impartial judiciary are primary indications that universalistic criteria had great importance. Religious toleration was promulgated and a small but influential number of Japanese became Christians and asserted the importance of universalistic religious principles. Free publication of newspapers, magazines, and books, with only sporadic censorship, made universalistic philosophical and political principles available to a large literate public. In all these spheres, even in the legal system, we will have to make important qualifications, but the axial principles and institutions that had been present to some degree since the seventh century were enormously enlarged in the Meiji and subsequent periods in modern Japan. How then can we argue that the Meiji Restoration/Revolution, though it led to the creation of a radically new society, still led to one that remained nonaxial in its fundamental premises?

Any form of nationalism that makes the primordial identities of blood and soil its basis will conflict with axial premises. This is obvious in the extreme case of Nazi Germany where all universalistic principles of religion, philosophy, and politics were subordinated to the notion of German racial superiority, but more moderate forms of nationalism also create tensions with universalistic principles. Nationalism in the sense of an effort to create a common consciousness of national identity among all members of Japanese society had already appeared in late Tokugawa times and was a major aspect of state building in the Meiji period. Nationalism is a significant phase in the development of all modern nations, though possibly a transient one, but each such nation differs in the nature of the primordial identities upon which it draws and the degree to which such identities will conflict with axial principles. It is the self-understanding of the Japanese nation and the particular conception of the relation between nation and people that will help us see why axial principles were subordinated to nonaxial ones even in modern Japan.

The Charter Oath of the Meiji Emperor, issued in April 1868, is generally taken to express the progressive side of the new regime. Article One of the oath promised "deliberative assemblies" and that "all matters [will be] decided by public discussion." Article Five said that "knowledge shall be sought throughout the world so as to strengthen the foundations of imperial rule." Article Two, in its inclusiveness, can also be seen as progressive: "All classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state."71 This can be interpreted as an indication of the leveling of social status, of the fact that samurai were now reduced to the status of commoners. Yet this article, and even more clearly later defining statements of the new regime, implied not that samurai had been reduced to the status of commoners but that commoners had been raised to the status of samurai. Already in the Bakumatsu period the Choshu domain had used commoner troops alongside samurai. Universal conscription meant that the loyalty once expected of samurai, as expressed in the samurai code of bushido, was now expected of all Japanese in the military service. The Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors of 1882, issued in the name of the emperor but expressing the sentiments of General Yamagata, said, "Soldiers and Sailors, We are your supreme Commander-in-Chief. Our relations with you will be most intimate when We rely upon you as Our limbs and you look up to Us as your head. Whether We are able to guard the Empire, and so prove Ourself worthy of Heaven's blessings and repay the benevolence of Our Ancestors, depends upon the faithful discharge of your duties as soldiers and sailors."72 Although military service had a central symbolic meaning in the definition of the obligations of subjects to ruler, the Meiji leaders sought to define all Japanese as "loyal followers" of the emperor. The Imperial Rescript on Education issued in 1890, the year the Meiji Constitution came into effect, was read in a solemn ritual in every school in Japan until 1945. It called on "Our subjects . . .should emergency arise, [to] offer yourselves courageously to the State; and thus guard and maintain the prosperity of Our Imperial Throne coeval with heaven and earth."73

The process of generalizing the role of the samurai to all Japanese was already well underway in the Tokugawa period. In the eighteenth century Ishida Baigan had argued:

The samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants are of assistance in governing the empire. . . . The governing of the four classes is the role of the ruler. Assisting the ruler is the role of the four classes. The samurai is the retainer (shin [vassal or follower in a lord-follower relationship])who has rank from of old. The farmer is the retainer of the countryside. The merchant and artisan are the retainers of the town. To assist the ruler, as retainers, is the Way of the retainer.74

Although Baigan did not foresee the abolition of the class system, he was concerned to give the nonsamurai classes the dignity and value of samurai in offering service to the ruler. His sentiments were far from unique among spokesmen for the commoner classes in the Tokugawa period.

This line of thinking did not lead to the idea of citizens who rule and are ruled in turn, who elect representatives to govern them and hold them responsible. There were such ideas in Meiji Japan and they attained a wide hearing, but it was precisely the intention of the oligarchs to head off the effective institutionalization of such ideas and to make sure that the Japanese saw themselves as subjects—responsible, active, subjects serving the state, to be sure—but not sovereign citizens in whose hands decisions of state ultimately lie. Here we find the Meiji version of Maruyama's basso ostinato: the pattern of thinking of government always from the point of view of those serving from below rather than from the point of view of those ruling from above. In this pattern, since everyone was responsible, no one was, least of all the emperor, who lived "above the clouds" and whose mind was not to be disturbed by those who served him. It was the purpose of the oligarchs in designing the Meiji state to see that those who served best, namely, themselves and those like them, would have the real power, accountable only to the emperor. In this conception there was a fusion of people and state: society was not something different from government, which could hold it accountable. As a result the state encompassed society, but also the other way around, so that the source of initiative and responsibility was never clear. At moments this pattern could produce paralysis, but it could also be dynamic and creative when able people from below took the lead in "serving." By contrast, in a system where no one was ultimately responsible, destructive initiatives by effective leaders could prove extremely difficult to stop, a defect not unique to the Japanese political system.


Emperor and Constitution

If state and society were fused in a way not possible in axial civilizations, there was another fusion that was even more indicative of the nonaxial premises of Japanese society: the fusion of deity and ruler, the divine king, the emperor as a living kami (Shinto god). Such ideas lie deep in Japanese history, but they were resuscitated and reformulated in quite striking and highly self-conscious ways in the Meiji period. The idea of "inventing tradition" has been applied to Japan. If this is taken to mean the invention of tradition out of whole cloth then it is surely mistaken. If it is taken to mean the radical reformulation of elements of tradition to meet new needs it surely applies to the so-called Meiji emperor system.75

Ito Hirobumi, probably the most influential of all the oligarchs with the possible exception of Yamagata, was primarily responsible for drafting the Meiji Constitution. Ito was conscious of the fact that religion provided a firm foundation for civic responsibility in Western nations, but he believed that no comparable religion existed in Japan. It was thus that he turned to the emperor as the foundation of the new regime:

In Japan the power of religion is slight, and there is none that could serve as the axis [alternatively pivot, foundation, or cornerstone] of the state. Buddhism, when it flourished, was able to unite people of all classes, but it is today in a state of decline. Shinto, though it is based on and perpetuates the teachings of our ancestors, as a religion lacks the power to move the hearts of men. In Japan, it is only the imperial house that can become the axis of the state. It is with this point in mind that we have placed so high a value on imperial authority and endeavored to restrict it as little as possible.76

Although the whole idea of a constitution as the basis of a modern nation-state was drawn from Western prototypes, and most of the articles in the Meiji Constitution resemble some Western model or other, the Prussian Constitution of 1850 being the most influential, it was still essential to guard against the idea that the constitution made the people sovereign, or even the idea that it implied, in Ito's words, "the joint rule of the king and the people."77 The constitution was given by the emperor to the people and the day chosen for its promulgation, February 11, 1889, was the anniversary of the supposed ascension to rule of the Emperor Jimmu, the sun goddess's grandson, in 660 b.c. February 11, kigensetsu or National Foundation Day, had already become a national holiday in 1873. The glamour of the ritual occasion, which probably for most Japanese overwhelmed the content of the document, should not let us forget that, in spite of all its limitations, it did create a parliament with the all-important power of controlling the budget. Grudgingly or not, the oligarchs had granted to the people a significant right to participate in their own government. But what they gave with one hand they did their best to take back with the other.

The primary way in which they limited the effectiveness of parliamentary rule was to reserve significant powers to the emperor, to whom they had access and who they could always get to issue a special rescript when parliament resisted their wishes. We will need to consider further the extraordinary measures they took to elevate the emperor to the center of national consciousness. But also significant in limiting parliamentary power was the effort of the oligarchs to discredit, even before the constitution was put into effect, the politicians who would be elected to the new parliament. Agitation for the fulfillment of the Charter Oath's promise of "deliberative assemblies" had already appeared in the 1870s, largely coming from disaffected former samurai, but gradually drawing on broader popular support. This agitation grew into a significant movement in the early 1880s under the banner of Freedom and People's Rights (jiyu minken). In response to the growing opposition to the arbitrary rule of the Choshu -Satsuma oligarchs (the hanbatsu, or domain faction) the promise of a constitution by 1890 was forthcoming from the leadership in 1881. But the oligarchs lashed back at their critics by denouncing those who used politics to pursue their own selfish interests. Although the opposition idealized the noble statesman who pursued the good of the people, the example of the members of local assemblies elected in the 1880s was not inspiring. They were described in the popular press as "self-seeking, toadying, and corrupt," and if future Diet members were to resemble them they would not be worthy of respect. The oligarchs could speak in the name of "his Majesty the emperor's government," but politicians were often viewed as merely selfish. The very notion of genuine leaders as those who "serve" rather than as those who "represent" was inimical to respect for politicians. Thus it was not only the calculated scorn of the oligarchs but also popular opinion orchestrated by the press that made the role of politicians difficult. Politicians as such are often suspect in modern societies, but the particularly dark cloud that hung over them in Meiji Japan has not dissipated to the present day. It was the military who exemplified "service," or even the bureaucrats who did so in lesser degree, who had prestige, rather than those who were seen to represent mere partisan interest.78

From the very beginning of the Meiji period the new leaders ostentatiously used the emperor to justify the new regime. The "imperial progress" of the emperor from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868 was unprecedented, since the emperor had not left Kyoto and its environs for centuries. This was only the beginning of many such imperial tours during the first two decades of the period. For many Japanese, more accustomed to think in terms of their own local village or district than of "Japan," this was a powerful symbolic assertion of a larger identity.79 During these same years the government, carrying out the ideas of a Shinto revival that had long been circulating in the Tokugawa period, began the process of separating Shinto shrines from the Buddhist temples with which they had long been associated, of refurbishing shrines that had suffered neglect, and, above all, of tying Shinto worship directly into national consciousness with the emperor at its center.

It is, however, no accident that the Meiji leadership undertook a new and even more dramatic effort to emphasize the centrality of the emperor in the years leading up to the promulgation of the new constitution. The city of Tokyo as an urban environment and even the living quarters of the emperor had been neglected in the early Meiji years, but in the late 1880s major changes were undertaken. A grand imperial palace, combining Japanese and Western elements, was built in the precincts of the old Tokugawa castle in the center of the city, including an impressive throne room for ceremonial occasions. The plaza in front of the palace was cleared so that large crowds could assemble for major events. The first great ceremony in which all these elements came together was the promulgation of the constitution in 1889. The earlier imperial tours, though novel as such, had used traditional palanquins for transporting the emperor, who remained secluded behind curtains, so that it was his aura rather than his person that was on display. The new ceremonial pattern, inaugurated by the promulgation of the constitution, was directly influenced by the patterns of national celebration that had been created or re-created as part of the state-building process in Europe. Thus for the first time the emperor and empress left the palace grounds in a European-style carriage with clear windows so that the crowd could view them directly.80 Transportation and communication had advanced to the degree that all Japanese could participate almost simultaneously in the events occurring in the center.

The success of what can only be called the imperial cult was not spontaneous but highly orchestrated, even if the Japanese public seems to have taken to it willingly. Educational and military institutions provided ready resources for mobilization. Thousands of schoolchildren, many of them coming from far away, could be assembled in the imperial plaza for great occasions, and soldiers and sailors could be assembled for impressive military reviews. Although the regime did not neglect verbal articulation, as the several key imperial rescripts and the preamble to the constitution as well as the nationalistic textbooks in the schools indicate, still, just as in the early days of the Tokugawa shogunate, it would seem that ritual had priority over texts in implementing the new vision. And what the ritual affirmed, at the very moment when the people were being given some capacity to participate in their own government, was the fusion of divinity, government, and people, with the emperor symbolizing all three.

Perhaps nowhere was the combination of a strong assertion of that fusion with some acceptance of Western standards of the rights of citizens to be found more clearly than in the policy toward religion as it developed in the 1890s. The Restoration of 1868 had been accompanied by a utopian effort to make Shinto the sole religion of the nation, an effort that involved the persecution of Buddhism and the reaffirmation of the ban on Christianity. This effort was quickly abandoned as intensely unpopular both at home and abroad, but central control of major Shinto shrines and their reorientation toward a focus on the emperor continued. The Meiji Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion, as all modern constitutions should, but in somewhat equivocal form. According to Article 28, "Japanese subjects shall, within limits not prejudicial to peace and order, and not antagonistic to their duties as subjects, enjoy freedom of religious belief."81 Interpreters of this article were quick to point out that it was not contradicted by state support for Shinto shrines because "Shinto is not a religion," but rather an expression of patriotic devotion. While this defense was in a sense specious—shrines did carry out functions such as weddings and funerals that would normally be called religious—in another sense it was justified. The word "religion" in Japanese, shukyo, is a translation of the Western term dating only to the Meiji period. To this day the term "religion" smells of Christianity, or perhaps of Buddhism as well—that is, of religions based on personal and private "belief." Shinto, being an archaic religion, had little in the way of belief—often those worshipping at a shrine had no idea who the deity was, nor did it matter—but largely involved ritual practice as an expression of group belonging. Where religion is fused with people and state the Western category does not work very well. Christianity and Buddhism are religions that are in principle differentiated from the state—they involve membership in specifically religious communities—even though not always separatedfrom the state. Shinto is in principle not capable even of differentiation, for it has no basis of membership different from the social groups—nation, village, family—in which it is embedded.82

As in other modern nation-states, but with its own special twist, the assertion of national identity was directed outward as well as inward. An emperor implies an empire, and modern Japan came of age in the era of high imperialism. Rapid state building was not only defensive, though it was surely that in an age of predatory Western imperialism; it sought not only to resist but also to rival the other empires. It is remarkable how early the urge for overseas expansion appeared, almost from the beginning of the new regime and before major Western influence. The knowledge that China was no longer effectively the "central country" left a vacuum that at least some samurai imaginations found it easy to fill. Indeed the oligarchs had to restrain the zealots from foreign aggression in the early years in order not to precipitate Western intervention to which they could not yet effectively respond. The idea that Japan could become the center of a galactic polity in East Asia, deriving from archaic roots as well as modern stimulus, began to be realized as a result of the acquisitions that followed the war with China in 1894-95 and with Russia in 1904-05. The thought that all Japanese were now the equivalent of samurai and the projection of Japanese power abroad gave the Meiji emperor system a military cast symbolized by the fact that, as Takashi Fujitani puts it, the emperor came down from above the clouds to appear as a human being, one clothed in modern military uniform and riding on a white horse, an appearance, however, that only strengthened his symbolic centrality.83

If nonaxial symbolism, the fusion of divinity, state, and society, was characteristic of the most general level of Meiji self-understanding, in spite of the prominence of universalistic criteria in many intermediate institutions, it must also be pointed out that particularism flourished at the base and in the pores of those very institutions as well. The civil code of 1898 enshrined a samurai-like patriarchal conception of the family and injunctions to embody filial piety regularly accompanied injunctions to be loyal to the emperor. Quasi-familial patterns and "small emperor systems" emerged in many sectors of Japanese life, not least in the bureaucracies and schools that were the main carriers of universalistic criteria. The idea of a "family state" was not focused only on the nation as a whole, but permeated all its constituent bodies.

Although relative freedom of publication made it possible to disseminate universalistic conceptions in religion, philosophy, and politics, many who took advantage of this freedom did so to bolster the ideology of imperial Japan rather than to question it. Official rhetoric was moderate compared to what some of the extreme proponents of Japanism were arguing. In its official form, emperor-system nationalism was usually coupled with support for "civilization" and "progress" as essential elements in the process whereby Japan was to take its rightful place among the nations, whereas extremists were tempted to oppose everything Western root and branch. In short, as in Tokugawa times, "orthodoxy" was less a set of dogmatic beliefs uniformly enforced than a general sense of what is "normal" in Japan. What was abnormal, direct attacks on the emperor system or support for sweeping foreign ideologies like socialism, was severely repressed. But within a vague notion of normality a great variety of ideas, often conflicting, could be found.84


Opening Up

Using the term resistance in any strong sense, or even the term opposition, when speaking of the Meiji state and society would limit one to rather small and marginal groups, because the Meiji consensus was, though not homogeneous, nevertheless pervasive. But by speaking of "opening up" we can consider not only open hostility to the regime, which was quite rare, but all those tendencies that called into question the fusion of divinity, state, society, and self in the pattern that I am calling "nonaxial." Thus any tendency to assert an ultimate principle higher than the emperor, any effort to affirm the independence of society from the state or the responsibility of the government to the people and not just to the emperor, and any tendency to affirm an autonomous individual self, would be signs of opening up even if involving nothing obviously radical or rebellious. It is a tribute to the relative openness of the Meiji system, whatever the intent of its designers, that criticism of its nonaxial premises could at least marginally be pursued

New religious movements such as those already beginning in late Tokugawa times and spreading during the Meiji period, insofar as they grew outside the bounds of state recognition, would be symptoms of opening up, even though some of the more successful of them, such as Tenrikyo, when they sought and received government recognition and thus willingly accepted a place in the fused totality, showed how easy it often was to reenter the fold. Such an example illustrates not only the readiness of groups to compromise with the state, but the flexibility of the state in not demanding too high a standard of conformity. Compromise and flexibility varied with changing circumstances, both internal and external, and were not constant in the Meiji period or later.

One primary example of opening up that verged on resistance was the effort to make the government accountable to the people. Such an effort was evident in the Movement for Freedom and People's Rights as well as in some party politicians, particularly in the 1920s, but could also be expressed viscerally as in the rice riots of 1918 when economic slowdown combined with rapidly rising food prices led to violent popular protest.

This last example leads naturally to a consideration of the economic sphere as a possible locus for several kinds of opening up. Whereas late Tokugawa Japan was already capitalist in the sense that it had a well-developed market economy, and the Meiji period saw a continuous development of an increasingly industrial market economy, a radical bourgeoisie demanding a share of power in its own name can hardly be located. Merchants and later large-scale capitalists wielded significant influence in both Tokugawa and Meiji Japan, yet I would argue that the dominant value system gave them little legitimacy as independent claimants to power. The oligarchs in the early Meiji years sought to establish Western-style industries under state-sponsorship but, finding that inefficient, turned them over to private ownership by the 1880s. Nonetheless an ethos of service pervaded the economic sphere as it was supposed to do throughout the society. If one manufactured toothpicks it was "for the sake of the emperor," hardly the basis of a self-respecting claim to independence on the part of the capitalist class. Nonetheless the activities of a leading capitalist such as Shibusawa Eiichi, who got his start under the patronage of the oligarchs, displayed significant initiative, such as founding a leading private university.

If the capitalist class showed little independent action beyond defending its own interests, industrial workers and peasant farmers engaged fitfully in significantly more rebellious actions in the face of a watchful Home Ministry that discouraged genuinely independent worker or peasant organization. While unrest and occasional violence as in the case of the rice riots appeared among workers and tenant farmers who bore the brunt of the "uneven development" that characterized Japan before World War II, the chief critics of the economic organization of Japanese society were intellectuals attracted to Marxism as an explanation of Japan's troubles.

But just as significant as the efforts to open up initiated by sectors outside the government, and in some respects even more interesting, was the opening up going on from within the center of the established order itself. Here a prime example is surely the so-called organ theory of Minobe Tatsukichi, a professor in the law faculty of Tokyo Imperial University, the most prestigious locus for the training of high government officials. Minobe, taking the Meiji Constitution at face value rather than as an expression of a mystical "national body" (kokutai), argued that the emperor was one "organ" among several established in the constitution, each of which had its autonomous sphere of action. He regarded the establishment of the Diet as the key accomplishment of the constitutional system and saw no reason why its powers should not be significantly broadened. In 1924 he wrote about the "trend of the times" away from feudal subjection and toward individual liberty: "It can be said that the most important ethical imperative of modern constitutional government is that each individual be respected for himself, and that each be permitted as far as possible to give expression to his capacities. The history of modern cultural development is the history of the liberation of the individual."85 Minobe's theory was widely though not universally taught; it came close to being the established view and the emperor had no objection to it. Although Minobe's views were taken up appreciatively by liberal politicians such as Yoshino Sakuzo, Minobe himself was, as a professor at the Tokyo Imperial University, a state official.

Another law professor at Tokyo Imperial University who shared many of Minobe's views was Nanbara Shigeru, to whom Andrew Barshay has devoted a significant study.86 Before his call to the university Nanbara had served in the Home Ministry as a reforming district official, trying to root democracy at the village level, and later, in 1919, as the architect of a proposed labor union law that would have legitimated a moderate autonomous labor movement. It is significant that the draft gained the approval of a series of officials including the home minister himself, only to be rejected by the prime minister. Nanbara was a Christian, a follower of Uchimura Kanzo's nonchurch Christianity, and as such, a representative figure, since Christians played a role out of all proportion to their numbers in the cause of social reform in the period before World War II. Sheldon Garon has noted the reliance of the Home Ministry on Christians as "conduits for information on the latest Western programs in the areas of social work, education, and moral uplift."87 Garon argues that, though the Japanese state and particularly the Home Ministry was more closely involved in organizing "everyday life" than would be normal in the West, many of its interventions were sparked by initiatives from below, not infrequently by Christian but also by Buddhist reformers. The role of the Home Ministry was far from wholly benign, especially after the passage of the Peace Preservation Law of 1925, which accompanied the passage of universal suffrage, because the Peace Preservation Law, enforced by the Home Ministry, suppressed open dissent and created the basis for the thought control that would become even more complete in the 1930s. But at least before the late 1920s, even the Home Ministry provided some space for "opening up," and if "the trend of the times" had not sharply shifted with the Great Depression and the rise of fascism in the West, one can imagine a very different course that prewar Japanese society might have taken.

Among the many symptoms of opening up that could be noted in the early twentieth century is a matter much discussed at the time: individualism. Lacking a tradition of philosophical liberalism, Japanese intellectuals in the Meiji period found the Western ideas of freedom and individualism attractive, frightening, and difficult to understand. The commonest misinterpretation was to see them as invitations to license and self-indulgence, and as such dangerous to the nation. Individualism was the central preoccupation of the greatest early-twentieth-century writer, Natsume Soseki. His novels often focus on the anguish of trying to live a life of individual integrity in a society that does little to support it. Because his heroes are often deeply unhappy he is sometimes considered a critic of individualism, although it has been pointed out that he never opted for the kind of resolution common among other writers: "a passive acceptance of the world or holding out the possibility of a saving union with nature."88 Soseki spells out his position clearly in his most famous piece of nonfiction, "My Individualism," first delivered as a lecture in 1914. Aware of the frequent misunderstanding of his subject, he speaks of "ethical individualism," and defines it as follows:

Everything I have said thus far comes down to these three points. First, that if you want to carry out the development of your individuality, you must respect the individuality of others. Second, that if you intend to utilize the power in your possession, you must be fully cognizant of the duty that accompanies it. Third, that if you wish to demonstrate your financial power, you must respect its concomitant responsibilities.89

He insists that individualism is not incompatible with a realistic nationalism. If the nation is in danger then all sensible people will give it high priority. But when there is no such danger, then individualism has the higher priority and an obsessive concern with the nation, such as advocated by some proponents of Japanism, is simply ridiculous: "But what a horror if we had to . . .eat for the nation, wash our faces for the nation, go to the toilet for the nation!"90

Soseki's individualism was stimulated, as he admits, by English literature and English life, even though he really did not like England (he spent two very unhappy years in London as a student of literature). What he absorbed, however, was a standard independent of the nation in terms of which the individual could decide what priority to give to the nation, a clear example of "opening up," of freeing the individual person from embeddedness in society and state. For many it took a religious standard to justify such independence, as in the example of Uchimura Kanzo. Christians less stalwart than Uchimura, and individualists less stubborn than Soseki would, when collective pressures mounted, as they would in the second quarter of the twentieth century, find it difficult to withstand the pressures for reengulfment in society. But had those pressures never developed, the shoots of ethical individualism evident in the early years of the century might have grown sturdier with time.


Japanese Fascism

Many students of Japanese history have questioned whether one can use the term "fascism" for Japan in the period 1931-45. Others have held that the Meiji emperor system was itself intrinsically fascist. Properly defined, one can use the term fascism in Japan, but Japanese fascism was neither identical to the Meiji emperor system nor a necessary outgrowth of it, even though the relationship was a close one. Japanese fascism, far from being an inevitable outcome of an earlier period that, after all, showed many signs of liberalization and opening up, required severe outside pressures to bring it about, as I have suggested above in mentioning the world depression beginning in the late 1920s and the rise of fascism in the West. Not least among these pressures was the racism so pervasive in the West and the feeling that no matter how much the Japanese proved their successful modernity they would never be fully admitted to the Western club. The United States, unfortunately, greatly reinforced this view with the passage of the Immigration Act of 1924, which excluded immigration from Japan altogether and reaffirmed the fact that Japanese could not become U.S. citizens, creating widespread indignation in Japan. The rise of anti-imperialist sentiment among the colonial or semicolonial nations of Asia after World War I contributed to the rise of anti-Western feelings among Japanese even of progressive inclination.

With these sentiments as a background, the onset of the Great Depression led to a sense of crisis in Japan and a need to find a new solution if the nation was not to be overwhelmed. Of course the depression was a severe challenge to every nation at the time and only a few became fascist. In order to understand why Japan was attracted to fascism we need to consider more closely what fascism is. Fascism is notoriously difficult to define but almost everyone agrees that it is an exaggerated form of nationalism, or ultranationalism, as Maruyama Masao described it. An important element in modern nationalism cross-culturally is that the nation claimed a kind of sovereignty that in the West was previously reserved for God. Ritual expressions of nationalism were not unique to Japan, and everywhere they came close to claiming the highest loyalty for the nation-state. In most cases, however, the idolatry of the state that is always incipient in strong nationalism was tempered by a recognition of transcendental standards in terms of which the nation can be judged. In the United States, for example, even though there was a strong temptation to believe that "God is on our side" and so to deprive the transcendental reference of real authority, some reference to God was obligatory. The nation itself could not be worshipped. In a more secular society such as France, the transcendent reference might be to reason or civilization, but still the nation-state was conceived as a servant of the highest value, not as the highest value itself. Even in Fascist Italy, though the tendency to make the nation absolute was strong, the Concordat Mussolini negotiated with the Vatican at least formally recognized a higher power. In Hitler's Germany, which has to be the type case for fascism, however, there was no such restraint. The claim of the nation-state and its leader had no rival. But it was not just the state that had become absolute: it was the Volksgemeinschaft, the national or folk community, that was divinized. Thus fascism in its most typical form involves a triple regression compared to most modern societies: divinity is reembedded in the state, the state is reembedded in society, and individual autonomy is engulfed in the fused totality. Regression in this case does not imply simply a return to an earlier, less-differentiated historical moment, which would be impossible in any case. Rather, regression at the symbolic level was accompanied by an intense mobilization, involving all the modern technical and organizational capacities of the nation. Only a highly mobilized modern society could attempt the antimodern symbolic and structural de-differentiation that fascism implies.

But why Italy, Germany, and Japan? Undoubtedly part of the reason is geopolitical, as Randall Collins has argued. According to this view any modern nation, given the right set of conditions, could become fascist.91 Nonetheless, preexisting structural and cultural conditions made fascism a more likely possibility in some nations than in others. I am defining fascism as combining an intense national mobilization with an attempt to collapse significant differentiations—between divinity and state, between state and society, and between society and self—that involves a symbolic regression not only to premodernity, but, with the collapse of the distinction between divinity and the state, even to a preaxial condition. How the society of Kant and Goethe could have regressed so profoundly is a much-discussed question on which I can shed no light here. Nonetheless it seems to me that the very violence of the Nazi regime, the large number of people incarcerated and murdered, suggests how traumatic the regression was and the effort required to enforce it. In Japan, by contrast, the very differentiations that fascism collapsed were only incipient and fragile. The fascist regression of 1931-45, therefore, required only the combination of national economic and military mobilization with the intensification of some preexisting symbolic patterns and the suppression of incipient forms of opening up, but no mass party and no charismatic party leader, the lack of which has led some to argue that there was no fascism in Japan. Let us consider, therefore, how patterns laid down in the Meiji period could be intensified in a fascist direction with concomitant severe repression to be sure, but without the violent intensity of Nazism.

There is a clear relationship between fascism and war: any society involved in a major war will have some of the features of fascism, such as total mobilization for the war effort and reduced tolerance for dissenting opinions. Mobilization characterized the Meiji state from the beginning, with the samurai as the normative definition of the citizen, and the military having the privilege of direct access to the emperor. Preparations for war, actual war, and dealing with the consequences of war characterized the entire period from 1868 to 1931. Thus the precipitate actions of junior officers, although with the tacit consent of the general staff, that led to the takeover of Manchuria in 1931, thus beginning the fascist period, was hardly an unexpected possibility. What ensued displayed the features of a uniquely Japanese fascism. Instead of a fascist dictator claiming to embody ultimate authority, there was the emperor. Harry Harootunian paraphrases Seki Sakayoshi as proposing that the emperor was the whole body, not simply a part, that encompassed all of society.92 Such a doctrine, if widely embraced, entailed the rejection of Minobe's "organ theory," in which, indeed, the emperor was only a part. In 1935 Minobe was forced to resign his university professorship and his membership in the House of Peers (the very fact that he was a member suggests the degree to which his views had earlier been accepted), and his books were banned.

One of the indicators of the unique features of Japanese fascism is the phenomenon of tenko, ideological apostasy. In 1933 two leading members of the Central Committee of the Japan Communist Party announced from prison that they were abandoning their opposition to Japan's imperial expansion and to the emperor system and renounced their membership in the party. Within three years 75 percent of those convicted of radical thought or activities followed suit.93 The treatment of imprisoned leftists was often brutal and some died in prison, yet the effort to obtain a change of heart was without parallel in Western fascist states. Often the prisoners' mothers were encouraged to implore their sons to return to the fold of family and nation. The reason why tenko is better translated "apostasy" than "conversion" is that it involved a giving up of proscribed views rather than the acceptance of new beliefs. One was simply asked to be a "normal" Japanese, to "return to Japan." The remarks of Sano Manabu, former member of the Central Committee of the Japan Communist Party, graduate of Tokyo University, and former economics professor, about Japanese uniqueness after his tenko are indicative of the powerful attraction of a fused identity at the time: "[Whereas in other countries] state and society are in antagonism, and God and the state are not compatible; by contrast, in Japan, God, state, and society form a complete union. To die for one's country is the greatest service to God, the greatest loyalty to the emperor, and also the highest way of life for social man."94

There is no space here to consider adequately the widespread attraction of Japanese students and intellectuals to Marxism in the 1920s, covertly in the 1930s, and widely again in the early post-World War II years. Amid the tensions and anxieties of Japan's uneven development, Marxism offered an explanation that was comprehensive, theoretically sophisticated, and offered a clear alternative to the reigning emperor-system nationalism. Like Christianity, it offered a transcendent reference point entirely outside Japan in terms of which to understand the Japanese predicament. But unlike Christianity, Marxism offered a set of theoretical categories in terms of which to explain Japan's problems, a set of categories that were not Japanese in origin, but in terms of which the Japanese case could be understood. It is true that the question of how those categories applied to Japan became the subject of obsessive controversy among Japanese Marxists, and there were temptations to naturalize them in Japanese terms, undercutting their universalistic applicability.95

The leading Japanese Marxist economist of the mid-twentieth century, Uno Kozo, compared his discovery of the key phrase "commodification of labor power" in his reading of Das Kapital to the twelfth-century founder of Buddhism Honen's discovery of the invocation of Amida Buddha, Namu Amida Butsu, as the key to his faith.96 With that one phrase, Uno was able to unify all his thinking about Japanese social development. The remarkable degree to which Japanese Marxism was text-oriented (the complete works of Marx were published in Japanese even before they were in German) suggests the need to find a reference outside the existing social order in terms of which to take a personal, ethical, and political stand.

The appeal of Marxism in Japan, however, is explicable in part not only because it contains a commitment to universal values that clashed sharply with traditional Japanese culture, but because it too has a tendency to fuse transcendent, social, and personal reality that involves its own form of regression in an effort to transcend modernity. In particular the lodging of ultimate reality in the dialectic of history made possible the attribution of ultimate authority to the bearer of that historical dialectic, the working class, or even worse, to the vanguard party and the leader who claimed to represent it. This structural parallel between Marxism and fascism (after all fascist movements were partly modeled on their earlier left-wing opponents), made apostasy bearable if the leftists could continue to believe that Japan represented a proletariat of oppressed colonial nations relative to the Western imperialist oppressors. A cosmopolitan Marxist/existentialist such as Miki Kiyoshi could entertain such thoughts when he lent his pen to support the war effort late in the 1930s.

Not just extreme leftists underwent apostasy. Andrew Barshay describes the poignant case of the liberal journalist Hasegawa Nyozekan. After a brief interrogation in 1933, Nyozekan dropped the rhetoric of class struggle and within two years was writing about national integration and communitarian harmony. Since he had been a Meiji nationalist in his youth, the "return" seemed natural enough to him, although Barshay heads his sensitive treatment of this event "Return to the Womb."97 Reengulfment indeed.

Harry Harootunian uses the symposium on "overcoming the modern" (kindai no chokoku) held in Kyoto in 1942 to get at the ideological essence of Japanese fascism. He cites the contribution of Suzuki Shigetaka as proposing that overcoming the modern meant an "overcoming of democracy in politics," an "overcoming of capitalism in economics," and an "overcoming of liberalism in thought."98 Harootunian points out that although democracy and liberal thought were successfully overcome, the denunciations of capitalism served only to mystify the reality of the Japanese economy. Indeed although capitalism in the abstract could be denounced, no serious questions about property relations could be tolerated, a characteristic that Japan shared with other fascist societies. Nonetheless what these three overcomings represent is an effort to evade the wrenching differentiations of modernity and return to an undifferentiated totality that an allegedly ahistorical Japanese tradition represented.

After a brief euphoria accompanying the great victories in the months after Pearl Harbor, most Japanese intellectuals turned to stoic resignation rather than apocalyptic hope. Few among them, Nanbara Shigeru was one, actually tried to bring the war to an end before the country was completely obliterated.99 Nanbara never lost his post as professor of law at Tokyo Imperial University, although he was a follower of Minobe's ideas and continued to criticize German Nazism, albeit in obscure journals, even in wartime. Japanese totalitarianism was not absolute, but men like Nanbara were rare.100



One can ask why it took the Japanese as long as it did to get out of a war that had become a catastrophe well before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. One can ask how Japan ever got into such a disastrous war in the first place. John Dower has an interesting comment on the latter issue:

When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, its military and civilian leaders had engaged in no serious long-term projections concerning the industrial potential of the United States or the probable course of the colossal conflict that lay before them. "Sometimes," Prime Minister Tojo stated at the time, referring to a famous hillside temple in Kyoto, "one simply has to leap off the terrace of Kiyomizu-dera."101

It has become common to blame the emperor for getting Japan into the war and not getting it out of the war sooner. But in a polity where all serve (even the emperor was the servant of his ancestors) but no one really rules it is very difficult for anyone to take responsibility once great events have been set in motion.102 In the end it was indeed the emperor who had to end the war, but only because no one among the many who knew the end had come and who had the power to do so was willing to act decisively. What followed was the Occupation, the first in Japanese history, and a series of changes almost as great as those that followed the Restoration of 1868.

Even in the case of an allegedly homogeneous island country like Japan, it is impossible to understand history within the confines of a single nation-state. I have tried to emphasize that, from its earliest history, Japan is only intelligible in dynamic relation to its neighbors and to powerful cultural influences, some of them originating from far away. Japan's modern history is closely bound up with the development of the system of nation-states that first took form in the nineteenth century. Nationalism, imperialism, capitalism, democracy, and fascism in Japan were all responses to pressures and tendencies that were worldwide in scope. In every case, as with other nations, the Japanese response was unique, formed on the basis of its own earlier experience, but also deeply influenced by what was happening abroad. But the Occupation involved a new level of symbiosis, one that has continued in diluted form even to the present: the history of Japan and the history of the United States became indissolubly linked.103 Whereas the occupation of Germany was divided into four zones—American, British, French, and Soviet—there was only one zone in Japan, the American zone; and there was a new ruler, General Douglas MacArthur.

Given that in 1868 there was no one man who came close to absolute power, one must go back to 1600, to Tokugawa Ieyasu, to find an analogous figure in Japanese history. MacArthur was the new shogun and he was faced with the same problem that faced Ieyasu, namely, what to do with the emperor; he came to the same conclusion: keep him for the sake of public order. The decision to keep the emperor had been made in Washington before MacArthur arrived, but MacArthur not only accepted that decision; he threw himself into the effort to maintain the inviolability of the emperor in the difficult months and years that lay ahead.104 The great fear was that American troops could be endangered by a fanatical opposition to the Occupation, and the sanction of the emperor was deemed necessary to avoid that possibility. One wonders whether given MacArthur's—and many other Americans'—view of the Japanese as an exotic, Oriental, underdeveloped people he did not believe the emperor necessary to provide stability even during, or perhaps especially during, the great transition to democracy to which MacArthur was also devoted. Whatever the reason, the survival of the emperor, essentially untouched, after the greatest defeat in Japanese history, provided a singularly important element of symbolic continuity through a period of enormous change.

A structural element of continuity was the result of the American decision not to establish a direct military government, as in Germany, but to govern through the existing Japanese state, particularly the bureaucracy. The military services and the Home Ministry, the locus of the political police, were completely demolished, but the rest of the bureaucracy survived. In particular the state apparatus that had been established for wartime economic mobilization was not dismantled.

Thus the Occupation created three dimensions of continuity between wartime and postwar: military government itself, the emperor, and the bureaucracy. Because the American military government fostered many remarkable democratic reforms it cannot be considered a continuation of the kind of military government that ruled Japan between 1931 and 1945. Nonetheless the fact that it was ever-present, that its orders, even its hints, had to be followed with no appeal within Japan, and the fact that it exercised a far-reaching censorship, less inhibiting than wartime censorship to be sure, but still in certain areas quite absolute, made it clear that a powerful military government was in charge. There could be no discussion, for example, of the consequences of the atomic devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The imperial court, conservative political leaders, and the Occupation colluded to change as little as possible with respect to the status of the emperor. In the famous New Year's Day statement of the emperor in 1946, for example, although he renounced the idea that he was a "manifest deity," he did not deny his descent from the sun goddess Amaterasu. Even the Constitution of 1946 drafted by the Americans and clearly making the people sovereign, with the emperor remaining only as a "symbol of the state and the unity of the people," was promulgated in such a way that it could be considered once again as a gift from emperor to people. The prime minister at the time, Yoshida Shigeru, could say in the Diet debate that in the new constitution "there is no distinction between the imperial house and the people. . . . Sovereign and subject are one family. . . . The national polity [kokutai] will not be altered in the slightest degree by the new constitution. It is simply that the old spirit and thoughts of Japan are being expressed in different words in the new constitution."105

With respect to the emperor, what might have been done differently? Abolishing the imperial institution by fiat of the Occupation could well have mobilized extremist opposition for years to come and made the new constitution illegitimate from the start. But there were other options. A referendum on the continuation of the monarchy, such as that which was held in Italy, could have been required. Polling at the time indicates that the institution would have survived by a strong majority in such a referendum, but it would have been clear that the monarchy survived by the will of the people and the kind of murky interpretation of Prime Minister Yoshida would have been much more difficult to affirm. Or Hirohito could have been encouraged to abdicate, as some leading political figures and even members of the imperial family called for. A new emperor with a new reign period would have indicated a sharp break between the prewar and postwar worlds. MacArthur vigorously opposed both of these options. He had become convinced that Hirohito alone could guarantee a smooth transition to democracy.

Even more clearly than the Restoration of 1868, the Occupation was a "revolution from above," but its achievements were major and lasting: sweeping land reform virtually ending tenant farming, liberal labor legislation, women's suffrage, the legalizing of communist and socialist political parties, the breakup of the family-owned economic conglomerates (the zaibatsu), the new constitution that established party government responsible to the Diet with no possibility of interference by imperial edict, and most profoundly and controversially, Article 9 of the new constitution, which renounced war as an instrument of national policy, the so-called pacifist clause.106 Of all these reforms, the one carried out most vigorously by the Japanese themselves was land reform, a reform that largely, if not completely, solved the long-festering issue of tenancy and rural misery. As a result of all these changes and as an expression of them there developed a feeling of openness and freedom that Maruyama Masao compared to the opening of the country (kaikoku) after the Meiji Restoration.

In the heady days following the end of the war not only were many voices long suppressed able to find themselves, but others who had embraced the war effort renounced their former beliefs and declared themselves democrats as well. The newly legalized Communist Party, whose leaders had been released from jail or returned from abroad, joined the clamor for democracy and put on hold the issue of class struggle at least temporarily, although taking advantage of the new labor laws to help organize workers. The structural changes brought about by the Occupation were approved, and efforts to think about the creation of not only democratic institutions but also a democratic culture emerged.

In this effort Maruyama Masao was in the forefront, first with his incisive critique of ultranationalism and Japanese fascism, which he saw as fusing ultimate value and nation leaving little room for individual autonomy, and then with his reflections on the development of a sense of agency among citizens, of citizen subjectivity—expressed in Japanese in the term shutaisei, whose literal translation as "subjectivity" hardly contains the meaning of an active citizen consciousness that Maruyama wanted to give to it.107 His reference point was the modern West, which he took as normative, though he recognized the possibilities of deformation there, as in the cases of Germany and Italy; he did, however, recognize significant Japanese precursors such as Fukuzawa Yukichi and Yoshino Sakuzo. Although accepting the importance of democratic group formation, Maruyama was especially concerned to develop among the masses a sense of conscious membership as citizens in a modern nation-state. Thus when the Occupation began what came to be known as its "reverse course" in the face of the emerging cold war and especially after the beginning of the Korean War, Maruyama took the lead in resistance, particularly to the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty in 1950 when it was first passed and especially in 1960 when it came up for renewal. The hope that a nationwide movement in opposition to the Security Treaty could be translated into a lasting engagement of a politically active citizenry would soon be dashed, but it was the high point of Maruyama's political involvement.

There is some sense that there was a missed opportunity for a democratic revolution in the years after 1945, and that Maruyama's emphasis on citizen consciousness rather than citizen action was somehow in part responsible.108 Labor unrest in the early years of the Occupation was widespread and the deliberate policy of the early Occupation to help meet only the most pressing needs but not to assist in the rebuilding of the Japanese economy only fueled the dissatisfaction. But Japan in the late 1940s was in no sense ripe for revolution. Thinking of the conditions of a revolution described above, even though there was popular unrest, there was no fiscal crisis of the state. There was inflation and a badly depleted Japanese treasury, but the Americans stood ready to meet any dire need. Nor was there an internal conflict leading to paralysis within the elite. American military power was never in doubt, and the Japanese bureaucratic elite was in full cooperation with the Americans. After the triumph of the Chinese Communists in 1949 and the condemnation of the Japanese Communist Party for its soft line by the Commintern in 1950, there were some on the extreme left who called for revolutionary action, but there was not the slightest chance that it could have been successful. Maruyama's concern to build citizen consciousness was certainly more realistic than revolutionary posturing, although the patient building of democratic organizations might have been higher on Maruyama's agenda.


Rebuilding Japan

The end of the 1940s did see a significant shift in Occupation policy and the Japanese response to it, one that would have major consequences for decades to come. This was the "reverse course" referred to above. It had three major dimensions. One involved the purging of Communist leadership throughout Japanese society. The most serious consequence was the destruction of the most militant wing of the Japanese labor movement and in its place the creation of a relatively tame labor movement that would not challenge the economic mobilization that lay ahead. Purging the far left, though it was a shock to the newly created Japanese democratic consciousness, was justified in cold-war terms, and especially by the dangers of the war in Korea so nearby. Although liberals and leftists opposed these measures, Japanese "realists" among the intellectuals and government bureaucrats had no difficulty in accepting the new direction. The second dimension was the pressure to remilitarize. Public opposition was so great that even the Japanese government resisted American pressure as much as it could. In the event a modest, euphemistically named, "self-defense force" was established, though one that would grow more substantially as time passed. The third dimension, though perhaps least noticed at the time, would have the greatest long-term consequences. It flowed from the decision of the American government to rebuild Japan economically as a bastion in the cold war. Its institutional expression was the creation in 1949, out of remnants of the control apparatus of the economy for war mobilization, of the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI), which would orchestrate perhaps the greatest economic comeback in world history.109 Concomitant with the changes within the government, the Occupation encouraged the reemergence of Japanese business conglomerates in a new, somewhat more horizontal, form—the keiretsu rather than the zaibatsu—but the names were often the same, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and so on, with some notable new additions such as Sony.110

Although changes in all three of these dimensions were carried out by the Japanese, in every case the prime initiative came from the American government operating through the Occupation. Because of the Security Treaty, American military presence would continue after the end of the Occupation, though in steadily reduced form—it continues today in Okinawa. Even more important than the presence of troops is the fact that the United States and Japan are "allies" in a dangerous world, and that, however independently the Japanese have come to act economically, they are militarily and even politically part of the American system. Thus there can be no understanding of Japan since 1945 without recognizing the continuous presence of American power. In that sense the shogunate is still not over.

Fortuitously, the Korean War proved a boon to the Japanese economy, since Japan was called on to supply the allied forces in Korea and even to make parts for military equipment. During the 1950s economic growth showed continued modest improvement and by 1955 the overall index of production had finally returned to the prewar level.111 By 1960, with the ending of the last great citizen protests, Prime Minister Ikeda Hayato announced the goal of doubling the national income in ten years. Although greeted by many intellectuals with cynical disdain as an aim unworthy of the "cultural nation" they hoped Japan would become, it was Ikeda and the bureaucratic establishment for which he spoke that set the course for the future.

In fact, the national income tripled in ten years and kept on growing at an extremely high rate for another two decades. In a real sense it looked as if, transcending the disaster of the lost war, the mobilized state that had characterized Japan since the Meiji Restoration, and especially during the fifteen-year war (1931-45), had emerged once again, in some respects stronger than ever, though now the aim was not military and political power but economic growth. Although most Japanese seemed to have been co-opted by rising living standards and pride in the new respect in the world for Japan's economic achievements, critics were still to be found. The revisionist Marxist economist Baba Hiroji, writing in the 1980s, warned that there was a "great likelihood that the Japanese system may collapse." According to him it is "the penchant of affluent societies . . .to gear their institutions—and the domain of social and cultural reproduction generally—to [the] pursuit [of] unchecked and self-justifying" growth. The result could be "an irretrievable internal collapse of 'society.'" Yet Baba held out some hope that though socialism, shakaishugi, might never come, kaishashugi (companyism), might yet create a more human form of capitalism in Japan.112 In Japanese the characters for society (shakai) when reversed (kaisha) mean company, and Japan since 1950 has indeed been a "company" society.

While the formal freedoms and electoral bodies established by the 1946 constitution continue to make Japan one of the freest societies in the world, the democratic upsurge of consciousness in the years immediately after 1945 has subsided, with some notable exceptions, into a much more conformist consensus, symbolized by the revival in somewhat new form of many themes from prewar days. This consensus is expressed in the form of nihonjinron, the discourse about the Japanese. The one overriding theme of nihonjinron, as expressed in a vast array of book titles, some of which have had very large circulation, is Japanese uniqueness, whether derived from race, climate, or history. Peter Dale has emphasized the continuity of this body of literature with prewar writings, such as those of Watsuji Tetsuro, but also its dependence, whether acknowledged or not, on European, particularly German, sources.113 The pervasive emphasis on the claim that Japanese culture is "relational" rather than "individualistic" draws from the German preoccupation with Gemeinschaft, community, as opposed to Gesellschaft, society. The German term Volksgemeinschaft (national or folk community) got translated into Japanese as kokumin kyodotai in the prewar period; and even when the term is not used, the idea continues to pervade this genre of literature.

While surveys of the content of the widespread nihonjinron literature, coming to prominence in the 1970s but showing little sign of slackening since, are very helpful, Kosaku Yoshino's empirical study of the genre among educators and businessmen in a middle-sized Japanese city helps us understand its actual function.114 Even though educators (in Yoshino's sample largely primary and secondary schoolteachers) are normally considered the primary transmitters of culture, they were actually less familiar with nihonjinron than were businessmen, though both groups had considerable knowledge. Although many have interpreted nihonjinron as a form of indoctrination, it is of interest that most of Yoshino's informants felt they had not learned anything new from it. A businessman said, "They [writers of the nihonjinron] discuss what I already know. In this sense, there is nothing new to learn from them. But they are so good at expressing what we normally feel about the Japanese by using carefully selected words that it helps us to organise our thought and express it."115 And a high school headmistress had this to say:

Reading such literature is useful in the sense that it helps me to organise my thought on the Japanese. Although they simply write about what we already feel about our society, the fact that they can discuss it so systematically means that they are indeed professional thinkers. We are so busy with school administration and what not that we have no time left to ponder over important issues like these.116

The fact that businessmen are more likely than schoolteachers to have to deal with foreigners helps explain why nihonjinron is so popular in business circles. It would seem that in dealing with the different, understanding one's own uniqueness becomes more important. Not only do companies promote existing nihonjin literature, but also on occasion they produce it on their own. Yoshino notes that the Nippon Steel Corporation produced a handbook called Nippon: The Land and its People in 1984 for its own personnel, but then, finding it of general interest, managed to sell 400,000 copies by 1989.117

Besides the many continuities between prewar writing on Japanese culture and the nihonjinron literature, such as that the Japanese are more community-oriented whereas Westerners are more oriented to the individual, Japanese thought tends to merge subject and object rather than strictly distinguish them as in the West, the Japanese are close to nature, and so on, there are also significant differences from prewar writing. The farmer or the townsman is usually the model representative of the premodern Japanese tradition, rather than the samurai (though the idealization of the peasant was a staple of prewar thought). The absence or diminution of the role of the samurai goes together with a de-emphasis on Japan's military tradition, perhaps the sharpest break with prewar writing. Further, the emperor is largely missing from nihonjinron. Some critics of this genre have felt that the emperor is present even in his absence, that nihonjinron represents the emperor system without the emperor. Be that as it may, the emperor would seldom have been absent in prewar writing about Japanese culture.

The events surrounding the death of the Showa emperor in January 1989 may illustrate the extent to which the emperor today is both present and absent. The death of Hirohito was peculiarly drawn out because he fell gravely ill in September 1988 but did not die until January 7, 1989. The mass media reported daily on his condition, which, among other things, involved blood transfusions that amounted to thirty gallons over the four-month period. From the beginning of the emperor's final illness, the government and the mass media urged the public to exercise "self-restraint," which meant canceling festive events, even postponing weddings, and avoiding excessive public display. Large corporations urged their employees to wear dark clothing and ribbons to express concern over the emperor's condition. While the great majority of Japanese conformed to the pressure to exercise self-restraint, as the days wore on a few questioning voices were raised.

The elderly Liberal Democratic mayor of Nagasaki, Motoshima Hitoshi, in response to a question about the emperor's war guilt, said that, much as he respected the constitutional role of the emperor, he did believe that the emperor had some responsibility for the war and that the tragedies of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the battle of Okinawa could have been avoided if he had decided to end the war sooner. For this statement the mayor was vilified in the national press and expelled from the Liberal Democratic Party. The building where he had his office was surrounded by right-wing trucks blaring denunciatory statements. A year after the emperor's death Motoshima was badly wounded by gunfire from a right-wing extremist. Defense of Motoshima from established intellectuals and media was muted at best. Remarks were heard that Motoshima "wasn't really a Japanese" or "didn't understand Japanese culture." While such statements could have been made about anyone expressing Motoshima's views, it was probably also relevant that he was a descendant of a Japanese family that had converted to Catholicism in the sixteenth century.118

Indeed, besides the Communists, it was largely Christians who failed during the emperor's illness to exercise adequate self-restraint. The incident at Meiji Gakuin University, though less dramatic than the one involving the mayor of Nagasaki, was significant in that it involved an entire institution, even if it was the only one. On October 19, more than a month after the emperor had fallen ill, Morii Makoto, president of Meiji Gakuin University, a Christian university founded by Presbyterian missionaries a century earlier, issued a statement that emerged from the Deans' Council that "when the present Emperor passes away, we will not take special action of any kind: for example, classes will not be canceled, students will not be advised to call off the University Festival and the flag will not be flown at half-mast."119 This statement brought the predictable hysterical response from right-wingers, who called university officials in the middle of the night to rant about their lack of patriotism and to threaten violence against them and their families. After the university held symposia for faculty and students in which a full discussion of the emperor system took place, the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest newspapers, ran a story about the events at Meiji Gakuin University. This story elicited an outpouring of letters to the newspaper and to the university, almost all of them praising the university's stand. This would suggest that apparent conformity to the pressure for self-restraint obscured more than a little private dissent, a not unusual situation in Japan.

Ishida Takeshi in an essay appended to the Occasional Paper concerning the Meiji Gakuin affair, traces the gradual decline of interest in the emperor as indicated by public opinion polls. In June 1988, for example, 47 percent of Japanese expressed indifference to the emperor, 28 percent expressed respect for the emperor, and 22 percent said they had a favorable impression of him.120 Two weeks after the emperor's death in 1989, 57 percent of Japanese said that the media had artificially created too much of a stir. Ishida warns that the combination of increasing public formality with respect to the emperor on the part of the mass media combined with increasing private indifference is not necessarily a healthy situation, particularly if it leads to public acquiescence to right-wing violence. Perhaps in his own way he is suggesting that the emperor system can continue without the emperor.121


Still Nonaxial?

In this all-too-condensed review of the major phases of the development of Japanese civilization I have been focusing on Japanese culture, drawing in part on the work of S.N. Eisenstadt, and on Japanese state formation, drawing in part on the work of Johann Arnason. The interaction between culture and power is central to the story. On the one hand, Japan has shown a remarkable capacity to absorb foreign culture on its own terms in a series of "revolutions from above," for example, the seventh-century appropriation of Chinese culture and the Meiji appropriation of Western culture. The American Occupation imposed a liberal constitution but most of the American-inspired reforms were carried out by Japanese in their own way. Through all these enormous changes the basic premises of Japanese society, though drastically reformulated, have remained nonaxial. That is, the axial and subsequent differentiations between transcendent reality and the state, between state and society, and between society and self have not been completed.

Although it has become popular to argue that the "emperor system" was invented in the Meiji period and did not exist before, I have tried to show that, through its many vicissitudes, the status of the emperor has provided a kind of litmus test of the extent to which Japanese culture remained nonaxial from the earliest historical times. So long as the emperor, however powerless and however personally a nonentity, could provide a conduit through which transcendent reality could fuse with the Japanese social order, a genuine axial break at the highest level of cultural symbolism was thwarted, even though for many individuals and groups such a break clearly occurred.

But given the long and sophisticated exposure to several forms of axial culture and the deep attraction that these forms have had for many Japanese, one cannot argue that the nonaxial ground bass of Japanese culture has continued its hold through sheer cultural momentum, which would be to say that a timeless tradition has triumphed over history, though such a view has had its appeal to some Japanese intellectuals. Rather it has been the deep implication of nonaxial culture with continuously reformulated structures of power determined to prevent the full institutionalization of axial premises that explains the persistence. I am not arguing that the Japanese state in its several incarnations has simply "invented" or "imposed" the nonaxial premises of Japanese culture, which could then be interpreted as "ideology" pure and simple. The existence of nonaxial premises not just in state ideology but in the pores, so to speak, of the whole of Japanese society has greatly eased the role of power in sustaining them. In other words, an axial revolution in Japanese culture could not be accomplished merely by the abolition of the imperial institution, unlikely though that is at present, because an emperor system without an emperor is a distinct possibility.122 What would need to change is not only the relation of state power to culture, but what Foucault would call the "micro-structures of power" in every sphere of Japanese life, an even more unlikely eventuality at the moment.

Some have thought that the "new social movements" that began to appear in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s might lead to such a transformation, and such may yet be the case. However, Jeffrey Broadbent's careful and incisive study of environmental politics in Japan during those years indicates the ease with which protest can be reabsorbed into the consensus, often not without significant concessions to the protesters, but with the result that no continuing structure of citizen organization and consciousness survives.123 Nothing that I know about Japanese society gives me the ability to predict the future, but I do think that the enormous vitality and flexibility of the Japanese pattern suggests that it can continue to deal with its many real challenges quite successfully while reformulating, as it has done time and again, but not abandoning, its nonaxial premises.

I am sure that there will be those who will interpret my argument as "Orientalist" and will attribute to me the motive of wishing to exalt the axial West, or even the United States in particular, by using the "backward" Japanese as an invidious case. I might conclude, therefore, by suggesting that in respect to axiality, though for quite different reasons, I would place Japan and the United States in the same boat, and, if there is an implied criticism of Japan in what I have written above, there is a very explicit criticism of America in much that I have written in the last quarter century.124 I would also argue that in the most important respects Japan is as "modern" as the United States. The problems in both cases lie deeper than modernity.

The United States has from early on operated with the tacit assumption that it has not just fully developed, but actually transcended the axial age, that it is a postaxial civilization. If America in this understanding is a realized utopia, a version of the Kingdom of God on earth, then its fundamental assumptions cannot be challenged any more than can those of the Japanese. If the Japanese have continuously sought to avoid the introduction of the fundamental tension between ultimate truth and social reality that characterizes axial civilizations, the Americans have collapsed that fundamental tension by believing that it has been resolved in our own society. If the Japanese are in some sense preaxial, the Americans are in some sense postaxial, or at least in both cases they work very hard at believing they are. This accounts for, among other failings, the American unwillingness to see how far behind most other advanced societies we are in dealing justly with our most deprived.

Let us consider what in each case those unassailable premises are. There are remarkable similarities as well as "mirror-image" differences in the two cases.125 Both Japanese and Americans define nation and people in sacred terms. In Japan this sacredness is primordial: Japan is the divine land, created by the gods and the Japanese people are descended from the gods. While the American identity of chosen people and promised land uses images that could be seen as primordial, it is future-orientation that is stressed. The chosen people is composed of the people who have chosen to become part of it. The promised land is open to all. America is the land not of the past, but of the future: messiah nation or redeemer nation, or in Lincoln's words "the last best hope of earth."

The basic premises of social and political order differ in the two cases relative to the different construction of collective identity. In the Japanese case the individual is seen as embedded in a network of social relations, which is in turn embedded in cosmological reality. The Japanese have been remarkable in the degree to which they have been able to maintain dynamism and openness to change within the framework of embeddedness, which is itself unassailable. In America it is disembeddedness that is sacralized. If America is the new Jerusalem then there is need for neither church nor state: each individual is free to realize him- or herself as he or she sees fit. If the Japanese have a strong version of social realism, the Americans have an ontological individualism. In both cases it is not the fundamental premises that are open to question but only the failure to realize them. In both cases the fundamental premises can be seen as "polluted" by various evil forces, from which they must be defended, but they cannot be attacked.

In recent times the American individual, disencumbered from the responsibilities of citizenship, has been exalted primarily as an entrepreneur in a society of ever increasing economic growth. The widely disseminated idea that there are no limits to economic growth is surely a lie and acting as if it were true is suicidal: the kind of growth that requires the destruction and consumption of the biosphere cannot but stop cultural growth because its biological consequences are terminal.

A major task for Americans, I believe, is to see ourselves as still an axial culture, however much we have been transformed for good and for ill by the great successive waves of modernity. Instead of believing that we are the Kingdom of God on earth, we must recover the idea that we are nothing more than a deeply flawed city of man. We need something like Habermas's notion of a lifeworld in contrast to administrative and market systems, which, when they are not adequately anchored in the lifeworld, can destroy normative community. Our growing understanding that biological and cultural evolution are deeply interconnected could help us see that culture is the living membrane that connects us to the natural world and that institutions are the biosocial organs that allow us to live in this new environment. The Japanese sacralization of embeddedness, of trying to avoid the leap into freedom as far as possible, without, of course, giving up the spoils of capitalism, is not open to us. But our own hypertrophied disembeddedness, our quest for freedom without limit, is endangering the very basis of life on this planet.

In short, Japan and the United States, perhaps the two most dynamic societies in today's world, rest on deeply problematic premises, premises so taken for granted that they can hardly be criticized. Since both societies, however else they differ, have devoted themselves, as their very reason for being, to relentless economic expansion, and that expansion seems destined to lead to global self-destruction unless there is some critical redirection in the not too distant future, they both need to examine the premises that have led to their current predicament. In both cases a rethinking of historic patterns of culture and structures of power have more than academic interest. It might not be too much to say that both societies need to consider the judgments that axial traditions have made concerning self-aggrandizing human action, and whether their own lack of axial reference points are part of their present predicament. Such a rethinking may be an essential step toward avoiding catastrophe.




1 In spite of the similarity in title, this book has a quite different intention from Ronald B. Inden's book Imagining India. Inden mounts a full-scale critique of "Orientalism" in the study of India, including an analysis of received ideas and influential scholars in the field of Indology. My focus is much more selective and concentrates on a few Japanese intellectuals. The closest parallel to Inden that I have found in the Japanese field is Harry Harootunian's History's Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question of Everyday Life, though Harootunian shares Inden's intent only in part.

2 Bellah, "Civil Religion in America"; reprinted as chapter 9 of Bellah, Beyond Belief. Here I might note that the many invitations to speak and write on related subjects that the Daedalus article stimulated, and my feeling that turning them down in a period of national crisis (the Vietnam War) would not be responsible, led me to an intensive period of self-education in American studies, because I had no serious scholarly preparation for what was to come. Unfortunately for my work on Japan, the momentum of my involvement in American studies has scarcely ceased until today.

3 Bellah, Tokugawa Religion.

4 Ibid., p. 57. In Tokugawa Religion I spoke not only of particularism but of a kind of "generalized particularism" that could substitute in some ways for universalism. S.N. Eisenstadt has developed this idea somewhat further in an article, "Trust and Institutional Dynamics in Japan: The Construction of Generalized Particularistic Trust."

5 I make no claim to originality in seeing Japan as similar to and not merely different from other countries. Indeed it would seem that the near exclusive preoccupation with the theme of uniqueness, at least in the popular literature in both Japan and the West, is rather recent. Johann Arnason has indicated how long-standing has been the interpretation of Japan as similar to as well as different from the West, the case of "feudalism" being an obvious example. Arnason considers most of these earlier interpretations to be "pretheoretical" and attempts to raise the theoretical level of the discussion, a project to which I hope to contribute in this introduction. See Arnason, "Comparing Japan: The Return to Asia," pp. 33-54.

6 Bellah, "Values and Social Change in Modern Japan," pp. 13-56. The second and third lectures were published under the same title as chapter 7 in Bellah, Beyond Belief.

7 Eisenstadt, Japanese Civilization.

8 Most of the essays in this book were published in the 1960s and 1970s and represent a series of efforts to explore further the meaning of Japanese identity as it was perceived primarily by major Japanese intellectuals of the mid-twentieth century. The essays on Ienaga, Watsuji, and Maruyama (Chapters 2, 3, and 4) stand on their own—there is little I would revise in them today. Nor would I change Chapter 1 on an earlier group of Japanese intellectuals, the great figures of Kamakura Buddhism, although, as I will point out below, the scholarly understanding of Buddhism in Japanese history generally and the Kamakura period in particular has changed dramatically since that essay was written. The essays on intellectuals and society and on continuity and change (Chapters 5 and 7) are the ones most limited by the time of their first appearance. I am keeping them in their original form (although I will be suggesting in this introduction some ways in which they might be reconsidered) because they do provide a helpful context for the treatments of individual intellectuals, and also because they represent an important phase of the American social scientific study of Japan, namely that of functionalist modernization theory, so much derided today. This tradition is clearest in the essay on continuity and change (Chapter 7), which was, after all, a contribution to a Festschrift for my teacher, Talcott Parsons, but it is also implicit in the essay on intellectuals and society (Chapter 5). What I think these essays suggest is that at least some of the criticism of this phase of American social science is misplaced. My treatment of Japanese society is neither ahistorical, that is, concerned with the timeless equilibrium that functionalist theory is supposed to posit, nor without an interest in the coercive use of power. Particularly the essay on intellectuals and society is constantly aware of the atmosphere of coercion within which Japanese intellectuals worked.

9 Bellah, "Religious Evolution"; reprinted as chapter 2 of Bellah, Beyond Belief.

10 Randall Collins develops his own version of social evolution by speaking of three kinds of market dynamics: kinship markets, agrarian-coercive exchange, and capitalism. See, in particular, his "Market Dynamics as the Engine of Historical Change," pp. 177-208.

11 Jaspers, Origin and Goal of History.

12 Among many relevant works one might mention especially Eisenstadt, Origins and Diversity of Axial Age Civilizations.

13 Weber, Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, p. 181.

14 Arnason, Social Theory and Japanese Experience.

15 For a careful analysis of the evidence concerning the rather gradual process of development of the Japanese early state, perhaps beginning in the third century a.d. in Kyushu and moving to the Yamato region somewhat later, see Wheatley and See, From Court to Capital.

16 Tambiah, World Conqueror and World Renouncer, pp. 102-31; and Tambiah, Culture, Thought, and Social Action, pp. 252-86. Tambiah describes the galactic polity as follows:

The concentric-circle system, representing the center-periphery relations, was ordered thus: In the center was the king's capital and the region of that its direct control, which was surrounded by a circle of provinces ruled by princes or governors appointed by the king, and these again were surrounded by more or less independent "tributary" polities. . . . If we keep in mind the expanding and shrinking character of the political constellations under scrutiny, a central, perhaps the central, feature to be grasped is that although the constituent political units differ in size, nevertheless each lesser unit is a reproduction and imitation of the larger. . . . Thus we have before us a galactic picture of a central planet surrounded by differentiated satellites, which are more or less "autonomous" entities held in orbit and within the sphere of influence of the center. (World Conquerer, pp. 112-13.)

 It should be borne in mind that Tambiah contrasts the galactic polity with a centralized polity like that of dynastic China. Thus my use of the term is only analogous to his. But even though the Chinese polity was much more centralized than the Southeast Asian polities Tambiah describes, on its outer peripheries it shows many of the same features. Geoffrey Samuel applies Tambiah's model to Tibet in his Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies, pp. 62-63, but he also speaks of the eastern part of Tibet as belonging to the galactic polity of China.

17 On the T'ang version of the galactic polity in the early eighth century:

T'ang power extended over a vast area from southern Siberia to Southeast Asia and westward through Tibet and Central Asia to the Caspian Sea. Around the borders of China proper clustered vassal states, controlled by six protectorates. Four of these were named for the cardinal points, as in An-hsi ("the pacified west") in the Tarim Basin, An-tung ("the pacified east") in the Korean area, and An-nan ("the pacified south"), from which Annam, the usual Chinese name for Vietnam, was derived. Beyond these vassal states were others, such as Japan and various kingdoms in Southeast, South, and West Asia, which recognized a vague Chinese suzerainty by occasionally presenting tribute. T'ang rule thus, from the Chinese point of view, was virtually worldwide.

 Fairbank, Reischauer, and Craig, East Asia, p. 98.

18 This is a point rightly emphasized by Arnason. See his Social Theory, pp. 145-49. For more detail, see Grapard, Protocol of the Gods.

19 For a suggestive discussion of these issues, see Abé, Weaving of the Mantra, pp. 315-22.

20 Abé, Weaving of the Mantra. See also Hakeda, Kukai: Major Works Translated.

21 See Groner, Saicho.

22 Kasulis, "Kukai," pp. 131-50.

23 Ibid., p. 140.

24 For an excellent recent treatment of hongaku thought, particularly in the Tendai tradition, see Stone, Original Enlightenment.

25 Arnason speaks of "pseudo-archaism" in this connection, meaning that the archaic was consciously constructed, not simply an unconscious heritage, though he also stresses that the archaic aspect is still genuinely so. See Arnason, Social Theory, pp. 130-32.

26 Maruyama, "Structure of Matsurigoto," pp. 27-43.

27 Arnason quotes Sir George Sansom as referring to Kamakura Japan as "the astonishing spectacle of a state, at the head of which stands a titular emperor, whose vestigial functions are usurped by an abdicated emperor, and whose real power is nominally delegated to an hereditary military dictator, but actually wielded by an hereditary advisor to the dictator" (Social Theory, p. 208).

28 Arnason, Social Theory, ch. 3.

29 The term kenmon derives from the work of Kuroda Toshio and was introduced in English as "influential parties" by Neil McMullin in his Buddhism and the State, p. 8.

30 Grapard, Protocol of the Gods. Besides this major work on the Kasuga complex Grapard surveys the major Heian institutions in his article, "Institution, Ritual, and Ideology," pp. 246-69.

31 The development of monastic complexes that were virtual states in themselves in Tibet is described by Geoffrey Samuel in Civilized Shamans. Here too an amalgamation of Mahayana and native beliefs and practices under the organizing influence of Tantric (Esoteric) Buddhism is to be found, with chief officials of the complexes often coming from aristocratic lineages. A careful analysis of the similarities and differences in the two cases would be of great interest. Samuel's title, Civilized Shamans, suggests the extent to which the pattern in Tibet (and probably Japan as well) represents a compromise formation between archaic and axial materials.

32 Grapard, Protocol of the Gods, p. 186.

33 Abé, Weaving of the Mantra, pp. 417-22. Here Abé is summarizing the ideas of Kuroda Toshio on the "kenmitsu system." Shugendo, a movement that fused esoteric Buddhism with Japanese folk religion, originating in the eighth century but spreading widely until modern times, is an example of the degree of penetration of the Esoteric tradition. It is discussed in a book I received too late to take fully into account here: Miyake, Shugendo. See especially chapter 7, "Cosmology of Shugendo: Shamanism and Shugendo Thought," pp. 131-42.

34 These new movements are described in more detail below in Chapter 1.

35 The element of world denial in each of the new Kamakura sects is emphasized below in Chapter 1. But each of them contained the potentiality of compromise, most obviously the Zen sect whose spiritual discipline could be used in the context of samurai culture as a kind of psychological technology for the more efficient acting out of the samurai role. Similar uses of Zen have even been noted among company employees in contemporary Japan. Within the Pure Land sect, not only did a hierarchy based on lineage develop, but reliance on Amida alone could become a kind of apolitical quietism. Nichiren sects were always in danger, when they identified Japan as uniquely the land of the Buddha, of fusing religion and state. In these ways powerful moments of world denial could become forms of world affirmation. On the significance of world denial in Weber's thought, and religious evolution more generally, see Bellah, "Max Weber and World-Denying Love," pp. 277-304.

36 On this point, see Foard, "What One Kamakura Story Does," pp. 101-15.

37 See, in particular, Payne, Re-Visioning "Kamakura" Buddhism.

38 McMullin, Buddhism and the State, p. 71. For further discussion of Nobunaga's idea of tenka, see Katsumata , "Development of Sengoku Law," pp. 119-24.

39 McMullin's excellent book, Buddhism and the State, describes in detail this great transformation.

40 McMullin, Buddhism and the State, p. 257.

41 Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology.

42 Ibid., pp. 170-71.

43 Ooms gives a good summary of the Pure Land and Buddhist cases in Tokugawa Ideology, pp. 30-38. Stone gives a helpful discussion of the extent to which the radical trends in the "new" Kamakura Buddhism, deriving from the "single condition" necessary for salvation, undercut all existing forms of political legitimation. She notes (in Original Enlightenment, pp. 250-51) Nichiren's willingness to condemn even an emperor for failing to protect the true Dharma (that is, the Lotus Sutra) and his belief that all earthly authorities owe their power ultimately to Sakyamuni (an idea that would get Nichiren followers in trouble as late as World War II). She quotes Taira Masayuki as arguing that the new Buddhism "relativized the social hierarchy and established religious equality," but notes that Nichiren did not envision "an egalitarian restructuring of society—a modern idea" but rather a reversal of the outsider status of himself and his community (Original Enlightenment, p. 262).

44 The best treatment of the persecution of the Christians is Elison, Deus Destroyed.

45 Wakabayashi, Anti-Foreignism, pp. 64-68.

46 Frank, ReOrient, pp. 145-46. Frank shows that silver exports were particularly large in the early seventeenth century but continued well into the eighteenth century, while copper exports continued high after silver exports declined. He shows that these exports contributed to world economic liquidity alongside the metal exports from the New World. See also Collins, "An Asian Route to Capitalism," in his Macrohistory, pp. 209-37, for an argument that Japan had an advanced capitalist economy in the Tokugawa period. Collins also argues that Buddhist monastic institutions in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods provided a chrysalis for the development of capitalist forms of economic life, analogous to the role of Christian monasteries in the European Middle Ages, that was the precondition for the generalized capitalist economy of the Tokugawa period.

47 On the nature of indirect rule in the Tokugawa period, see Ikegami, The Taming of the Samurai.

48 Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology, pp. 5, 80. Matsudaira's "ban" was really a directive intended to enforce Chu Hsi orthodox Neo-Confucianism only in the shogunate's own official Confucian school, though it was later extended to include the official schools of the feudal domains, but it was never enforced against private schools devoted to other kinds of Confucian teaching. See Ooms, Charismatic Bureaucrat.

49 Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology, pp. 182-86.

50 Ibid., ch. 6. Maruyama Masao in the 1980s wrote the introduction to a volume on the Ansai school in a series on Japanese intellectual history published by Iwanami. He found that working on this project gave him "unbearably painful headaches," headaches that ceased when he had completed the work. His reason for spending time on this school was that it was one of the sources of "ultra-nationalism and cultural essentialism" to quote from Tetsuo Najita's description in his "On History and Politics," p. 15.

51 Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology, p. 247.

52 Najita, Tokugawa Political Writings, pp. xiii-liv.

53 Najita, "On History and Politics," p. 11.

54 Najita, Visions of Virtue.

55 Najita, "Ambiguous Encounters."

56 Najita, "Some Comments on the Theme of Translation," pp. 7-8.

57 Moore, "Japanese Peasant Protests," p. 325.

58 Hardacre, Shinto and the State, p. 12.

59 Davis, "Pilgrimage and World Renewal," Part I, pp. 97-116; Part II, pp. 197-221.

60 Ooms, Tokugawa Ideology, p. 192.

61 Arnason, Social Theory, ch. 7.

62 Dore, Education in Tokugawa Japan.

63 Keene, Japanese Discovery of Europe.

64 Arnason, Social Theory, ch. 9.

65 The best fine-grained analysis of this process remains Craig's Choshu in the Meiji Restoration.

66 Arnason, Social Theory, ch. 9.

67 Collins, Macrohistory, p. 47.

68 Ibid.

69 See the charts on pp. 419 and 503 of Jansen, Making of Modern Japan. Jansen indicates the dominance of Choshu in the army and Satsuma in the navy as follows: "The list of seventy-two full generals down to 1926 shows 30 percent from Choshu; while of the forty full admirals 44 percent were from Satsuma. In the central bureaucratic and command structure that preponderance was stronger still. No navy builder, however, dominated the scene to the degree that Yamagata did the army during his lifetime" (Jansen, Making, p. 397).

70 As we will consider later, even the cut-off date of 1945 will have to be seriously reconsidered. Wasn't General MacArthur a kind of "shogun" and wasn't there a continuation of a kind of "military rule" even after the Occupation ended under the aegis of the Japan-United States Security Treaty?

71 Tsunoda, de Bary, and Keene, Sources of the Japanese Tradition, pp. 643-44.

72 Tsunoda, Sources, pp. 705-6.

73 Ibid., 646-47.

74 Bellah, Tokugawa Religion, p. 158.

75 The book edited by Stephen Vlastos, Mirror of Modernity, is a useful application to Japan of the idea of the invention of tradition most influentially set forth in Hobsbawm and Ranger, Invention of Tradition. The Vlastos book, like all such efforts, in attempting to correct the "uncritical use of tradition" (p. I), runs the risk of misunderstanding tradition altogether and the extent to which any living tradition is always being invented.

76 Jansen, Making, p. 393.

77 Ibid., p. 394.

78 Gluck, Japan's Modern Myths, pp. 58-69.

79 For a description of these tours, see Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, ch. 2.

80 Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, ch. 3.

81 Garon, Molding Japanese Minds, p. 64.

82 The best treatment of Shinto since the Meiji Restoration is Hardacre, Shinto and the State.

83 Fujitani, Splendid Monarchy, ch. 4.

84 Gluck in Japan's Modern Myths, ch. 8, gives a good description of how diversity and conformity could both be found in the language of Meiji ideology.

85 Barshay, State and Intellectual in Imperial Japan, p. 40.

86 Ibid., pp. 35-122.

87 Garon, Molding Japanese Minds, p. 19.

88 Rubin, "Soseki on Individualism," p. 24.

89 Natsume, "My Individualism," pp. 41, 40.

90 Ibid., p. 44.

91 See "German-Bashing and the Theory of Democratic Modernization," in Collins, Macrohistory, pp. 152-76.

92 Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity, p. xxviii.

93 Germaine A. Hoston discusses Sano Manabu and several of the other Communist Party leaders who underwent tenko in her State, Identity, and the National Question, pp. 327-60. Sano, who had been a long-standing defender of the Commintern line before his tenko, went on to develop a "national socialist" position combining a call for popular (nonviolent) revolution with nationalism and emperor-system particularism.

94 Hoston, State, Identity, and the National Question, pp. 356-57.

95 On these issues see, in particular, Hoston, Marxism and the Crisis of Development in Prewar Japan.

96 Barshay, Social Sciences in Japan, forthcoming, ch. 4.

97 Barshay, State and Intellectual, p. 202.

98 Harootunian, Overcome by Modernity, p. 38.

99 Barshay, State and Intellectual, pp. 114-20.

100 Ibid., pp. 95-96.

101 Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 531. Maruyama Masao has the following to say about responsibility for starting the war:

Whatever may have been the causes for the outbreak of war in 1939, the leaders of Nazi Germany were certainly conscious of a decision to embark on hostilities. In Japan, however, the situation was quite different: though it was our country that plunged the world in to the terrible conflagration in the Pacific, it has been impossible to find any individuals or groups that are conscious of having started the war. What is the meaning of the remarkable state of affairs in which a country slithered into war, pushed into the vortex by men who were themselves driven by some force that they did not really understand? (Thought and Behavior, p. 16.)

102 Maruyama points out that the emperor entirely lacked the freedom of the absolutist monarchs in early modern Europe because he too was "saddled with a burden—in his case a tradition that derived from an infinitely remote past" (Thought and Behavior, p. 20).

103 Dower's splendid book, Embracing Defeat, is the main source for my treatment of the Occupation period.

104 Dower points out the Occupation's serious tampering with the procedure of the war crimes trial in Tokyo from 1946 to 1949 in order to avoid any testimony that might incriminate the emperor. See Embracing Defeat, pp. 443-84 and elsewhere.

105 Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 389.

106 If we take seriously Collins's definition of revolution by its results, "wholesale transformation of the ruling elite accompanied by political and economic restructuring" (see Collins, Macrohistory, p. 47), we will have to say that it was a less radical revolution because, although it did indeed involve political and economic restructuring, it did not involve a wholesale transformation of the ruling elite. Except for a small number of people purged as war criminals and a much smaller number executed, the ruling elite continued largely unbroken. Most of those purged were quickly rehabilitated after the Occupation ended and some of them reached high office, as for example Kishi Nobusuke who became prime minister.

107 Maruyama, Thought and Behavior, chs. 1 and 2.

108 Koschmann, Revolution and Subjectivity.

109 On the establishment of MITI, see Dower, Embracing Defeat, pp. 541-60, but more generally on all three dimensions described here. The classic treatment of MITI is Johnson, MITI and the Japanese Miracle.

110 John Dower emphasizes the institutional continuity between the prewar and postwar periods in many fields: bureaucracy, especially economic bureaucracy, business organization, labor organization, even farm tenancy where wartime regulations already greatly reduced the control of landlords over their land and its produce, making the postwar land reform relatively easy. See Dower, "Useful War," pp. 49-70.

111 Dower, Embracing Defeat, p. 559.

112 Barshay, Social Sciences, ch. 5.

113 Dale, Myth of Japanese Uniqueness; see also his Myth of Japanese Uniqueness Revisited.

114 Yoshino, Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan.

115 Ibid., p. 141.

116 Ibid., p. 142.

117 Ibid.

118 This account is based on Field, In the Realm of the Dying Emperor.

119 Sakamoto, Emperor System as a Japan Problem, p. 23.

120 Ishida, "Emperor Problem," p. 47.

121 Ibid., pp. 54-56.

122 Andrew Barshay raises the interesting possibility that "Tennosei may not require a Tenno" in an unpublished paper, "The Problem of the Emperor System in Japanese Social Science," p. 19.

123 Broadbent, Environmental Politics in Japan.

124 The remaining paragraphs of this Introduction draw in part on my epilogue to Madsen, Sullivan, Swidler, and Tipton, Meaning and Modernity.

125 See Eisenstadt, "Mirror-Image Modernities." For survey data that show the United States and Japan as polar cases on many dimensions, with other industrial nations in between, see Lipset, "Pacific Divide," pp. 121-66.

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