Sunday, November 08, 2015

"His disciples say unto him, Master" - Origin of Nationalism of the Empire of Japan

Around Tokyo

Origin of Nationalism of the Empire of Japan

In the transition period from the samurai era to the modernized Meiji era in Japan in 1850s and 1860s, there was a civil war between the samurai camp supporting the Tokugawa shogun, the title of the head of the samurai class for the past 250 years, and the opposition samurai camp gathering around the imperial court in Kyoto.

The Tokugawa regime was then taking a policy to open the door of the nation to the world after 250 year-long isolation of Japan, in the wake of receiving a strong request from the US to establish a diplomatic relation between the two countries.  (For this purpose, the US sent a fleet well armed to Tokyo Bay to deliver a written official demand to the Tokugawa government in 1853.)

But the anti-Tokugawa camp was against the policy.  They claimed that the nation isolation policy had been supported by the imperial court in addition to past shoguns.  Therefore, they requested the Tokugawa clan to return the title of shogun to the imperial court and step down from power.

The then shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu actually returned the title to the emperor but tried to become the head of the new government to be established in cooperation with all the samurai leaders and the imperial court.  However, the opposition samurais did not accept this plan.  They thought that it was a good opportunity to put an end to the rule by the Tokugawa clan.  So, the revolutionary troops, mainly consisting of samurais of the Chosyu clan and the Satsuma clan, started a civil war against the Tokugawa government.

Nonetheless, now ex-shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu did not respond to a violent challenge from the opposition with his troops.  He left the Edo Castle, the main base of the Tokugawa shogun, in Tokyo (then called Edo) and retired in a temple.  But some samurai clans who did not like to obey leaders of the opposition samurai camp fought back.  As a result a year-long civil war was set off in Japan in 1868.  

It ended with overwhelming victory of the anti-Tokugawa samurai camp.  And Emperor Meiji moved from Kyoto to Tokyo to be the effective monarch of Japan.

However, after taking over power from the Tokugawa clan, those imperial samurai leaders changed their diplomatic policy.  They abandoned the nation isolation policy to see advanced industrial power of the Western powers.  They formed the Meiji Government to introduce into Japan various Western systems and products of the Western civilization.

Though some samurais who were on the Tokugawa side were purged or executed, Tokugawa Yoshinobu was eventually pardoned and competent samurais who once served the Tokugawa regime were employed by the Meiji Government.  And, Japan started in full swing to modernization and industrialization as a whole.

However, it is important that most of samurai leaders who demolished the feudalistic Tokugawa regime had been first against the opening of the nation.  Though their main motive was apparently to simply go counter to the Tokugawa shogun, they must have wanted to protect the culture and traditions of Japan from foreign influences.  In this context, they might be called patriots.

And, 70 years later, namely in 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a risky war against the US, the UK, and other allied European countries.  Even at the time, the samurai (warrior) spirit was observed well by military officers and some politicians.  And there were many generals of the Imperial Army and Navy who were descendants of Chosyu and Satsuma samurais.  It is as if their old ideology of national isolation or samurai-era nationalism had revived.  During WWII, those leaders of the Imperial Army and Navy and the Imperial Government showed strong hostility to the Western culture, though the Empire allied with Germany and Italy.

After WWII or the defeat of the Imperial military to the US, Japanese changed their policy again.  They accepted the American-style democracy as well as various American systems and cultural influences.  The democratic Japanese Government became so pro-American.  Even the Imperial House of Japan discarded the old paradigm of accepting militarism based on samurai spirit.  Today, love for peace seems to be one of main features of the Imperial House.

Nonetheless, if there had not been the civil war (called the Boshin War due to the name of 1868 in classic Japanese) between the Tokugawa camp and the imperial samurai camp in 1868, the Empire of Japan before WWII should have been more realistic and pragmatic in its diplomatic policy with many ex-elite samurais of the Tokugawa regime taking key positions in the Meiji Government and the successive Imperial Government.

For example, ancestors of incumbent Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, were samurais of the Chosyu clan whose territory was mostly present-day Yamaguchi Prefecture in West Japan.

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Joh 11:8 His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?
Joh 11:9 Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.