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Criticising Colonialism in pre‑1945 Japan

Critiquer le colonialisme dans le Japon d’avant 1945
Pierre‑François Souyri

Abstracts

From the beginning of Japanese colonial rule, some people began to raise their voices to criticize this new domination on overseas people. During the Taishō democracy period, these voices began to be heard, prior to be smothered during the 1930’s. There were many people who doubted the capacity of the Japanese State to assimilate colonialized populations. We can separate these contestators of the colonial system in three major trends of ideas.
1) A moral movement, which emerges basically as a fierce criticism of repressive police and army’s methods against colonial populations (especially after the 1919 independence movements in Korea).
2) An economical criticism, inherited from the western liberal philosophy, stating that colonization cost more than it can bring in profits. This trend does not really care about the colonial situation in itself, but consider that the colonial programme is short-termed enterprise as colonial people will obviously struggle against the colonial ruler and defeat it sooner or later.
3) Criticisms of the colonial system appearing inside the Japanese academic world itself, among professors in charge of studying and teaching colonial policies: their analysis of the colonial domination leads them to admit the ineluctability of the “home rule” in colonial countries, or even their independence.

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Editor’s note

Original release: Pierre‑François Souyri, « Critiquer le colonialisme dans le Japon d’avant 1945 », Cipango 18, 2011, 189‑236, mis en ligne le 18 juin 2013. URL : http://cipango.revues.org/1525 ; DOI : 10.4000/cipango.1525

Full text

On the map, I paint Korea with dark black ink
and listen to the autumn winds.
地図の上 朝鮮国にくろぐろと
墨をぬりつつ 秋風をきく

Ishikawa Takuboku, 1910,
at the time of Korea’s annexation by Japan.

(Translation from Iwaki, Y., 1989. Takuboku and Korea, Comparative Literature Studies. vol. 26, no. 3, East‑West Issue, p 242.
Available at <
http://www.jstor.org/​> [Accessed 09 July 2013])

1From the moment Japan began to implement its colonial policies, critical voices emerged within the country over this new means of dominating overseas populations. This little‑known yet clearly expressed criticism of colonialism became increasingly audible during the so‑called Taishō democracy (1912‑1926) before gradually being stifled once more at the end of the 1930s. Unlike the views expressed in favour of political freedom, which were enthusiastically received by Japanese society, criticism of imperialism and colonialism garnered little support. Following in the tradition of the Freedom and Popular Rights Movement of the 1880s, the middle classes identified with the calls for greater freedom and democracy, and partly concurred with working‑class aspirations to better living conditions. However, the vast majority of the population believed that there was something to be gained—in addition to national pride—from the country’s expansionist adventures that culminated in the creation of a colonial empire.

2The Korean independence movement, Chinese boycott of Japanese products or failure of Japan’s military campaign in Siberia might have encouraged Japan to take a more cautious approach to foreign policy and critically examine its own colonial practices. Indeed, there was hesitation among Japan’s ruling circles as to how to govern the colonies. In 1919, the debate that had lain dormant since Japan’s first experiments in colonisation, in Taiwan at the end of the nineteenth century, finally burst into the public arena. Should colonial governments be left to the army or placed under civil administration? Was the aim of colonisation strategic (keeping Westerners at a distance), economic (increasing Japan’s wealth by exploiting the colonies) or rather civilising, by expanding Japan’s borders and culturally assimilating the conquered populations? And was it even possible for these populations to be assimilated, for that matter? Debate raged as to the how or even why to colonise but no one, at least not within the ruling circles, questioned colonisation itself.

3In Taiwan, Japanese efforts to take control of the island as of 1895 had met with a resistance that it would take time to eradicate. The government of the new colony had thus naturally been placed in the hands of the army, something which did not prevent high ranking civil servants such as Gotō Shinpei 後藤新平 (1857‑1929) and Nitobe Inazō 新渡戸稲造 (1862‑1933) from enjoying a certain amount of leeway in subsequent years, with Nitobe notably being tasked by Gotō with developing an agricultural policy for subtropical regions. Similarly, the annexation of Korea came about in a context of extreme tension following the assassination of the previous Japanese Resident‑General of Korea and guerrilla activities against Japan. The military therefore had control of the colonial administrative system. Prime Minister Hara Takashi 原敬 (1918‑21), when appointing his new cabinet, was for his part opposed to the army controlling the colonies and in favour of snatching back power by imposing a civil administration.

  • 1 To borrow the expression used by the economist and specialist in colonial policies Yanaihara Tadao (...)

4In the aftermath of the anti‑Japanese protests that raged across Korea in the spring of 1919, criticism of the army, which controlled the country and had chosen the path of brutal repression, even reached within government ranks in Tokyo. The Korean reaction was interpreted as a show of discontent with the Japanese military government in Korea rather than a genuine national demand for independence. Following a period of violent repression, the colonial regime made concessions by abandoning militarism (budan shugi 武断主義) and henceforth advocating a more tolerant policy aimed at replacing army personnel with senior civil servants, who were theoretically less violent and more conciliating (bunchi shugi 文治主義). Welcomed by the Koreans with some relief, this new and less repressive colonial government showed a willingness to allow a Korean cultural discourse (bunka seiji 文化政治) to develop. While throughout Japan there was talk of Japan and Korea sharing the same political destiny (nissen dōchi 日鮮同治), over on the peninsula this policy was quickly suspected of being nothing more than an attempt to crush the fledgling Korean national identity. It chiefly succeeded in dividing the Korean nationalist movement into moderate “cultural” nationalism on the one hand and pro‑independence radicalism on the other. A “desperate instability” hailing from the inmost depths of Korean society was visible in the face of Japan’s thirst for assimilation.1

5Doubts quickly surfaced in Japan itself as to whether it was possible to assimilate colonial populations. Remember that one of the characteristics of Japanese colonialism is to have constantly wavered between a policy of assimilation, dōka seisaku 同化政策 (Taiwanese and Koreans would one day become fully‑fledged Japanese), and one of non‑assimilation, dōka seisaku hantai ron 同化政策反対論, based on the idea of an immutable and uniquely Japanese character and thus the impossibility of turning colonial peoples into Japanese subjects in their own right.

  • 2 Theory on Japanese‑Korean Common Ancestry” (Nissen dōsoron 日鮮同祖論). These issues are elaborated upo (...)

6Advocates of assimilation were driven by a kind of ideal in which the Japanese nation was assigned a civilising role. Colonial peoples were Japanese citizens who were simply unaware of it. In fact, it was in their interest to become Japanese in order to enjoy the benefits of modernisation as part of Greater Japan. Encouraged by this ideal, in the late 1930s they began to accelerate the process of remoulding colonial peoples into sovereign subjects (kōminka 皇民化), a process otherwise known as “imperialisation”. Pseudo‑scientific theories on the shared ancestry of the Japanese and Koreans were often used to give weight to their aspirations.2 Some even went as far as suggesting, at the end of the 1930s, that the two populations intermarry (Japanese men with Korean women) in order to encourage the assimilation of the peninsula into Japan (naisen ittai 内鮮一体). The purported advantage of this policy was to guarantee a lasting peace between Japan and Korea by creating a mixed nation (kongō minzoku ron 混合民族論).

  • 3 Oguma Eiji, op. cit., p. 239.

7Proponents of non‑assimilation, who were often close to the ruling circles of the army, were colonialists for economic and strategic reasons and their national pride meant that they were hardly likely to imagine that colonial populations could be assimilated, much less that they could intermarry with metropolitan Japanese. However, their fears over the possibility of a colonial uprising that would weaken positions outside of Japan’s zone of control made them inclined to advocate leaving the colonial populations to determine their own affairs, a policy known as minzoku jiketsu seisaku 民族自決政策. This explains why the assimilationists at times adopted harsher political stands with regards the colonial populations than those who believed in the uniqueness of the Japanese “race” and were quick to develop—as in the case of Tōgō Minoru 東郷実a theorisation of “racial differentiation” akin to apartheid (bunka seisaku 分化政策).3 Local elites within the colonies occasionally took advantage of this contradiction by supporting alternately one camp or the other.

  • 4 In 1914, Itagaki Taisuke, a believer in “racial harmony”, instigated an abortive movement to extend (...)
  • 5 On this affair, known as the “Ōsaka Incident”, see Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’époq (...)
  • 6 Tsurumi Shunsuke 鶴見俊輔, Senjiki Nihon no seishinshi 1931‑1945 時期日本の精神史, Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1982, (...)

8Furthermore, remember that from the mid‑1880s Japanese advocates of freedom and popular rights nurtured the idea that because Japan was changing and looking ahead to the future it had an obligation to help its neighbours, and in particular Korea, bring an end to immobilism. In 1884, Liberal Party (Jiyūtō 自由党) leaders Gotō Shōjirō 後藤象二郎 (1838‑1897) and Itagaki Taisuke 板垣退助 (1837‑1919) made plans for a military coup in Korea designed to rid the peninsula of the traditionalism of the ruling monarchy which was an impediment to civilisation.4 Gotō even entertained dreams of becoming prime minister of a liberated Korea! The following year, Ōi Kentarō 大井憲太郎 (1843‑1922), leader of the Liberal Party’s most radical wing, in turn considered using armed force to prise Korea from the hands of conservatives and overthrow the government via military means.5 The intellectual Tsurumi Shunsuke (1922‑2015) points out that at the end of the nineteenth century political factions on both sides of the divide agreed that civilisation must be imposed, if necessary by force.6 In 1905, the journalist and historian Takekoshi Yosaburō 竹越与三郎 (1865‑1950) wrote the following in an essay on the colonial government in Taiwan ten years after annexation:

  • 7 Quoted by Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, seidoku 帝国主義下の台湾精読 (Taiwan under Imperialism: (...)

Western nations have long believed that on their shoulders alone rested the responsibility of colonizing the yet‑unopened portions of the globe and extending to the inhabitants the benefits of civilization; but now we Japanese, rising from the ocean in the extreme Orient, wish as a nation to take part in this great and glorious work. Could we also, unknowingly, carry on our shoulders the yellow man’s burden? The answer will depend on our success or failure in Taiwan.7

  • 8 Kōtoku Shūsui, L’Impérialisme, le spectre du xxe siècle (Imperialism, the Ghost of the 20th century (...)

9For his part, the socialist (and future anarchist) Kōtoku Shūsui 幸徳秋水 (1871‑1911) began to voice criticism of imperialism in 1901, deeming it a warmongering activity that encouraged militaristic and despotic tendencies. He paid little attention, however, to the subject of colonialism and drew no parallels between imperialism and colonial exploitation as such.8 Consequently, it was only gradually, at the beginning of the 1910s, that the first critics emerged. Later, the influence of the Russian Revolution, the right to self‑determination, the social unrest that swept the country and the spread of democratic ideals led some to launch a direct attack on imperialism and its immediate and tangible consequence: colonialism. The socialists, communists and anarchists showed an unwavering and instinctive distrust of colonialism, considering it to be linked to imperialism and warmongering just as Kōtoku had argued. Nevertheless, solidarity with colonial peoples appeared to be secondary in their struggle and rare were those who made anti‑colonialism a priority. For their part, certain liberals drew on an economic analysis to show that the financial cost of running the colonies exceeded any profits generated. Considered immoral, brutal and irresponsible by some, for others Japan’s colonial policies were above all costly and ineffective. Lying between these two positions championed, as we shall see, by some eminent individuals, was a whole spectrum of intermediate positions in which indignation at times coloured the economic debate. Others took offense at the colonial governments’ ignorance of local cultures and criticised their desire to deny or destroy these in the name of what was presented as a modern and civilised colonial policy.

10Anti‑colonial thought in Japan fell into three main categories.

11Firstly, there was a “moral” criticism that emerged essentially as an indictment of the repressive methods employed by the police and military in the colonies, particularly in the wake of the protest movements of 1919. The majority of critics in this camp took issue with a policy they believed only made sense if it were to do “good”, whereas in fact it was doing “harm”. They fought on behalf of “others”, “thought of the Korean people”, but were not necessarily opposed to the colonial enterprise itself, which they saw as inherently positive but in need of reform and improvement. Ultimately, the idea as they saw it was to “civilise”, “modernise” and even “democratise” the colonial societies. Most of those in this camp were virulent critics of assimilation and grew increasingly critical of the brutality inherent in the colonial system. They underlined the originality and importance of colonial or semi‑colonial peoples’ cultures and were overtly hostile to the steamroller approach adopted by colonial Japan in its “cultural policy”. This moral criticism—which remained marginal prior to 1919—became increasingly vocal in the 1920s and 30s.

12In addition to this there was an “economic” criticism, a product of Western liberal thought. This criticism—which was ultimately fairly radical in nature—was anything but altruistic. It emerged at the beginning of the Taishō period to condemn Japan’s colonial, and more broadly imperialist, policies as unprofitable, pointless and dangerous because they ultimately led to war. These policies entailed an increase in what was seen as Japan’s uneconomical military budgets. Colonialism and imperialism conflicted with the well‑known interests of the country, the state and the nation, as well as being morally questionable. Critics in this camp were anti‑colonial on principle but took little interest in the protest movements of colonial peoples, other than to declare that they would inevitably lead to independence and thus to Japan’s predictable failure.

13Finally, criticism of the colonial system emerged within Japan’s academic community itself, precisely from certain university professors responsible for teaching colonial affairs. From this point of view, Yanaihara Tadao 矢内原忠雄 (1893‑1961), who began teaching in 1923, was emblematic. In some ways he attempted to combine the two currents of thought described here, blending economic criticism, moral criticism and a consideration for the aspirations of colonial peoples. In the 1930s he began to foresee the independence of the colonies as the ultimate aim of the process underway.

14Each of the three types of anti‑colonial thought briefly defined here was embodied at one point or other by certain “figures” whose background and political ideas will be described in this paper. Of course, these thinkers may have influenced one another, and some critics of colonialism may, depending on the period or their own political background, have focused their criticism in turn on one or other of the following aspects: colonialism is morally unacceptable because fundamentally brutal and oppressive; culturally stupid because destructive and ignorant of local realities; costly in financial terms because not profitable for the nation.

Denouncing Repression and Promoting Indigenous Cultures

15The pro‑independence or nationalist movements that broke out in Korea and China in the spring of 1919 were portrayed in Japan’s mainstream media as essentially anti‑Japanese in nature and consequently garnered little sympathy in the home islands. Some Japanese newspapers even suggested that the Koreans had been manipulated by Western Christian missionaries hostile to Japan’s presence on the peninsula.

  • 9 To use the term employed by Andrew Gordon in his book Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan,(...)
  • 10 Matsuo Takayoshi 松尾尊 (texts established and annotated by), Yoshino Sakuzō shū 野作造集 (The Collected (...)

16One of the first people to denounce this simplistic analysis of the movements sweeping the continent was Yoshino Sakuzō 吉野作造 (1878‑1933), a professor of political science at Tokyo Imperial University. Beginning in 1905, Yoshino advocated the “constitutionalism at home, imperialism abroad” doctrine (uchi ni rikkenshugi, soto ni teikokushugi 内に立憲 主義、外に帝国主義); however, his stays in China and Korea in addition to his own political reflection gradually led him to distance himself from the positions he had defended in his youth. This political U‑turn took place between 1916 and 1918 and was rooted in a certain confidence in the rise of democratic forces within Japan, as well as in China and Korea. Yoshino argued for a democracy that would be compatible with the Constitution of 1889 and could be developed within the framework of the imperial system. He called it minpon shugi 民本主義, or imperial democracy.9 Henceforth, his proclaimed ideal was to “achieve democracy at home and establish racial equality abroad (uchi ni minpon shugi no tettei, soto ni kokusai byōdōshugi no kakuritsu 内に民本主義の徹底、外に国際平等主義の確立) and he argued in favour of the right of colonial peoples to self‑determination (minzoku jiketsu 民族自決).10

  • 11 And this despite the fact that between 1904 and 1906 he had been the private tutor of the son of Yu (...)
  • 12 Published in Yoshino Sakuzō senshū 吉野作造選集 (The Selected Writings of Yoshino Sakuzō), volume 7, Iwan (...)
  • 13 Taishigaikō konponsaku no kettei ni kansuru Nihon seiryaku no konmei” 対支外交根本策の決定に関する日本政略の混迷 (Japan (...)
  • 14 Japan’s kenpeitai has often been compared to the German Gestapo during the Second World War.

17Like many Japanese political observers, Yoshino Sakuzō had been highly impressed with the Chinese nationalist revolution of 1911 in which the country was proclaimed a republic. He felt a connection to the Chinese revolutionaries11 and even wrote a history of the Chinese revolution which he published in 1917.12 In articles published over subsequent years he began to criticise the Japanese government’s heavy‑handed approach on the continent and advocated a rapprochement between Japan and the young Chinese nationalists who “held the country’s future in their hands”.13 Moreover, he became increasingly critical of the methods used by the kenpeitai 憲兵隊, Japan’s military police famous for its operations in overseas territories.14 He regretfully expressed serious doubts as to the ultimate possibility of assimilating the Korean people into the Japanese nation, arguing that the Korean peninsula had long possessed its own civilisation quite distinct from that of Japan.

18Yoshino warmly welcomed Chinese and Korean students to his classes and seminars, and invited them into his home for open discussion, something which in the context was not always simple. He travelled to China and Korea once again in 1916 and it was with this trip that the first doubts began to surface:

  • 15 Yoshino Sakuzō, “Mankan o shisatsu shite” 満韓を視察して (Observations from Manchuria and Korea), Chūō Kōr (...)

I have met many Koreans this year and listening to what they have to say, it is clear that, contrary to expectation, many speak of the current injustice of the Japanese political authorities in their country. Whether this injustice is real or not matters little, but we would be wrong to ignore what they say.15

19The nationalist and social upsurge in China and Korea at the end of the First World War led Yoshino to distance himself more clearly from Japan’s policy. In October 1918 he wrote a short article in which he quoted comments made by the professor of colonial studies at Kyoto imperial University, Yamamoto Miono 山本美越乃 (1874‑1941), who in the daily newspaper Osaka Mainichi Shinbun 大阪毎日新聞 explained that the Koreans “had always possessed their own culture” and that it was “futile to ignore their customs, institutions and mores when governing them”. Yoshino then took on a prophetic air, concluding that:

  • 16 Chōsen tōchisaku” 朝鮮統治策 (The Domination of Korea), October 1918, published in Chūō Kōron, reproduc (...)

The Korean issue will shortly become Japan’s main political concern: we must realise that thanks to the war, Korea’s nationalist factions have grown significantly.16

  • 17 Known as the March 1st Movement of 1919. Following the death of the Korean Emperor who had been dep (...)
  • 18 The Reimeikai 黎明会 (Dawn Society) was run between 1918 and 1920 by a group of academics, liberals an (...)
  • 19 Taishō shisō shū 正思想集 (Taishō Period Thought: Collected Writings), Book II, edition put together b (...)

20Following the Korean nationalist movement of March 1919, which saw a rash of anti‑Japanese protests,17 Yoshino Sakuzō decided to invite his Korean students to Reimeikai18 meetings and gave them the opportunity to argue for the independence of their country, to the applause of the listening audience. He explained that Japan must also learn to see things from a Korean perspective if it was to understand the events taking place. He was backed by a small but significant section of public opinion. At one of these meetings, university professor Fukuda Tokuzō 福田徳三 (1874‑1930) declared outright that “Korea did not belong to the militarist cliques” and that it “was high time constitutional law was applied there”.19 However, Yoshino’s writings also attracted a growing hostility from nationalist quarters.

21A few weeks later, during the Chinese May Fourth movement of 1919, Yoshino Sakuzō was one of the rare intellectuals to speak out in the Japanese press in favour of the Chinese nationalists boycotting Japanese products. He explained that these movements “that had made the Japanese somewhat nervous” targeted the Tokyo bureaucracy and the military and financial cliques rather than the Japanese people itself:

  • 20 Yoshino Sakuzō, “Pekin gakuseidan no kōdō o manba suru nakare” 北京学生団の行動を漫罵する勿れ (Do Not Disparage th (...)

For many years I have fought to free my beloved country from the hands of the bureaucratic and military cliques. I do not get the impression that the Peking students are at this moment doing anything different. I can only wish such a movement success.20

  • 21 In 1918, a group of students and disciples of Yoshino founded an association called the Shinjinkai (...)
  • 22 Taishō shisō shū ii, ibid., p. 444.
  • 23 As Michel Vié points out, this is less than the repression carried out by the French in Sétif and G (...)
  • 24 “Suigen gyakusatsu jiken” 水原虐殺事件 (The Suwŏn Massacre), Chūō Kōron, July 1919, in Yoshino Sakuzō sen (...)
  • 25 Paull Hobom Shin, The Korean Colony in Chientao, A Study of Japanese Imperialism and Militant Korea (...)
  • 26 See in particular Yoshino’s article published in the February 1921 issue of Chūō Kōron, in Yoshino (...)

22Following on from this, Yoshino succeeded in inviting a delegation of teachers and students from Beijing University to Tokyo “to help foster a better understanding between the young of both countries”. It was also around this time that a large number of pro‑democracy journalists and professors travelled to Manchuria, Beijing and Shanghai in an attempt to understand the events taking place on the continent. In May 1920 the Chinese visitors spoke in public to explain the substance of the May Fourth movement to Reimeikai members and the Shinjinkai.21 The students welcomed them with interest and questioned them at length. Much the same can be said of the interest of these societies in reflecting on colonial problems, in particular Korea. They pronounced themselves in favour of an “improvement” (kaizen 改善) in Japan’s policy on the peninsula.22 Note that any issues of the Shinjinkai’s journal that dealt with Korea were censured and banned from publication. Yoshino condemned the repressive tactics used by the colonial government in Korea in 1919 (leading to 8,000 deaths and 45,000 arrests),23 describing them as “inadmissible” and “immoral”,24 in particular the massacres committed by Japanese police at Suwŏn in 1919 and the district of Jiandao 間島 (in an area of Manchuria heavily populated by Koreans)25 in October 1920. These incidents were passed over in silence by both the government and the press.26 In articles supporting the demands of the Korean movement, Yoshino argued for the protesters to receive in response the abolition of the colonial government’s discrimination against Koreans, an end to military rule, freedom of expression, and the abandonment of Japan’s assimilation policy.

23Despite his bold stances and sympathy for the Chinese and Korean nationalist movements, which he considered to be democratic in aspiration, Yoshino Sakuzō never lapsed into anti‑colonialism. While he argued for a utopian liberal colonialism that did not repress independence movements and granted the colonial populations greater freedom and democracy, he never challenged the principle behind the colony:

  • 27 Chōsen seinenkai mondai–Chōsen tōjisaku no kakusei o unagasu” 朝鮮青年会問題朝鮮統治策の覚醒を促す (The Korean Yout (...)

No one doubts that from a legal standpoint Koreans are Japanese subjects. However, in reality Koreans are not of the Yamato race. In the Empire of Japan currently being built by the Yamato people, Koreans are like a distant offspring and in truth that is difficult to hide. We would like to be able to hope enthusiastically that Koreans might feel the same sense of loyalty to Japan as inhabitants of the home islands, but it stands to reason that we cannot impose such a feeling by force, and though it is difficult to admit, this is not currently the case.27

  • 28 Chōsenjin ni omou”, Yanagi Sōetsu shū 宗悦集 (The Selected Writings of Yanagi Sōetsu), Tsurumi Shuns (...)
  • 29 Ibid., p. 178.

24In response to the Korean nationalist movement of March 1919 and its repression by the Japanese colonial authorities, Yanagi Sōetsu (1889‑1961) joined others in objecting strenuously to the government’s attitude and took up the Koreans’ defence. “Seeing that no one was publicly defending the unfortunate Koreans, I wrote in haste,”28 he said on the subject of “Sympathy for the Koreans”, a hard‑hitting text he published in the Yomiuri Shinbun (20‑22 May 1919). “Who really believes that people can be bound together by a military government and repression? […] Lovers of peace can but smile bitterly at the thought,”29 he wrote, adding that:

  • 30 Ibid., pp. 182‑183.

If we seek eternal peace with our neighbours we must purify our hearts with love and immerse ourselves in compassion. Unfortunately, Japan has instead brandished the sword and offered abuse. Is this the way to mutual understanding, cooperation and collaboration? It is not. What is felt by the Koreans is limitless animosity, a desire to resist, hatred and a longing for separation. Consequently, they have but one ideal: independence. It is quite natural that they would feel no love for Japan, and only a handful of people hold our country in esteem.30

  • 31 For more information on Yanagi Muneyoshi, alias Sōetsu, see the special feature in issue 16 of Cipa (...)
  • 32 On the Japanese superiority complex towards Koreans, see Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à (...)

25Known today as the founding father of the Folk Art Movement, an art critic and a philosopher of religion, Yanagi Sōetsu31 went against the dominant thinking of his time, embodied in the 1880s by Fukuzawa Yukichi 福沢諭吉 (1835‑1901) in his essay “Leaving Asia” (Datsu A ron 脱亜論), as well as the opinions articulated in the 1890s by advocates of pro‑Japanese nationalism (kokusuishugi 国粋主義). Yanagi believed that this manner of thinking led the Japanese to develop an inferiority complex towards Westerners and a feeling of superiority over other Asians. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Yanagi did not believe that the Japanese were “superior” to Koreans, something that was quite rare at the time.32 In any case, Yanagi Sōetsu felt neither inferior to Westerners nor saw their existence as a pressure. His thinking took shape during the Taishō democracy, in what can only be described as favourable conditions. Many people during this period believed that with Japan having finally achieved equal status with the great powers it would be treated as an equal by the West and thus rid itself of the unpleasant inferiority complex developed by certain Japanese towards “Whites”, a feeling known as gaison naihi 外尊内卑 (idolising foreigners, disparaging oneself), described back in the 1890s by the nationalist Miyake Setsurei 三宅雪嶺 (1860‑1945).

  • 33 Bernard Leach, A Potter’s Book, Faber and Faber, 3rd edition, 1988.
  • 34 In “Chōsen no bijutsu” (Korean Art), Yanagi wrote of a “bitter beauty” (hishū no bi 悲愁の美). See Yana (...)
  • 35 “Chōsenjin ni omou”, op. cit., p. 177.

26A graduate of Gakushūin 学習院the school of Japan’s aristocracy—and one of the most influential members of the literary group Shirakaba 白樺, Yanagi Sōetsu early on developed ties with Westerners living in Japan. He notably struck up a friendship with Bernard Leach, the great connoisseur of Far Eastern artistic culture, future author of A Potter’s Book and introducer of Japanese raku33 pottery to Europe. Yanagi travelled to Korea with Leach on several occasions and it was Leach who introduced Yanagi to the beauty of Korean pottery. Leach’s fascination with Far Eastern art was equal only to that of Yanagi for Japanese, Korean and even Chinese folk art. Yanagi was particularly struck in 1914 by the beauty of Chosŏn white porcelain, which was generally considered “plain” and had previously attracted little admiration. He was one of the first in Japan to take an unprejudiced look at Korean culture and admire its aesthetic—which he described as “a bitter beauty”—,34 paying tribute in the process to those who had created these works. He saw himself as a kind of Lafcadio Hearn, who had done so much to increase understanding of Japanese culture in the West.35 To the Japanese who had previously considered Korea to be nothing but a wretched and impoverished country, Yanagi’s views were revolutionary. He introduced those who listened to him to “a different Korea”. Beauty transcends borders, explained Yanagi, who made numerous trips to Korea and began to establish a collection of local crafts.

27However, Yanagi was not merely a political commentator and did not content himself with adopting a purely aesthetical standpoint. His stance cannot merely be described as an indictment of violent repression. It was also a plea for the protection of Korean culture and a criticism of Japanese tactics and reasoning:

  • 36 Ibid., pp. 180‑181.

We employ methods designed to make it impossible for Koreans to achieve full independence. We also refuse to recognise that they might have their own ways of thinking and offer them nothing but an education and morals geared towards Japan. In short, whether in material or spiritual matters we have robbed them of their freedom and independence. Some argue that we are sowing the seeds that will enable them to think like the Japanese, but we make no attempt to reach their hearts. When we approach them it is always with the sword, never the heart.36

  • 37 Ibid., p. 183.

28To this he added: “such a policy will never give rise to peace in the colonies”.37 After demonstrating all that Japan’s ancient art owed to Korean influences, Yanagi then wrote:

  • 38 Ibid., pp. 181‑182.

Instead of Japan being grateful [to Korea for having passed down its art], it is destroying this unique Korean art. Enthusiasts collect ancient artefacts but have no intention of reviving the very thing that enabled this art to exist. If this is what is known as the way of “assimilation”, it is terrifying. I believe that Japan’s true mission is to preserve for Korea its merit of occupying a prominent place in international art. Education should be designed to nurture this art, not destroy it.38

29The following year, in his “Letter to My Korean Friends” published in the journal Kaizō in June 1920, he criticised the colonial policies that had robbed Korea of its independence and destroyed its unique culture:

  • 39 Chōsen no tomo ni okuru sho” 朝鮮の友に贈る書 (Letter to My Korean Friends), published in Kaizō 改造 in June (...)

The Koreans are full of sorrow and suffering. Their flag no longer flies high in the sky and despite it being spring, the sueka flowers seem to have closed their buds forever. Their own culture grows more distant by the day and is disappearing from their villages. The vestiges of their civilisation, so remarkable in many respects, now belong as if to the pages of an old book. People come and go with heads bowed, their shoulders hunched over in pain and resentment. Even when they speak it is in hushed tones. Common people turn their backs on the sun and gather only in darkness. What force drives you to hide yourselves so? I can well imagine how your minds and bodies are gripped by a sombre mood. Are your tears really of blood? Man can endure suffering with ease but cannot live where there is neither love nor freedom.39

  • 40 Ibid., p. 188.
  • 41 Kare no chōsenyuki” 彼の朝鮮行 (He Who Travels to Korea), in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 198.
  • 42 Chōsenjin ni omou”, Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 179 and p. 186.
  • 43 Ibid., p. 181.

30Yanagi repeatedly spoke of the closeness and affinity he felt towards Koreans and their civilisation. “Korea and Japan are historically, geographically, ethnically and linguistically as close as brothers. The current situation is absolutely wrong. Korea is like a brother to Japan and yet is treated as a slave”.40 By addressing Koreans directly and speaking of his many Korean friends, well‑known or otherwise, Yanagi employed an effective rhetorical device that enabled Japanese readers to put themselves in colonial peoples’ shoes. In a text from 1920 he wrote that to Koreans, Japan was doubtless nothing but a violent and merciless country.41 He presented the unvarnished viewpoint of the other, using empathy as a means of denouncing the system. At times he asked Japanese readers to put themselves in the Koreans’ position: “Oh, if only the Japanese could put themselves in the Koreans’ shoes,” he wrote on several occasions.42 He also criticised the stupidity of the education system developed in Korea by the colonial authorities and which was designed to instil Japanese values while denying the history of Korean culture. Vehemently opposed to the Japanese policy of assimilation, Yanagi questioned, in the voice of a Korean: “Japan is providing us with an education; is it for us or for them? Young Koreans are asked to idolise as heroes those who are nothing but thieves”.43

  • 44 Ibid., p. 183.
  • 45 Tsurumi Shunsuke, postscript, in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 434.

31Yanagi believed that the Japanese should take a critical look at themselves with regards these questions. “I would like Koreans to know that amongst us other Japanese there are those who believe that in this affair Japan is trampling morality underfoot”.44 In the text addressed to his Korean friends he criticised “the domineering Japan”, to which he would prefer a more compassionate Japan, and wished for “humane Japanese”. He deemed the situation in Korea at the time to be “abnormal” and “unnatural”. Part of his text was censored by the authorities and its translation in a Korean‑language journal suspended.45

  • 46 Ushinaharentosuru Chōsen kenchiku no tame ni” 失はれんとする朝鮮建築のために (For a Korean Architecture About to (...)
  • 47 Ibid., p. 236.
  • 48 Ibid., p. 235.
  • 49 Ibid., p. 236. The gate was destroyed during the Japanese invasions of the late 16th century and su (...)
  • 50 The gate was restored to its original location in 1968, while the modern‑style Japanese building wa (...)
  • 51 Tsurumi Shunsuke, postscript, in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 434.

32When the colonial government indicated its intention of destroying the Kwanghwa Gate at Kyŏngbok Palace in Seoul in order to erect an enormous modern building designed to house the new headquarters of the Government‑General, Yanagi was scandalised. What the colonisers saw as the symbolic victory of Japanese modernity over Korea’s past (the original gate had been built in 1395), Koreans saw as an attack on a symbol of their national history. Yanagi felt that the Japanese authorities were committing yet another blunder, one caused by uneducated and blind bureaucrats who knew nothing of Korea’s history and the peninsula’s nascent nationalism. In September 1922 he published an article in Kaizō on the Korean architectural treasures about to be destroyed by the Japanese. It took the form of a letter to the Kwanghwa Gate: “Kwanghwa Gate, Kwanghwa Gate, your days are now numbered. All memory of your existence in this world is soon to disappear into cold oblivion”.46 He extoled the building’s virtues, writing: “Oh, Kwanghwa Gate, so magnificent in appearance”47 and possessing “tranquil beauty and dignity”. In this way, Yanagi expressed his sympathy for the Korean people who were to be deprived of a part of themselves, defended art in general and challenged the ridiculous idea of constructing a modern building “totally devoid of creative beauty” on such a historic site. He deplored the fact that no one was really able to come to the monument’s defence, and even worse, that those who opposed its destruction were accused of being conspirators.48 He did not hesitate to take his Japanese readership to task, writing “Readers, do not look down on this gate by declaring it nothing but a piece from the late Chosŏn period”.49 He also criticised a policy that showed no restraint with regards art. “Oh, Kwanghwa Gate, what sorrow you must feel!” His vehemence and irony tinged with despair touched a certain number of Japanese decision‑makers, who decided to go ahead with their building but without destroying the gate, which was dismantled and rebuilt on another location.50 Yanagi was subsequently listed by the Japanese authorities as a “dangerous person”.51

  • 52 Asakawa Noritaka 浅川伯教 (1884‑1964) was a primary school teacher in Seoul while his younger brother T (...)

33His “discovery” of a “folk art” created by traditional craftsmen in Korea, at a time when Japan was repressing the local population, led Yanagi Sōetsu to express views that bordered on anti‑colonialism. As far as Yanagi was concerned, the fact that independence had become an ideal for Koreans was merely the inevitable consequence of the resentment they felt towards their oppressors. However, he was demoralised by his powerlessness to influence political decision‑making in Tokyo or Seoul. Along with some of his Japanese friends in Seoul who supported the Korean cause (a few did exist, such as the Asakawa brothers Noritaka and Takumi,52 who had decided to settle in Korea at the beginning of the 1910s due to their love of Korean art and crafts and who helped Yanagi to understand Korean art), he struck up friendships with Korean artists and intellectuals such as Yom Sangso and Nam Kyŏngbok, reformist nationalists who were instrumental in establishing a history of Korean literature and Korea’s popular movements. In 1924 Yanagi founded a small Museum of Korean Folk Art in Seoul, stating his ambition as being to help Koreans better understand and appreciate their own culture.

  • 53 Kim Brandt, “Objects of Desire: Japanese Collectors and Colonial Korea”, Positions, 8‑3, Winter 200 (...)

34Yanagi is considered by some Korean nationalists today as having promoted a kind of colonial legitimacy. They accuse him of helping to strengthen the Japanese regime in Korea by promoting Korean culture and becoming a kind of front for Japan’s “cultural policy”. Appointed by Prime Minister Hara Takashi in 1919, the new Governor‑General Saitō Makoto 斎藤実 (1858‑1936) was generally regarded as a liberal. In fact, Saitō had previously worked under Yanagi’s father and assisted Yanagi in his projects. This might go some way to explaining the assistance granted to Yanagi by certain representatives of the colonial authorities when he was attempting to set up his museum.53 Yanagi’s questionable view of the “sorrowful” aesthetics of Korean art undoubtedly has a knack for ruffling certain sensibilities in Korea today. However, his views must be considered in context and while he had his faults, he nonetheless helped promote a widely underestimated pottery. After all, where are the French aesthetes capable of founding a museum of Algerian folk art in 1920s’ Algeria?

  • 54 See Yoshino Sakuzō, “L’affaire du massacre des Coréens” (The Korean Massacre), Ebisu, special issue (...)
  • 55 Taishō shisō shū, book II, op. cit., p. 290.

35A spate of pogroms erupted in September 1923 following the Great Kantō Earthquake. They mainly targeted Korean immigrants, who were killed in their thousands as the police stood by and did nothing. Yoshino Sakuzō immediately took up his pen to denounce the massacres, even going as far as showing that the police often supplied arms to the killers. His articles succeeded in touching a segment of public opinion and even some cabinet members, who demanded an end to the massacres.54 The Shinjinkai published a special issue of their journal one month after the earthquake entitled “Tanemaku hito no tachiba種蒔く人の立場 (The Seed Sower’s Position). They spoke of the violence “with repugnance”, writing “Try as we may, we cannot erase what happened”.55

36Hysteria gripped the Japanese media the following year when the American House of Representatives prepared to pass a new law on immigration (the Immigration Act of 1924) that contained overtly racist and anti‑Japanese clauses. In May 1924, Yamakawa Kikue 山川菊栄 (1890‑1980), a feminist with communist leanings, denounced the anti‑Japanese movement in the United States and criticised in the name of racial equality the egoism of the Americans; however, she continued:

  • 56 Yamakawa Kikue 山川菊栄, Jinshu teki henken, seiteki henken, kaikyū teki henken 人種的偏見、性的偏見、階級的偏見 (Racia (...)

During the great earthquake and fires of San Francisco [in 1907], did the American police and army use the disaster as an excuse to openly display their anti‑Japanese sentiments and racial prejudices? Did they attempt to slaughter a large number of Japanese? Did the Japanese in America meet the same fate as the Koreans and some workers during the great earthquake last autumn [September 1923]? Do Koreans, Taiwanese and other foreign peoples living in Japan really receive the same treatment as metropolitan Japanese on a political, social and economic level? And among native Japanese, do women and workers really enjoy the same rights as everyone else, despite having–and quite rightly–the same duties? And even for the Japanese, there are far too many areas given sacred status, in which according to one’s gender, level of education or wealth, certain places are off‑limits, as if a sign at the entrance read: “no entry to those belonging to inferior groups or peoples”.56

  • 57 Vera Mackie, Feminism in Modern Japan, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2003, points out on pa (...)

37This text, motivated by what was deemed the unacceptable attitude of the American authorities, was one of the first not only to denounce the status and condition of colonial peoples within the home islands of Japan, but also to broach the need to eradicate the widespread discrimination suffered by certain social groups. Yamakawa Kikue recognised the need to link the struggle of colonial peoples with the labour and feminist movements.57

Great or Small Japan?

  • 58 Ishibashi Tanzan is the only Japanese prime minister whose complete works span fifteen volumes! (pu (...)

38Among the democratic intellectuals, Ishibashi Tanzan 石橋湛山 (1884‑1973) was known for his indictment of imperialism. An advocate of “Small Japanism” (shō nippon shugi 小日本主義), Ishibashi believed, based on what he presented as rational arguments, that imperialism and colonialism cost more in the long run than they contributed to Japan, and that they encouraged the intrusive and inadvisable presence of military cliques in the main organs of state. Ishibashi Tanzan was one of the first to hold the view that expansionism was counter to democracy. In this sense, he stood in stark contrast to someone like Yoshino Sakuzō, who for many years supported the “democracy at home, imperialism abroad” doctrine. Given his post‑war career (he served as finance minister from 1946 to 1947, then as prime minister for a few weeks in 1956‑1957), Ishibashi Tanzan’s opinions clearly carried a certain weight.58

  • 59 As pointed out by Karatani Kōjin 柄谷行人 in Richard F. Calichman (ed.), Overcoming Modernity, Columbia (...)
  • 60 See the postscript by Matsuo Takayoshi 松尾尊兌 (ed.), Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū 橋湛山評論集 (The Critical (...)

39Ishibashi Tanzan was a graduate of the Tokyo Vocational School (Tokyo Senmon Gakkō 東京専門学校, later renamed Waseda University). Having studied philosophy, he was influenced by the pragmatism of John Dewey (and in fact invented a Japanese translation of the word pragmatism: sayōshugi 作用主義). He joined the agency Tōyō, which published several newspapers, and began by writing in Tōyō Jiron 東洋時論, a magazine founded in 1910 which opposed the old moral code in the name of individualism, supported the recently formed feminist movement and criticised the imperial government’s repression of socialism. During the High Treason Incident of 1911, Tōyō Jiron, which was incensed by the death sentences handed down to the anarchists, was banned by the censors on several occasions. Soon after, Ishibashi joined the journal Tōyō Keizai Shinpō 東洋経済新報 (The Far Eastern Economic Review), despite having no real training in economics. In addition to economic and financial news, the journal also addressed political, diplomatic and social issues from a liberal standpoint. It was particularly hostile to the constant inflation of Japan’s military budgets. The preserve of Waseda graduates, Tōyō Keizai Shinpō was considered at the time to be one of the bastions of radical liberalism (kyūshinteki jiyūshugi 急進的自由主義) and in subsequent years quickly became a reference journal for its often clear‑sighted and nonconformist views. The group was headed by Miura Tetsutarō 三浦鉄太郎, Ishibashi’s mentor. Ishibashi enjoyed a glittering career with the journal, becoming one of its most outstanding journalists and finally its editor‑in‑chief. A self‑taught economist, Ishibashi Tanzan went on to become a true liberal, a follower of the thinking of Adam Smith, and also argued in favour of establishing free‑trade agreements between Japan and Korea.59 Despite being an unwavering liberal at a time of rampant state interventionism, Ishibashi was often consulted by Japanese leaders in the 1930s for his economic expertise.60

  • 61 Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century, individuals such as Nakae Chōmin 江兆民 (1847‑1901 (...)
  • 62 Miura Tetsutarō, “Dai Nipponshugi ka Shō Nipponshugi ka” 大日本主義乎小日本主義乎 (Big Japanism or Small Japani (...)
  • 63 Ibid., p. 67.

40In the mid‑1910s, Ishibashi Tanzan focused his criticism on Tokyo’s foreign policy and the doctrine known as “Great Japanism” (Dai Nipponshugi 大日本主義), which resulted in a desire to produce ever more arms. He advocated a different approach, that of “Small Japanism”. The idea was given to him by Miura Tetsutarō, who in 1918 wrote an article entitled “Great Japanism or Small Japanism?” in which he showed that in Great Britain, the imperial party, which championed the idea of a Greater Britain, clashed with the liberals, who favoured non‑interventionism and free trade and were opposed to colonial protectionism. Miura lamented that Japan had no political parties advocating a “Small Japan”61 and only those in favour of a Great Japan. Proponents of Great Japanism suggested that it would be impossible to increase Japan’s wealth and develop the country without overseas expansion.62 However, pointed out Miura, if this was the case, why had Japan seen no improvement in its well‑being? Why on the contrary was its standard of living falling? The truth was that expanding Japan’s territories overseas required considerable sums of money to defend, manage and develop them; a “Small Japan”, on the other hand, would allow those in power to concentrate on improving living conditions and developing popular liberties. He contrasted Great Japanism, which through overseas expansion promised increased militarism and state despotism, with Small Japanism, which through expansion conceived as a domestic phenomenon promised industrialisation, liberalism and individualism.63 However, at no point did he mention the fate of the colonial populations. Miura used statistical evidence to demonstrate the financial burden inflicted on Japan by the colonies and ultimately denounced the illusion of Great Japanism, an expression that Ishibashi would later adopt himself.

  • 64 Shintō wa danjite ryōyū su bekarazu” 青島は断じて領有すべからず (Qingdao Must Not Be Seized), editorial from 15 (...)

41In 1914, Ishibashi was one of the rare individuals to clearly oppose Japan entering the war alongside the Allies and state his hostility to using the war to obtain territorial advantages or financial gain in China. Carving up China would only lead to increased conflict between the great powers, he wrote.64 His predictions became a reality the following year when Japan issued the Chinese government with its Twenty‑One Demands. He condemned the aggressive tactics of the “military cliques”, explaining that any economic and military advantages the Chinese government might be forced to concede in the short term would be wiped out in the medium term by deteriorating relations between the two countries and an inevitable increase in anti‑Japanese sentiment which, in the long run, would cost more to Japan than any advantages obtained. Unlike Kōtoku Shūsui in the 1900s or Yoshino Sakuzō, his contemporary, Ishibashi was not driven by questions of morality nor a desire to denounce the excessive aspects of a policy. He based his analysis on a purely economic calculation and an almost obsessively objective reasoning. He turned the prevailing logic at that time on its head. His argument was not that Japan should relinquish Manchuria or Qingdao in order to maintain good international relations or to please the Chinese people, but rather for the good of the Japanese nation. Eschewing mystical, imperial talk of the “national body”, or kokutai 国体, Ishibashi advocated running the state like a business, in other words, showing at least a modicum of rationality with regards Japan’s interests and paying no heed to absurd ideology. For Ishibashi, imperialism meant the easy way, mediocrity, short term and the absence of real ambition. Japan lacked a true vision of the future.

  • 65 Kakon o nokosu gaikō seisaku” 禍根を残す外交政策 (A Foreign Policy that the Misses the Root of the Problem) (...)

42Japan’s policy in China was based, he added, on an incredible superiority complex displayed by the Japanese towards the Chinese:65

  • 66 Quoted by Kano Masanao, Kindai kokka o kōsōshita shisōkatachi 代国家を構想した思想家たち (The Thinkers Who Devi (...)

The vocabulary speaks only of Sino‑Japanese friendship, China and Japan form one same people, their relationship is fraternal, like an elder brother with a younger sibling […], but in reality the Japanese have only one thing in mind: engulfing China. Friendly relations cannot be built on such a basis […]; if we truly want to establish friendly Sino‑Japanese relations, the only solution is to abandon our imperialist policy.66

43In the aftermath of the anti‑Japanese protests that swept across Korea in 1919, and in complete contradiction with public opinion as expressed in the mainstream media at the time, Ishibashi explained why Korean independence was inevitable:

  • 67 Senjin bōdō ni taisuru rikai” 鮮人暴動に対する理解 (Understanding the Korean Uprising), editorial from 15 Ma (...)

The Koreans are one people [ichi‑minzoku一民族]. They have their own language. They have a long independent history. Some no doubt find it regrettable, but there is not one single Korean who is glad that his country has been annexed by Japan. Until they finally regain their independence, the Koreans will naturally and repeatedly resist Japanese rule. What is more, as their knowledge and awareness increases, so their opposition to Japan will become increasingly radical.67

44At the beginning of the 1920s Ishibashi Tanzan once again condemned the Japanese expansion on the Chinese continent which sought only economic advantages and displayed a predator‑like aggressiveness. He suggested abandoning a policy that merely generated further tension with neighbouring countries and the great powers (in particular the United States) and reiterated his support for “Small Japanism”. During the Washington Naval Conference of July 1922, he published a slew of editorials in his journal denouncing imperialism:

  • 68 Issai o sutsuruno kakugo. Taiheiyōkaigi ni taisuru waga taido”一切を棄つるの覚悟太平洋会議に対する我が態度 (Prepare to A (...)

What if we were to relinquish Manchuria and Shandong, stop putting pressure on China, and give Korea and Taiwan back their freedom, what then would be the consequences? Britain and America would find themselves in an impossible position, unable to maintain a moral stance in the world while allowing Japan to adopt such a liberal policy alone. China and the small countries of the world would then turn to Japan and place their trust in it. India, Egypt, Persia, Haiti and the other countries dominated by the great powers would demand the same freedom that Japan had granted to Korea and Taiwan. Our country would be exalted the world over and neither Britain and America nor the other countries could do anything about it.68

  • 69 Since 1889 the official name of Japan had been the “Empire of Great Japan” (Dai Nippon Teikoku). Th (...)
  • 70 Dai Nihonshugi no gensō” 大日本主義の幻想 (The Illusion of Great Japanism), editorial from 30 July 1922, r (...)

45A few days later, he wrote an article entitled Dai Nihonshugi no gensō 大日本主義の幻想 (The Illusion of Great Japanism) in which he denounced the mediocrity of Japan’s policies and criticised all the nebulous theories proclaiming the need to constantly expand the country’s territories and permanently stoke the arms race. He ridiculed the idiotic craze for “Great Japanism” seen as a constantly expanding empire69 and extolled the economic and even political advantages of abandoning these costly dreams of grandeur. “Let us resolve to release Korea, Taiwan and Sakhalin, and of course relinquish China and Siberia,” he proclaimed in the introduction to this provocative text in which he argued in favour of economic logic and the right to self‑determination.70

46After underlining the futility of the advantages implied in overseas expansionism, Ishibashi argued that the determination of colonial or subjugated populations to resist would eventually lead to the downfall of the colonial empire, just as Ireland had finally freed itself from England after a bitter struggle. Ishibashi added that it was unlikely that India would not go down this same route:

  • 71 Ibid., p. 113.

Why then should our country be alone in perpetually continuing its domination of Korea and Taiwan and preventing the Chinese and Russians from exercising their sovereignty? The Korean movement for independence, Taiwanese movement for the creation of a parliament and anti‑Japanese movements in China and Siberia, are they not already a sign of this process? I tell you that these movements will never be contained simply through police repression or army intervention. It is like believing we could use the police and army to prevent the trade union movement of workers against capitalists.71

47Ishibashi quickly realised that independence movements were inevitable and that nothing could prevent them. “Even if Great Japanism were to provide us with some advantages, it could not be maintained for very long,” he added. Moreover, it was not even a source of revenue:

  • 72 Ibid., p. 120.

Instead of constructing barracks, let us build schools; instead of constructing warships, let us build factories. The army and navy have a budget of 800 billion yen. If we could invest just half of this amount each year in peaceful endeavours, in just a few years the face of Japan’s industry would be transformed completely.72

48He continued further on:

  • 73 Ibid., p. 121.

Far from weakening us, abandoning Great Japanism would allow us to achieve substantial gains. If we were to relinquish territories like Korea, Taiwan, Sakhalin and Manchuria, and make vast China our friend, the entire Far East and all the small and weak countries of the world would voluntarily give us their moral support. […] The essence of this strategy is harmony. Who cares what arms are developed by one or two arrogant nations? Our country—leader of a free world and supported by the hearts of Asians and the entire world— could never again be vanquished through war.73

49Ishibashi urged Japan to strive “to morally support the small and weak countries of the world”, by which he meant all those that were not “great powers”. One senses in Ishibashi some Asianist and pacifistic impatience. An alliance between “peoples of colour”, based on real friendships and relationships of trust, was the only way to resist growing pressure from Anglo‑Saxon countries following the Washington Naval Treaty of 1922. Achieving this meant breaking with traditional diplomacy.

50In fact, in the 1920s Japan’s ruling circles felt unease at China’s growing nationalism which aspired to unify a country divided since the establishment of a republic in 1912 and which had fallen partly into the hands of warlords. The victories of the nationalist Kuomintang made them fear the emergence of a powerful state. For Japan’s imperialist circles, China’s progress towards unification was a nightmare and Ishibashi Tanzan condemned this attitude which sought to ignite a war in order to guarantee north‑eastern China’s permanent separation from the rest of the country. Ishibashi directly opposed the military operations that began in Manchuria in September 1931. A few days after the “incident” of 18 September 1931, he published a vitriolic article:

  • 74 Manmō mondai kaiketsu no konpon hōshin ikan” 満蒙問題解決の根本方針如何 (What Fundamental Policies would Resolv (...)

There is endless talk of the “Manchurian issue”. There is indeed a way to settle this famous issue at once, and that is to restore normal friendly relations between China and Japan. It would be an excellent idea both for the two countries and for world peace.74

51Instead of pacifying the Kuomintang leaders, Japan’s military operations would merely stoke Chinese national pride and anti‑Japanese resentment, believed Ishibashi. Whether Japan liked it or not, it would be drawn into a conflict of even graver proportions.

  • 75 Ibid., p. 180.

Just as the Japanese nation could not accept being subjected to foreign rule, so the Chinese nation cannot accept such a situation. Those in favour of Japan advancing into Manchuria are refusing the Chinese the right to think as they do. Does this not merit some self‑criticism? […] The first condition for our nation to settle the Manchurian problem is for us to simply accept China’s demand for a unified state.75

  • 76 See Saburō Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931‑1945, Pantheon Books, New York, 1978, p. 120.

52Recognising Chinese sovereignty would challenge the idea that only the pursuit of Japan’s national interests was justified, an idea that underpinned nationalist discourse in Japan. Ishibashi added that Japan risked finding itself seriously isolated in this affair, since offending Chinese nationalist sentiment would enable them to attract the sympathy of international opinion. And Ishibashi continued in May 1932 by denouncing “the misinformation and narrow‑minded myopia causing incalculable damage to Japanese society”, in a country where “it is no longer possible to speak freely about foreign relations, the military, or anything of real importance”.76

  • 77 Kano Masanao, Kindai Nihon shisō annai 代日本思想案内 (Guide to Modern Japanese Thought), Iwanami Bunko, (...)

53By taking into account the Chinese point of view in his approach to the Manchurian issue, Ishibashi provided food for thought for many young intellectuals, in particular the young sinologists of the time such as Takeuchi Yoshimi 竹内好, who spoke of their “Ishibashian discovery” upon reading the politician’s writings. In fact, Takeuchi Yoshimi questioned whether any Japanese at that time was capable of understanding Chinese nationalism.77

  • 78 Ishibashi Tanzan, “Kinrai no sesō tada kotonarazu” 近来の世相ただことならず (The Political Practices of Recent (...)

54Faced with the acts of violence committed by the military during the 1930s, Japanese parliamentarians adopted an attitude that was ambiguous to say the least, covering up the “patriotic crimes” committed in Manchuria. Ishibashi wrote in no uncertain terms that “they were making themselves complicit in murder” and that “it was as if the government was run by gangsters (bōryokudan 暴力団)”.78 For Ishibashi, the Manchurian affair was the work of ideologists driven by irrational motivations.

  • 79 See Kurt W. Radtke, “Nationalism and Internationalism in Japan’s Economic Liberalism, The Case of I (...)
  • 80 Quoted by Matsuo Takayoshi in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., p. 308.

55Ishibashi continually advocated the long term over short‑term thinking. The difficulties he foresaw for Japan on the continent have since proven him right. Having failed to correctly assess the scale of the Chinese nationalist reaction, Japan soon found itself bogged down in the country. Needless to say, the warnings issued by Ishibashi from the mid‑1910s to the early 1930s were ignored by Japanese leaders, who even at the height of the war, and despite his anti‑government leanings, consulted him regularly. In 1937 he joined the Shōwa kenkyūkai 昭和研究会, a kind of think tank for Prime Minister Konoe Fumimaro 近衛文麿 (1891‑1945)79 where he met well‑known individuals from the liberal opposition such as the philosopher Miki Kiyoshi 三木清 (1897‑1945). However, it was clearly Ishibashi who was right about the fundamental issue: “Great Japanism” had no historical future. He spoke out against military rule and in favour of a return to a parliamentary system. In the wake of Pearl Harbor he wrote, “I am a liberal but not a traitor to the state” and criticised the constantly expanding theatre of Japan’s military operations.80 One senses his despair at seeing his country embark on a course he predicted would end in failure.

  • 81 This was logical for him because he had been one of the first to demand that Tokyo recognise the “e (...)
  • 82 In 1957, a minority faction within the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Ishibashi Tanzan, opposed t (...)

56Japan’s phenomenal growth in the 1950s and 1960s proved Ishibashi right in hindsight to advocate a “Small Japan” with its development refocused on domestic growth, a far cry from the country’s imperialist dreams. The post‑war Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru 吉田茂 (1878‑1967) entrusted Ishibashi Tanzan with the task of rebuilding the Japanese economy by appointing him finance minister (from May 1946 to May 1947). Opposed to the economic reform advocated by the occupation authorities, in particular the dissolution of the zaibatsu, he clashed with the American authorities over his desire to reduce the costs linked to the presence of the Allied forces. Despite his muted opposition to the wartime militaristic regime, Ishibashi fell victim to the purge imposed by the Americans, who had not forgiven him for having defied them, and was forced to leave the political arena for a time. He nonetheless went on to become one of the leaders of the Liberal Democratic Party, served as minister for international trade and industry from 1954 to 1956, pushed for relations to be restored with the USSR and communist China,81 and was finally appointed prime minister (from December 1956 to February 1957) despite staunch American opposition.82 Ill health forced him to abandon his position just two months after his nomination.

  • 83 Tanaka Shūsei 田中秀征, Nihon Riberaru to Ishibashi Tanzan, ima seiji ga hitsuyō toshite iru koto 本リベラ (...)

57Ishibashi Tanzan was a pioneering and visionary spirit. In economic terms he was a liberal (but was also responsible for introducing Keynes in Japan), politically speaking he was a rather moderate democrat opposed to communism (but resolutely against military expansionism and fascism), while in the diplomatic arena he advocated “Small Japanism” (but wavered between desiring isolationism for his country or a moral role as a “global leader”). His brand of anti‑colonialism was not one of solidarity with colonial populations but rather a principled stance. When reading him today one cannot help but be struck by his invariably lucid reasoning. He never succumbed to the dominant ideas of his time. His firm belief that warmongering was never profitable for long caused him to clash with the imperialist and colonialist circles of the pre‑1945 era, which he also saw as anti‑democratic elements. His views were so lucid that some essayists have had fun imagining what Ishibashi would say about Japan today and how he would have criticised Japan’s leaders, a completely futile exercise, admittedly, but one based on a great admiration for an atypical individual.83 It is striking to note the extent to which his views in the 1920s and 1930s prefigured the Japan of the post‑war economic miracle, “an economic giant but a political dwarf”, a peaceable country whose standard of living increased steadily without intervening in the affairs of the rest of Asia.

Academic Doubts as to the Validity of Colonialism

  • 84 Mark R. Peattie, “Japanese Attitudes Toward Colonialism”, in Myers and Peattie (eds.), The Japanese (...)
  • 85 These were doubtless the first lectures given in Japan on “colonial policy” but no chair had as yet (...)
  • 86 Chair in “colonial studies” (shokumingaku kōza 植民学講座) created at the Faculty of Agronomy. In 1910, (...)
  • 87 Chair in “colonial policy” (shokumin seisaku kōza 植民政策講座) established within the Faculty of Law the (...)

58Ishibashi was not the only person to develop critical economic analyses of imperialism and colonialism. In truth, the question of Japan’s colonial policy had become the subject of a debate with scientific pretensions. Beginning in 1895, the issue came under scrutiny as the first “enlightened” administrators of Taiwan believed that the solution to their problems lay in a “scientific approach” and Gotō Shinpei was keen for the new colony to serve as a “laboratory”.84 Japan’s 1905 victory over the Russians changed the country’s international status and saw it emerge as a new “great power”. Remember that this event led Japan to obtain the southern part of Sakhalin as well as leased territories on the Liaodong peninsula, establish its protectorate in Korea and exert a powerful influence in Manchuria. Consequently, in the wake of the Russo‑Japanese War the academic study of colonial policies emerged as a research topic at university and a practical and theoretical body of knowledge. As early as 1903, Nitobe Inazō, the well‑known author of Bushido, Soul of Japan, had been appointed lecturer at Kyoto Imperial University after gaining experience of colonial administration in Taiwan.85 The first university to create a chair in colonial studies was Tōhoku Imperial University in Sendai in 1907.86 Then in 1909, Nitobe was given the newly created chair at Tokyo Imperial University. Yanaihara Tadao took over the position in 1922.87 He was not yet thirty.

59Yanaihara belonged to the Japanese Christian pacifist movement known as the Non‑Church Movement, which was closely linked to Uchimura Kanzō 内村鑑三 (1861‑1930), the great Christian intellectual of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century who in turn was influenced by the uncompromising pacifism of Leo Tolstoy. Yanaihara Tadao professed himself impressed by Uchimura Kanzō’s uncompromising and independent nature. He was also close to leading Christian figures who had joined the moderate branch of the socialist movement, the most eminent representatives of which were Kinoshita Naoe 木下尚江 (1869‑1937) and Abe Isoo. At university he was fascinated by leading personalities Nitobe Inazō and Yoshino Sakuzō.

  • 88 Andrew E. Barshay, “Postwar Social and Political Thought, 1945‑90”, in Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi (ed. (...)

60In addition to the moral pacifism from which he took inspiration, Yanaihara Tadao added a brand of anti‑colonialism that was fairly radical for his time and was based on a well‑researched economic and political analysis which, as in the case of Ishibashi Tanzan, professed to be rational. He wrote for the journal Chūō Kōron and published critical writings on Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria. In 1935 he produced a study on the southern islands under Japanese rule and in 1937 a work on India under British rule. As early as 1937 his radical opposition to the new war against China earned Yanaihara a professional ban that saw him dismissed from Tokyo Imperial University. He was reinstated as professor at Tokyo University after the war, in November 1945, and subsequently served as its president from 1951 to 1957. The historian of Western economics Ōtsuka Hisao 大塚久男 (1907‑1996), the post‑war leader—along with Maruyama Masao 丸山眞男 (1914‑1996)—of the “modernist” school of thought, declared himself a disciple of Yanaihara, who emerged as a kind of intellectual and moral figure.88

  • 89 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin” 朝鮮統治の方針 (Policy Orientations on Korea), Chūō Kōron, June 1926, reproduced (...)
  • 90 Ibid., p. 384.
  • 91 Ibid., p. 390.
  • 92 Ibid., p. 385.
  • 93 Ibid., p. 392. The right to vote during this period followed a territorial rather than ethnic discr (...)
  • 94 Ibid., p. 391.

61In around 1920, Yanaihara adopted stances that were overtly hostile to the repression carried out by the government and army in Korea. A humanist and democrat, he condemned Japan’s colonial policy which impoverished Korean farmers and left them destitute, advocating instead autonomy for the colonies within the framework of the empire. In 1926, in a text published in Chūō Kōron, he demonstrated that while repression had certainly crushed the protesters of 1919, they—in other words the Korean people as a whole—had been victorious.89 Despite a desire for change, he added, the Korean people were the victims of a crippling tax policy while their lands were gradually being confiscated by Japanese settlers. This process robbed producers of their means of production and proletarianised the country, leaving the Koreans with barely enough to survive and forcing many to emigrate to Siberia, Manchuria or even, more recently, Japan itself.90 The Japanese policy of exporting rice from the peninsula to Japan forced Korean farmers to work themselves into the ground producing for the metropole while contenting themselves with meagre meals.91 A “desperate instability” was visible deep within Korean society, he wrote on several occasions.92 At this stage Yanaihara considered it natural for Koreans to be given the right to participate in the administrative and political life of their country. Specifically, this meant giving them the right to vote (the Japanese themselves had only achieved universal suffrage—for men—the previous year) by allowing them to participate in the political life of the metropole, but above all by creating a parliament in Seoul.93 “Just as the working class is able to defend its own interests sufficiently by sending its representatives to parliament, so the colonial peoples will be able to defend their interests by participating in political decision‑making”.94

  • 95 Ibid., p. 392.
  • 96 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin” in Taishō shisō shū, vol. ii, op. cit., p. 394.
  • 97 Quoted by Myers and Peattie, The Japanese Colonial Empire, op. cit., p. 117.

62Yanaihara described Japan’s colonial policy as a “despotic” regime (sensei seiji 専制政治) that did not recognise the rights of the colonised, who were treated like “uncivilised black people” (mikai kokujin 未開黒人),95 and which practised a policy of assimilation through an autonomous colonial government. And yet, he said, this regime was the product of an era: the imperialist violence and democratic demands pervading Japanese and Korean society were reflected in colonial policy orientations. He urged the Japanese parliament to exempt the colonial populations from paying further taxes and advocated liberating “those being tortured and stifled”. Japan must have the courage to face facts, he wrote.96 As for assimilation—if such a thing were even possible—, it was impracticable if it were to be carried out by a colonial administration, which in itself was an obstacle to assimilation. If Japan were to reply on such an administration, collaboration with the Koreans would quickly become impossible since their social practices resulted from a different history to that of Japan.97

  • 98 Asada Kyōji 田橋二, “Yamamoto Miono no shokuminron” 本美越乃の植民論 (Yamamoto Miono’s Theory of Colonisatio (...)
  • 99 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin”, in Taishō shisō shū ii, op. cit., p. 393.
  • 100 Ibid. p. 394.

63At this stage Korean independence was not yet one of the options envisaged by Yanaihara. He advocated political autonomy for the inhabitants of the peninsula and democratic guarantees for Koreans, but little else. In this sense, his position remained similar to that of his Kyoto colleague Yamamoto Miono, who during World War I had actively supported the transformation of German possessions in the Pacific into Japanese colonies but who was opposed to assimilation and advocated self‑governance for the colonised (jichi shugi 自治主義).98 Yanaihara believed that Japan must surmount Korean resistance without alienating its population but rather by convincing them of the need for an alliance between the two peoples within the framework of the empire. Indeed, he believed that home rule was the best defence mechanism for avoiding Korean emancipation and its complete separation from Japan.99 He went even further by explaining that if as part of such a policy the Koreans were to break free and become independent, it would be a great success for Japan’s colonial policy and “the honour of the empire”.100

  • 101 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit. In addition to the usual simplification of Chi (...)
  • 102 Kuwabara Takeo 桑原武夫, Nihon no meicho, Kindai no shisō 本の名著・近代の思想 (Japanese Masterpieces: Modern Th (...)
  • 103 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 339. Thi (...)

64In a critique of Japanese colonialism in Taiwan entitled Taiwan under Imperialism, first published in 1929 and then in paperback form in 1937, Yanaihara produced what was no doubt the first serious Japanese‑language study of Taiwan written from a critical perspective.101 The fact that the author was a professor in colonial studies at Tokyo Imperial University only heightened its impact. In fact, this study of Taiwan was often seen post‑1945 as representing the starting point of Japanese area studies (chiiki kenkyu 地域研究). Kuwabara Takeo considered it a classic in Japanese social sciences and described it as “a book with great scientific rigour of which we Japanese can be proud”102. The book was banned from exportation to Taiwan upon its publication but became a bible for Taiwanese students studying in Japan, where it continued to be available in libraries and was first translated into Chinese on the continent in 1930.103 Yanaihara explained that large Japanese capitalist companies like Mitsui and Mitsubishi had monopolised the island’s industries (in particular the food‑processing and sugar‑producing industries) and that Taiwanese farmers and workers were the victims of oppression and fierce social and economic exploitation. His arguments drew on a kind of economism (similar to Marxism to be specific). Above all, and this is perhaps the main point, Yanaihara clearly specified the need to take into account the demands of the Taiwanese nationalist movement.

  • 104 Prior to the arrival of the Japanese, the population of Taiwan had consisted partly of local popula (...)
  • 105 Yanaihara Tadao, ibid., p. 26.

65Yanaihara began by recounting the history of Formosa—the Beautiful Island—which was fought over by the Portuguese, Dutch and Chinese during the seventeenth century. The Chinese were victorious but in the nineteenth century the island once again became an object of desire for the Prussians, Americans and French before the Japanese finally seized Taiwan after it was ceded to Tokyo by Beijing at the end of the Sino‑Japanese War.104 Yanaihara took the opportunity to re‑examine the Sino‑Japanese War of 1894‑1895, which he presented not as “a national war”, as official propaganda would have it, but as “an imperialist war”.105

  • 106 Ibid., p. 25.
  • 107 Ibid., p. 23.
  • 108 Ibid., p. 245.

66In Japan circa 1895, where industrial capitalism was still in its infancy, imperialism as an ideology had already firmly taken root.106 In fact, the occupation of Taiwan had cost more to Japan than any profits generated, and Yanaihara deemed this a “luxury expenditure” that the Japanese state had permitted itself in pursuit of a questionable strategic vision.107 By seizing Taiwan in order to avoid it falling into the hands of the other great powers, Japan had for the first time adopted a clearly imperialist attitude. Yet this outcome had been in no way unavoidable. Yanaihara’s criticism, however, just like that of Ishibashi, focused on the consequences: namely (public) expenditure higher than (private) profits, and a deterioration in Japan’s symbolic image in the region. Ultimately, Yanaihara questioned what price Japan would have obtained for Taiwan had it sold the island off and invested the money into the national economy.108 Though he did not employ the expression “Small Japan”, Yanaihara’s stance here resembled the views put forward by Ishibashi Tanzan.

  • 109 Ibid., p. 316.
  • 110 Kuwabara Takeo, Nihon no meicho, Kindai no shisō, op. cit., writes on p. 246 that in around 1929, w (...)
  • 111 Ibid., p. 304, and p. 317 in particular.

67Yanaihara also criticised “the exacerbated level of colonial despotism that has rarely been equalled in other colonial experiments around the world,”109 he wrote, not without exaggeration but no doubt a little too quickly.110 However, the brutality of the colonial endeavour, combined incidentally with significant public investments, did eventually produce undeniable results, particularly in the field of sanitation, infrastructure and transport. Moreover, these successes made political reforms unavoidable, since without these opposition to the island’s Japanisation would continue to grow. He concluded that the development of colonial imperialism was contradictory, that it was racing towards its own downfall as it were.111

68Yanaihara was generally opposed to assimilationist policies, believing that with the weak democracy and authoritarian practices of the metropole, the Japanese lot was not so enviable. However, beyond the two colonies’ historical differences, the problems of Taiwan and Korea were identical. Political rights enabling self‑governance should be extended to the colonial populations. And if they were to demand their independence, it should be granted, thought Yanaihara, for they would then necessarily maintain friendly, peaceful relations with the former metropole. Thus, there was ultimately nothing to be lost in the colonies achieving independence, as long as the process took place peacefully. Yanaihara’s views on traditional Japanese policies were thus extremely critical. He displayed a fairly radical reformism but never went as far as suggesting the severing of relations between metropole and colonies.

  • 112 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 347.
  • 113 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 351. Des (...)
  • 114 The first issue of Akahata 赤旗 (Red Flag), the underground newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party (...)
  • 115 Yamakawa Hitoshi, Shokumin seisakuka no Taiwan, op. cit.
  • 116 I Teruo, Ajia to Kindai Nihon, Hanshinryaku no shisō to undō, op. cit., p. 142‑148.

69Incidentally, these views earned him criticism from followers of Marxism. In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1921), Lenin was one of the first to explicitly establish a link between imperialism and colonialism, but his analysis was little known in Japan prior to the early 1920s. Yanaihara is known to have discussed Lenin’s work in his lectures.112 One of his former colleagues at the Faculty of Economics, Hosokawa Karoku 細川嘉六 (1888‑1962), who worked at the Ōhara Institute for Social Research (Ōhara Shakai Mondai Kenkyūjo 大原社会問題研究所), openly questioned the contradiction inherent in Yanaihara’s position, in which “one could not help but defend the interests of the capitalist class” and be the spokesperson for a system, and he voiced doubts as to the scientific nature of such teachings.113 Later, in 1932‑1933, followers of the Kōza school of Marxism developed a radical criticism of colonialism, seen as inextricably linked to capitalism and imperialism, in their “Lectures on the Development of Japanese Capitalism” (Nihon shihonshugi hattatsushi kōza 日本資本主義発達史講座). However, their view of colonialism as being an epiphenomenon of imperialism meant that they failed to propose a specific critical analysis of a system they believed would collapse by itself with Japan’s revolution to come.114 The only person to have attempted a Marxist analysis of the situation in Taiwan, including a radical criticism of colonialism, is Yamakawa Hitoshi山川均 (1880‑1958), one of the founding members of the Japanese Communist Party.115 According to him, the colony became profitable in 1908 following a difficult start. It was thus a success, but for whom? Not for the colonial populations subjected to economic exploitation coupled with harsh political rule. He pointed to the confiscation of land by the sugar and paper industries, which were controlled entirely by mainland capital and benefitted from the political support of the colonial administration, as well as pay discrimination between colonists and colonised. He also explained how the issuing of a special law, known as Title 63, allowed the governor‑general to behave like a “despotic sovereign” and how the transition to a civil administration as of 1920 had not really changed anything since the repressive public order laws remained in force. He came down in favour of a growing democratic movement in Taiwan and called for equal rights between colonial peoples and metropolitan Japanese, but ultimately voiced concerns about the fundamental indifference of working‑class Japanese vis‑à‑vis the situation in the colonies.116

70Though Yanaihara adopted several aspects of Yamakawa Hitoshi’s Marxist economic analysis in his study, he never adhered to communist values. Rather than simply providing a critical review of colonial policies, Yanaihara proposed undertaking research in the form of concrete fieldwork on colonial societies. In fact, with its combination of history, politics, sociology, education and economic analysis, there was an undeniably multidisciplinary dimension to his work. Indeed, it is in this sense that he may be considered a pioneer in the study of culture areas.

  • 117 Manshū mondai” 満州問題 (The Manchurian Problem), in Yanaihara Tadao zenshū 内原忠雄全集 (The Complete Work (...)

71A few months after the military intervention in Manchuria in September 1931, Yanaihara wrote an article which he later reprised in The Manchurian Problem.117 In an effort to understand the situation in Manchuria, Yanaihara traced the imperialist rivalries that had existed in the region since the early twentieth century and described the causes of the anti‑Japanese protests in China, which he presented on the one hand as “a historical necessity”, given the economic and political development of China and Manchuria, and on the other hand as a “nationalist movement”. In his eyes, this anti‑Japanese nationalist movement was deeply rooted and probably impossible to contain. The idea of protecting Japan’s special interests and privileges in China would only lead to a clash with Chinese nationalism, a movement he considered to be in the ascendant. Given these circumstances, Japan’s policy in Manchuria could only lead to a worsening of the situation. This conviction led him to refute the colonialist discourses justifying Japan’s presence in the region which drew on three economic arguments: emigration, profits from trade and the idea of a Japanese‑Manchurian trade bloc.

72Japanese farmers emigrating to Manchuria would not solve the problem of overpopulation in the metropole, explained Yanaihara. Driven out by the poverty in Japan, the colonists he likened to emigrants found themselves in a difficult situation with significant set‑up costs and, for the government, running costs to maintain public order and supply a market that cost more than it made. The Japanese invasion severed traditional trade links between China and Manchuria and disrupted economic channels. These channels were rebuilt with Japan, but the structural weakness of Manchuria’s domestic market carried very little weight in Japan’s foreign trade, barely more than 5 to 10%, which was nothing compared to the costs incurred in controlling the area and maintaining order. Added to this was the rapid deterioration in relations with China due to Japan having taken control of Manchuria. As early as 1932, Yanaihara forecast a second Sino‑Japanese War, which indeed broke out in 1937. Lastly, was it feasible to create a self‑sufficient Japan‑Manchuria economic bloc, as advocated in certain circles, and would it really be effective? The idea was to tap into Manchuria’s vast reserves of raw materials, but as Yanaihara explained, despite their abundance these resources were insufficient for an economy like that of Japan. Furthermore, they were often of inferior quality or unprofitable to extract. Yanaihara concluded that when considered solely from the perspective of its overall profitability, Japan’s occupation of Manchuria was a grave and costly economic error. It would provide only short term gains, he explained, and only to the capitalists who had invested in the region. Graver yet, it implied a difficult war with China that would cost Japan much more than the occupation of Manchuria would ever yield and whose outcome was uncertain.

  • 118 Teikoku shugi kenkyū” 国主義研究 (A Study of Imperialism), in Yanaihara Tadao zenshū, op. cit., volume (...)

73Under the guise of a political analysis, Yanaihara proceeded to criticise the imperialist arguments that abounded in the press at that time. Economically speaking, colonisation was futile. Worse still, wanting to politically engineer the prosperity of the Japanese nation through the oppression of the Chinese nation, itself under construction, indicated a complete lack of understanding of the political and social movements sweeping Asia since the beginning of the century. Japan’s designs were virtually guaranteed to fail, he wrote. “Conversely, if Japan were to acknowledge China’s desire to create a unified state and help it achieve this goal, it would be helping itself as well as contributing to peace in Asia”.118

74Linking on from this, the question of morality was also raised. Was the invasion right? The answer was no, and this for reasons of principle:

  • 119 Yanaihara Tadao, “Kirisuto kyō ni okeru heiwa no risō” (The Peace Ideal in Christianity), in Kirisu (...)

It is right to oppose the invasion [of Manchuria by Japan]. It is right to not provoke a war for that. Justice demands, by means other than war, that the invasion be stopped. The aim of justice is to prevent war and punish those who began the invasion. And the path taken by justice can only lead towards peace.119

  • 120 Narita Ryūichi, Taishō demokurashii, op. cit., p. 151.

75Ishibashi Tanzan and Yanaihara Tadao were both respected personalities and opinion leaders in their time. But they were not alone. In fact, incidentally, it is interesting to note that the majority of teachers at the imperial universities in charge of analysing colonial societies were opposed to the brutal colonialist policies developed by the various Japanese governments. In an article published in Taiyō in May 1920, Yamamoto  Miono, who taught colonial policy at Kyoto University, argued for a local administration run by the Koreans themselves and for deputies representing the colonial minorities in the Japanese Diet. Others, on the contrary, supported an assimilationist policy in the name of democracy. This was notably the case of Uehara Etsujirō 上原悦二郎 (1877‑1962), who dreamed of a Japan in which the democratic revolution had been achieved and which would be capable of assimilating a democratised Korea in order to build a common nation free of discrimination.120

  • 121 Ibid., p. 152.

76The anti‑repressive and reformist colonialism of Japanese democrats from the 1920s and 1930s may seem outdated today. But make no mistake about it: rare were those at the time in Great Britain and France, for example, who expressed such clear condemnation of colonial injustice. From this point of view, the Japanese critics of Japanese colonialism were quite remarkable. Moreover, radical advocates of independence were a minority in the Japanese colonies at that time. Indeed, a certain section of Korean and Taiwanese nationalists sincerely believed—just like the Japanese democrats—that the colonial system could be reformed. So it was that Tagawa Daikichirō, a deputy and advocate of “imperial democracy” as conceived by Yoshino Sakuzō, came to present to the Japanese Diet a Taiwanese petition for the creation of a parliament in Taipei. It was signed by Taiwanese who presented themselves as “Japanese nationals who also aspire to democracy”. Similar petitions were presented in Tokyo on numerous occasions. Similarly, as early as 1920, petitions of this type calling for a law to make Koreans eligible for election circulated in Korea. The right to participate in public life was a fundamental aspiration for local Taiwanese and Korean elites. Taking Japanese assimilationists literally, they declared themselves to be “Japanese” or “nationals” and as such called on the Japanese authorities in the colonies or the home islands to grant them representation in the capital.121

77In some ways it could be said that Taiwanese and Korean nationalists were themselves caught up in the wave of democracy that swept through Japan as of 1918, that they played an active role in it and that they demanded greater democracy and autonomy in their own countries as well as in the metropole. A convergence began to emerge between Japanese liberals and democrats and local elites in the colonial societies in order to fight the brutal and repressive systems established by the colonial government.

  • 122 Nishikawa Nagao 西川長夫, Shin Shokuminchishugiron Gurobaruka jidai no shokuminchishugi o tou 〈新〉植民地主義論(...)

78In a Japan where expansionists were in the majority, those voicing criticism of colonialism ultimately remained limited in number. Despite hailing from the intellectual elite, these voices received little attention from the upper echelons of the government where militarist and imperialist influences were too strong. The more influential these factions were, the more difficult or even impossible it became to voice criticism. But let us not imagine that anti‑colonial movements wielded much influence in Western colonial metropoles before the Second World War either. More often than not, it was the proportions anti‑colonial movements took on in the colonies themselves after the war that in turn brought home the reality of colonialism to metropolitan populations. Japan’s anti‑colonial movements were never able to gain momentum because decolonisation came about suddenly, as it were, with Japan’s military defeat in August‑September 1945. After all, France did not lose its colonial empire upon its defeat in 1940. Yet after 1945, Japan found itself if not colonised, at the very least defeated and subjected to the presence of the United States Army on its own soil. This is the paradox of a country forced to deprive anti‑colonial discourse of all pertinence after 1945. As pointed out by Nishikawa Nagao, the post‑war Japanese saw themselves both as former colonisers with regards their former territories and as a colonised or semi‑colonised people by the United States. He describes the mind‑sets that emerged at the time, turning the Japanese into a people “colonised from the inside”.122

  • 123 Claude Liauzu, Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France (The History of Anti‑colonialism in France) (...)

79Incisive criticism of the colonial regime was voiced prior to decolonisation, albeit by a minority. From this point of view, the movement within Japanese society was not out of step with Western countries. Indeed, those clearly expressing anti‑colonialist views in Western colonial metropoles prior to the 1930s were few in number. Claude Liauzu speaks of the “marginality of anti‑colonialism” in pre‑war France.123 This ability of certain Japanese critics to rise above the fray and warn of the looming disaster shows, if it needed repeating, the discernment and lucidity of one section of “civil society” in Japan. It also suggests certain continuities—beyond the period of militarism and war—between liberal and democratic policies before and after the war.

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Notes

1 To borrow the expression used by the economist and specialist in colonial policies Yanaihara Tadao 矢内原忠雄 (1893‑1961). For an outline of Japan’s colonial policy see Alain Delissen, “La Corée” (Korea), in Hartmut O. Rotermund et al., L’Asie Orientale et Méridionale aux xixe et xxe siècles (South and East Asia in the 19th and 20th Centuries), Paris, PUF, Nouvelle Clio, 1999, pp. 135‑232, in particular chapter 3, “Le premier xxe siècle : les ambivalences de la colonisation japonaise” (The First 20thCentury: The Ambivalences of Japanese Colonisation), pp. 177‑195; see also Pierre‑François Souyri, “La Colonisation japonaise : un colonialisme moderne mais non occidental” (Japanese Colonisation: A Modern but not Western Colonialism), in Marc Ferro (ed.), Le Livre noir du colonialisme, xviiexxie siècle : de l’extermination à la repentance (The Black Book of Colonialism, 17th‑21st Century: From Extermination to Repentance), Robert Laffont, Paris, 2003, pp. 407‑430. For English works, see in particular Ramon H.Myers and Mark R. Peattie, The Japanese Colonial Empire, 1895‑1945, Princeton University Press, 1984, which remains an authority.

2 Theory on Japanese‑Korean Common Ancestry” (Nissen dōsoron 日鮮同祖論). These issues are elaborated upon in Oguma Eiji 小熊英二, Tan’itsu minzoku shinwa no kigen 一民族神話の起源 (Origins of the Myth of Ethnic Homogeneity) Shin’yōsha 新曜社, 1995, in particular chapters 5 and 13. See also Arnaud Nanta, Débats sur les origines du peuplement de l’archipel japonais dans l’anthropologie et l’archéologie (décennie 1870 – décennie 1990) (Anthropological and Archaeological Debates on the Origins of the Settlement of Japan [1870s‑1990s]), université Paris 7 (unpublished doctoral thesis), 2004.

3 Oguma Eiji, op. cit., p. 239.

4 In 1914, Itagaki Taisuke, a believer in “racial harmony”, instigated an abortive movement to extend equal rights with the Japanese to the inhabitants of Taiwan. Cf. Mark R. Peattie, “Japanese Attitudes Toward Colonialism”, in Myers and Peattie (ed.), The Japanese Colonial Empire, op. cit., p. 103.

5 On this affair, known as the “Ōsaka Incident”, see Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’époque Meiji (Attitudes to Korea in Meiji‑Era Japan), Maisonneuve & Larose, 2002, pp. 148‑154.

6 Tsurumi Shunsuke 鶴見俊輔, Senjiki Nihon no seishinshi 1931‑1945 時期日本の精神史, Iwanami Shoten 岩波書店, 1982, revised edition, 2001, p. 121 (English title: The Intellectual History of Wartime Japan: 1931‑1945, Routledge, 1986). Note, however, that shortly after the Ryūkyū Islands were annexed, Ueki Emori 木枝盛 (1857‑1892), future leader of the Freedom and Popular Rights Movement, published an article entitled: “Why the Ryūkyū Islands Should be Given their Independence” (Ryūkyū no dokuritsu seshimubeki ronzu 琉球の独立せしむべき論ず), in Aikokushirin 愛国志林, Osaka, March 1880, text published in Itō Teruo 伊東昭雄, Ajia to Kindai Nihon, Hanshinryaku no shisō to undō ジアと近代日本反侵略の思想と運動 (Asia and Modern Japan. Anti‑invasion Thought and Movements), Shakai Hyōronsha 社会評論社, 1990, pp. 16‑19.

7 Quoted by Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, seidoku 帝国主義下の台湾精読 (Taiwan under Imperialism: Exegesis), edition put together by Wakabayashi Masahiro 若林正丈, Iwanami Bunko 岩波文庫, 2001, p. 35. English translation from Mark R. Peattie, op. cit. p. 83. In around 1890, Takekoshi Yosaburō was one of the most active members of Minyūsha 民友社, the People’s Friend Society, a new movement that was both nationalist and democratic. In 1905 he served as a deputy in the political party Seiyūkai 政友会 and was close to future prime minister Saionji Kinmochi 西園寺公望 (1849‑1940).

8 Kōtoku Shūsui, L’Impérialisme, le spectre du xxe siècle (Imperialism, the Ghost of the 20th century), translated, presented and annotated by Christine Lévy, CNRS, 2008. The vulgate of research on Kōtoku Shūsui has clearly shown his fascination for European and American socialist and anarchist movements. This point of view was partly challenged by the historian Ishimoda Shō 石母田正 (1912‑1986), Kōtoku Shūsui to Chūgoku, minzoku to aikokushin no mondai ni tsuite 幸徳秋水と中国民族と愛国心の問題について (Kōtoku Shūsui and China: The Issue of Ethnicity and Patriotism), 1952 text, reproduced in Takeuchi Yoshimi (ed.), Ajia shugi アジア主義 (Asianism), volume 9 from Gendai Nihon shisō taikei 現代日本思想体系 (Anthology of Contemporary Japanese Thought), Chikuma Shobō 筑摩書房, 1963, pp. 384‑410. Ishimoda attempted to demonstrate in this text the solidarity he claimed Kōtoku felt with the colonial populations’ struggle for independence.

9 To use the term employed by Andrew Gordon in his book Labor and Imperial Democracy in Prewar Japan, University of California Press, 1991.

10 Matsuo Takayoshi 松尾尊 (texts established and annotated by), Yoshino Sakuzō shū 野作造集 (The Collected Writings of Yoshino Sakuzō), volume 17 of Kindai Nihon shisō taikei 近代日本思想体系 (Anthology of Modern Japanese Thought), Chikuma Shobō, 1976, postscript by Matsuo Takayoshi, p. 474. Self‑determination should be understood here as a certain freedom given to colonial populations to manage their own affairs according to their own customs.

11 And this despite the fact that between 1904 and 1906 he had been the private tutor of the son of Yuan Shikai 袁世凱, the future conservative rival of Sun Yat Sen (Sun Zhongshan 孫中山) at the head of the newly republican China.

12 Published in Yoshino Sakuzō senshū 吉野作造選集 (The Selected Writings of Yoshino Sakuzō), volume 7, Iwanami Shoten, 1995.

13 Taishigaikō konponsaku no kettei ni kansuru Nihon seiryaku no konmei” 対支外交根本策の決定に関する日本政略の混迷 (Japan’s Strategic Disarray in the Decision‑making over its Fundamental Policy Orientations for China), published in 1916 in the journal Chūō Kōron 中央公論. See the revised edition in Yoshino Sakuzō shū, op. cit. pp. 134‑135.

14 Japan’s kenpeitai has often been compared to the German Gestapo during the Second World War.

15 Yoshino Sakuzō, “Mankan o shisatsu shite” 満韓を視察して (Observations from Manchuria and Korea), Chūō Kōron, June 1916, in Yoshino Sakuzō shū, op. cit., p. 145, quoted by Narita Ryūichi 田龍一, Taishō demokurashii 正デモクラシー (The Taishō Democracy), Iwanami Shinsho, 2007, introduction, p. iv.

16 Chōsen tōchisaku” 朝鮮統治策 (The Domination of Korea), October 1918, published in Chūō Kōron, reproduced in Yoshino Sakuzō senshū, op. cit., volume 9, pp. 50‑51. For further information on Yamamoto Miono see infra.

17 Known as the March 1st Movement of 1919. Following the death of the Korean Emperor who had been deposed by the Japanese, the Koreans protested in masse shouting “Long live Korean independence!” (Tongnip manse 獨立萬).

18 The Reimeikai 黎明会 (Dawn Society) was run between 1918 and 1920 by a group of academics, liberals and moderate socialists. It aimed to fight the intransigence and intolerance of government circles. Using pamphlets and public lectures, Reimeikai fought for universal suffrage and opposed Japan’s repressive laws and brutal colonial policy.

19 Taishō shisō shū 正思想集 (Taishō Period Thought: Collected Writings), Book II, edition put together by Kano Masanao 鹿野政直, volume 34 of the Kindai Nihon shisō taikei series, op. cit., 1978, postscript by Kano Masanao, p. 444. Fukuda Tokuzō was a professor of economic history. His firmly liberal stances resembled those of moderate socialists.

20 Yoshino Sakuzō, “Pekin gakuseidan no kōdō o manba suru nakare” 北京学生団の行動を漫罵する勿れ (Do Not Disparage the Peking Student Movement), June 1919, in Yoshino Sakuzō shū, op. cit., p. 322.

21 In 1918, a group of students and disciples of Yoshino founded an association called the Shinjinkai 新人会 (New Man Society), which over the next ten years played an instrumental role in the student democratic movement at Tokyo University. A similar association was created at Waseda University, while another was already in place at Kyoto University, where students met for discussions on labour issues to which workers were invited. The statutes of the Shinjinkai speak of “liberating humanity” and “reforming Japan”. These associations were forerunners to the “student movements” that were influential from this period through to the mid‑1970s (with the exception of the wartime period).

22 Taishō shisō shū ii, ibid., p. 444.

23 As Michel Vié points out, this is less than the repression carried out by the French in Sétif and Guelma in 1945 (between 8,000 and 45,000 people massacred). The repression of the Malagasy Uprising by French troops in March 1947 is said to have caused 80,000 deaths, a figure we can only hope has been exaggerated. Others put the figure at between five and ten thousand deaths. Contrary to common belief, Japanese colonialism was no more brutal than any other. See in particular Michel Vié, Le Japon et le monde au xxe siècle (Japan and the World during the Twentieth Century), Masson, 1995.

24 “Suigen gyakusatsu jiken” 水原虐殺事件 (The Suwŏn Massacre), Chūō Kōron, July 1919, in Yoshino Sakuzō senshū, volume 9, op. cit., p. 67. The Japanese military police are accused of massacring over thirty villagers at Chemuri in the district of Suwŏn.

25 Paull Hobom Shin, The Korean Colony in Chientao, A Study of Japanese Imperialism and Militant Korean Nationalism, 1905‑1932, PhD thesis, University of Washington, 1980.

26 See in particular Yoshino’s article published in the February 1921 issue of Chūō Kōron, in Yoshino Sakuzōsenshū, volume 9, op. cit., p. 171.

27 Chōsen seinenkai mondai–Chōsen tōjisaku no kakusei o unagasu” 朝鮮青年会問題朝鮮統治策の覚醒を促す (The Korean Youth Association Problem–Opening Our Eyes to the Policy Implemented in Korea), Shinjin, 1920, 2‑3, in Yoshino Sakuzō shū, op. cit., p. 298.

28 Chōsenjin ni omou”, Yanagi Sōetsu shū 宗悦集 (The Selected Writings of Yanagi Sōetsu), Tsurumi Shunsuke (ed.), Kindai Nihon shisō taikei, op. cit., vol. 24, 1975, p. 183.

29 Ibid., p. 178.

30 Ibid., pp. 182‑183.

31 For more information on Yanagi Muneyoshi, alias Sōetsu, see the special feature in issue 16 of Cipango – Cahiers d’études japonaises, 2009 (English version, 2012, available at http://cjs.revues.org/75). See also Sōetsu Yanagi, The Unknown Craftsman: A Japanese Insight into Beauty, adapted by Bernard Leach, Kodansha USA, 1990.

32 On the Japanese superiority complex towards Koreans, see Lionel Babicz, Le Japon face à la Corée à l’époque Meiji. op. cit.

33 Bernard Leach, A Potter’s Book, Faber and Faber, 3rd edition, 1988.

34 In “Chōsen no bijutsu” (Korean Art), Yanagi wrote of a “bitter beauty” (hishū no bi 悲愁の美). See Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 223. Then on page 226 he describes a “beauty of sorrow” (hiai no bi 悲哀の美).

35 “Chōsenjin ni omou”, op. cit., p. 177.

36 Ibid., pp. 180‑181.

37 Ibid., p. 183.

38 Ibid., pp. 181‑182.

39 Chōsen no tomo ni okuru sho” 朝鮮の友に贈る書 (Letter to My Korean Friends), published in Kaizō 改造 in June 1920, reproduced in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 185.

40 Ibid., p. 188.

41 Kare no chōsenyuki” 彼の朝鮮行 (He Who Travels to Korea), in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 198.

42 Chōsenjin ni omou”, Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 179 and p. 186.

43 Ibid., p. 181.

44 Ibid., p. 183.

45 Tsurumi Shunsuke, postscript, in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 434.

46 Ushinaharentosuru Chōsen kenchiku no tame ni” 失はれんとする朝鮮建築のために (For a Korean Architecture About to be Lost), in Yanagi Sōetsu shū , op. cit., p. 234.

47 Ibid., p. 236.

48 Ibid., p. 235.

49 Ibid., p. 236. The gate was destroyed during the Japanese invasions of the late 16th century and subsequently rebuilt in the 1860s.

50 The gate was restored to its original location in 1968, while the modern‑style Japanese building was destroyed in 1995 as part of commemorations for the 50th anniversary of Korean independence.

51 Tsurumi Shunsuke, postscript, in Yanagi Sōetsu shū, op. cit., p. 434.

52 Asakawa Noritaka 浅川伯教 (1884‑1964) was a primary school teacher in Seoul while his younger brother Takumi 浅川巧 (1891‑1931), who had followed him to Korea, worked as a local government officer in the colonial forestry service. Takumi had studied Korean and spoke the language fluently. Yanagi Sōetsu made ten trips to Korea between 1914 and 1924. See Asahi hyakka Nihon no rekishi 日百科日本の歴史 (Asahi Encyclopaedia–The History of Japan), 1987, fascicule no. 115, p. 147.

53 Kim Brandt, “Objects of Desire: Japanese Collectors and Colonial Korea”, Positions, 8‑3, Winter 2000, Duke University Press, pp. 711‑746, p. 730.

54 See Yoshino Sakuzō, “L’affaire du massacre des Coréens” (The Korean Massacre), Ebisu, special issue, Le Japon des séismes (Japan and its Earthquakes), no. 21, 1999. Text from Chūō Kōron, Nov. 1923, published in Yoshino Sakuzō senshū, op. cit., volume 9, pp. 199‑204. Tome 2,613 Koreans are said to have been murdered (231 according to the police) in addition to approximately 170 Chinese (3 according to the police). According to the historian Imai Seiichi (1924‑), the truth no doubt exceeds even these considerable figures. See Imai Seiichi 今井清一, Taishō demokurashii 大正デモクラシー (The Taishō Democracy), volume 23 of Nihon no rekishi 日本の歴史 (Japanese History), Chūkō Bunko 中公文庫, 1966, 1971, p. 218.

55 Taishō shisō shū, book II, op. cit., p. 290.

56 Yamakawa Kikue 山川菊栄, Jinshu teki henken, seiteki henken, kaikyū teki henken 人種的偏見、性的偏見、階級的偏見 (Racial Prejudice, Sexual Prejudice, Class Prejudice), June 1924, reproduced in Yamakawa Kikue josei kaihō ronshū 川菊栄女性解放論集 (Collected Essays on Women’s Liberation by Yamakawa Kikue) Iwanami Shoten, 1994, pp. 74‑75. Remember that in September 1923, in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, the anarchist Itō Noe 伊藤野枝, who co‑founded the Sekirankai 赤欄会 (The Red Wave Society, 1921‑1923) with Yamakawa Kikue, was strangled at a Tokyo police station along with her partner, the famous anarchist Ōsugi Sakae 杉栄 (1885‑1923), and his young nephew.

57 Vera Mackie, Feminism in Modern Japan, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2003, points out on page 88 that Yamakawa Kikue made a distinction between Japanese society, which was portrayed in her writings as a “gendered” society”, and colonial societies, which she saw as a single, featureless block without class or gender. A slip of the pen by an activist born into a colonial power?

58 Ishibashi Tanzan is the only Japanese prime minister whose complete works span fifteen volumes! (published between 1970 and 1972 by Tōyō Keizai Shinpōsha 洋経済新報).

59 As pointed out by Karatani Kōjin 柄谷行人 in Richard F. Calichman (ed.), Overcoming Modernity, Columbia University Press, New York, 2008, p. 108.

60 See the postscript by Matsuo Takayoshi 松尾尊兌 (ed.), Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū 橋湛山評論集 (The Critical Works of Ishibashi Tanzan), Iwanami Bunko, 1984, 2008, pp. 293‑295.

61 Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century, individuals such as Nakae Chōmin 江兆民 (1847‑1901), Ueki Emori, Abe Isoo 部磯雄 (1865‑1949) or the Japanist nationalist Miyake Setsurei each in their own way advocated a Small Japan but were not able to create very structured political networks.

62 Miura Tetsutarō, “Dai Nipponshugi ka Shō Nipponshugi ka” 大日本主義乎小日本主義乎 (Big Japanism or Small Japanism?), 15 April 1913, reproduced in Taishō shisōshū, volume I, edition overseen by Imai Seiichi, volume 33 in the Kindai Nihon shisō taikei series, 1978, p. 66.

63 Ibid., p. 67.

64 Shintō wa danjite ryōyū su bekarazu” 青島は断じて領有すべからず (Qingdao Must Not Be Seized), editorial from 15 November 1914, in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., p. 52.

65 Kakon o nokosu gaikō seisaku” 禍根を残す外交政策 (A Foreign Policy that the Misses the Root of the Problem), editorial from 5 May 1915, in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., pp. 56‑57.

66 Quoted by Kano Masanao, Kindai kokka o kōsōshita shisōkatachi 代国家を構想した思想家たち (The Thinkers Who Devised the Modern State), Iwanami Junia Shinsho 岩波ジュニア新書, p. 133.

67 Senjin bōdō ni taisuru rikai” 鮮人暴動に対する理解 (Understanding the Korean Uprising), editorial from 15 May 1919, in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., pp. 87‑88.

68 Issai o sutsuruno kakugo. Taiheiyōkaigi ni taisuru waga taido”一切を棄つるの覚悟太平洋会議に対する我が態度 (Prepare to Abandon Everything. Our Position on the Pacific Conference), editorial from 22 July 1922, reproduced in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., pp. 98‑99.

69 Since 1889 the official name of Japan had been the “Empire of Great Japan” (Dai Nippon Teikoku). The Korean kingdom, which had become an “empire” in 1897, followed suit by calling itself the “Greater Korean Empire” (Tae Han Cheguk). At around the same time, some were using the term “Greater France”.

70 Dai Nihonshugi no gensō” 大日本主義の幻想 (The Illusion of Great Japanism), editorial from 30 July 1922, reproduced in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., p. 101.

71 Ibid., p. 113.

72 Ibid., p. 120.

73 Ibid., p. 121.

74 Manmō mondai kaiketsu no konpon hōshin ikan” 満蒙問題解決の根本方針如何 (What Fundamental Policies would Resolve the Manchurian and Mongolian Problem? 26 September 1931, Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., p. 178.

75 Ibid., p. 180.

76 See Saburō Ienaga, The Pacific War, 1931‑1945, Pantheon Books, New York, 1978, p. 120.

77 Kano Masanao, Kindai Nihon shisō annai 代日本思想案内 (Guide to Modern Japanese Thought), Iwanami Bunko, 1999, pp. 290‑291. On Takeuchi Yoshimi and his ambiguous role in China during the war, see Samuel Guex, Entre nonchalance et désespoir, les Intellectuels japonais sinologues face à la guerre (1930‑1950) (Between Nonchalance and Despair: The Response of Japanese Intellectuals and Sinologists to the War), Berne, Peter Lang, 2006.

78 Ishibashi Tanzan, “Kinrai no sesō tada kotonarazu” 近来の世相ただことならず (The Political Practices of Recent Times will not be without Repercussions), editorial from 18 April 1931, Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., pp. 173‑174.

79 See Kurt W. Radtke, “Nationalism and Internationalism in Japan’s Economic Liberalism, The Case of Ishibashi Tanzan”, in Dick Stegewerns (ed.), Nationalism and Internationalism in Imperial Japan, Routledge, London, 2003, p. 177.

80 Quoted by Matsuo Takayoshi in Ishibashi Tanzan hyōronshū, op. cit., p. 308.

81 This was logical for him because he had been one of the first to demand that Tokyo recognise the “extremist” (Bolshevik) regime in 1918. “Kagekiha seifu o shōnin seyo” 過激派政府を承認せよ (Let us Recognise the Extremist Government), 25 July 1918, in Taishō shisōshū, volume I, op. cit., p. 386.

82 In 1957, a minority faction within the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Ishibashi Tanzan, opposed the planned security treaty between Japan and the United States. Ishibashi believed that Japan should adopt a strictly neutral stance in the clash between blocs. He feared that Japan’s alliance with the United States would once again lead Japan into a military venture.

83 Tanaka Shūsei 田中秀征, Nihon Riberaru to Ishibashi Tanzan, ima seiji ga hitsuyō toshite iru koto 本リベラルと石橋湛山 いま政治が必要としていること (Liberal Japan and Ishibashi Tanzan: What is Needed in Politics Today), Kōdansha 講談社, 2004.

84 Mark R. Peattie, “Japanese Attitudes Toward Colonialism”, in Myers and Peattie (eds.), The Japanese Colonial Empire, op. cit., p. 84.

85 These were doubtless the first lectures given in Japan on “colonial policy” but no chair had as yet been created. Yamamoto Miono taught colonial policy at the Faculty of Law in 1912 before a professorial chair was officially established with the creation of the Faculty of Economics in 1919, a chair that he was given.

86 Chair in “colonial studies” (shokumingaku kōza 植民学講座) created at the Faculty of Agronomy. In 1910, Nagai Ryūtarō 井柳太郎 (1881‑1944) was appointed to a similar position at Waseda.

87 Chair in “colonial policy” (shokumin seisaku kōza 植民政策講座) established within the Faculty of Law then transferred, in 1919, to the Faculty of Economics.

88 Andrew E. Barshay, “Postwar Social and Political Thought, 1945‑90”, in Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi (ed.), Modern Japanese Thought, Cambridge University Press, 1998, p. 298.

89 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin” 朝鮮統治の方針 (Policy Orientations on Korea), Chūō Kōron, June 1926, reproduced in Taishō shisō shū, vol II, op. cit., p. 383.

90 Ibid., p. 384.

91 Ibid., p. 390.

92 Ibid., p. 385.

93 Ibid., p. 392. The right to vote during this period followed a territorial rather than ethnic discrimination. Remember that Japanese living in Korea did not vote but that Koreans in Japan did. A Korean deputy was elected to the imperial parliament twice during the 1930s. Be that as it may, no colonial empire has ever granted indigenous peoples the right to vote.

94 Ibid., p. 391.

95 Ibid., p. 392.

96 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin” in Taishō shisō shū, vol. ii, op. cit., p. 394.

97 Quoted by Myers and Peattie, The Japanese Colonial Empire, op. cit., p. 117.

98 Asada Kyōji 田橋二, “Yamamoto Miono no shokuminron” 本美越乃の植民論 (Yamamoto Miono’s Theory of Colonisation), in Keizaigaku ronshū 経済学論集, Komazawa daigaku 駒沢大学, vol. 18, parts 1 and 2, November‑December 1986, p. 18 et seqq. of part 1.

99 Chōsen tōchi no hōshin”, in Taishō shisō shū ii, op. cit., p. 393.

100 Ibid. p. 394.

101 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit. In addition to the usual simplification of Chinese characters, Wakabayashi Masahiro added some extremely useful explanatory notes to his edition. This study of Taiwan was not the first of its kind, as Yamamoto Miono had already published a lengthy study: “Taiwan gikai setchi seigan undō to kako no sōtokuseiji” 台湾議会設置請願運動と過去の総督政治 (The Movement for the Establishment of a Taiwanese Parliament and Former Government‑General System) in Gaikō jihō 交時報 (The Diplomatic Review), no. 488, April 1925, quoted by Asada Kyōji, op. cit. Yamakawa Hitoshi also produced a study of Taiwan in 1925. Yamakawa Hitoshi, Shokumin seisakuka no Taiwan 民政策下の台湾 (Taiwan under Colonial Policy), 1925, reproduced in Yamakawa Hitoshi zenshū 山川均全 (Complete Works of Yamakawa Hitoshi), volume 7, Keisō Shobō 勁草書房, 1966.

102 Kuwabara Takeo 桑原武夫, Nihon no meicho, Kindai no shisō 本の名著・近代の思想 (Japanese Masterpieces: Modern Thought) Chūkō Shinsho 中公新書, 1962, p. 250.

103 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 339. This book is now regularly republished in Taiwan.

104 Prior to the arrival of the Japanese, the population of Taiwan had consisted partly of local populations ethnically related to the ancient peoples of Malaysia and speaking Austronesian languages, and partly of Chinese settlers who had arrived since the seventeenth century, mostly from the neighbouring continental province of Fujian. In fact, during the Qing Dynasty these populations were known as Fan (Ban in Japanese) and were themselves divided into the “civilised” Fan (shufan/jukuban ) of the plains and the “wild” Fan (shengfan/seiban 生番) of the mountains. The “civilised” Fan were in fact often of mixed race since immigration from Fujian essentially involved men. The Japanese maintained the term Fan/Ban while transforming the Chinese character into (used in Chinese to refer to barbarians) and adopted the habit of referring to the island’s most ancient populations using expressions with pejorative connotations: doban (tufan) 土蕃, doi (tuyi) 土夷 or dohi (tufei) 土匪 (wild natives). In 1935, on the occasion of the Taiwan Expo, they exchanged these terms for Heiho‑zoku (pingbu‑zu) 平埔族 (ancient pacified populations of mixed race) and Takasago‑zoku (Gaosha‑zu) 高砂族 (peoples who had been pacified with great difficulty but were used as volunteers in the Japanese Army after 1942). The latter, which today make up about 2% of the island’s population, are usually known these days as the Gaoshan‑zu 高山族minority. See the note by Wakabayashi Masahiro in Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., p28. Yanaihara demonstrated how beginning in the Qing Dynasty, the Fan (Ban), who had been transformed into a minority, were despoiled of their land by Chinese immigrants. In other words, he demonstrated that Taiwan had been under colonial rule since the seventeenth system (ibid., pp. 37‑40).

105 Yanaihara Tadao, ibid., p. 26.

106 Ibid., p. 25.

107 Ibid., p. 23.

108 Ibid., p. 245.

109 Ibid., p. 316.

110 Kuwabara Takeo, Nihon no meicho, Kindai no shisō, op. cit., writes on p. 246 that in around 1929, while he was a schoolboy in the provinces, a Taiwanese “native” visited his school. Colourfully dressed and dark skinned, he gave some kind of artistic performance to the students. The young Kuwabara was struck at the time, he said, by the visit’s resemblance to a “fairground show”—or “human zoo” as we might say today —, by the disenchanted and weary air of the native in question and what he ultimately saw as the cruel performance demanded of this man transformed into a “billboard” for Japan’s colonial policy in Taiwan. On a related note, it is worth pointing out that the recent criticisms of colonial exhibitions are apparently long‑standing in the case of Japan. See Nicolas Bancel, Pascal Blanchard, Gilles Boëtsch, Eric Deroo, Sandrine Lemaire, Zoos humains, Au temps des exhibitions humaines, Paris, La Découverte, 2004 (published in English as Human Zoos: Science and Spectacle in the Age of Colonial Empires, Liverpool University Press, 2008).

111 Ibid., p. 304, and p. 317 in particular.

112 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 347.

113 Yanaihara Tadao, Teikokushugi ka no Taiwan, op. cit., postscript by Wakabashi Masahiro, p. 351. Despite the outrageousness of his comments, Hosokawa was not entirely wrong if we consider that the chair in colonial policy was abolished in 1945 with the fall of the empire. It was renamed after the war and became the chair in “international economics” (kokusai keizai ron kōza 国際経済論講座). Regardless of this, Yanaihara and Hosokawa were both imprisoned during the war. Hosokawa wrote a history of colonisation, Shokumin shi 民史, reproduced in Hosokawa Karoku chosaku shū 細川嘉六著作集 (The Selected Writings of Hosokawa Karoku), book ii, Rironsha 理論社, 1972.

114 The first issue of Akahata 赤旗 (Red Flag), the underground newspaper of the Japanese Communist Party, in April 1923, carries a short article entitled “Chōsen kaihō mondai to musan kaikyū 朝鮮解放問題と無産階級 (Korean Liberation and the Proletariat), Cf. Taishō shisō shū, book ii, op. cit., p. 444.

115 Yamakawa Hitoshi, Shokumin seisakuka no Taiwan, op. cit.

116 I Teruo, Ajia to Kindai Nihon, Hanshinryaku no shisō to undō, op. cit., p. 142‑148.

117 Manshū mondai” 満州問題 (The Manchurian Problem), in Yanaihara Tadao zenshū 内原忠雄全集 (The Complete Works of Yanaihara Tadao), volume 2, Iwanami Shoten, 1965.

118 Teikoku shugi kenkyū” 国主義研究 (A Study of Imperialism), in Yanaihara Tadao zenshū, op. cit., volume 4, Iwanami Shoten, 1965, p. 340.

119 Yanaihara Tadao, “Kirisuto kyō ni okeru heiwa no risō” (The Peace Ideal in Christianity), in Kirisutosha no shinkō 5 Minzoku to heiwa キリスト者の信仰〈5〉民族と平和 (Christian Faith – vol. 5 – Peoples and Peace), Iwanami Shoten, 1982, p. 117.

120 Narita Ryūichi, Taishō demokurashii, op. cit., p. 151.

121 Ibid., p. 152.

122 Nishikawa Nagao 西川長夫, Shin Shokuminchishugiron Gurobaruka jidai no shokuminchishugi o tou 〈新〉植民地主義論 グローバル化時代の植民地主義を問う (Essay on Neo‑colonialism. Questioning Colonialism in the Age of Globalisation), Heibonsha 平凡社, 2006. Nishikawa describes an internalised colonialism (naimenka sareta shokuminchishugi 内面化された植民地主義), p. 25 et seqq.

123 Claude Liauzu, Histoire de l’anticolonialisme en France (The History of Anti‑colonialism in France), Paris, Armand Colin, 2007.

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References

Electronic reference

Pierre‑François Souyri, « Criticising Colonialism in pre‑1945 Japan  », Cipango - French Journal of Japanese Studies [Online], 4 | 2015, Online since 20 November 2017, connection on 14 December 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/cjs/1121

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About the author

Pierre‑François Souyri

University of Geneva

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