Miyazawa Kenji is the author of "Night of the Milkyway Railroad," a classic of Japanese children's literature that's been widely translated into varioMiyazawa Kenji is the author of "Night of the Milkyway Railroad," a classic of Japanese children's literature that's been widely translated into various foreign languages and is omnipresent in its home country. Miyazawa died young of tuberculosis, as an obscure poet and educator in Iwate Prefecture, in Japan's rural north, and his posthumous fame has become an important part of Iwate's domestic tourism branding in Japan. Long's book is particular concerned with Miyazawa's connection to his birthplace, and how locality shaped his literary reputation while he was alive, his intellectual interests, and his posthumous reception. Early chapters in the book discuss how intensely the publishing industry, particularly literary publishing, was centered in Tokyo in the early 20th century, and how the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, which leveled much of Tokyo and halted many presses, provided a brief moment for writers, publishers and newspapers to imagine a 'spatial reconfiguration of the Japanese literary scene.' It didn't happen, after a few months everything was back to its Tokyo-focused former self. But several new trends in literature, including a boom in children's literature (which tended to prize locality, dialect, and regional myth) and calls for peasant literature from both Romantic and Proletarian writers, had created new interest and outlets for literature from the provinces. ...more
Aizawa Seishisai, a non-samurai scholar and advisor to the rulers of the Mito domain, wrote the New Theses of 1825 in response to increasing domesticAizawa Seishisai, a non-samurai scholar and advisor to the rulers of the Mito domain, wrote the New Theses of 1825 in response to increasing domestic instability as well as encroaching foreign powers. Secretly circulated among the elite after it was written, the Theses were finally published in the 1850s, making it an influential document for the "Revere the Emperor, Expel the Barbarians" movement that preceded the Meiji Restoration of 1868. (The Theses gained popularity again in 1930s Japan, but that's a story for another time, though very briefly touched upon by Wakabayashi in his forward.) Aizawa drew on his neo-Confucian training to suggest a series of reforms that the shogunate (bakufu) should undertake to shore up its control of Japan and effectively repel foreign intrusions. He proposed an increase in national defense, including the building of coastal fortresses, and a return of samurai to the land; both suggestions in contradistinction to long-standing tenets of shogunate rule, though offered in the service of solidifying the bakufu.
Aizawa was Confucian, but by the 19th century, knowledge from and of the West was circulating more widely in Japan. Wakabayashi's analysis deals with the way that this knowledge influenced Aizawa's Confucian thinking. Particularly, Wakabayashi asserts that Aizawa understood Christianity in the West to be a type of state religion, which lead him to believe that the state and religion must be more closely unified in Japan. This idea is the basis of "kokutai," or national essence, a term made popular by Aizawa and one that would remain prominent among Japanese nationalists into the 20th century. Wakabayashi's explanations of the intellectual trends of 19th century are clearly elucidated, and would be useful in the classroom.
Finally, Aizawa also wrote a text called "Some Call Me Disputatious," which I would like to suggest as a potential album title if any members of the Wu-Tang Clan are reading this review.
Ninomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all wriNinomiya Sontoku never wrote down any of his teachings (too busy farming and saving poor people and spreading his sagacity around, I guess) so all written accounts of his philosophy and works were done by disciplines, hence the hagiographic quality of these works.
This volume is short parables apparently told by the Sage in evening talks with his disciples, covering his usual topics of how to be prosperous, how the village can succeed, how to be a good leader. Ninomiya's teachings stem from syncretic philosophy, which brought together Shinto, Buddhism and Confucian principles together combined them into a worldview that espoused prosperity through hard work, benevolence, and simple living.
Ninomiya's teachings became especially popular after the Meiji Restoration, and remained popular well into the 20th century. The 1937 English language introduction by a Ninomiya follower, Count Tadamasa Sakai, is quite brief but contains several revealing statements about the "morality" of agriculture in the East, and ends with a critique of capitalism. "Today when the civilization starting from from and standing on the basis of capitalistic commerce and industry has reached its apex and a way of exit from the labyrinth it has entered is being sought everywhere, we shall feel thankful if this book will serve even to a small extent as a guiding post to the way of salvation of the distressed people of the world."
Tortuous syntax aside, Sakai's statement about "exiting the labyrinth" of capitalism points to the continued popularity of Ninomiya's teachings as a way to explain away the contradictions and unevennesses inherent in capitalism. I think its this aspect of his teaching, the way it could read as a recipe for prosperity for all without directly challenging existing power structures, that accounts for his post-Meiji popularity despite being Ninomiya being a pro-bakufu figure. ...more
A great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national aA great straight-forward history of how the Japanese Army, beginning around 1910, worked to incorporate rural villages and hamlets into the national and military project through the creation of local reserve corps, youth leagues, and women's associations that worked on local projects (public works, firefighting, disaster relief) as well as a wide-array of 'patriotic' activities (patriotic lectures, patriotic military drills, patriotic sports tournaments, etc). These various groups integrated the military into the daily life of rural people, setting the state for full-mobilization in the 1930s, both for war and for sending settlers to the colonies, particularly Manchuria.
The mastermind of these rural associations was Tanaka Giichi, an Army General and known Mussolini enthusiast, who promoted further incursion into Manchuria and suppression of dissidents in Japan during his tenure as Prime Minister in the late 1920s. Tanaka was a protege of Yamagata Aritomo, the samurai from Choshu who founded the modern Japanese army. Yamagata, like many successful revolutionaries, became obsessed with fostering unity and suppressing dissent in the new nation-state he helped to create. He, and then Tanaka after him, saw rural village communities as the foundation of Japanese identity and morality. However, in the early Meiji period most rural villages resented the state's incursions into their lives, via conscription, education and increased taxes, and so began their machinations to bring village and nation together....more