Japan Nation Research Paper

1603 Words 7 Pages
The Creation of a Nation
The Japan of today is often seen as a cohesive, homogenous nation with a strong sense of national pride and identity. However, this was not always the case; the image of Japan as a nation, as a group of people with a common identity, did not exist in the pre-Tokugawa period. Instead, it was through the centralizing forces of the Meiji Revolution, on both political and social levels, that ultimately resulted in the creation of Japan, the nation state. The political structure of Japan in the Tokugawa era was a feudal one—though there was a central capital where the Emperor and the shogun resided, the primary form of government with which the citizens interacted was their immediate domain, ruled over by a landowning daimyō.
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Those who followed the teaching of the School of National Learning found “ideals of loyalty to ‘Japan’” (Gordon 44) itself, drawing on historical native Japanese texts such as the Kojiki and The Tale of Genji (44). These ideas of a shared Japanese identity were brought to the forefront in Aizawa Seishisai’s “New Theses,” which drew on the mythical origins of the island of Japan to create a stronger sense of national unity against the Western forces. Aizawa begins by claiming that “Our Devine Land is where the sun rises and where the primordial energy originates” (621), immediately creating a sense of a common identity through the use of the word “our.” He then continues by describing what he calls the “national substance” of Japan, asserting that “[the goddess Amaterasu] bequeathed the land to her imperial grandson and bestowed the three imperial regalia on him…[which] were handed down to unbroken generations…[and] the supreme duty of loyalty to the throne was thereby made manifest” (624). This emphasis on the heavenly origins of the island of Japan gave credence to the divine power of the Emperor, a motif that would be utilized for political purposes during the Meiji Revolution proper. Aizawa concludes his section on the danger from the West by asking “what is the ‘basis’ of our nation?” (626); at this point, it is clear that, though Japan may …show more content…
Sakamoto Ryōma’s Eight-Point Proposal shows his vision for a dramatically different political structure, one centered on the Imperial Court. His first point is that “political power of the entire country should be returned to the Imperial Court” (662), in effect concentrating all political power in one central location: the Imperial Court, and by extension the Emperor. Like Aizawa, Ryōma felt that Japan held a cohesive national identity through the authority of the Emperor, so it would only be logical to coalesce the political power under the same sovereign entity. While his specific legislative arrangements were not implemented, his proposal for deciding governmental policies based on public deliberation (662) was codified in the Charter Oath, which proclaimed that “all matters [shall be] decided by public discussion” (The Charter Oath). Thomas C. Smith writes that the Meiji Revolution was an “aristocratic revolution,” a revolution started by samurai that “did not create a strong democratic political tradition” (145). Yet, that the Oath stated that “all classes, high and low, shall unite in vigorously carrying out the administration of affairs of state,” in effect permitting for the formation of a national community beyond just the samurai elite. Thus, though the Meiji Revolution would indeed fail to be a fully democratizing revolution, it was still in some ways an inclusive one.

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