The Creation Of A Nation Analysis

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 have been fragmented into hundreds of separate fiefs, a clear sense of national unity was beginning to flourish, one searching for a solid political foundation upon which to build a modern nation state that could stand to compete with the

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