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Genesis: Historical research
Правильная ссылка на статью:

Nationalism in Japanese Historiography of the 1990-2010s / Национализм в японской историографии 1990-2010-х гг.

Мелконян Лусине Арменовна

ассистент, кафедра теории и истории международных отношений, Российский университет дружбы народов

117198, Россия, г. Москва, ул. Миклухо-Маклая, 10/2, оф. 302

Melkonyan Lusine

Assistant, Department of Theory and History of International Relations, RUDN University

117198, Russia, g. Moscow, ul. Miklukho-Maklaya, 10/2, of. 302
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Аннотация: Объектом исследования является феномен японского национализма в зарубежной историографии 1990-2010-х гг. Предметом исследования являются факторы, исторически сформировавшие понятие японского национализма и его современное восприятие исследователями. Японская политическая модель и составляющие ее компоненты, в том числе, национализм, часто подвергаются предвзятой интерпретации. Западные подходы к японскому национализму практически всегда сводятся к тому, что японский индивидуализм рассматривается не как разновидность индивидуализма, а как национализм. Автор рассматривает труды исследователей национализма, использовавших различные методы и подходы к анализу данной темы с целью сравнения основных моделей национализма в Японии и западных государствах. Автор использует проблемно-хронологический и сравнительный методы исследования. Новизна исследования заключается в сопоставлении и исследовании автором понятий национальной идентичности и национализма, используемые в Японии политическими элитами для решения проблемы консолидации власти, установления государственного контроля над всеми аспектами жизни японского общества, а также борьбы с внешними угрозами. Изучение страны с незападной политической культурой демонстрирует, что если в западных подходах «национализм» обычно определяется как феномен, чувство солидарности, возникающее из общего исторического опыта, то национализм в японском понимании представляет собой идеологическую смесь милитаристских, индустриальных и реформистских аспектов национальной идеи и содержит множество сложных факторов. Помимо японских исследователей автор изучил также труды российских и западных исследователей.

Ключевые слова:

Япония, национализм, политическая культура, незападная историография, международные отношения, японский национализм, теория международных отношений, история международных отношений, мировая политика, японская историография

Abstract: The object of the study is the phenomenon of Japanese nationalism in foreign historiography of the 1990-2010's. The subject of the study are the factors that historically formed the concept of Japanese nationalism and its modern perception by researchers. The Japanese political model and its components, including nationalism, are often subject to biased interpretation. Western approaches to Japanese nationalism almost always boil down to the fact that Japanese individualism is considered not as a kind of individualism, but as nationalism. The author examines the works of nationalism researchers who have used various methods and approaches to the analysis of this topic in order to compare the main models of nationalism in Japan and Western states. The author uses problem-chronological and comparative research methods. The novelty of the research lies in the author's comparison and study of the concepts of national identity and nationalism used in Japan by political elites to solve the problem of consolidating power, establishing state control over all aspects of the life of Japanese society, as well as combating external threats. The study of a country with a non-Western political culture demonstrates that if in Western approaches "nationalism" is usually defined as a phenomenon, a sense of solidarity arising from a common historical experience, then nationalism in the Japanese sense is an ideological mixture of militaristic, industrial and reformist aspects of the national idea and contains many complex factors. In addition to Japanese researchers, the author also studied the works of Russian and Western researchers.


Japan, nationalism, political culture, non - western historiography, international relations, Japanese nationalism, MO theory, history of MO, world politics, Japanese historiography


Nationalism is one of the most topical and controversial terms and phenomena in the contemporary historical and political studies, origins of which date back centuries. It is a political and ideological phenomenon that allows a nation to designate its own cultural identity namely a nation's self-determination, which is used to highlight its outstanding features in comparison with other nations. The essence of nationalism is ambiguous, as well as its impact on the world history development. Nationalism can be a force, contributing to a nation state's strengthening, preserving the national identity but if it is based on the idea of national superiority, it can also lead to destruction, bringing the particular country and the world, in general, to an unstable and tense state.

Japanese nationalism has a long history. It developed simultaneously with the state formation when the concept of homeland was intertwined with myths about the divine origin of the sun goddess Amaterasu's Yamato State – central, the most important deity of the Shinto religion, who the Japanese nobility claims descent and their divine right to rule from. Japanese nationalism emerged as a special awareness of the nation to their national sovereignty and independence, as well as an expression of a special attitude to the administrative power, which defended this sovereignty during the state history. Hence, there were both state and political nationalism in Japan [Datsyshen, 2014].

The Japanese political model and its constituent components, peculiarly Japanese nationalism, are so unique that western scholars may often face the question of interpreting them unbiasedly. The western approach to Japanese nationalism almost always inevitably leads to a subjective approach to this concept, demonstrating, for instance, Japanese individualism not as a kind of individualism, but as nationalism [Hellyer, Leheny: 2018].

The ideology of nationalism was reflected notably in Japanese former prime minister Shinzo Abe's foreign policy, which caused a certain amount of concern among neighbors, since the absolutisation of Japanese nationalism and national ideas have already manifested themselves in a rather aggressive, expansionist manner in the past. Nevertheless, it should be highlighted that Japanese nationalism is an essential factor in the internal consolidation of the nation [Soskovets, 2016: 168].

This binary character of Japanese nationalism and its evolution during the XX century explicates the considerable research interest in this issue both in Japan and abroad. Within the framework of the article nationalism in the Japanese historiography of the 1990-2010s will be examined, conditioned by the urgency for better understanding the modern features of the phenomenon, named Japanese nationalism.

Our hypothesis is that main characteristics and forming factors, which historically influenced Japanese nationalism, and which are highlighted in the Japanese historiography of the 1990s and the beginning of the XXI century, are as follows:

1. state character of ideology and goals of its implementation,

2. expression of national identity or specific interests of national groups,

3. solution to the problem of consolidating power, keeping it in the hands of political elite and implementing national tasks,

4. establishment of state control over all aspects of Japanese society,

5. mobilisation of the nation, fight external threats,

6. consideration of state-forming role of the emperor, his mythical legitimacy,

7. existence of a mass of nationalist organisations and nationalists,

8. special correlation between the national and the international compounds in the Japanese mass consciousness.


Exploring a country with a non-western political culture such as Japan reveals that the concept of «nationalism» in the Japanese political thought is in many respects an emotionally coloured concept, the objective and rational perception of which is an urgent topic. This may be conditioned by the fact that in the western approach nationalism is generally defined as a sense of solidarity, arising from common experiences [Smith, Montserrat, 2004: 127], while Japanese nationalism is an ideological mixture of militaristic, industrial and reformist aspects of the national idea and has numerous complex and dynamic forming factors [Datsyshen, 2014].

Several respective researchers note the revival of nationalism in Japan also at the present stage, attaching that with the national idea transformation in Japan in accordance with the changing domestic and foreign policies [Kozhevnikov, 2013: 141-147].

The main characteristics of Japanese nationalism may be the evidence that it was introduced by the state into the mass consciousness through patriotism, which was identified as love and preference for the Japanese unique nation and antipathy for other nations [Karasawa, 2002: 648].

As mentioned above, ambiguity of Japanese nationalism has played an important role in the moments of the nation's formation throughout its history. It has carried out the function of preservation and development of the national identity, which began to be exercised notably effectively by the ruling circles of Japan in the Meiji revolution era. Meiji revolution was the era that marked the end of the Shogunate or military dictatorship and the building of a modern Japanese state when the urgency to satisfy the state's internal and external needs arose.

In fact, the roots of the Japanese nationalism date back to an earlier period than the Meiji revolution. The origins of Japanese state nationalism are often associated with the military class, which, starting from the XIII century, acted as the main tool for uniting the country, as well as establishing control over the state’s spiritual and political life. During this period of history, the imperial family’s powers were halted and passed to the military class in person of the samurai class (warriors of pre-modern Japan). They proposed their own model of state development, which provided for a centralization of power, creation of an extremely rigid system of hierarchically based social relations.

The conceptual foundations of the Japanese nationalism were considerably laid by Tokugawa Mitsukuni – a prominent feudal lord, who established the Research Institute of Japanese History, in his «Great History of Japan» (Dai Nihonshi) historical work [Datsyshen, 2014]. Written in the course of 50 years, this fundamental work by Tokugawa Mitsukuni started with Emperor Jimmu – the legendary first emperor of Japan, and after its author's death, the book was continued during the next decades until its completion in the Meiji era [Datsyshen, 2014].

Thus, Japanese nationalism manifests itself as an ideology that unites Japan in difficult periods of its history, helping to survive under the condition of the national unity, as well as to maintain its economic and political position as a global power. This may be the reason why in the history of Japan two eras of nationalism are often highlighted: the Meiji era (1868-1912), which contributed to the modernization processes, and the Showa era (1926 to 1989) – the reign of Emperor Hirohito. During the Meiji era nationalism emerged as a force consolidating the nation, later transforming into ideologies of aggression and militarism, negative historical memory of which is still alive in the minds of the Chinese and the Koreans, since these two neighbouring states and their nations were most affected by Japanese expansionist aspirations.

Post-war revival of nationalism took place in Japan in the period of the 1970-1980s in the period of the country's successful economic growth (known as Japanese economic miracle) as a reflection of the nation's conscious desire to overcome the complex of a defeated and occupied country.

During this period, the theories of nihonjinron (a theory about the Japanese identity) and nihonbunkaron (a theory about the Japanese culture), closely related to Japanese nationalism, began to spread. Thus, cultural nationalism developed, illustrating the uniqueness of the Japanese nation.

Among the main directions in the research of nationalism understanding the nihonjinron concept should be emphasised: a complex of ideas and beliefs, such as an upraised consciousness of national identity, admiration for national traditions and way of life, cultural and linguistic isolationism, as well as a wary attitude towards other nations, states, and their way of life, recognised as alien to Japan [Alpatov, 2008: 27].

One of the authors, who analyses the link of the concept of nihonjinron with the historical past is Harumi Befu. The author's studies explore the relationship between the national symbols of Japan, such as the national flag, national anthem, national emblem, and national rituals, with the popularity of the ideas of nihonjinron in the second half of the XX century [Befu, 1992: 33-45]. He believed the ban on the active use of these national symbols in post-war Japan might have led to the popularity of the ideas of nihonjinron since the absence of national symbols demanded an equivalent replacement that would serve to determine the cultural identity of the people. Thus, the discourse of nihonjinron served as such a replacement.

Another researcher, Kosaku Yoshino, professor of sociology at the University of Tokyo, is the author of several works devoted to the problems of nationalism and national identity in Asia. Her «Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan: A Sociological Enquiry» is divided into two parts: theoretical and practical. In the first part, the author analyzes the nihonjinron phenomenon as the intellectual foundation of contemporary Japanese nationalism. She also examines the theoretical aspects of issues related to ethnicity, national identity and cultural nationalism. The practical part is devoted to the interpretation of the data of her sociological research. The respondents were educators and entrepreneurs. Both social groups, according to Yoshino, are consumers of ideas about Japanese exclusivity [Yoshino, 1991].

The main characteristics of Yoshino's work is the use of a sociological approach in relation to the analysis of the ideas of nihonjinron. At the same time, the author's methodological arsenal also includes a comparative approach. In her opinion, critics of the nihonjinron theory make the same assumption, according to which the idea of the «uniqueness» of their own nation is peculiar only to the Japanese. To prove otherwise, she devotes a separate chapter of her book to a comparative analysis of the understanding of specific national characteristics by representatives of various European countries.

Considering our topic, the author of the collection of articles «Nationalisms in Japan», Naoko Shimazu, should also be mentioned. The articles collection is based on the materials of the conference on the problems of nationalism in modern Japan, held in 2006 at Keio University. It includes articles by both Western and Japanese scholars, which are devoted to various manifestations of nationalism in Japan at certain stages of its historical development. In the article «Reading the diaries of Japanese military personnel: the formation of a national self-awareness during the Russo-Japanese War» Naoko Shimazu uses the method of interpreting personal sources.

Based on the study and interpretation of the Japanese soldiers' diaries, who fought in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), the author traces the process of the national identity formation among the inhabitants of Japan. The scientist considers the Russo-Japanese war to be one of the key events in Japanese history at the beginning of the 20th century, reflected in the Japanese people's perception of themselves as a single national community [Shimazu, 2006: 57].

The mentioned collection also contains an article by the Japanese scholar Tetsuya Takahashi «National policy regarding the Yasukuni Shrine», addressing the political aspect of visits to the temple of Yasukuni by Japanese famous political figures [Takahashi, 2006: 156], such as former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, former Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The «Yasukuni problem» has become traditional. Takahashi considers visits to the Yasukuni Shrine by famous political figures not as an act of commemoration of the soldiers, whose names are included in the lists of persons honored in the temple, but as a political act of recognition of their merits to the Fatherland [Takahashi, 2006: 156]. According to Takahashi, the visits of the state's first figures to the Yasukuni Shrine can be explained by the statement of the former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone: «If we do not express gratitude to the fallen, then who will agree to give their lives in the name of the nation? » [Takahashi, 2006: 159]. Thus, the author argues the Yasukuni Shrine plays the role of a factor of «spiritual mobilization of the nation» and is perceived by the Japanese nation not as a place where they mourn for the fallen, but as a place where the latter are worshiped.

Historian Yoshiko Nozaki, lecturer at the University of Buffalo, examines the unification of official Japanese history textbooks in his monograph «Military Memory, Nationalism and Education in Post-War Japan, 1945-2007». Their content has been criticized not only outside Japan, but also in the country itself, since even in state-approved textbooks, many episodes of the Japanese occupation of Asian countries during World War II are obscured, which causes criticism of China and Korea. This problem obviously has political overtones, resembling the history of the Yasukuni Shrine.


The thematic variety of works on Japanese nationalism clearly distinguish several key subjects: nihonjinron and its various aspects - political (national symbols), cultural and historical (Befu, Yoshino); the formation of national identity (Shimazu); political nationalism and its independent manifestations, which affect not only the situation within Japan, but also its relations with its closest neighbors in the region (Takahashi, Nozaki).

In the works reviewed, a wide range of research practices is noted. Thus, Yoshino applies comparative and sociological methods, while Shimazu uses historical and anthropological approaches. Most of the authors use a combination of theoretical and empirical approaches (research of personal documents, materials of sociological research).

Generally, the predominance of culturological and historical approaches to the development of problems of Japanese nationalism can be highlighted, which are not devoid of political relevance (discussions about the Yasukuni temple, as well as the content of textbooks).

Another distinctive feature of Japanese authors is the study of nationalism «from the bottom», from the point of view of its ordinary conveyors, consumers, and distributors (Yoshino, Shimazu). It is important for researchers to study and understand how society itself, not just the state, perceives and reproduces nationalist ideology.

The pluralism of points of view and research approaches is among the reasons why there is no comprehensive study of Japanese nationalism, where it would be considered in historical retrospective and the diversity of its manifestations in the works of Japanese authors of the 1990s and the beginning of the XXI century.

Nevertheless, works with similar problems appear currently, which reveals that not only cultural, but also political nationalism is still a topic for comprehension in modern Japanese historiography.

1. Алпатов В.М. Япония: язык и культура. Москва, 2008. 208 с.
2. Дацышен В. Г. Новая история Японии // Вестник НГУ. Серия: История, филология. 2007. Т. 6. Вып. 4. С. 129–134.
3. Кожевников В.В. Национализм во внешней политике Японии на современном этапе: миф или реальность // Вестник ДВО РАН. 2013. №1 (167).
4. Сосковец Л. И. Политическая система Японии. Москва, 2019 г.
5. Befu, H. (1992). Symbols of Nationalism and Nihonjinron // Cultural Nationalism in East Asia / ed. by H. Befu. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California. Р. 33-45.
6. Guibernau, M. (2004). Anthony D. Smith on nations and national identity: a critical assessment. Nations and Nationalism, 10: 125-141. P. 127.
7. Hellyer R., Leheny D. (2018). What Japan can teach us about the future of nationalism. The Washington Post. URL: (дата обращения: 10.04.2022).
8. Karasawa M. (2002). Patriotism, Nationalism, and Internationalism among Japanese Citizens: An Etic–emic Approach // Political Psychology. Vol. 23. No. 4. P. 645–666.
9. Shimazu N. (2006). Reading the Diaries of Japanese Conscripts: Forging National Consciousness during the Russo-Japanese War // Nationalisms in Japan. N. Y.: Routledge. Р. 41-65.
10. Takahashi T. (2006). The National Politics of the Yasukuni Shrine // Nationalisms in Japan. N. Y.: Routledge. Р. 156-181.
11. Yoshino K. (1991). Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan: A Sociological Enquiry. L.: Routledge. 267 p.
1. Alpatov V.M. (2008). Japan: language and culture. Moscow. 208 p.
2. Befu H. (1992). Symbols of Nationalism and Nihonjinron // Cultural Nationalism in East Asia / ed. by H. Befu. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California. Р. 33-45.
3. Datsyshen V.G. (2007). New history of Japan // Bulletin of NSU. Series: History, Philology. V. 6. Issue. 4. S. 129–134.
4. Guibernau M. (2004). Anthony D. Smith on nations and national identity: a critical assessment. Nations and Nationalism, 10: 125-141. P. 127.
5. Hellyer R., Leheny D. (2018). What Japan can teach us about the future of nationalism. The Washington Post. URL: (дата обращения: 10.04.2022).
6. Karasawa M. (2002). Patriotism, Nationalism, and Internationalism among Japanese Citizens: An Etic–emic Approach // Political Psychology. Vol. 23. No. 4. P. 645–666.
7. Kozhevnikov V.V. (2013). Nationalism in Japan's Foreign Policy at the Present Stage: Myth or Reality // Bulletin of the Far Eastern Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences. 2013. No. 1 (167).
8. Shimazu N. (2006). Reading the Diaries of Japanese Conscripts: Forging National Consciousness during the Russo-Japanese War // Nationalisms in Japan. N. Y.: Routledge. Р. 41-65.
9. Soskovets L. I. (2019). The political system of Japan. Moscow. 164 p.
10. Takahashi T. (2006). The National Politics of the Yasukuni Shrine // Nationalisms in Japan. N. Y.: Routledge. Р. 156-181.
11. Yoshino K. (1991). Cultural Nationalism in Contemporary Japan: A Sociological Enquiry. L.: Routledge. 267 p.

Результаты процедуры рецензирования статьи

В связи с политикой двойного слепого рецензирования личность рецензента не раскрывается.
Со списком рецензентов издательства можно ознакомиться здесь.

Когда мы говорим о национализме, то прежде всего имеем в виду европейский национализм, особенно остро проявивший себя в первой половине XX в. И хотя конец XX в. зародил сомнения в том, что европейский национализм сможет противостоять идеям глобализации, в действительности эта тема по-прежнему актуальна, причём не только в историческом, но и политическом смысле. Изучая национализм следует особо обратить внимание на национализм неевропейский, особенно азиатский, тем более что и сегодня широко известны строчки Р. Киплинга о столь разных Западе и Востоке.
Указанные обстоятельства определяют актуальность представленной на рецензирование статьи, предметом которой является национализм в японской историографии на рубеже XX - XXI вв. Автор ставит своими задачами рассмотреть концептуальные основы японского национализма, а также проанализировать отдельные труды японских исследователей, в которых рассматривается данная тема.
Работа основана на принципах анализа и синтеза, достоверности, объективности, методологической базой исследования выступает системный подход, в основе которого находится рассмотрение объекта как целостного комплекса взаимосвязанных элементов. Автор использует также сравнительный метод.
Научная новизна статьи заключается в самой постановке темы: автор на основе различных источников стремится охарактеризовать японскую историографию национализма в конце XX - начале XXI в.
Рассматривая библиографический список статьи, как позитивный момент следует отметить его разносторонность: всего список литературы включает в себя 11 различных источников и исследований. Несомненным достоинством рецензируемой статьи является привлечение зарубежной англоязычной литературы, что определяется самой постановкой темы. Из используемых автором трудов отметим работы В.М. Алпатова и В.В. Кожевникова, а также исследования японских авторов (М. Карасава, Т. Такахаси и др.). Заметим, что библиография обладает важностью как с научной, так и с просветительской точки зрения: после прочтения текста статьи читатели могут обратиться к другим материалам по ее теме. В целом, на наш взгляд, комплексное использование различных источников и исследований способствовало решению стоящих перед автором задач.
Стиль написания статьи можно отнести к научному, вместе с тем доступному для понимания не только специалистам, но и широкой читательской аудитории, всем кто интересуется как историей Японии, в целом, так и японским национализмом, в частности. Аппеляция к оппонентам представлена на уровне собранной информации, полученной автором в ходе работы над темой статьи.
Структура работы отличается определённой логичностью и последовательностью, в ней можно выделить введение, основную часть, заключение. В начале автор определяет актуальность темы, показывает, что она очень неизучена вследствие особенностей японской культуры. В работе обозначены следующие характеристики, раскрывающие специфику японской историографии национализма в рассматриваемый период: «1. государственный характер идеологии и целей ее реализации, 2. выражение национальной идентичности или особых интересов национальных групп, 3. решение проблемы консолидации власти, удержания ее в руках политической элиты и реализации национальных задач, 4. установление государственного контроля над всеми сторонами жизни японского общества,5. мобилизация нации, борьба с внешними угрозами, 6. рассмотрение государствообразующей роли императора, его мифической легитимности, 7. существование массы националистических организаций и националистов,8. особое соотношение национального и интернационального соединений в массовом сознании японцев». Автор обращает внимание на то, что «японский национализм проявляется как идеология, объединяющая Японию в трудные периоды ее истории, помогающая выжить в условиях национального единства, а также сохранить ее экономическое и политическое положение».
Главным выводом статьи является то, что «в тематическом многообразии произведений о японском национализме отчетливо выделяются несколько ключевых сюжетов: политические (национальные символы), культурно-исторические (Бефу, Ёсино); формирование национальной идентичности (Симадзу) и др».
Представленная на рецензирование статья посвящена актуальной теме, написана на английском языке, вызовет читательский интерес, а ее материалы могут быть использованы как в курсах лекций по новой и новейшей истории Азии и Африки, так в различных спецкурсах.
К статье есть отдельные замечания:
1) Было бы неплохо привлечь работы японских авторов на языке оригинала.
2) Сноски в тексте статьи не соответствуют требованиям издательства.
Однако, в целом, на наш взгляд, статья может быть рекомендована для публикации в журнале «Genesis: исторические исследования».