Datsu-A Ron: Meiji Reforms and the De-Asianization of Japan. Name. Aaron Pickering, Oak Ridge High School. Standards. World History and Geography. “Datsu-A Ron” is an unsigned editorial of a newspaper called “時事新報” published in March 16, Here is the part 1. Somebody really needs to rewrite my. Datsu-A Ron” is an unsigned editorial of a newspaper called “時事新報” published in March 16, Note: The newspaper was founded by Fukuzawa Yukichi.

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At a time when the international order is imploding with new conflicts erupting across the Asia-Pacific our work takes on new importance.

We rely on readers, authors and supporters. Contributions are tax deductible. By Paypal or credit card at our home page under Support Us. History is a cumbersome science. Scholars work diligently in amassing data, reading original sources, and creating plausible narratives regarding the past. As Ernest Renan observed in his s essay Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?: Renan had legal precedents for his idea of forgetting as the basis of a nation.

The Edict of Nantes in granting amnesty for Protestants included also a decree that all parties extinguish from their minds the memory of all that had happened during the decades of religious fighting. If Renan had wished, he also could have taken up the Treaty of Westphalia inwhich ended the years War, and which contained not only a decree for all parties to place into “perpetual Oblivion, Amnesty, or Pardon” all hostile acts that had been committed during the war, but also prohibited litigation processes dxtsu to lost property and most debts, so that “perpetual Silence” would fall on public memory of the war.

Of course the search for accurate historical facts is both a morally and academically justified endeavour. Leopold von Ranke’s positivist maxim about finding out wie es eigentlich gewesen 6 may be strictly taken as impossible, but as a teleological goal for historical studies it is commendable. A modern day representative of the school of historical positivism in Japanese studies is, George Akita, who advocates cleaning historical research of unnecessary theories and ideologies, and concentrating on straightforward reading of a dateu array of original sources, discerning patterns from there, while striving “manfully to avoid bias”.

Somebody has to go through masses of handwritten texts and make their contents accessible to other researchers, who do not have the special skills needed, and it is also rather suitable for determining “who did what, where, when, x with whom. Moreover, from a sociological point of view problems with the simple belief in objectivity in history and other human sciences have earlier been pointed out by Max Weber, 8 as well as his more radical new interpreters.

Carr points out, historical research is a process of selection of relevant facts having historical significance, using criteria chosen by the historian herself. Heisler writes on the same topic, pointing out how difficult questions of history have recently become both in national and datsj situations. Past suffering and misfortune may be converted into moral capital in negotiations The metonym of currency points to the idea that in debates historical facts play a symbolic role, just as coins, bills and credit cards do in the market place.

They can be exchanged, and a new fact datau always be given to counter another fact. They are necessary for interaction to take place and hopefully in due time their discussion may lead somewhere.

Notwithstanding, the property of historical facts as symbols tends often to intensify rather than mitigate conflicts because in politics they are invariably linked with the morality of action, namely whether an historical actor did something good and commendable, or bad and condemnable. As more abstract symbols than money, fon value of historical facts can easily change depending on the context and their reinterpretation.

Quentin Skinner emphasizes this phenomenon with his concept of paradiastolic redescription, 12 whereby the moral character of a specific act can be seen in a number of different ways depending on the way it is described.

He especially emphasizes how morally opposite extremes actually are rhetorically quite close to each other, so that good easily turns to bad and vice versa when a new interpretative perspective is added. Daqing Yang, a Chinese-born researcher of Japanese imperial history and international reconciliation, while analyzing the arguments of various historians on the Nanjing Massacre, comments that although historians nowadays admit that the writing of history necessarily is a subjective endeavour, there still exists a general wish to establish basic intersubjective agreement on at least some common denominators.

He calls these common understandings within the community of historians “stable truths” 13which implies that Ranke’s wie es eigentlich gewesen would amount to a collection daysu discursive nuclei on which most of the community would agree, and on this basis reject too extreme arguments, such as outright denials that there ever was dateu kind of large scale killing in Nanjing in winter Even if stable truths can be achieved, ronn, they are not always useful, and they tend not to remain stable.

The reason of course is not only that “moral politics” — as George Lakoff calls the phenomenon of moralizing issues 14 — creates strong political incentives towards evading them, but also the ethos of researchers forcefully leads them towards finding new perspectives on old truths.


Intellectual curiosity, the publishing business, and even modest wishes for personal fame demand constant novelty. It is less dramatic than the Nanjing Massacre or forced prostitution cases during World War II, but nevertheless a topic of perennial discussion both in Japan and abroad.

Being a textual rather than a physical deed, the daysu is mostly confined to historical scholars, rarely entering the speeches of politicians, but being also a highly symbolic act it has a rather large influence on the way Japanese national identity and its interstate relations in East Asia are perceived, especially in the sense of moral politics. The stable truth used to be, roughly from the s onwards, that Fukuzawa Yukichi in had proposed that rapidly modernizing Japan should “leave Asia” and enter the group of colonial European countries by invading other Asian countries together with European colonizers.

For instance Wada Haruki — a long time proponent of reconciliation among East Asian countries — in commented:. During the modernization of the 19th century, Japan constructed a national identity as “non-Asian. Fukuzawa’s name was not mentioned here; Wada’s idea is that the betrayal was a collective Japanese phenomenon, and datwu it is still continuing. A historical fact, which can be verified in archives, is that in the newspaper Jiji shinpo published an editorial titled Datsu-A ron 17variously translated as an argument for “leaving Asia”, “discarding Asia”, “shedding Asia”, “escaping from Asia”, or “dissociating from Asia”.

Hinohara suggested rather establishing a Leave-Asia Society Datsu-A Kai and maintaining distance from neighbouring countries, apparently not considering the rapid revival of Asia a realistic prospect at the time. The editorial was published anonymously, and it is impossible to know who actually wrote it; the newspaper had other editorial writers besides Fukuzawa. There is thus no indisputable ground for datsi the article to Fukuzawa dahsu. The other, and more important argument that Hirayama made was that during the nineteenth century the editorial evoked datau general attention.

“An Argument for leaving Asia” or “Datsu-A Ron” translation attempt, Part 1

It thus did not determine the way that Meiji period Japanese regarded their neighbours. In Japan in the s, defeat in World War II became a prism through which a complete rereading of prewar history was made. Maruyama Masao expressed well the widely shared Japanese sense of tragedy in his article ‘Sentiments from the sickbed’, despairing at how rapidly pre- World War II Japan had moved from the position of the hope of Asia to that of the satsu of Asia.

Concerning the datsu-A debate, he pointed out that Jiji shinpo published many editorials sympathetic to Japan’s neighbours. Especially after Japan’s dastu in the Sino-Japanese war ofFukuzawa, in an editorial titled ‘Shinajin shitashimu beshi’ opposed territorial annexations from China, urge the Japanese to show sympathy towards the Chinese and try to create friendly and close relations with them. Yet the original editorial, once rediscovered, proved in the s to offer a neat explanation for the moral catastrophe, and the expression was picked up as the specific turning point, from which everything that imperial Japan subsequently did, started to go morally wrong.

Seen through the prism of World War II, this brief editorial, written 60 years earlier, came to be viewed as the philosophical starting point of Japan’s aggression towards its Asian neighbours.

The editorial came to be interpreted as the ultimate symbol of Japanese wartime betrayal of other Asian countries. It represented thus a cosmological betrayal of ancient cultural unity purported to have existed within the Chinese cultural sphere, which had included both Korea and Japan since the arrival of written language into these countries more than a millennium earlier. In Takeuchi Yoshimi in his article ‘Nihon to Ajia’ [Japan and Asia] already claimed that Fukuzawa’s proposal to “leave Asia” is famous, 23 although Hirayama speculates that it was famous at that time only among scholars, not yet generally.

Through English language commentaries it also became a stable global truth, at least among students of Japanese culture and society and East Asia rpn. In terms of intellectual history, one crucial period toward which to direct research is thus not the s, as the idea of datsu-A appeared there only once, but the s, when the Asia-Europe divide was presented much more forcefully in Japan. A relevant example is the debate between Takeuchi Yoshimi on one hand, and Takeyama Michio and Umesao Tadao on the other, Umesao roh the main opponent.

In in an article titled ‘Introduction to an Ecological View on the History of Civilization’, 28 Umesao divided the historical world into two categories, which can be drawn into the map below:. For want of better names, Umesao divided the world into Area 1, marked blue in the map, and Area 2, marked with shades of red. Area 1 is composed of Orn, Britain, France, West Germany and Italy; these are the countries that he specifically mentions, but it may of course also contain a number of other Western European countries.

Political processes there appear to lead toward large imperial and conflictual political formations. Area 1, on the other hand, is characterized by high levels of civilization, functioning capitalism, and peaceful striving toward a comfortable life. Warlike moments had existed in Area 1, such as recently in Germany, Italy, and Japan, but that aspect no longer characterized these countries. Remarkably, datssu United States is missing from Umesao’s list of countries, but it is presumably included in Area 1.


The two cultural spheres are essentially different and opposed to each other. Umesao thus argues that Japan is like a European country, although not part of Europe as such, and that it categorically differs from the rest of Asia.

Umesao was not alone in this type dats categorical argumentation, and Takeuchi Yoshimi comments that such views represent a revival of datsu-A ron.

A long scholarly debate has ever since raged over the multiple aspects of the issue.

Datsu-a ron 脱亜論

One don concerns the image and moral understanding of Fukuzawa as a towering figure in Japanese intellectual history. On one side can be placed scholars like Maruyama Masao, who criticized the use of datsu-A ron as a key concept in interpreting Fukuzawa’s writings. These are the key concepts with which Fukuzawa’s ideas should be interpreted.

Maruyama also points out that after Japan’s victory in the first Sino-Japanese War, when feelings of superiority over China emerged in Japan, Jiji shinpo published another editorial in which Fukuzawa called on the Japanese to show sympathy and friendliness towards the Chinese. Scholars viewing Fukuzawa from a different angle have come to completely different conclusions.

Yasukawa ‘proves’ his thesis by reading Fukuzawa backwards, starting in and ending inciting all quotations that can be read as either being militaristic or as showing contempt towards Asia. These quotations are arranged neatly in a page table at the end of the book. The table contains a number of quotations that even with ingenuity cannot be read as slandering Japan’s Asian neighbours, but Yasukawa simply designates them as Fukuzawa’s lies uso and thus simply discards their value as a historical source.

A telling example is the same editorial ‘Shinajin shitashimu beshi’ that Maruyama had used as proof of Fukuzawa’s good intentions, on which Yasukawa placed the unambiguous sign: He thus steadfastly established Fukuzawa as a morally despicable character.

His research can be commended for its perseverance. Yasukawa’s research was actually what dasu Hirayama to offer his rereading of the datsu-A ron saga. Using Carr’s criteria for good historiography, especially the idea that the historian’s vision of the future offers the criteria for selecting the historically significant facts, 34 Yasukawa’s interpretation appears to be a closed road in terms of any forgetting of the past. Hirayama’s interpretation was more forward looking, decreasing the presumed centrality of the whole debate in relation to Japanese wartime history, and opening the door for possible oblivion.

Yasukawa responded with fon new book explicitly directed against Hirakawa. Don was titled ‘”Fukuzawa Yukichi’s arguments for war and imperial control. Criticizing the new “Fukuzawa beautification theory”‘.

Datsu-a ron 脱亜論 | Kazumi Hasegawa

It is an emotion-laden, furiously written book, which restates his belief that Fukuzawa was a major culprit for the darker areas of Japan’s modern history. The emotional tenor of the book reveals how painful attacks against a stable truth can be. Yasukawa is strongly supported by historian Sugita Satoshi, 39 and Yasukawa himself published a new book inin which he widened the attack on Fukuzawa’s views on education and women.

In the current situation it may not be easy to forget the issue in Ernest Renan’s way. Nor does it appear possible to read enough Fukuzawa and Jiji shinpo to arrive at a new stable truth, nationally in Japan and even less internationally in East Asia, especially if it is done in connection with Japanese colonialism and World War II, which were non-issues in If simple forgetting and repeated readings of Japan’s colonial history are no solution here, Skinner’s concept of redescription opens up a third possibility for action.

The issue of datsu-A can perhaps be redescribed in a way that undercuts or reduces its importance. Conceptual history teaches us that our political vocabulary and the meaning of words including geographic names change over time, and that it is not advisable to attach contemporary meanings, or even year-old meanings, to words that were used more than a century ago. Sometimes conceptual history even teaches us that specific concepts did not exist at a certain past moment, even though we believe so now.

We might think that the editors of Jiji shinpo in used Asia in the same sense that we understand Asia today, but that would be a mistake. In Fukuzawa’s time its scope was much narrower than nowadays. European geography arrived in the late sixteenth century to China with Jesuit missionaries, 46 but made no lasting impression there; nor was there too much interest in it in Japan.

There was no discussion of the concept, nor was it used as an element in arguments; it simply appeared in lists. These Chinese terms were used both as toponyms and ethnonyms, and as concepts with which to discuss foreign affairs.

They had a substantive analytical content that the two European geographical terms, Europe and Asia, had not. Chinese geographic terminology framed Japanese geographic, geopolitical and geocultural meanings, so that European concepts remained peripheral in Japanese language and thought. The process of conceptual importation was similar in China at that time.

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