1943 Imperial Japanese editorial decries liberalism, individualistic humanism, rationalism, international universalism, and Marxist materialism of the West for corrupting Japan, and calls for a “high-minded Japanese worldview” and reliance on “irrational and mysterious powers” of the Japanese spirit


Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo), February 24, 1943

The True Meaning of National Identity and the Righteous Peninsula (3)

By Kamata Sawaichiro

Now is the Time to Deny the Past
Toward the Establishment of a High-minded Japanese Worldview

Looking back at the past, since the opening of Japan to the outside world in the Meiji era, Japan has gradually developed the characteristics of early modern liberalism, following the mainstream of thought since the commercial revolution in Western Europe. However, the liberalism of the early modern period in the West was the mechanization of human life, the promise of unlimited material development, and the construction of a luxurious capitalist civilization on top of that.

Thus, the enlightened individualistic humanism that originated in the Renaissance, flourished in the Reformation, and bore fruit in the independence of the United States, the political reforms in France, and the social revolution in Russia, was the natural destination of the modern spirit that denied God. Static, stagnant societies were replaced by noisy, dynamic, progressive societies. Communal societies were replaced by profit-driven societies. Natural societies were replaced by societies of rights and contracts. Societies of faith were replaced by societies of science. The Kingdom of God was buried, and the Kingdom of Knowledge was established.

People have forgotten the demands of the higher soul or divine value, and have come to place the greatest value only on material value and its increase by various technical means. This has become even more blatant in the Marxist view of materialist history, which was developed due to the impasse of liberalism. Japan in particular, which had lagged behind in the development of capitalist civilization in the early modern period due to the isolationist policy of Tokugawa feudal society, was tasked with the challenge of catching up with the standards of Europe and America in every aspect. It had to concentrate on westernizing the lives of its subjects, even to the point of enduring the humiliations of the Meiji Rokumeikan Era.

During the Meiji era, our predecessors fought with their blood to boldly deny the past. They felt attracted to the rationalism and international universalism of early modern Europe, based on Bacon’s assertion that “knowledge is power,” and strove for the globalization of Japan. We must not deny that fact.

It was only because of this that Japan was able to liberate itself from its insular lifestyle and emerge as one of the leading peoples in world history, and even if there were some excesses in this process, it was an unavoidable part of the inevitable process of history. We cannot deny the fact that our forefathers, despite their excesses, received the baptism of European culture in a pure and humble manner, and that is the reason why Japan today has become an independent leading nation, different from China and India, with a global mission. The history of the Meiji era was not simply a history of errors to be cleared up.

However, this does not lead us to conclude that the period from the end of the Taisho era to the Showa era was the beginning of a new era of construction and improvement that had its impetus in the Meiji era. No matter how generously we look at it, we cannot deny that contradictory aspects of excess and stagnation appeared, accompanied by the corruption of the nation.

The goal of the education of the intellectual class was focused on “how to get away from being Japanese,” and it was thought that to be nationalist or ethnic was reactionary and even a disgrace to the cultured person. For a long time, the selection of intellectuals was based on “how Western” their thoughts and lives were.

In such an atmosphere, it was foolish to grasp the spirit of the founding of the Japanese nation. Even the thought of the purity of the Japanese nation’s history was destroyed, and all things related to the Japanese spirit were driven into oblivion. At the podiums of the highest academic institutions, the “Emperor’s Organization Theory” was lectured on without any hesitation, to the point where no awe or wonder could be felt. Cynical and shallow imitations of American and British culture abounded, and corrupt journalism further incited and fostered such imitations, to the point of knowing no end.

In the midst of this situation arose the Manchurian Incident, followed by the Second Sino-Japanese War, which stimulated, awakened, and elevated the national instincts of the Japanese people. This, together with the global trend of totalitarian ideology, sparked a serious study of Japanese culture and the Japanese spirit, and finally opened the door for the penetration of the true meaning of national identity.

For the Japanese world of ideas, which had been under the weight of European foreign ideas for a long time, the tide of Japan-centrism that broke out with the calls to “return to the spirit of the founding of the Japanese nation” and “reaffirm the Japanese homeland” was a truly spiritual and historical dawn that shone through the dark night for those who sought its growth. After many years of pilgrimages to foreign ideas, we have finally returned to Japan, the homeland of our souls, and the Greater East Asian War broke out on the eve of the explosion of our unavoidable national desire to seek the majesty and grandeur of the Japanese spirit itself.

Our country, with its long historical tradition since the time of the gods, may have been completely westernized on the outside, but its inner essence had not been lost. It resembles an iceberg floating in the northern oceans.

The iceberg may appear in a very small form, but it has infinite latent power. Once an iceberg collides with something, the latent force that has been submerged under the surface of the water suddenly becomes manifest and exerts an irrational and mysterious power. This is exactly how the Manchurian Incident occurred. In addition to the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Greater East Asia War, the power of the great iceberg has continued to be exerted more and more.

However, just as aviation heroes need excellent airplanes, in order to win this great battle, it is not permissible to rely only on irrational and mysterious powers. The time has come for us to establish a high-minded Japanese worldview that is unbeatable and indestructible, to cultivate the fundamentals of the true meaning of national identity, to give courage to the will, joy to the emotions, and insight to the intellect, and to make it the final unifying principle of all our activities.

Source: https://archive.org/details/kjnp-1943-02-24

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京城日報 昭和十八年二月二十四日