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one, was firmly committed to the Tokugawa state in its existing structure. In calling for reverence for the emperor, he wished to infuse a
sense of nationalism in the Japanese people. The first step in doing this
was to clarify for the people that Japan was a hierarchically structured
state whose head was the emperor but whose actual affairs were handled
by the Tokugawa shogunate.
Seishisai did not think that the West posed a serious military threat to
Japan; and in fact at the time it did not, since the Industrial Revolution
had not yet quite reached the point where Western power could threaten
countries big and small everywhere in the world. Rather, Seishisai believed that Western strength lay primarily in Christianity, which he regarded as a pernicious religion that could subvert Japan from within.
Only by promoting its own nationalism, which Seishisai associated with
the term kokutai (usually translated in modern times as “national polity,”
but meaning here “unity of religion and government”),22 could Japan
defend itself internally against Christianity even as it sought, externally,
to drive the Westerners away by force.
Mito thought, as found in Aizawa Seishisai’s New Proposals, was thus
virulently anti-Western, resonating well with the hard-line, jòi approach
of the shogunate to Western contacts that was reflected in its “Don’t
Think Twice” policy of 1825. But this was not a policy that the shogunate, in a time of rapidly moving events that included England’s defeat of
China in the Opium War of 1839–42, would seek to maintain indefinitely, and in 1842 it was abandoned. The Western countries were too
insistent; and, out of the milieu of divergent opinions about how Japan
should deal with them, an increasing number of voices—many of them
those of Dutch Studies scholars—spoke of the need for some kind of
accommodation with the West, which would probably mean modifying,
at least to some extent, the sakoku policy. 234 Heterodox Trends Although Japan’s “response to the West” in these decades may often
have seemed confused and inconsistent, it emerged from a powerful dynamic: to a far greater degree than other non-Wes...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13