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Identity, Culture and Memory in Japanese Foreign Policy

Edited By Michal Kolmaš and Yoichiro Sato

This book interprets the changing nature of Japanese foreign policy through the concepts of identity, culture and memory. It goes beyond rational interpretation of material interests and focus on values and ideas that are inseparable and pervasive in Japanese domestic and foreign policy. A set of chapters written by established Japanese and foreign experts show the nuances of Japanese self-images and their role in defining their understanding of the world. Stemming from historical memories of World War Two, the reconciliation between Japan and other Asian countries, the formation of Japanese self in media discourse to the role of self-perception in defining Japanese contemporary foreign and economic policies, the book offers a holistic insight into Japanese psyche and its role in the political world. It will be of utmost interest not only to the scholars of Japanese foreign policy, but also to a wide public interested in understanding the uniqueness of Japanese state and its people.

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Preface: Yoichiro Sato


The return of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power in late 2012 under the leadership of Abe Shinzo left an important mark in Japanese politics. Who would have expected Abe would renew the Japanese record of the longest serving prime minister, previously held by Katsura Taro who led the nation through the challenging war against Russia and for two more terms afterward? Abe’s resignation in September 2007 at less than a year of serving as a prime minister in his first term cited a health issue. The LDP lost power in September 2009 as its two prime ministers after the first Abe Cabinet failed to recapture popular support for the scandal-tainted ruling party amid the stubborn economic deflation and the deteriorating regional security environment.

The typical characteristics of prolonged leaderships in Japan—do nothing controversial to avoid making enemies—is probably not the way most observers would describe Abe. While making compromises is required of him just as his predecessors have gone through, Abe has from time to time pushed through considerable policy changes, such as endorsing the country’s participation in collective defense (Sato 2017b). The conservative vision he presented has guided the policy recourse during the past seven and a half years.

When we held our workshop to critique the initial chapter drafts of this book in November 2018, Japan was booming with international visitors under the government’s drive to promote inbound tourism as a new source of economic revenue. With the...

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