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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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Introduction: National Identity and the Study of Japan: Michal Kolmaš

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Has pacifism retreated from Japan? Is the country returning to its prewar militarist identity, or is it just reacting to the security developments in Asia and in the world? Or are ongoing political changes in Japan merely small steps on a long trajectory of incremental “normalization”? These questions have been in the forefront of Japan research for at least three decades now. The reasons are perhaps straightforward: There is indeed something happening with Japan. Japanese politicians have become less concerned with the promotion of pacifism into the world. They have visited the Yasukuni shrine, where souls of dead soldiers are enshrined, and called for the rejuvenation of Japanese role in the world. They have become critical of the postwar Constitution and its war-renouncing Article 9, which they no longer consider as an asset to Japan’s foreign policy, but rather a hindrance to it. They have changed security legislature in order to allow the Japanese military more freedom in participating in foreign missions.

Indeed, the extent and scope of changes is breathtaking. Japan has become much more active in the world. It has created a first overseas military base in Djibouti and has sent troops in a variety of peacekeeping missions around the world. It has transformed its institutional structure to allow for a better cooperation among ministries of defense and foreign affairs. Under the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it has enacted a series of laws that allow for easier intelligence coordination with its allies, predominantly the...

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