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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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1. National Identity and Asian Diplomacy under Abe: Hidetaka Yoshimatsu

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In the 2010s, Japan’s diplomatic policies and relations have collected keen interests in the world in general and in Asia in particular. This is largely because the Abe administration has implemented distinctive diplomatic policies that have had significant impacts on regional politics and the global political economy. Shinzo Abe has assumed a prime ministerial post for more than eight years including one year of the first administration in 2006–2007. The Abe administration has presented distinctive diplomatic ideals towards Asia such as value-oriented diplomacy and the Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

Prime Minister Abe is known as a conservative nationalist who puts stress on Japan’s traditional values and national pride. Abe’s particular personal identity should have had meaningful impacts on Japan’s national identity shown in its diplomacy towards Asia. Moreover, the external policies and relations of Japan, like other middle powers, have been constrained by great power politics. Under such constraints, Japan’s national identity has swung in relation to two great powers, the US and China. While the US has been a sole ally with close political and economic ties, China’s growing power and presence have significant influences on Japan’s diplomatic stance and external relations.

This study seeks to examine the key characteristics of Japan’s national identity pursued by the Abe administration in its Asian diplomacy. In so doing, this chapter takes into account two analytical angles. The first is relevant to the “layered identity” of state and state leader. The national identity is a...

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