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Vortrag von Alberto Zizza, MA: „Haga Yaichi and the kokuminseiron: a study on how Japan was imagined in the Meiji period“

Juni 27 @ 18:15 - 19:45

Haga Yaichi (1867-1927) was a scholar of literature and kokugaku [National learning], who
significantly contributed to creating the national literary canon in the Meiji period. In 1907, at a
time of national glorification that followed the triumph over Russia, but also one of social
unrest epitomised by the 1905 Hibiya riots, he published Kokuminsei jūron [Ten essays on
national character], where he described the peculiar Japanese character. Printed by one of
the largest publishing houses of the period, it became a best-seller reprinted tens of times up
to 1945. In 1910 it was labelled an essential work to understand the national character
together with the renowned Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1900), and still thirty years later, as
the text that most thoroughly described the Japanese character. Rediscovered in the 1970s, in
a 1978 reprint we are told that all the essential elements of nihonjinron can already be found
Kokuminsei jūron.

While some scholars have recently examined specific sections and claimed that their content
was often taken up over the next decades, not much research has been done on this side of
Haga’s work and what is there paints Kokuminsei jūron under very different lights: it was
associated with the 1910s national morality movement and its content labelled as the
foundation of the infamous Kokutai no hongi; on the other hand, it has been considered a
predecessor of the 1970s nihonjinron genre and even a work whose content could be
included in today’s Japanese tourist pamphlets.

Then the first question that my research wants to answer is: what then is Kokuminsei jūron?
That is, is it just Meiji propaganda? Is it nihonjinron? Neither? What makes it stand out against
other Meiji constructions of the national character? This talk presents the results of my
preliminary research on Haga’s entire text, background and context, as I tried to answer the
first question.

The research intends to hopefully enlarge our view on how pre-war Japanese self-imagining is
thought of, beyond much-discussed ideas like imperial loyalism, family and agricultural state.
Consequently, it asks if the 70s and even today’s representation of the Japanese weren’t
already in the making back then.

Alberto Zizza holds a BA and a MA in Asian Languages and Civilizations from La Sapienza
University, Rome.

Der Vortrag findet in Präsenz statt. Ort: Japan-Zentrum der LMU, Seminargebäude am Englischen Garten, Oettingenstr. 67, 80538 München, Raum 151.


Juni 27
18:15 - 19:45
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