December 10th, 2010
Nationalism can be defined as “the complex network of ideas and philosophies that defines what constitutes a nation and what it means to be a citizen”. In other words, it can be described as the sense of identity as well as pride that not only distinguish the country from the rest of the world but also bind its people together. Thus, Japanese nationalism involves different elements that make up the country’s unique characteristics which allow it to have a distinctive identity among other nations. However, it is also a notion that can be subject to changes over time, either due to political, economic or social changes. Therefore, what constitutes Japanese nationalism and how did it evolved from 1945 to the present day?
Japanese nationalism is the result of numerous components, of which the most important elements are the nation’s traditions and values. These fundamentals can be considered to be part of the foundations of the country and thus, play an important role in Japanese nationalism. After World War II, Japan was in ruin and had succumbed to an economic as well as a social setback. However, traditions as well as societal values that prevailed from Confucian teachings were a significant factor in bringing the country together as well as giving the population an identity and pride to hold on during these times of troubles. In fact, these values and traditions were channelled to the population by two main institutions: family and education. More specifically, family played a big part in forming the foundations for Japanese individuals’ moral and values, such as honour, loyalty and importance of family relationships. This in turn allows them to forge an identity, a sense of who they are, in contrast of the foreign countries. Moreover, the Japanese family also allowed the support as well as the bonding of family members, which is critical since every individuals had a sense of belonging and no one is left out. The other main factor that helped the country to go through the post-war period is education. In fact, the education system also provided Japanese youth, who were the future generations of the country, a sense of identity by also setting the fundamentals for proper moral attitudes as well as personal habits. In fact, the school teaches individuals self-discipline, the self development as well as sense of belonging to their community. The Japanese school system is also a place where individuals learned about the importance of the group, and thus it is also a place where individuals support and bond with each other.
However, these traditions and values seemed to erode as time goes on. In fact, these societal morals were challenged by a specific group of the population, namely the youth.The country’s population saw its first signs of uprising against the norms during the 1960s, with the protests as well as the rise of individualism. This first wave of “rebels” was different than other countries with the fact that it was accompanied by deviant actions, such as vandalism and violence. Then, during the 1980s, traditional norms and values were once again challenged with the appearance of a new youth culture, called “shinjinrui” – literally “a new human species”– with its new sense of consumerism as well as individualism. Finally, from the 1990s until the present day, the rise of subcultures such as bosozoku and otaku raise the bar in terms of defiance against traditions and societal values.
Traditions and societal values from Confucian teachings are one of the foundations of Japanese society. After World War II, Japan was left in ruins and was falling apart economically with its international trades on suspension as well as its supply of raw materials on mainland Asia cut off. Despite these...