Embracing Modernity





Kokugagu (National Learning)
Motoori Norinaga

“Strictly speaking, the modern history of Japanese culture has generally been in line with the concept of wayo-setchu.” (Japanizing, 11-12)
Wayo-setchu entails mimesis. Under this progressive form of learning, imitation is seen as a way to create a new self from exogenous and endogenous elements. The basic mental attitude which enables such progressive synthesis or symbiotic coexistence is a hybrid consciousness: Disparate features are blended into a new unity (setchu) of products, thought patterns or modern life-styles, and this duality of Japanese and Western (wayo) is the foundation of innovation in Japan. (Japanizing, 14)


The potential for cultural creativity [in the case of wakon-yosai] is reduced in the interests of national self-assertion and remains restricted to a monologue with an idealized past. The concept wayo-setchu, on the other hand, represents a progressive form of cultural creativity, since here exogenous knowledge acts as a resource leading to new possibilities of defining oneself. Not a sense of reality that faces backwards, as with wakon-yosai, but rather the maximal realization of existing potential is the main concern. (Japanizing, 15)

Wakon Yosai: Wave of the Past

Wayo Setchu: Wave of the Future




Yoshino Isao (Nagoya Host)