RTTP: Setup Session 1
Japan, Pan-Asianism, and the West, 1940-1941
Cartoon of the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere with resources of each country

Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Commodore Perry's "black ships"
Historical Context
As in all Reacting to the Past games, a clash of ideas lies at the heart of the exercise. In this case it is a clash that predates World War II by nearly 100 years, and stems from the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry’s American fleet of “black ships” in Edo (later Tokyo) Bay in 1853. At that time Perry and his men confronted a culture that had to a large extent shut itself off from the rest of the world for more than 200 years. It was a culture that had changed little during that time, and one that lacked both the economic base and the military power to compete on the world stage. (Game Book [GB], 28)
Leaders of the early Meiji government
The Meiji Restoration
Meiji Emperor in military uniform
Japanese imperial icon
Cover of the "Meiji Six Magazine"
The Meiji Six Society

Photograph of Fukuzawa Yukichi
In the early 1870s a group of intellectuals formed a group called the Meirokusha, whose goal was “to promote civilization and enlightenment.” The members of this organization claimed that Japan’s humiliation was a wake-up call, and that the nation’s weakness was the result of the “superstition, irrationality, ignorance, and backwardness of its people.” The leading figure of the Meirokusha was Fukuzawa Yukichi, who in the 1860s had traveled both to the United States and Europe, and served as chief translator for the old shogunate. Fukuzawa insisted that simply learning western technological methods was insufficient; a national renewal, he argued, would require a new mindset on the part of the Japanese. As he wrote in 1872:
Schools, industries, armies and navies are the mere external forms of civilization. They are not difficult to produce. All that is needed is the money to pay for them. Yet there remains something immaterial, something that cannot be seen or heard, bought or sold, lent or borrowed. It pervades the whole nation and its influence is so strong that without it none of the schools or the other external forms would be of the slightest use. This supremely important thing we must call the spirit of civilization. (GB, 29)
Age of Enlightenment: The Age of Reason
Japanese imperial icon
The Spirit of Independence
The “spirit of independence,” by which Fukuzawa meant the realization that all human beings are born free and equal in moral worth. He complained that indoctrination with Confucian philosophy, which emphasized hierarchy, had left the common people of Japan “slavish and servile. ... They are just as meek and obedient as pet dogs.” Such people might be taught certain methods, but would remain so uncritical of authority that they could never bring lasting reform for their country. (GB, 29)
Japanese imperial icon
The Spirit of Rationality
The “spirit of rationality,” in which individuals rejected superstitions and behaved in a manner that reflected the use of reason, rather than unthinking reliance on tradition or the example of others. This, he argued, was the true wellspring of science — a sense of skepticism toward received knowledge and a willingness to seek answers for oneself. Paradoxically, he sometimes criticized along these lines those who enthusiastically embraced western trends, claiming that they often did so for the wrong reasons. For example, he believed that it was eminently reasonable for a Japanese man to have his hair styled in western fashion, but he feared that many of his countrymen were doing so simply because western styles had become popular. Rather, western hairstyles were good because they allowed the hair to serve its natural function of keeping the top of one’s head warm, as opposed to the traditional Japanese style, in which the top of the head was shaved. (GB, 29-30)
Japanese imperial icon
The Spirit of Enterprise
The “spirit of enterprise,” in which it was acceptable for individuals to pursue their self-interest. This meant not being afraid to attempt to improve one’s place in society, rather than passively accepting the station into which one was born. It meant that it was acceptable — even commendable — to seek one’s own happiness according to one’s own lights, whether this meant by financial success or some other standard. At the same time, it meant accepting personal responsibility for one’s condition. (GB, 30)
Japanese imperial icon
The Spirit of Progress
The “spirit of progress,” in which individuals recognized that civilization was not simply a means to wealth and military power, but rather a stage in a larger process by which humankind moved ever closer to perfection. Japan, he claimed, had passed through earlier stages such as konton (primitive chaos) and yaban (savagery), and now stood at hankai (semi-civilization). Although Europeans and Americans still had much more progress to make, they had reached bummei (civilization), and Japan must now seek to do likewise. (GB, 30)

Was this the best response to the "challenge of the West"?

Does it resolve the tension between "tradition" and "modernity"?

10,000 Yen Note with Fukuzawa Yukichi
Japanese imperial icon
Woodblock print of a Meiji era train

Icon representing the Zaibatsu (Japanese conglomeration)
Woodblock print of the Tomioka Silk Factory
Japanese imperial icon
Opening of the Japanese Diet in 1890
Opening Ceremony of the Imperial Diet, 1890
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Map showing the empire of Japan with military flag motif
The Development of Ultranationalism
All of this could not help but provoke a reaction, and even at the time complaints could be heard that westernization was going too far. Motoda Nagazane, an educational adviser to Emperor Meiji, denounced what he saw as efforts “to convert Japanese into facsimiles of Europeans and Americans,” and specifically argued against the use of western textbooks in Japanese public schools. The encouragement of individualism, he claimed, would turn students into troublemakers and delinquents. Instead young Japanese should be trained in “the Imperial ancestral precepts” of “benevolence, duty, loyalty, and filial piety.”
Part of the reaction against western culture was a growing belief that, as the only East Asian country to rise to world power status while resisting European colonialism, Japan had an historic role to play as the champion of pan-Asianism. Advocates of this view held that Japan represented a specifically Asian path toward modernity, one that could and should be followed by countries such as Korea and China. European imperialism stood in the way of this goal; therefore, Japan must do more than simply serve as a model — it must also strive to liberate East Asia from foreign domination. (GB, 30)
Poster reading "When Japan, China and Manchukuo cooperate, the world is at peace"
The World Is at Peace When Japan, China and Manchukuo Cooperate
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
During the late 19th century such attitudes merely served a check against what otherwise might have grown into a tendency to abandon all that was traditionally Japanese in favor of western attitudes. However, anti-western sentiment began to harden in the early 20th century, in part as a result of as the growing rift between Japan and the United States. It found its clearest expression in the proliferation of organizations calling for the return to traditional agrarian values, the elimination of capitalism (associated with Japan’s zaibatsu), the purging from Japanese culture of western influences, and an aggressive foreign policy aimed at liberating East Asia from western imperialism. Many of these called themselves traditionalists, and in some ways they did invoke the values of an earlier time in Japanese history, but to a large extent the tradition that they championed was borrowed selectively and adapted to suit their purposes, and in some cases wholly invented.
Photograph of Kita Ikki
One of the ultranationalist movement’s leading lights was Kita Ikki, who in 1919 published An Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan (excerpts from which may be found on pages 131-139 of this Game Book). Kita called for a restructuring of the government that placed the emperor at the very center, and which eliminated the influence of the zaibatsu and the party politicians. Under Kita’s plan large corporations would be nationalized, and strict limits would be placed on the amount of land or money that an individual or family could own. His new Japan would then dedicate itself to liberating the peoples of Asia from the yoke of European imperialism. Kita’s work inspired a generation of young activists, particularly in the army; so much so that in the wake of an attempted coup d’état in 1936 by young army officers Kita was arrested, tried, and executed for complicity. (GB, 31)
image of the Zaibatsu and National Diet with a big "x" through them
The failure of the 1936 coup — and many others like it in the 1930s — did nothing to undermine support for traditionalist and ultranationalist causes, and membership in organizations espousing these ideas continued to surge throughout the decade. By 1940 there were at least 1,000 such organizations in Japan, claiming a total membership of at least half a million people. Of course, given these numbers there were inevitably areas of disagreement among them, but they tended to possess a set of core beliefs that included ...
Traditional Confucianism

State Shinto: soldiers approaching the Yasukuni Shrine
State Shinto
(cf. GB, 31-3)

How does this vision of Japan compare with Fukuzawa Yukichi's?

Does it resolve the tension between "tradition" and "modernity"?

Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe
Copy of "Kokutai no Hongi" (Fundamentals of our National Polity)
Most of the ultranationalists’ beliefs were affirmed in a publication called Fundamentals of our National Polity (see pages 58-84 for excerpts). Drafted by a committee of university faculty and government officials, it was published in 1937, and the first printing of 300,000 was distributed to all of the nation’s teachers. This short book credited Japan with a unique ability to “assimilate and sublimate” ideas from China and India, taking from them what was useful and discarding what was destructive. All of the recent instability in Japan, it claimed, had been the result of a failure to do the same with western ideas. The Japanese had understood the value of western industrial methods, but had at the same time unthinkingly accepted western individualism and rationalism — both of which were destructive to the kokutai. The country would only truly succeed once these dangerous notions had been eradicated.

With the Fundamentals of our National Polity established as official orthodoxy, it was clear by 1940 that the traditionalists had the upper hand in their debate with the westernizers. The high command of the army embraced traditionalist ideas, almost to a man. Considerable numbers of ultranationalists could be found in the navy and bureaucracy as well, and there were even some among the emperor’s closest advisors. Meanwhile, the state-controlled media provided a steady stream of ultranationalist propaganda to the people of Japan. While, as Storry points out, it would be erroneous to claim that all Japanese believed themselves to be descendants of the gods, “with few exceptions they were convinced they had a birthright envied but unrivalled by other nations of the world.

On the other hand, some voices could still be heard resisting these trends. There [were] still suggestions that it was wiser to maintain friendly relations with the West, even if it meant backing away from the dream of pan-Asianism. Even some believers in pan-Asianism started to question whether the war in China was being carried out for the benefit of Asia in general, or whether Japan was simply practicing its own form of imperialism. But it was becoming dangerous to espouse such ideas, at least publicly. The ultranationalists increasingly regarded pro-western sentiments as insults to the kokutai, and they had again and again demonstrated their willingness to employ violence to avenge such insults. (Game Book, 34)
Icon of the Japanese Empire highlighted on the globe

The Game
Victory is accomplished by satisfying the objectives listed on your role sheet and (if you are not an indeterminate) your faction advisory. Many of those objectives reflect efforts to influence policy: for example, some characters seek to conclude an alliance with Germany, while others seek to prevent it; some want to reform Japan’s economy, while others oppose this. Other objectives are personal; for example, many characters seek positions on the cabinet. In general, those who have met more than two-thirds of their objectives will be declared the winners, and those meeting fewer than one-third are declared the losers. In addition, for each faction there is one final result that will result in an automatic loss. (Game Book, 35; for additional rules, see pp. 35-48)

Students are responsible for turning in at least two pieces of written work, each of which should be written in character and draw on the ideas expressed in the course readings. Papers will generally take one of the following forms (though other forms are possible with Professor Hoffert’s approval):
  1. A petition to be considered by the cabinet, and, if approved, submitted to the Emperor. Each petition should include an argument for some initiative (see “Petitions and Initiatives”), or more than one if they are related in some way. The petition is due before the session in which you intend the Cabinet to consider it.
  2. A speech given either in support of or in opposition to a petition that will be brought before the Cabinet. Speeches are due before the session in which the petition is being considered.
  3. A statement offered for or against a defendant in a trial, written either by the defendant or someone else. For example, it might be a defense of someone implicated in an assassination, demonstrating that the defendant was merely following the proper principles of bushido. If the gamemaster finds this appeal particularly convincing he or she may award a bonus (or penalty) to the die roll to determine the defendant’s fate. Such statements must be submitted before the session in which the trial is to take place.
  4. An ambassador will be required to make regular reports to his home government, informing it of recent developments. Note that as players in the game, ambassadors will be privy to information that they never would have had historically. Reports, therefore, should not contain specific details that an ambassador would not have known. For instance, a report from the British ambassador announcing that Japan is about to invade Southeast Asia would not be permitted. However, it would be appropriate to write about something that Japan has already done, drawing on the tenor of cabinet discussions for insight as to why Tokyo has decided on such a course.
  5. If Ogata Taketora is in the game [and he is], players may wish to contribute editorials to the Asahi Shimbun. Ogata is instructed to prepare two editorial sections, one for Game Session 3 and the other for Game Session 5.
  6. A diary entry giving the player’s impression of the events going on in Tokyo during this period. These may be turned in at any point in the game.

3.5% Reading Quiz
1.5% Attendance
10% Two Best Written Assignments (500-word minimum; 5% each)
5% Participation

Read all of the contextual material, documents, and sources before the game begins ... and then go back and reread these materials throughout the game. A second reading while in role will deepen your understanding and alter your perspective: ideas take on new dimensions when seen through the eyes of a partisan actor. Players who have carefully read the materials and who know the rules of the game will invariably do better than those who rely on general impressions and uncertain recollections.