Recently I have read the following book. Its main points are:
Book title: Tanaka, Stefan. 1993. Japan’s Orient: Rendering Past into History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
The introduction (pp.1-28)
- the Japanese, after knowing that culture was specify in history, began to recognize the historical nature of the relation between object and knowledge, as well as the centrality of religiosity. In this book the author would show that the Japanese made an adjustment: object and knowledge were made to correspond with the Japanese perspective. While major Japanese historians accepted the possibility of Truth (i.e. useful past events important to them), objectivity, and progress (i.e. scientific); they were not necessary those as set forth by the Europeans. From the past, toyo history could be constructed and the leading object was shina (3).
-the author’s assumption, against orthodox views, was that there was no direct correlation between objects and knowledge, and that understanding was constantly recreated. This book thus questioned the possibility of a singular truth in social science and humanities (7).
-the theory presented here suggested that human categorization was essentially a matter of both human experience and imagination (8).
-the creation of toyoshi thus authorized a particular Japanese view of Europe and Asia (12).
-Ch. 1 discusses the changing conception of knowledge about Japan’s past – from recounting of noble events and people to the study of history as an objective and scientific discipline (16).
-Ch. 2 examines the contour of a new approach to history, which not only filled the void left by kangaku but also restored the centrality of China and Asia in Japanese thought (18).
-the need for idealizing others, as described by Bakhtin was: “in life, we do this at every moment: we appraise ourselves from the point of view of others, through the other, we oversee and apprehend the reflections of our life and in the plane of consciousness of other men” (18).
-Ch. 3 focuses on the principle artifact that enabled Japanese intellectuals to claim both their orientalness and their distinctiveness: Confucianism (19).
-Ch.4 and 5. The transfer of Confucianism to Japan implied that the Japanese were not really Japanese, but rather Oriental. The solution was the role of toyoshi in defining Japan’s uniqueness, to be discussed in Ch. 4 -5 (21).
-the final chapter of this book examines how the separation between object and knowledge was possible. Although Said depicted the discourse on the Orient as a one-way relationship, the Occident over the Orient; the attempt within toyoshi to engage in a dialogue with the west was an example of reciprocity (22).
-the goal of the book was to uncover a project of defining Asia, to establish Japan as the authority on Asia, and to engage in a dialogue with the West (28).
Main text (pp.29-114)
- Part one (ch. 1-2) was about finding an equivalence. Ch.1 had the goal of looking at the process of changes in the formation of a history of japan and how it led to the discovery of Japan’s Asiatic past (33).
-Inoue asserted that science was ahistorical; there was no distinction between time and place (i.e. its universal). History always changed and never repeated itself, it was successive and continuous. The philosophy of history, the embedded temporal and territorial categories were the creation of particular people and event, they were not universal. Inoue’s history was diachronic and culturally specific. It eliminated any implication that Japan must be like the west, or even like Asia (56).
- Inoue highlighted a religious ideal that privileged the cultural uniqueness of his own country, Inoue cited Shinto around the Meiji restoration as an example of a ‘hidden spirit’ (57).
-near the end of his career, Shiratori credited Guizot by pointing the way for the historical profession in Japan: “true history is not placing emphasis on facts; but based on a theoretical methodology, it is processing a thorough knowledge of cause and effect” (59).
-Ch. 2: the question of universality confronts non-western culture in an effort to understand the relationship between themselves and modernity which was usually equated with the West. The pretense that western history explained the history of all cultures by relegating japan to the inferior category of the Orient made the popping of the question inevitable (68).
Part two (ch.3-5)
Ch. 3. The focus of ch.3 was about an enterprise among Japanese historian to establish the Truth – that was a usable past explicating Japan’s emergence (109).
-Ch.3 to 5. The book shows how toyo figured in the creation of a history of Japan. Ch.3 discusses the role of China as the source of those traditions which the Japanese turned into their own, Shina was turned into Japan’s past (113). Ch.4 explores the debate over the historical origin of Japan, an attempt to create a historical – as oppose to the mythological narrative of Japan’s imperial system. Ch. 6, the last chapter, explores the institutionalization of this discourse on shina that connected to Japanese’s imperialist structure (114).
Ch. 6. It focuses on the research institutions most closely related to Shiratori and other academics, in particulars the Research Bureau of the SMR. The purpose of the author was to suggest that these research efforts were all part of an institutional structure that relied on objective knowledge for which the discourse on Shina set the norms for an understanding that encompassed both those who believed themselves to be sympathetic toward china and those who sought to control it (pp.230-1).
-Tsuda identified the notion of toyo as a Japanese, not universal concept. He asserted that “because history is the unfolding of life, in one life there is one history, and two distinct people cannot have one history. Culture is formed through history and develops historically” (278).