[BOOK REVIEW] " RIGHTIST THOUGHT IN MODERN JAPAN " /by Katayama Morihide, Kodansha Sensho Metier, 2007, Yen 1500+tax


It is believed that the expression "Right and Left" used to connote ideologies was introduced at the time of the French Revolution. At a session of the Parliament during the Revolution, the Royalists were sitting on the right side of the president of the parliament and the Republicans on his left side. Thus the expression "rightist" and "leftist" came into use.
So which is correct, right or left? In Japan, in ancient times, a "leftist minister" was thought to be more distinguished than a "rightist" one. In the Vietnamese language "right" indicates what is proper, while "left" implies mistaken or opposite. Originally, society gave special meanings to the words "right and left."
In the present book, written by a young scholar of political history born in 1964, the author tries to fully understand the thinking of Japanese rightist thought, from the inside and not from outside criticism. Without realizing it, I had accepted leftist theoretical thinking, disliking rightist thinking in spite of my ignorance of it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed reading the book and felt that I became better able to appreciate the rightist way of thinking. Unless one knows the opponent's side of the story there is no way to understand the issue.
The book under review, making use of an enormous quantity of materials, assembles rightist thought in Japan from the time of the Taisho era (1912 on). First, the left despises the past and attempts to foment a future revolution, while the right does not trust the future and is mostly interested in returning to the past. On the other hand, the middle conservatives tend to maintain the status quo. In other words, the left looks to the future, the conservatives to the present and the right to the past. The right differs substantially from the conservatives.
But why have the right and the conservatives been so much linked together in Japan? The author suggests that the reason is that the right in Japan, as a representative of the past traditional order, put itself at the service of the Emperor.
In other words, even after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, the Imperial system was not abolished and thus the Emperor became a symbol linking the present with the past. The thinking, then, is that because the Emperor as the symbol of the past remains alive and well, present-day Japan is not so bad after all. The author explains in the following way how the right in Japan degenerated.

Chapter 1. The Right and Revolution: The aim was to transform society, but that did not work.
Chapter 2. The Right and Sophistication: Since there is no way to change society, it will not care any more about trying to produce change.
Chapter 3. The Right and Time: If it abandons change, then it wants to accept the actual situation as it is now.
Chapter 4. The Right and the Body: If it accepts everything without any need to think anymore, then the only thing left is physical strength.

Most probably it will be difficult to understand what the author wants to say. Of course, the fastest way will be to read the book, but I want to offer here a simple explanation.
"(Evolution of modernization) Because we dislike Japan as it actually is we want to transform it, and we believe that the Emperor, as representative of Japan's tradition, holds the power to make the proper changes. Because this Emperor is alive just now in this country, we think that our country is excellent and beautiful. So let's not think any more about useless changes. There is no need to use our brains. Let's just see how to make look things beautiful, and no matter how beautiful appearances are, once death comes, let's face it. And in order to defend the beautiful appearances of the country let's die with integrity."
As the author points out, in this way they twist all kinds of ideas and connect them to the Emperor. They pour the wine of all kinds of thoughts into an "empty vessel?" the Emperor - and, as a result, things become difficult to understand and the cocktail becomes suspicious. The author proposes that the Right would become more enriched by keeping a distance from the Emperor and addressing the multiple faces of Japanese tradition. I, too, want by all means to look at Japan's tradition without being bound to the Emperor.
the beautiful appearances of the country let's die with integrity."

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
=====     Copyright ®1997-2007 Jesuit Social Center All Rights Reserved     =====