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  5. “Chinafication” or “Edofication”: An Urgent Choice for Japan

2012 Vol.4
“Chinafication” or “Edofication”: An Urgent Choice for Japan


Anyone who looks back on Japan’s long history notices that two kinds of periods repeatedly alternated: periods of open-country policy when the country actively interacted with foreign countries, absorbed their cultures, and tried thereby to reform itself and periods of introversion when the country was unwilling to engage in foreign interactions and focused on domestic development. Consequently, the Japanese have faced a conflict between two positions: one that considers it essential for the country to open itself further and adapt willingly to globalization and another that opposes uncritical acceptance of globalization, empasizes traditional values and an identity of being Japanese, and advocates domestic development as the driving force behind the country’s competitiveness.
Such a conflict existed not only toward the end of the Edo period, as a conflict between those who supported open-country policy and those who advocated the expulsion of foreigners, but also exists at the present time, as a conflict between the structural reformists and the conservatives. The discussion in this paper is inspired by a book authored by Jun Yonaha, Chugokuka suru nihon (Chinafication in Japan). After presenting the definitions as well as the logic that Yonaha uses in his book, this paper defines”Chinafication”as the tendency where Japan regards the trend of globalization as irreversible and follows it willingly and “Edofication” as the tendency where it denies the convenience associated with the globalization trend and supports the idea of increasing Japan’s international presence while cherishing the country’s unique culture and values. Several points are then raised as to the historically familiar question of whether Japan should pursue Chinafication or Edofication.
The rough gist of Yonaha’s argument is as follows: the politico-economic system that was established in China more than a thousand years ago in the Song Dynasty period is a prototype of the modern global world, and the modern world (which includes Japan) is actually converging to the politico-economic model that was built in that period. According to Yonaha, Japan cannot resist the major historical trend called Chinafication and must depart from the closedness typical of the Edo period, which is characterized by “vertical” personal relationships constrained by family lineage. Can this argument be really accepted? This is a question that needs to be fully discussed from a variety of angles. The author’s position is that there is no easy answer to this question. In what follows, based on Yonaha’s argument, the author examines this issue, an issue that has arisen repeatedly throughout the history of Japan and which the Japanese cannot avoid.