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Japan's Competing Modernities

Issues in Culture and Democracy, 19001930

Sharon A. Minichiello

Publication Year: 1998

Scholars, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, have studied the greater Taisho era (1900-1930) within the framework of Taisho demokurashii (democracy). While this concept has proved useful, students of the period in more recent years have sought alternative ways of understanding the late Meiji-Taisho period. This collection of essays, each based on new research, offers original insights into various aspects of modern Japanese cultural history from "modernist" architecture to women as cultural symbols, popular songs to the rhetoric of empire-building, and more. The volume is organized around three general topics: geographical and cultural space; cosmopolitanism and national identity; and diversity, autonomy, and integration. Within these the authors have identified a number of thematic tensions that link the essays: high and low culture in cultural production and dissemination; national and ethnic identities; empire and ethnicity; the center and the periphery; naichi (homeland) and gaichi (overseas); urban and rural; public and private; migration and barriers. The volume opens up new avenues of exploration for the study of modern Japanese history and culture. If, as one of the authors contends, the imperative is " to understand more fully the historical forces that made Japan what it is today," these studies of Japan's "competing modernities" point the way to answers to some of the country's most challenging historical questions in this century.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

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pp. ix-x

The first three decades of Japan’s twentieth century constituted largely unexplored terrain in English-language scholarship when Bernard S. Silberman and H. D. Harootunian invited nineteen Japanese and American scholars to Quail Roost, North Carolina, in January 1970, for the first conference on Taishò Japan. On the twentieth anniversary of the publication of papers...

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pp. xi-xiii

This volume has been a project of the Northeast Asia Council of the Association for Asian Studies (NEAC). It was a unique experiment in that a democratically elected body held an open competition for papers that would result in an interdisciplinary volume offering fresh perspectives on early twentieth-century Japan. The general themes that would treat the period...

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pp. 1-21

The years 1900 through 1930 bracket the reign years of Japan’s Taishò emperor (1912–1926). It was a short reign compared to that of his father, the Meiji emperor (1868–1912), and his son, the Shòwa emperor (1926–1989). For a time, scholars, Japanese and non-Japanese alike, studied the Taishò era within the framework of Taishò demokurashii, or “Taishò democracy.” As...

I. Geographical and Cultural Space

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1. Peopling the Japanese Empire: The Koreans in Manchuria and the Rhetoric of Inclusion

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pp. 25-44

In Dunhua, Jilin province, in China’s northeast, on May 1, 1930, a demonstration by a band of Chinese and Korean leftists—suspected Communists— escalated into violence. In retaliation, Chinese authorities under the command of the warlord Zhang Xueliang sent in troops that exceeded their mission, brutally attacking local Korean residents. Innocent farming families...

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2. Integrating into Chinese Society: A Comparison of the Japanese Communities of Shanghai and Harbin

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pp. 45-69

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Japanese began settling in what were to become famous as the two most “international” cities in East Asia, Shanghai and Harbin. The Japanese communities that formed in these multicultural metropolises varied widely as they faced different issues and developed within different contexts. Writing in 1933 and...

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3. Space and Aesthetic Imagination in Some Taishō Writings

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pp. 70-90

In his article, “Disciplinizing Native Knowledge and Producing Place,” Harry Harootunian discusses the ways in which urbanization and industrialization led some intellectuals to reinstate the importance of local place in the formation of Japanese identity. To affirm the common identity of all Japanese at a time when applications of instrumental reason together with...

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4. The City and the Countryside: Competing Taishō “Modernities” on Gender

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pp. 91-113

Although the notion of modern(ity) always resists a single definition, few would deny that the notion emerged with the rise of the nation-state. Indeed, a “modern nation-state” is almost an oxymoron, as a nation-state is always modern.¹ The rise of a nation-state also constitutes a process in which the idea of a nation and that of a “culture” merge. Hence, “the articulation...

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5. Naturalizing Nationhood: Ideology and Practice in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

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pp. 114-132

Modern nationhood has been portrayed as profoundly unnatural. Whether analyzed by Hegel or Maruyama Masao, Benedict Anderson or Ernst Gellner, the creation of modern nationhood has been deemed an artificial act. Neither the natural bonds of kinship nor rootedness in the soil impelled its creation; rather, the impetus behind nationhood has been...

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6. Asano Wasaburō and Japanese Spiritualism in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

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pp. 133-153

Nineteenth-century spiritualism from the West was a subject of great interest in early twentieth-century Japan. Situated on a border between mass culture and the more rarefied pursuits of Westernized, bourgeois salon culture, Japanese spiritualism represented, in part, the importation of Western cultural fads for seances, telekinesis, clairvoyance, and hypnosis. As...

II. Cosmopolitanism and National Identity

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7. Becoming Japanese: Imperial Expansion and Identity Crises in the Early Twentieth Century

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pp. 157-180

At the end of the twentieth century—when some eighty million “guest workers” inhabit the margins of the international order—images of belonging, nationality, and identity shift and blur in disconcerting ways. In Japan (to take one small example) the sociologist Katò Hidetoshi warns that increasing immigration challenges the very “core” (shutai) of Japan, and calls...

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8. Culture, Ethnicity, and the State in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

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pp. 181-205

Some sense of ethnic Japanese identity may be projected retroactively through Japanese history to the murky ancient beginning, but for the modern sense of the ethnic nation in Japan we need look no further back than the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Here one finds the emergence of a very specific use of ethnicity, along with a new term, minzoku (the ethnic...

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9. Writing the National Narrative: Changing Attitudes toward Nation-Building among Japanese Writers, 1900–1930

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pp. 206-227

When Japanese writers began to read and translate Western literature in the late nineteenth century, they encountered a very powerful vehicle of national narrative: the Western novel. Just as one of the main features of Western political history over the previous few centuries had been the rise of the modern nation-state, so an equally central feature of Western literary...

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10. The Bunriha and the Problem of “Tradition” for Modernist Architecture in Japan, 1920–1928

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pp. 228-246

In 1920, a group of young architects launched Japan’s first modernist architectural movement. They called themselves the Bunriha Kenchikukai, or Secessionist Architectural Group, a name that at once linked them with contemporary movements in Europe and distanced them from the professional establishment both in the West and in Japan. At the heart of the...

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11. Defining the Modern Nation in Japanese Popular Song, 1914–1932

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pp. 247-264

One of the most significant social aspects of the Taishò period (1912–1926) was the mass migration from rural to urban areas. Modern Taishò life was characterized by a reformulation of the existing urban culture, based in part upon a keen sense of displacement of these new urbanites. This new urbanism became the nexus of the nation and the modern...

III. Diversity, Autonomy, and Integration

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12. Media Culture in Taishō Osaka

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pp. 267-287

In 1920, Òbayashi Sòshi set out to conduct a comprehensive survey of “popular recreation” (minshû goraku) in the city of Osaka. By the time he released his hefty 380-page study in 1922, however, he had restricted his purview to the “for-profit entertainment industry” (eiriteki kògyò goraku) in four discrete amusement quarters—Dòtonbori-Sennichimae, Shin...

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13. Zaikai and Taishō Demokurashii, 1900–1930

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pp. 288-311

Various chapters in this volume demonstrate that during the Taishò years “modernity” permeated all classes of Japanese society in a variety of economic and political guises. Indeed, one of the themes to emerge strongly from many of the contributions to this volume is the stunningly populist quality of much of Taishò modernity. Clearly, modernity in Taishò had amass...

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14. Fashioning a Culture of Diligence and Thrift: Savings and Frugality Campaigns in Japan, 1900–1931

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pp. 312-334

Historians, being historians, love to periodize. For several decades, they have been fascinated by the problem of “Taishò” and its evocations of “Taishò democracy” and “Taishò culture.” Defining the beginning and end of Taishò has itself been contentious. Should it be confined to the Taishò emperor’s reign (1912–1926) or perhaps commence in 1905 with the mass...

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15. Visions of Women and the New Society in Conflict: Yamakawa Kikue versus Takamure Itsue

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pp. 335-357

By the end of World War I, the Japanese left wing included individuals with a wide range of viewpoints. But by 1921 most of them had lined up on one side or the other of the fledgling labor movement’s famous ana-boru (anarchism vs. Bolshevism) debate between champions of anarcho-syndicalism and advocates of Marxian socialism. Like so much of...

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16. Broadcasting in Korea, 1924–1937: Colonial Modernity and Cultural Hegemony

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pp. 358-378

In February of 1927, under the call sign JODK, the newly established Ky


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pp. 379-381


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pp. 383-394

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863159
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824819316

Publication Year: 1998

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Subject Headings

  • Japan -- Politics and government -- 1912-1926.
  • Japan -- Politics and government -- 1868-1912.
  • Japan -- Civilization -- 1868-1912.
  • Japan -- Civilization -- 1912-1926.
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