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  • Transnational Encounters between Germany and Japan: Perceptions of Partnership in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries ed. by Joanne Miyang Cho, Lee M. Roberts, Christian W. Spang
  • Chunjie Zhang
Transnational Encounters between Germany and Japan: Perceptions of Partnership in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries.
Edited by Joanne Miyang Cho, Lee M. Roberts, and Christian W. Spang. New York: Palgrave, 2016. 280pages. $100.00.

In today’s booming scholarship of Asian German Studies, this edited volume is a welcome addition. The three editors target and contest “the actual degree of solidarity and depth of the Axis agreements” (1) between Germany and Japan during World [End Page 480] War II. Using the perspective of transitional history and entangled history in the thirteen contributions, this volume claims to be the first of its kind covering the cross-hatchings of German and Japanese histories from the establishment of their diplomatic relationship in 1861 to the postwar period and the present. The volume divides this long and turbulent historical era in three phases: the modernization period from the Meiji era until well into World War II; the period between two World Wars; and the postwar era.

In the first section, Takenaka Toru disentangles the myth of Germany as a “familiar country” (7) in Meiji Japan by pointing out the frigid diplomatic relationship between the two countries from 1895 to 1918 and the associated anti-German sentiment in Japan. Even though Toru admits German influence on Japanese technological modernization, he points out that person-to-person contact between the Germans and the Japanese was in fact quite rare around 1900. German as a language was not widely learned in higher education. German philosophy and music were communicated through sources in English, the major language channeling knowledge from the West to Japan. Sven Saaler’s contribution focuses on the German diplomat Karl von Eisendecher, who distinguished himself from those Western diplomats who used the groundless statement about Japan being uncivilized and inferior to justify the unequal treaties imposed on Japan in the 1850s and 1860s. Unlike his British and French peers, Eisendecher, during the later period of his tenure as the German minister resident (1875–1882), supported the revision of these treaties, which were eventually abolished after Japan won wars against China (1894/95) and Russia (1904/05). Only through such a warring competition did Japan become recognized as a “first-rate power” (46) by Western imperialist powers, and they upgraded their diplomatic representations to embassies. Eisendecher’s endeavor ushered in the “Golden Age of Japanese-German relations” (36) in the 1880s. Joanne Miyang Cho depicts the cosmopolitanism of Hermann Graf von Keyserling and draws our attention to Keyserling’s specific intellectual position within German conservatism in the early twentieth century, especially his refusal of racist Aryanism and nationalism. Cho argues that Keyserling’s keen interest in Eastern philosophy and his learning from the cultural transfers between China, Japan, and India developed into a transcultural solution to the cultural pessimism and decadence in Europe. At the same time, Keyserling was deeply concerned with the Westernization and industrialization of Japan. While Keyserling belittles the Japanese as imitators, Cho avers that imitation leads to innovation and Keyserling’s view is limited. Lee Roberts’s interesting essay delineates the process in which German discourse perceives Japanese literature as one that is able to reject the classical Chinese model and successfully adopt the “Western” style from 1900 to 1945. Similar to Saaler’s finding, Roberts shows that the Germans came to view Japan as the only Eastern nation that equals Western powers, and German folkish writers see Japan as especially close to the Germans in terms of racial purity and superiority.

In the second section of the book, Sarah Panzer tells us about the reception of Japanese sport, especially jiu-jitsu, which is called judo today, in Germany between 1905 and 1933 and the inclusion of judo in the program of the Nazi leisure administration. Hans Rode and Christian Spang document the lives of Anna and Siegfried Berliner, two Jewish intellectuals, who taught in Japan and then significantly contributed to the German knowledge about Japanese culture during the Weimar period. [End Page 481] Christian Spang also details the history of...


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