SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Bai Zhili “Japan Studies in East Asia, as a Means”

On July 18, 2015, SGRA Forum “Looking for New Paradigm of Japan Studies” was held at Waseda University. About 20 researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia, who are active at the front, assembled.

First of all, I like to express my profound gratitude to Atsumi International Foundation and to International Relations Research Institute for East Asia, Waseda University for giving me an opportunity for discussions and exchanges with other researchers.


At this forum, “Japan Studies as a means” were discussed as one of the main topics. I would like to summarize my study “Japan Studies as a means ”, especially “Japan Studies as a means in East Asia” in this forum.


“What is Japan Studies?” This is a difficult question to answer for researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia, especially China and Korea.


Many researchers, not only myself, aspire to be researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia for special reasons, apart from purely academic objectives. They have to undertake internal or spiritual self-examination, like staring at themselves through Japan, thereby reconfirming and recognizing themselves. When they lay their own individual experience, in other word “self” factor, over histories or development of their countries or races, they have to inevitably confront the process and development of their own histories


I can say that “Japan Studies” for researchers in East Asia is a double mirror which reflects themselves or nations and how they should be. In other words, “Japan Studies” is one of the internal conversation with themselves or nations, namely this is “Japan Studies as a means” for self-assessment.


Needless to say, such a way of thinking comes from geographical limitation of neighboring countries in East Asia and born on the basis of complicated development of their modern histories.


Specifically, Japan has achieved its modernization first in the Meiji Period in East Asia. Then, after the war, Japan has achieved economic and social development like Western countries through a period of peaceful development.


The process of Japanese modernization after the Meiji Period, even up to now, is based on familiar mutual relationship with East Asia. In this sense, Japan Studies in East Asia is about Japan and, at the same time, “Studies about East Asia” and “Studies of their own countries”. Researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia are unconsciously extending “Japan Studies as a means”.


Some people say that, as a misgiving or criticism, “Japan Studies as a means” is not genuine Japan Studies. But, as a researcher or a human being,we are forced to be strained mentally in a situation that there is a slight difference which can distinguish ourselves from others. So, I cannot look at such process as worthless because we cultivate and reform our spirit facing Japan as a subject of study.  I think, by such severe strains and self-consideration of intention, we can reach to more unexpected results than just academic Japan Studies.


When we emphasize, in Japan Studies as a means, the side of forming one’s mind, researchers have to necessarily face histories of victims in the past. In other words, we have to face “reconciliation of history” for its own sake, which is the biggest issue in East Asia.


Reconciliation is a relief of wrongdoers’ mind. At the same time, reconciliation has to be a relief of victims’ mind. When we grope for its solution facing such a real issue, intellectual accumulation of Japan Studies as a means in East Asia and self-consideration of individual researchers will become spiritual nourishment and first step toward a solution.


As researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia reflect on the interrelationship of his own country with other countries in East Asia, Japan Studies in East Asia becomes East Asia Studies. Needless to say, such viewpoint covers the whole of East Asia and will jump to intellectual community in East Asia and finally to East Asia community which precede a reconciliation of history, as mentioned above.


Japan Studies as a means in East Asia is a result of Western modernization in Japan.  It is essential for China, which is still in the process of modernization, to have numerous discussions with Japan which attained modernization first. In this sense, we can say “Japan Studies, as a means” never lose actuality and will increase its importance when we consider East Asia, Asia and the world.


Furthermore, we say “End of Capitalism” nowadays, and Japan, which has already accomplished modernization, is at a big turning point and is expected to go forward to establish a new civilization of post-modernization


So, “Japan Studies” and “Japan Studies in East Asia” will never lose its importance.


However, in order to ease such a tense atmosphere in Japan Studies in East Asia, it will be useful to approach “East Asia Studies as a means” after “Japan Studies as a means”.


If we acknowledge “East Asian Studies, as a means”, which is developed from “Japan Studies as a mean”, as valuable and if we point to intellectual community in East Asia, researchers of Japan Studies in East Asia will be requested to endeavor to sublimate, refine, systematize and share those means consciously, not unconsciously.


(Associate Dean, School of Government Peking University)



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Mac Maquito


SGRA Kawaraban 469 in Japanese (original)