Japan be seen as a Model for Understanding of 'Asian Modernities'
This is an essay which explores the reasons behind the perception of the west which regards Japan as a model of Asian Modernities'. It has 5 sources.
Gender studies have revealed that men and women think differently, and both are confused about each others thoughts. Perhaps such a dichotomy does exist between the western world and the Asian world. As the era of globalization marches forward it has become a necessity for the west to expand its knowledge and understanding of the east. Such an understanding is not only important for global trade but is also important for peace and stability between the nations of the world. Understanding and the search for common objectives would not have been possible if Japan had not surprised the world with its rapid development and prosperity during the years after World War II. Japan is not only a global trend setter but is also the second biggest and most powerful economy in the world. As a modernized industrial nation and western ally, Japan is politically invaluable to peace and stability in South East Asia as well as the rest of the world.
Japan is an Asian country very similar to others in Asia primarily because it has distinct traditional values, is spiritualistic, has a trademark Asian 'hierarchal' structure which is apparent in government, family and corporations and most of all it has a rich cultural heritage which is very prominent in Japanese literature, thought and philosophies. The study of sociology has taught us that what is virtue in one nation can be a vice in another. A Japanese worker on average would work for the same organization all his life; loyalty and honor are virtues which have paramount importance to all Japanese. Contrastingly, in the individualistic society of the west it is very common for people to change jobs and work for different employers, something that would amount to sacrilege in the Japanese society.
Asia certainly does have its own identity and culture, former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone wrote, 'There are many cultural common denominators among the Asian peoples. Not least among these is a bent toward mysticism and the transcendental that gives Asians the patience to wait for events, in a sense, even as we are moving them. This is in contrast to the legal and determinedly historical mind set of the west. Asian psychology is different. In Asia it is common practice to contain water that overflows river banks in a pond or makeshift reservoir and to leave the water there until it recedes or eventually dries up. We have time. We do not try to expedite this process. Much the same is true of Asian attitude towards strategy and diplomacy. Unlike Europeans, Asians do not put a high priority on adversarial discussion or military threat. This produces confrontation, even when it is used as a bargaining counter. Asians prefer to use dialogue, weather direct or indirect, as a means of easing tension. One might call this a tactic of 'wait and see and talk.' The style of wait and see and talk' may seem, in short run, time consuming. Some Westerners may feel that such diplomacy by dialogue wastes time. It blurs the edges of controversy and reduces the sharp opposition of issues. Yet this is not a bad thing. It often prevents the aggravation of disputes and indeed can work toward their settlement.' (Nakasone, Yasuhiro (1986))Modernization in Japan has not changed the Japanese cultural identity; rather it has incorporated such an identity into the process of modernization. And as the former Premier adequately noted, even when modern the Asian people sing to a different tune and that is very well represented in the fields of diplomacy. Such cultural aspects can be termed as 'modernity' but they are far apart from the more conventional understanding of modernity which carries the essential element of westernization. Japan is no longer a developing nation and just as it serves as a model for business practices, Japan is also a model for the understanding of Asian modernities.
As an embodiment of the Asian way of thinking, Japan is a developed, progressive and modern country. Japan is modern in a way the west is not. To the west Japan is a far off exotic land, the land where Mount Fuji is located and a place where women are dressed like Geisha girls. Such a primitive understanding of Japan is very common in the west; however, the west is being forced to evaluate its opinions since a third of all their imports are produced by Japan, a country which remains to the west an enigma. Today the Japanese no longer pursue the isolationist policy which they practiced during the decades after the World War II, Japan is more liberal, more open and accessible and it is actively engaged in cultural exchange through the media, cultural events and student exchange. As a result, the west is warming up to the idea of Japan as a modern country but modern in a unique way.
Japan has had much to learn from history and its political landscape has shifted dramatically during the 20th Century. Now, Japan is a democracy, although the emperor is still the head of state, he has no governing powers. The country drew its constitution in 1947 and according to the constitution legislative powers rest with a two chamber Diet comprising of the House of Representatives and House of Councilors and like the U.S.A., the executive powers rests with the cabinet which is composed of the prime minister and ministers of state. In fact democracy is so deep rooted in Japan that each village and town appoints a mayor and a one house assembly. Judiciary too is independent. Democracy, however, is a recent development in Japan and it is perhaps the hallmark of Japanese modernity. After the devastation of the World War II, the Japanese people realized the futility of being a militarist state. They discovered that the reason behind their troubles and loss was the arrogance and shortsightedness of the militarist regime. Hence the era of civil liberties and nation building began and a whole nation worked together toward development. The nation building process took place on the bases of shared culture and ideals. However, if Japan is not the land of feudalistic landlords and radical militarists it certainly does not mean that the nation has done a complete about turn and forgotten the deep rooted elements of its historical past. Although, Japan is now a more socialist state, striking inequalities between classes still exist and the feudal system does reincarnate itself in the intricate and complex structure of Japanese governmental hierarchy.
If we look and evaluate all aspects of modernization, especially the western model of modernization and modernity, we will find that Japan conforms to the western model of a modern state. Japan is a nation state; it is developed and industrialized, it has a free market economy and it is a staunch advocate of capitalism, it is increasingly becoming a welfare state, has representative democracy, most of its population lives in urban cities, the literacy rate is almost 100% and the media is not only active but is also free from government intervention. If Japan has all these properties then can it truly represent the notion of 'Asian modernities' for the rest of the Pacific and Southeast Asian countries? What modern similarities are there between Indonesia and Japan? Can we understand the concept of Asian modernities as they apply to Viet Nam and Cambodia with reference to the Japanese model? Is the Japanese model a reflection of the ideal state a South East Asian country can achieve? If modernity describes the positive aspects of advanced technology then many Asian nations would not display the type of modernity that Japan would, since essentially there is a technological and economic gap. Japanese on average live a more comfortable life and have more disposable income than other countries in the region. Japanese can afford to travel more, get better education and have different consumption patterns. The western version of modernity implies that technological advancement similar to that which occurred during the industrial revolution would lead to economic and political change. True, industrial progress in Japan has resulted in economic and political change but the process of industrialization was learned in Japan rather than the internal development and evolutionary development exhibited by western nations during the Industrial Revolution. Similarly China is learning industrialization, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia saw rapid progress because they simply adopted the process of industrialization. Therefore, Japan having achieved the goal of modernization can be declared as a model for 'Asian modernities'.
While commemorating the ASEAN- Japan Exchange Year 2003, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizomi said, 'Japan and ASEAN should strengthen their cooperation under the basic concept of "acting together -- advancing together." This statement may be perceived as directed towards the maintenance of peace and stability in…