Saturday, February 18, 2012

Toru Hashimoto and the Ishin-no-Kai

Let's do a little philology, for the benefit of my overseas reading public.

The term "Ishin-no-Kai" has not been adequately discussed in the English language press in Japan. 

Ishin-no-Kai is formed of the two words "Ishin" and "kai" (literally, "restoration" and "group") linked by the preposition "no", meaning "of", yielding something akin to "Restoration Party". 

The incorporation of the term Ishin in such a title resonates with the best known (almost only occurrence of the term) found in the Meiji Ishin (i.e., the Meiji Restoration in English), and imparts vague religious overtones associated with the Emperor, as the Meiji Restoration refers to the historical event of the so-called restoration of the Emperor as the sovereign of Japan in 1868. 

I say "so-called" because the history of Japan is not so simple, and to state flatly that the event represents what the naming of the event implies would be misleading at best, and grossly inaccurate at worst. I've provided a reference at the end of this entry to an important study that relates to this topic directly, accessibly written by a scholar who was a leading historian in this field. 

In brief, Hashimoto's somewhat spurious appropriation of the term "Ishin" holds meaning on various levels, and is therefore subject to varying interpretation. The place of the Meiji Ishin in the overall flow of the history of Japan is a very complex issue, and bears directly on what followed, militarism, etc. 

The forces in society that have exerted influence over the political system at different points in time have a stake in the matter of interpretation. Moreover, it relates to Japan's emergence into the international community, and embarkation into the horizon of modernity.

Hashimoto has also recently presented an eight-point policy strategy, mimicking the eight-point policy set out by Samkamoto Ryoma, an individual who has folk-hero status in the minds of many Japanese in connection with his exploits as a low ranking samurai who achieved great fame in the Restorationist movement.

Hashimoto has tried to draw an association between the politcal party Ishin-no-Kai and the 19th century Restorationist movement, and is know apparently trying to cast himself in the role of folk hero rebel through drawing an association between himself and Sakamoto Ryoma.    

For an account of the history that goes a long way in making its significance to the present day readily understandable, see 
Sakamoto Ryoma and the Meiji Restoration, 
by Marius Jansen
which is basically essential reading in relation to this matter.

to be continued...

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