AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 702

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Session 702: The “Great War” and East Asia

Organizer: Rustin B. Gates, Bradley University, USA

Chair: Masato Kimura, Shibusawa Eiichi Memorial Foundation, Japan

Discussant: Michael A. Barnhart, State University of New York, Stony Brook, USA

The First World War continues to draw scholars’ attention not only because of the horrific experiences of the combatants on the battlefield, but also because it is believed to be an epoch-making event. Commonly known as the “Great War,” WWI is considered crucial in establishing the pillars of the modern age—the global network of trade and commerce, the world system of nation-states, the triumph of science and technology, and the ideas of progress, justice and fairness. Yet, despite the global scope of the “Great War,” current studies continue to focus on the European powers, as if only the Europeans were affected by the war. To redress the imbalance, this panel examines the momentous changes that the war brought to East Asia, especially Japan. Chika Shinohara will discuss how the idea of “women rights” spurred the development of women’s school for higher education in Meiji and Taishō Japan; Rustin Gates will analyze the policies of the Japanese Foreign Minister Uchida Yasuya after WWI; Noriko Kawamura will examine the young Emperor Hirohito’s view of the world order after the Versailles Settlement; Marc Matten will analyze the notion of “Asian Monroe Doctrine” that influenced Japanese policies toward Korea and China. Consisting of scholars based in Germany, Japan, and the United States, this panel is a team of international experts who see the “Great War” as a global event that changed East Asia as much as Europe. 

Institutionalizing Women’s Education in Japan during WWI
Chika Shinohara, Independent Scholar, Japan

Women's schools for higher education began to develop in Japan before the Great War. Being the first Japanese girl to study in the United States, Tsuda Umeko (1864-1929), for example, established in 1900 the Girls’ School of English (the forerunner of Tsuda College). In so doing, she laid the foundation for women’s higher education in the country. In pre-modern urban Japan, girls' and boys' basic education were not at all behind their western counterparts. Yet, tremendous efforts were made to build women’s schools for higher education at the beginning of the twentieth century. This paper explains this momentous change in Japanese women’s education from two perspectives. First, I link the emergence of women’s formal education in Japan with women’s movements around the world. For a long time, neo-institutionalists have suggested that the growth of formal education is usually more successful in countries that are linked to world society. Japan is not an exception. During the Great War, both national and individual communications developed rapidly between Japan and foreign countries. As a result, global linkages and interactions with world society helped develop women’s education by disseminating information and resources. Second, I argue that such local-global networks fostered an awareness of women’s rights in Japan. The awareness helped to focus attention on developing structured education for women. In the paper, I will demonstrate how women’s higher education in Japan emerged and developed with growing local-international interactions in the era of the Great War.

Out with the New and in with the Old: Uchida Yasuya and post-World War I Japanese Foreign Affairs
Rustin B. Gates, Bradley University, USA

Some scholars contend that the Paris Peace Conference (1919) was a “turning point” in Japanese foreign relations. Japan, it is argued, abandoned its goal of territorial aggrandizement in favor of a cooperative, internationalist policy that would come to characterize Japanese diplomacy in the 1920s. This paper, by examining the career of Foreign Minister Uchida Yasuya (1911–12 and 1918–23), argues instead that Japanese foreign policy displayed remarkable consistency between the prewar and postwar periods; there was no such turning point in 1919. In fact, Uchida’s experience over the 1910 and 1920s suggest that the discontinuity in Japanese diplomacy came during WWI—and the discontinuity in question is better understood as a temporary aberration rather than a turning point per se. In terms of Japan’s policy for the continent, Foreign Minister Katō Takaaki and Prime Minister Terauchi Masatake both used military intervention to acquire potential territorial concessions, a strategy that Uchida refused to employ as foreign minister before and after WWI. With regard to the Western powers, Uchida also displayed a degree of consistency. While he altered the style of his policy of cooperation, the substance remained constant from the 1910s through the 1920s. Uchida, wary of Japanese isolation, recognized the need for Japan to participate in the new multilateral system in East Asia and reoriented Japanese diplomacy toward multinational agreements with the United States and Britain. For Uchida, the goal of avoiding isolation through international cooperation was more important than the question of what form the cooperation would take.

Emperor Hirohito and the Aftermath of the Paris Peace Conference, 1919-1933
Noriko Kawamura, Washington State University, USA

Historians have portrayed the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 as either a contest between the European “Old Diplomacy” and the Wilsonian “New Diplomacy,” or a triangular race among imperialism on the right, socialism and communism on the left, and Wilsonian liberal capitalist internationalism in the center. Some realist scholars suggest another dichotomy of world views in U.S.-Japanese relations: that is, America’s universalism and unilateralism inherent in Wilsonian idealistic internationalism on one hand, and Japan’s incipient particularistic regionalism in Asia driven by its sense of national and racial identity and anti-Western sentiments, on the other. Following the third interpretation of Wilsonianism, the paper will explore what the Wilsonian world order meant to Emperor Hirohito and Japan in the interwar years. Young Crown Prince Hirohito had initially welcomed Japan’s ratification of the Versailles Treaty and participation in the League of Nations in support of the new world order. However, after Japan’s surrender in the Pacific War, Emperor Hirohito in spring 1946 traced the origins of Japan’s unfortunate wars back to the continuation of Anglo-American powers’ racial discrimination against Japan in the Versailles system. Focusing on the years from 1919 until 1933 when Japan decided to withdraw from the League of Nations, the paper will explore to what extent and why the young emperor came to have negative opinions of the Wilsonian world order during this period. The paper will mainly examine how the changing international environment and his close advisers’ views shaped the young emperor’s world view.

The Monroe Doctrine and Woodrow Wilson Transformations of space in Twentieth century East Asia
Marc A. Matten, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany

In the modern history of East Asia, no other concept characterizes the numerous conflicts and wars in this region better than that of national self-determination. Introduced to Asia as part of international law in the nineteenth century, this concept shaped the international relations in this region. In this paper we argue that the political function of this concept cannot be fully grasped unless we (re-)integrate space into the nationalist discourse of both Japan and China. At first sight, it seems obvious that the protection of national territory has always been a major concern to nationalist movements. We argue, however, that the nationalist movements in East Asia were sustained by notions of space, understood more in the sense of geopolitics than international law. A prime example of this spatial principle in foreign relations was the Asian Monroe Doctrine (AMD) of the early twentieth century. We hold that the AMD not only justified Japanese expansionism on the Asia continent, but also led to a rejection of the universality of international law. In the eyes of Japanese politicians, militaries and intellectuals, AMD was seen as a legitimate means to protect their nation by creating a Greater Space, or Grossraum, that does not allow intervention from outside. This paper will show how the acceptance of the Monroe Doctrine with the simultaneous rejection of Wilson’s idealism led to Yasui Kaoru’s (1907-1980) theory of “International Law in Greater Asia” proposed in 1942.