Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 8, No. 12. September 19, 1945
The Future of Japan
The Future of Japan
At a meeting Of the IRC last term Mr. Pat Shaw delivered an address on that much discussed country, Japan. Mr. Shaw, who has spent some time in the Land of the Rising Sun, besides giving an interesting account of Japanese life and customs, put forward his own ideas for solving the problem of "What are we to do with Japan?"
The similarity of the problem to that of Germany was the first point he made, but it has one main complexity—we have no kinship or common culture with the Japanese. Before giving a general idea of Japanese culture and background, the speaker dealt with the simple solution adopted by some people—annihilation. He suggested that this theory was both impracticable and impermissible, because, for one thing there are some good Japanese.
Going back into Japanese history, Mr. Shaw said that the restoration of the Emperor in 1867 was the beginning of modern Japan and its form of "clan" rule. The ruling clique consists of the big trading companies, the militarists, the aristocracy, and the Emperor. Family groups augmented by people adopted into the family run the trading companies and together with the aristocracy, which has a close link with the trading companies, they fostered Japanese expansion. No government could be formed without the aid of the militarists, and so the old political parties were only a sham. That the Emperor, with his mixture of mythical and historical background, must go, is the opinion of Mr. Shaw. The Emperor is a harmless little man himself, but he is the philosophical cement of the primitive polytheism known as Shinto. Mr. Shaw hopes that Shinto will not be hard to eradicate as it is not so deeply ingrained as we imagine; in fact 1888 is the date of its official proclamation as the national religion.
Military measures, hazarded the speaker, will be insufficient for keeping Japan in the box. None of the elements at present in power in Japan has any-real roots in democracy, as all the liberal elements have been suppressed since 1930. Japan is a policed state where one can be imprisoned for harbouring "dangerous thoughts" and Mr. Shaw gave examples of their crude and barbarous systems. However, there must be still some liberal elements left to whom we may turn for help. He then stressed the adaptability of the Japanese, giving as an example the Japanese Americans in Hawaii. In Japan itself, according to some people, there is more European classical music sold than in the whole of Europe.
Summing up, Mr. Shaw put forward his own suggestion for dealing with Japan. The long view should be Westernisation; the short view is stern, uncompromising democratisation. It is unwise to "use" the Emperor, as his institution is fundamentally undemocratic. Allied Military Government, followed by the fostering of liberal progress is the only way. The new Japan must be dependent on an economic plan; first, agarian reform, then the re-establishment of consumer goods industries, conditional, of course, to the emergence of progressive elements. Ultimately, we may see a trustworthy Japan appear, but this is certain: the economic monopolistic power must go.
When asked for information on Japanese Universities, Mr. Shaw gave an outline of their education. Despite the fact that Japanese children spend so much time learning characters that they allegedly do not learn to think, the standard of education is kept fairly high. About 40% of the primary school children go on to secondary school, which, like the majority of the Universities, are free. The students of the Universities wear uniforms and are intensely proud of the institution.
Finally, Mr. Shaw said that New Zealanders, unlike Australians, are not interested enough in the Japanese problem, and he appealed to them to take more interest in the things which vitally affect our future.