Cross-Currents e-Journal (No. 32)
Beyond Comparison: Japan and Its Colonial Empire in Transimperial Relations
Focusing on the three-year period starting in 1904, the very beginning of Japan’s colonization of Korea, this article demonstrates how the idea of British rule in Egypt as a model of colonial rule played a critical role in the emergence of Korea as a protectorate. The article not only describes the scope and limits of Egypt as a model but also helps to reveal the motivations of those Japanese involved in the comparative debate; How did they promote―or oppose―this model, and to what effect? Why and how did they compare this model with other models, which one did they prefer, and for what reasons? By exploring these questions through an examination of relevant historical sources, the author argues that, on several grounds, Japan’s initial colonization of Korea can be plausibly and effectively framed as a subject of “transimperial history” that takes seriously the influence of the “politics of comparison.” The article also demonstrates that the theories and practices concerning the Egypt model can be fully understood only by seeing how the comparative views of the involved Japanese policymakers and intellectuals were influenced by the ways actors in other empires—namely, the British and French empires—had practiced their own “politics of comparison” with their specific motives and agendas.
Keywords: Korea, Egypt, Tunisia, protectorate, colonialism, transimperial, politics of comparison, Japanese Empire, British Empire, French Empire, East Asia, Africa
The history of German-Japanese relations prior to 1914 has often been characterized by the similarities between the two newly established nations and the transfer of knowledge between them—mostly from Germany to Japan—for the sake of building a modern nation-state. This article critically reconsiders that view, particularly with regard to school and language education, by taking the colonial dimension into consideration. By focusing on reports commissioned by the colonial government in Korea and an inquiry by that of Taiwan on the eve of the First World War, the author shows that the Japanese colonial empire increasingly paid attention to Imperial Germany alongside other colonial powers such as Great Britain and France. It is striking that the Japanese search for a model or a reference point shifted between Germany’s remote overseas colonies and metropole borderlands with minorities, such as Prussian Poland and Alsace-Lorraine, and that the colonial governments in Korea and Taiwan addressed them on their different agendas. After 1918, Germany was no longer a role model; however, it came to serve as a history lesson or negative foil justifying self-praise by Japan and was, at the same time, used by the colonized people to strengthen their self-assertion.
Keywords: German Empire, borderlands, colonies, Alsace-Lorraine, Prussian Poland, school politics, transfer of colonial knowledge
This article seeks to clarify the relationships that formed among the French, Japanese, and Vietnamese when they coexisted in Indochina during the Second World War. The French and the Japanese jointly ruled Indochina, due to their respective interests in preserving suzerainty and securing bases for the Pacific War. These two groups maintained constant mutual awareness in this complicated and unstable relationship while avoiding conflict and seeking the support of the Vietnamese population. However, despite efforts of French and Japanese authorities, the contradiction of mutual coexistence between France, as the “missionary of civilization,” and Japan, as the “liberator of Asia” from Western colonialism, could not be concealed. Whereas the Japanese government’s policy of “maintaining peace” in Indochina ensured that interactions between the Japanese and Vietnamese were limited, the relationship between the French and the Vietnamese shifted during this time, with the effect of stimulating the local population’s identity and leading to France laying the groundwork for postwar decolonization. By examining the quotidian facets of the Franco-Japanese rule of Indochina, this article reveals how mutual encounters among the French, Japanese, and Vietnamese undermined French colonization and Japanese occupation.
Keywords: Indochina, Japan, Vietnam, French colonization, Japanese empire, Second World War, Pacific War, colonization, decolonization
With the onset of the Great Depression in 1929 and the 1931 Manchurian Incident, Japanese intellectuals and business leaders appealed to the language of self-determination and Pan-Asianism to advocate for domestic reform and imperial expansion. At the same time, Indian nationalists in Japan, such as Rash Behari Bose, Anand Mohan Sahay, Aiyappan-Pillai Madhavan Nair, and others, viewed the creation of Manchukuo in 1932 as evidence of Japanese sincerity toward Asian nationalism, as well as a model of development that India and Asia should follow. These invocations were used to legitimize their own nation-building projects and critique trends within the mainstream Indian nationalist movement. This article analyzes the encounters between Japan, India, and the Indian merchant diaspora in East Asia from 1931 to 1938. The author argues that Japanese Pan-Asianists as well as some Indian nationalists sought to legitimize their own national and transnational projects during this period by appealing to a common Asian civilization that was mediated through a politics of comparison and deflection. The article also demonstrates that comparisons often occluded the issue of imperial violence and revealed the limitations of accepting nationalism and the nation-state as the foundation of civilizational discourse and transnational community.
Keywords: Pan-Asianism, Japan, India, Indian diaspora, Manchukuo, politics of comparison, Rash Behari Bose, Anand Mohan Sahay, Aiyappan-Pillai Madhavan Nair, Mahendra Pratap, Ōkawa Shūmei, Nakatani Takeyo, Indian merchants, Kobe, Yokohama, nationalism, imperialism, political economy, comparative colonialism