Japan from the inside out

Shimojo Masao (1): The preconditions for an East Asian entity

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, September 29, 2009

ONE OF THE SEGMENTS on the masthead is an article about Takeshima written by Prof. Shimojo Masao for the Mainichi Shimbun. Here is a biographical sketch of Prof. Shimojo that appeared with the article:

Shimojo Masao

Shimojo Masao

“Born in Nagano Prefecture in 1950, Dr. Shimojo was awarded a Ph.D. from Kokugakuin University. He went to South Korea in 1983 and taught at several institutions. He served as the senior lecturer at the Samsung Training Institute and visiting professor at Inchon University. Dr. Shimojo returned to Japan in 1998 and was named a professor at the Takushoku University Institute for International Development. His published works include “The Road to Overcoming Japanese-Korean History” (Tendensha).”

In addition, Prof. Shimojo’s field of specialization is Japanese intellectual history, and his knowledge of Northeast Asian history is second to none. His second language is Korean. (He also takes credit for giving Samsung the idea to develop refrigerators used exclusively for kimchee!)

He has agreed to contribute to this website by writing a short essay about once a week. The essays will be written in Japanese, and I’ll translate them into English. Here is the first one.


The Preconditions for an East Asian Entity

There has been a change of government in Japan for the first time in half a century, and a Democratic Party of Japan administration has taken power under the leadership of Hatoyama Yukio. Among his policy initiatives, the concept of an East Asian entity or community similar to the European Union is receiving widespread attention. The alliance with the United States has been the cornerstone of international relations for Japan since the Liberal Democratic Party came to power. People are discussing whether the change of government might mean Japan has chosen to turn away from the U.S. and place a greater emphasis on Asia.

A full understanding of the distinctive historical characteristics of East Asia is required before embarking on such a course, however. While Japan, the Korean Peninsula, and China on the continent are close geographically, the history of their social systems is different. They have less in common than the members of the European Union, which had shared Christian beliefs and intermarriage of the ruling classes.

In Japan’s case, a social system that incorporated regional authority was formed after the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate in the 12th century, and the foundation of a market economy was created. That is why Japan, with a system closely resembling capitalism, was quickly receptive to Western civilization after the Opium War of 1840.

In contrast, a system of centralized authority was maintained in China and on the Korean Peninsula despite the arrival of modernization. For many years, they had what amounted to planned economies. The history of Japan vis-à-vis China and the Korean Peninsula is that of relationships similar to the one between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

The achievement of an East Asian entity depends on whether Prime Minister Hatoyama is possessed of the awareness of those historical differences and the insight to perceive what is necessary to overcome them.

– Shimojo Masao


Prof. Shimojo used the phrase 脱米入亜, which is a reference to (and reversal of) the famous 1885 “Datsu-A Ron” article by Fukuzawa Yukichi that calls for Japan to disassociate from Asia in favor of closer ties to the West.

The author’s second language is Korean. Therefore, readers with questions about article content, or comments they want the author to see, should write them in Japanese, if possible.

That might make it difficult for people without Japanese ability to be able to participate in any discussion of these articles that may arise, which is counter to one of my objectives here. Those unable to handle Japanese and who really want to comment or ask questions can send me an e-mail and I’ll try to translate. Please remember that my time is limited, so try to keep it concise and to the point.

Here’s a link to the Amazon page for Prof. Shimojo’s books in Japanese.

29 Responses to “Shimojo Masao (1): The preconditions for an East Asian entity”

  1. Seira said

    Back in 1990s, when Dr. Mahathir Mohammad proposed the creation of East Asian Community, Japan was the one who rejected it (out of their loyalty to US). Now they have accepted the idea huh? I am kind of sad that no one credited Dr. Mahathir as the first person who proposed the idea of East Asian Community. And when Mr. Hatoyama said he wanted an East Asian Entity, is he referring to East Asia in general (both North and South East Asia countries), or Far East Asia (Japan, Korea, China)?
    Thanks for the note, Seira. I think he also includes ASEAN countries, but he talks mostly about China and the Korean Peninsula. China includes Hong Kong and Taiwan.

    “Japan” didn’t reject and then accept the idea. The government in power at the time rejected it for that reason, and the new government, which has a different philosophy, now is talking it up.

    How many people in the Prime Minister’s party agree with him is unclear.

    This is really a Hatoyama pipe dream. It probably won’t work for the reasons Prof. Shimojo suggests, and also for the fact that China and both Koreas conduct anti-Japanese propaganda among their citizens. Being anti-Japanese is a semi-offical part of their domestic policy.

    The cultural and economic differences with ASEAN countries are even greater.

    Prime Minister Hatoyama might have had the idea for as long or longer than Dr. Mahathir. His grandfather, who was also prime minister, was influenced by the man who conceived of the EU. It’s just that no one paid attention to him until now.

    – A.

  2. Bryce said

    “shared Christian beliefs”

    “Shared Christian beliefs” are pretty much a canard, methinks. That “Christianity” can be responsible for both dividing geographical entities (Ireland) and can also be pretty much be irrelevant in their unification (West Germany’s Catholicism and Protestantism, and later German Catholicism, Protestantism and a good deal of atheism) demonstrates that it is an irrelevant variable. More relevant, I think, is a common threat perception that serves as the initial reason for overcoming postwar historical differences, and then a viable and voluntary system for membership that institutionalises that unity and provides benefits to members once that threat is gone. Note too, that founding members of Europe were at similar stages of development (not the case in Asia) and new members have to measure up to economic benchmarks as well as those related to human rights and democracy.

  3. rw said

    maybe shimojo should have given strategies on how to overcome the differences,
    especially in the interpretation of history, between japan and china.
    Thanks for the note rw:
    One of the books he wrote shown at the link to Amazon Japan is a 400-page work doing just that for Japan and South Korea.
    It’s also possible that he doesn’t think the differences could be overcome to an extent that would enable the creation of that organization.
    – A.

  4. Seira said

    Even till now, I still wonder why the Far East Asian countries can’t form a union like ASEAN. True, each country in Southeast Asia has its own cultures, beliefs and religions, but we can still form a union and help each other. The only similarity that most SEA countries have is that they used to be colonised by the Europeans (with the exception of Thailand).

  5. Bryce said

    “The only similarity that most SEA countries have is that they used to be colonised by the Europeans”

    They were also once signatories to an American-led defence pact and still have an abiding interest in maintaining policy independence vis-a-vis the larger regional powers. Much like Europe and the Soviet Union.

  6. Seira said

    “They were also once signatories to an American-led defence pact and still have an abiding interest in maintaining policy independence vis-a-vis the larger regional powers. Much like Europe and the Soviet Union.”

    Not all. Definitely NOT Vietnam (Vietnam War anyone?).

  7. Bryce said

    I think you may be talking about the First Indochina war (SEATO was concluded in 1955), and many potential SEATO members were blocked from joining because of the settlement of that conflict (not for lack of willingness), but, yes, your point is taken. That doesn’t really change the regional dynamics though.

  8. Bryce said

    many = three

  9. […] Japan is 脱米入亜 datsu-Bei nyuu-A ‘leave America join Asia’? Kyushu-based blogger Ampontan is translating and hosting a series of columns by Shimojo Masao, one of Japan’s top […]

  10. steve said

    Professor Shimojo’s article shows despite his credentials in the field of Japan Korean historical relations, he is seriously out of touch with modern Asian.

    Really, what relevance does Korea’s Chosun dynasty play in shaping modern Japanese Korean relations?

    Shimojo’s kind of thinking is exactly why Japan and Korea are still at odds over the Dokdo Takeshima dispute. This radical still insists we draw the modern border between Japan and Korea back to the colonial era.

    If you want to improve modern relations between Japan and northeast Asia, stop dwelling on their historical past entirely.

  11. Bender said

    If you want to improve modern relations between Japan and northeast Asia, stop dwelling on their historical past entirely.

    And those who dwell deep in the Korean side of historical past is somehow exempt?

  12. steve said

    No Bender.

    My point is, using the historical relationship between Japan and Korea to solve modern territorial disputes (Dokdo – Takeshima) is a flawed approach.

    I can honestly say that I’m shocked that Professor Shimojo, a person who is highly responsible for souring relations between Korea and Japan for years, is preaching how to .

    Seriously, I would say no Japanese person has done more damage to Korean – Japanese relations than Professor Shimojo. This man is not a true historian, he is a lobbyist.

  13. ampontan said

    Steve: You are cordially invited to explain to us what problems you have with Prof. Shimojo’s major work on Japanese-Korean relations, 日韓・歴史克服への道, which is 400 pages, and why you have those problems.

    By the way, you do know he is capable of reading old documents from Korea and Japan in the original, right? Are you?

  14. Aceface said

    Once we have toadface on this thread,I predict this thread goes hundred….

  15. steve said

    Ampontan, my problem with Professor Shimojo’s works relate to his articles about the Dokdo Takeshima dispute with Korea. None of what he written differs one syllable from the pages of Japan’s MOFA’s homepage. It’s clear he is just a lobbyists, he is NOT an unbiased historian.

    If you want me to cite specific examples of his flawed writings I’d be more than glad to help.

    Professor Shimojo can read Japanese and Korean documents in their original form? Then he is stretching the truth about Japan’s historical relationship with Ulleungdo and Dokdo Island. He seems to have trouble with the character “州“ when he translates “Saito Hosen’s 1667 “Onshu Shicho Goki”

    If Professor Shimojo is seriously concerned about Japanese Korean relations, he should drop his little pet project (Takeshima lobbying). From there he should work to have the two nations solve this dispute in an amicable manner rather than demand Korea accept a wartime-colonial era annexation.

    As I’ve said, Professor Shimojo has been sabotaging Japanese Korean relations for years. The manner is which he has bungled the Dokdo Takeshima dispute alone shows he is either incapable or unwilling to resolve other areas of contention between Japan and Korea.

    I think Professor Shimojo is afraid of a united Asia because it would cause Japanese influence to wane in the region.

  16. ampontan said

    …my problem with Professor Shimojo’s works relate to his articles about the Dokdo Takeshima dispute with Korea.

    But since this post isn’t about Takeshima, why are you banging on about that subject here?

    Since you clearly haven’t read his book, I think it’s safe to assume you know next to nothing about his overall view of Japanese-Korean relations.

    He has consistently called for an objective examination of history to be conducted by a joint panel of Korean and Japanese historians.

    But most Korean historians are either incapable of presenting an objective view or cowed by the fact that presenting an opinion that diverges from the nationalist line will get them fired and/or the dog poop girl treatment in Korean society.

    From there he should work to have the two nations solve this dispute in an amicable manner rather than demand Korea accept a wartime-colonial era annexation

    Remember, he said objective view. Yours certainly isn’t.

    The last joint panel I read about fell apart on the Korean insistence that the Japanese government pick up expenses for “comfort women”, regardless of the veracity of their stories, and despite the Korean renunciation of individual compensation when they received reparations from Japan in the treaty of 1965 (or thereabouts).

    I think Professor Shimojo is afraid of a united Asia because it would cause Japanese influence to wane in the region.

    What influence would that be? Its political influence with China and both Koreas? Please.

    Koreans are incapable of creating a unified country on their own peninsula with their ethnic siblings. What makes you think they are capable of being a part of a unified Asia, much less making a positive contribution to it?

    I’m speaking here of the nationalist, grudge-mongering political class, of course, rather than the many business and cultural groups who are already creating a de facto transnational economic and cultural zone in the southern part of the peninsula and Kyushu.

    The Chinese think they’re the flower in the center of the universe, and so are unlikely to view an East Asian entity as anything other than an excuse to receive tribute from their inferiors, as has been their centuries-old patten.

    As for Takeshima, the fact that the Japanese have always called for neutral, third-party binding arbitration at the World Court or other similar body, and the Koreans have always rejected that very reasonable suggestion, tells me all I need to know about the Korean claims on the islets.

  17. steve said

    Ampontan, this post certainly does relate to Takeshima Dokdo it shows Professor Shimojo denies the link between Japanese colonialism and current modern territorial disputes. It’s about the integrity of a man who is desperately promoting his agenda by whitewashing the past.

    Professor Shimojo refuses to “objectively” analyse the historical data surrounding Japan’s military annexation of Dokdo. In addition, fails to accept the documents found on Japan’s own digital archives that proves Japan’s 1905 annexation of Dokdo was of military-expansionist nature. He claims Japan’s annexation was of “peaceful” nature.

    Because of his bias why should we trust anything this lobbyist says at all regarding other Japanese Korean disputes? By reading some of his other articles Professor Shimojo simply cannot be trusted and as I’ve said if you want examples just ask.

    Ampontan, whenever anyone posts “Koreans are like this”, “Chinese are like this” or for that matter “Japanese are like this” warning lights go off. It shows they are making dangerous generalizations about people and they do themselves a great disservice.

    Comfort women? Don’t know, don’t care. I’m not involved in other issues between Japan and Korea.

    Koreans have the right to refuse ICJ for the same reason China, Russia and Japan themselves do with their territorial issues. Korea has had her national limits defined by foreign parties already twice in the last century, she has the right to be involved in this process front row center.

    Seriously. look at the current modern boundary between Japan and Korea and tell me what the problem is.

    Trying to solve the Dokdo Takeshima problem by using the past historical relationship (colonizer~colony) between Japan and Korea, is a sure-fire recipe for disaster. You can tell that personally to Professor Shimojo for me.

  18. Bender said

    Yep, Japan is trying to re-colonize Korea. And so are space-aliens trying to take over the earth. Talk about delusional disorders.

  19. Mac said

    Been away for a while, no idea who this blog got back onto the Liancourt Islands. Is it just too much fun to bate the local retards?

    As with most politics, I always notice a tendency for human beings to herded into false dichotomies of a binary scale … let us suppose along the lines of Hegelian dialectics: a thesis … an antithesis … the tension between the two resolved by means of a synthesis which was often already sitting, waiting and prepared behind the curtains. You are missing the real action.

    So, ask the question … who is it stirring this particular pot and for what? Because I bet you it is not the obvious.

    OK, there is an issue. Let’s resolve. Let us recreate Takeshima Islands as “The International Islands of Love, Peace and Understanding” demanding that BOTH nations surrender their ambitions to own the rocks. Simple. We place them in the ownership of a trust or even bring about a new utopia resolve at the level of international law to make some kind of vehicle for all such dispute territories … no one owns them. They are returned back to nature.

    Would it work?

    Well, on the basis of all the evidence at hand, I reckon Japanese society would jump at the idea like a teenage girl on a boy band member … and Korean society would squeal like a skewered piglet about to be roasted. And there lies the difference between the two.

    You are right Steve, it is wrong to generalize any entire nation. So when I say “Korean” here I really mean the idiotically proud, historically corrupt and despotic, racist cabal that call itself government leaders that have pumped propaganda down its citizens throats from childhood onwards for the last x decades (including, of course, terrorizing and murdering its own native critics).

    But back to the original question … who is it stirring this particular pot for what?

    In whose interests would a conflict over nothing and the lack of unity between the people of the two nations be?

  20. Mac said

    Oops … sorry, that should be bait. I know too that it is wrong to tar an entire government with the same brush but I was thinking back to the period in which modern Korea was formed, and is still being formed, around the basis of terrorizing and exploiting its own citizens.

    How many generations does it take to work that out? My answer would be one IF that generation was allowed to grow up in reality rather than sponsored propaganda. The problem is that the sponsors of the divisive propaganda are not always the evident face of the nation but rather powerful interest parties behind the scenes.

    From a CIA report of the time …

    The Korean leadership is provided by a numerically small class which virtually monopolizes the native wealth and education of the country … essentially demagogues bent on autocratic rule. Rhee provided, in retun for their their contributions, protection for a class of people who might have been dispossessed by either a communistic or nationalist Korean regime.

    Needless to say, this class were historically both Japanese collaborators and, before that, Chinese collaborators. The same class that exploit their own female sex. It remains in their interest to focus the Korean people’s attention on an ‘enemy without’ rather than they, the parasitical ‘enemy within’ without any care to the real world ramifications of such a policy.

  21. steve said

    Oh I get it Mack, Koreans are like pigs and Japanese are like cute schoolgirls!

    To understand why the ROK gets pissed about Japan’s demand to return Dokdo Island, look at Japan’s history in the region.

    In the 1400s Tsushima requests permission to settle Ulleungdo (Dokdo’s neighbour island within visual proximity) The answer was a polite “No” What happened next?

    During the 15th Century Japanese pirates and thieves invaded the Dokdo region to the point Koreans on Ulleungdo had to be evacuated for their own safety. This left the Dokdo region unpopulated and defenseless. What happened next?

    In the 17th Century the Japanese Murakawa and Oyas were wrongfully given permission to voyage into the Dokdo region because of Korea’s vacant policy on Ulleungdo. This resulted in a clash between Koreans and Japanese fishermen. In 1696, Japan forbade passage to the Ulleungdo region. What happened next?

    Records show Japanese fishermen ignored the travel ban to Ulleungdo and clandestinely trespassed into this area almost immediately after the Shoganate told them no to. The related Japanese maps drawn by these poachers are the records Japan’s MOFA and the Honorable Professor Shimojo use as false evidence over Dokdo. Shockingly, these days Professor Shimojo also slyly uses these records to claim Ulleungdo was also considered to be Japanese territory.

    In 1837 a Japanese smuggling ring was uncovered in the Ulleungdo and Dokdo region and those responsible were punished and executed. The result was an outright ban on travel to Ulleungdo and Dokdo. What happened next?

    During the early Meiji Era Japanese loggers and poachers swarmed Ulleungdo prompting the Koreans to correspond numerous times. The result was in 1883 the illegal Japanese squatters had to be forcibly evacuated from Ulleungdo. What happened next?

    In 1899 the Korean government again sent correspondence to the Japanese government stating the Japanese nationals were illegally logging on Ulleungdo. Japan took no actions at all to stop this activity. What happened next?

    During the early 1900s the Korean government sent letters to Hayashi Gonsuke stating the situation on Ulleungdo was out of control and the Korean governor was afraid to administer over Ulleungdo. What happened next?

    In 1902 the Japanese installed their own police on Korea’s Ulleungdo in a desperate attempt to control the violent Japanese trespassers and squatters on the island. What happened next?

    In 1904 through the coerced Japan Korea Protocal Japan’s Imperial Navy installed watchtowers on Ulleungdo and all other areas deemed of strategic importance on the Korean peninsula. What happened next?

    Also the same year, during the height of the Japan Russo War, the Japanese government recognized the military strategic importance of Dokdo and forcibly annexed the islets.

    Japan’s whole history on Dokdo is either though the illegal trespassing of her nationals or her military expansionist agenda into her surrounding territory during the colonial era. As I’ve said, Japan’s past historical relationship with Ulleungdo and Dokdo are a false basis for drawing the modern boundary between Japan and Korea.

    That is why Koreans get pissed when Japan tries to seize Dokdo Takeshima Island.

    A better solution to the Dokdo problem is a boundary drawn between Japan and Korea based on the equitable division of territory and the current modern political relationship between the two nations. Professor Shimojo’s solution to the Dokdo problem will never work and continues to set back Japanese Korean relations to this day.

  22. ampontan said

    this post certainly does relate to Takeshima Dokdo…

    This is factually incorrect, but I understand that people consumed by a single issue would lack the perspective to see it.

    There is a post on the masthead that contains an article Prof. Shimojo wrote about Takeshima for the Mainichi Shimbun. Anyone who wants to criticize Prof. Shimojo and his views on Takeshima is free to do so by using the comment section for that post.

    I’m going to let your last post pass, but I will delete any further posts I see about Takeshima in this thread.

    Just so there is no misunderstanding, here it is one more time: comments about Prof. Shimojo’s views about Takeshima are to be made in the comment section for that article.

    In conclusion, I will add that Prof. Shimojo would probably be amused at the idea he has had such an impact on Japanese-Korean relations.

  23. Mac said

    I just love blog lane discipline … OK, I’ll take the bait, here:

  24. steve said

    Ampontan, what’s so “amusing” about one man’s lobby efforts put ahead of friendly relations between two entire nations?

    There’s no laughter about Japan Korean territorial disputes South of the 38th.

  25. Bender said

    Parthian shot.

  26. Ken said

    Wake up, Steve! wake up!
    You are deceived by brain-wash education.
    For example, there is only national history in school curriculum in Korea though there is world history too in other countries, isn’t there?
    It is because national history taught in Korea contradicts world history of standard in other countries.

    At first, you had better read a book which is written by a neutral American professor who lived in Korea as follows.
    하버드 대학의 교수가 생각한 한국 발전의 이유:Carter J Eckert “OFFSPRING OF EMPIRE”

    Otherwise, you get impossible to live along in the societies other than Korea relation.

  27. steve said

    Yeah right Ken, I’m a 44 year-old Canadian brainwashed by the Korean national education system.


    The research I’ve done on my website comes mostly from foreign sources not Korean.


    I always post original documents to prove my point.

    This post was edited to remove off-topic references in accordance with my previous policy statement. There’s a different, and acceptable, place for those references here.

    – A.

  28. Mac said

    Come on Steve … play the game … Ampontan asked for the discussion to go over here:

  29. Ken said

    I know, Steve. I know Korean immigrants are increasing in Canada since US began limiting.
    I always wonder why there is little non-Korean people to be seen in Korean town in foreign countries.
    Even to China town of similarly teaming-up-as-a-group race, some non-Chinese people come.
    Is it because Koreans are exclusive, or Koreans do not have so attractive culture?
    Btw, Steve, I understand you can read korean but can you read Chinese in which ancient documents are written?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: