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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Kanakogi Kazunobu and the Natur of Japanese Radicalism

March 1, 2000 / 6.30 P.M.

Christopher W. A. Szpilman, Takushoku University

This presentation focuses on Dr. Kanokogi Kazunobu (1884-1949), a prominent philosopher and one of the earliest proponents of totalitarianism in Japan. Though Germany and Italy in the 1930s considered Kanokogi important enough to decorate him with medals and though after Japan’s defeat the Occupation authorities recognized his importance by arresting him as a class A war criminal, historians have subsequently consigned him to oblivion. There is, to my knowledge, no work in English that deals with Kanokogi.

This academic neglect, I will argue, is unjustified for at least two reasons. First, because in interwar Japan Kanokogi was a highly influential thinker and political activist, and, secondly, because his thought, to some extent at least, lives on in contemporary Japan, where his disciples and admirers are still prominent within the right wing movement. I believe that examination of Kanokogi’s thought is necessary to obtain a better understanding of both what Japan’s right wing stood for before the war and what it represents now. After outlining Kanokogi’s life and career and his extensive personal connections, I will discuss his views on the Japanese national polity, Asia, pan-Asianism and Japan’s mission in Asia, totalitarianism, and liberalism, and examine how his intellectual position evolved over time. I will also attempt to assess Kanokogi’s influence on his contemporaries as well as on the right wing movement today, and make comparisons with the ideas of some of his friends and associates (Tokutomi Sohō, Kita >Ikki, Ōkawa Shūmei, etc.). In addition, I will consider the extent (and limitations) of Kanokogi’s radicalism and look into the causes of the postwar academic neglect of this important figure.