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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Sven Saaler

Sven Saaler
Modern Japanese Political History, History of Foreign Relations
(Senior Research Fellows, November 1, 2000 - April 1, 2005)

 1. Military and Politics in Modern Japan


In view of recent developments in Japan’s politics and society, civil-military relations have been again receiving increasing attention. This research project aims to re-examine the historical backgrounds of the role of the Japanese military in pre-war politics.  The focus of the study is the role of the military during the Taishō era (1912-1926), an important turning point in Japan’s modern history, which so far has not yet received much attention in historical studies. Interpretations of the period usually focus on the currents of ‘Taishō-democracy’ (Taishō-demokurashii), overlooking fundamental changes that laid the groundwork for Japan’s development in the 1930s and 1940s. This is particularly true of the role of the Imperial Army in politics and society.
In spite of democratic tendencies during the Taishō era, the Imperial Army not only defended and secured the special political privileges that it had acquired during the Meiji era; but also, for the first time, made practical use of its privileged status to directly interfere in politics. By successfully defending its instruments for the exertion of political influence, demonstrating the will and the ability to use these instruments and expanding its own influence into new spheres like economy and education, the Army provided itself with a framework that allowed it to direct Japan’s political development after 1931 toward some kind of military “dictatorship”.
 


2. Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese history


Since the “opening” of Japan 1853/54, the question of whether Japan’s future should be Asian or Western, stood in the centre of political debates. How much “modernisation” along European lines was necessary to secure national independence; and how much Westernisation was possible without losing Japan’s identity? Fukuzawa Yukichi’s call to “Leave Asia, Enter Europe” (Datsu-A nyū-Ō), that argued for a complete Westernisation of Japan, was harshly criticised by some influential intellectuals, politicians and ideologues, who were already demanding a return to Asia (Ajia-kaiki) during the Meiji period.
In the course of events, intellectual discourse on national identity and political discussions on national security proved to be closely interconnected. The most obvious manifestation of this was the growth of the ideology and the political movement of Pan-Asianism. Asianism, as an ideology shaping in the last decades of the 19th century, is still an influential force, but has not received much attention in historical research. This project aims at exploring how Pan-Asianism was adopted into politics during the Meiji and Taishō periods, how it developed into a political movement and finally how it became Japan’s foreign policy. Central concern will be directed at early Pan-Asian ideologues like Sugita Tei’ichi and Tarui Tōkichi, and Pan-Asian societies such as the Tōa-Dōbunkai and the Kokuryūkai, with their respective leaders Konoe Atsumaro and Uchida Ryūhei.


3.  Japan 1867/68: Coup d’état, Restoration or Revolution?


The so-called ‘Meiji Restoration’ was one of the key-events in Japanese history. It ended the era of feudalism and was the starting point for Japan’s modern nation-state. But why was the change of government in 1867/68 called a ‘Restoration’ (ishin)? Was it necessary to recall pre-Tokugawa traditions to legitimise the ‘movement to overthrow the Bakufu’ (tōbaku undō)? If so, the movement, as well as the change of government in 1867/68, must undoubtedly be called revolutionary since an invocation of pre-revolutionary traditions has always been an important feature of revolutionary movements. Or were there really some restorative elements in the policies of the Meiji leaders that were based on pre-Tokugawa or even pre-Bakufu traditions; the ideals of 14th century Kemmu Restoration or even 7th century Taika reforms? By analysing the propaganda of the Meiji leaders before 1868 and comparing it with their politics after they grasped power, the project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the character of the events in 1867/68 in a Japanese and an Asian context. The project also will work toward a clearer definition of historical terms like restoration (ishin, isshin, chūkō), reform (kaikaku), revolution (kakumei) and coup d’état (kūdetaa).


4. The Recent Textbook Debate


In contrast to earlier chapters of the “History Textbook Debate” in Japan, the renewed discussions since early 2001 have developed into a fully-fledged debate about history writing, historical memory, state and society in Japan, Japan’s place in the world and Japanese identity as a whole.
This project aims to explore the role of the military in Japanese history, in present society and within the political system; a dimension of these discussions  that has probably not been given enough consideration in recent research. The project will not only analyse debates on the history of the Japanese military and Japanese military expansion in Asia, but also other aspects that are closely connected to this historical questions, such as the discussions on Japan’s foreign policy, the revision of the constitution, and the role of the individual and civil society in present-day Japan.

DIJ Projects

Assertions of Cultural Uniqueness in Asia

Japan in Asia

Publications

Editorship

2007
[With: Koschmann, J. Victor] Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History. DIJ Publications. London/New York: Routledge.
2003
[With: Ducke, Isa] Japan und Korea auf dem Weg in eine gemeinsame Zukunft - Aufgaben und Perspektiven (Japan and Korea on the Road to a Joint Future - Tasks and Perspectives). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien Vol. 36. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 232 pp.
2003
[With: Koch, Matthias; Amelung, Iwo; Kurtz, Joachim; Lee, Eun-Jeung] Selbstbehauptungsdiskurse in Asien: Japan - China - Korea (Assertions of Cultural Uniqueness in Asia: Japan - China - Korea). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien Vol. 34. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 438 pp.
2002
[With: Ducke, Isa] DIJ Newsletter . DIJ Newsletter 15, February 2002. Tokyo: iudicium Verlag.
2001
[With: Conrad, Harald] Japanstudien 13. Wohnen in Japan: Markt, Lebensformen, Nachbarschaft. Japanstudien 13. München: iudicium Verlag. 539 p., hardcover

Articles

2004
Historische Ansätze von Gruppendefinitionen im modernen Japan
In: Germer, Andrea; Moerke, Andreas (Ed.) Japanstudien 16. Grenzgänge – (De-)Konstruktion kollektiver Identitäten in Japan. Japanstudien 16.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 337 p., hardcover
2004
Ein Ersatz für den Yasukuni-Schrein? Die Diskussion um eine neue Gedenkstätte für Japans Kriegsopfer (A subsitute for the Yasukuni Shrine? The Discussion About a new Institution to Remember Japan’s War Dead)
In: Nachrichten der Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens (NOAG) 175-176 (2004).
2003
Neue Entwicklungen in der japanischen Schulbuchdebatte
In: Pohl, Manfred; Wieczorek, Iris (Ed.) Japan 2003 Politik und Wirtschaft. Hamburg: Institut für Asienkunde. s.259-287.
2003
Taishô shoki ni okeru Nihon no seigun kankei (Civil-Military Relations in Early Taishô Japan)
In: Jinmin no rekishigaku 158.
2003
[With: Ducke, Isa] Einleitung: Japan und Korea auf dem Weg in eine gemeinsame Zukunft
In: Saaler, Sven; Ducke, Isa (Ed.) Japan und Korea auf dem Weg in eine gemeinsame Zukunft - Aufgaben und Perspektiven (Japan and Korea on the Road to a Joint Future - Tasks and Perspectives). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien 36.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 232 pp.
2003
Implikationen der Debatte um japanische Geschichtslehrbücher für die japanisch-koreanischen Beziehungen
In: Saaler, Sven; Ducke, Isa (Ed.) Japan und Korea auf dem Weg in eine gemeinsame Zukunft - Aufgaben und Perspektiven (Japan and Korea on the Road to a Joint Future - Tasks and Perspectives). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien 36.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 232 pp.
2003
Pan-Asianismus im Japan der Meiji- und der Taishō-Zeit: Wurzeln, Entstehung und Anwendung einer Ideologie
In: Amelung, Iwo; Kurtz, Joachim; Lee, Eun-Jeung; Koch, Matthias; Saaler, Sven (Ed.) Selbstbehauptungsdiskurse in Asien: Japan - China - Korea (Assertions of Cultural Uniqueness in Asia: Japan - China - Korea). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien 34.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 438 pp.
2003
[With: Amelung, Iwo; Kurtz, Joachim; Lee, Eun-Jeung; Koch, Matthias] Einleitung: Selbstbehauptungskurse in China, Japan und Korea
In: Amelung, Iwo; Kurtz, Joachim; Lee, Eun-Jeung; Koch, Matthias; Saaler, Sven (Ed.) Selbstbehauptungsdiskurse in Asien: Japan - China - Korea (Assertions of Cultural Uniqueness in Asia: Japan - China - Korea). Monographien aus dem Deutschen Institut für Japanstudien 34.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 438 pp.
2002
Kiro ni tatsu Nihon gaikō. Dai-ichi-ji sekai taisen ni okeru ’jinshu-tōsō-ron’ to ’Doitsu-tōzen-ron’ (Japanese Foreign Policy at a Crossroads: Discourse on “Racial Conflict” and “The German Advance to the East”, 1917-1921)
In: Kan-Nihonkai Kenkyū 8. pp. 1-20.
2002
Zur Popularisierung und Visualisierung von Geschichte in Japan. Ein Beitrag zur aktuellen Diskussion um Erinnerungskultur (The popularization and visualization of history in present Japan: A contribution to the recent discussion on historical memory in Japan)
In: Herausgeberkollektiv (Ed.) Beiträge zur Japanforschung (Contributions to Research on Japan). Bonn: Bier'sche Verlagsanstalt. pp. 257-279.
2002
Japan in der internationalen Militarismusforschung (Japan in the international debate on militarism)
In: Günther, Ines; Koch, Matthias (Ed.) Japanstudien 14. Japan als Fallbeispiel in den Wissenschaften. Japanstudien 14.00. Munich: iudicium Verlag. 403 p.
2001
[With: Conrad, Harald] Wohnen in Japan: Markt, Lebensformen, Wohnverhältnisse [Living Conditions in Japan: Markets, Lifestyles, Forms of Dwelling]
In: Saaler, Sven; Conrad, Harald (Ed.) Japanstudien 13. Wohnen in Japan: Markt, Lebensformen, Nachbarschaft. Japanstudien 13.00. München: iudicium Verlag. 539 p., hardcover
1999
The Imperial Army in Japanese politics: colonial policy and colonial administration
In: Kanazawa Daigaku Keizaigakubu Ronshū vol. 19, no. 2. pp. 251-287.
1998
Nihon no Tairiku Shinshutsu to Shiberia Shuppei Teikoku‑shugi Kakuchō no ‘Kansetsu Shihai Kōsō’ o megutte (Japan’s expansion on the Asian continent and the Siberian Intervention: The idea of ‘informal empire’ in the Japanese Imperialism)
In: Kanazawa Daigaku Keizaigakubu Ronshū vol. 19, no. 1. pp. 259-285.
1998
Continuities and Discontinuities in modern German and Japanese History. Some preliminary Remarks
In: Kanazawa University Center for Urban and Regional Studies Newsletter. no. 47 (25. Mai 1998), S.3-7, no. 48 (31. August 1998), S.3-8.

Reviews

2007
Krämer, Hans Martin: Neubeginn unter US-amerikanischer Besatzung? Hochschulreform in Japan zwischen Kontinuität und Diskontinuität 1919–1952
In: Backhaus, Peter (Ed.) Japanstudien 19. Familienangelegenheiten (Family affairs). Japanstudien 19.00. München: iudicium Verlag. 284 p.
2006
Takeuchi, Yoshimi: Japan in Asien. Geschichtsdenken und Kulturkritik nach 1945. Aus dem Japanischen übersetzt, herausgegeben und mit einem Glossar versehen von Wolfgang Seifert und Christian Uhl. München: Iudicium, 2005.
In: Haak, René (Ed.) Japanstudien 18. Arbeitswelten in Japan (How Japan works). Japanstudien 18.00. München: iudicium Verlag. 335 p.
2002
Jinshu-shugi, haigai-shugi, sabetsu to kokumin kokka. Shohyō: Miyake Akimasa/Yamada Masaru, hen: Rekishi no naka no sabetsu. “Sangokujin" mondai to wa nani-ka (Racism, exclusion, discrimination and the national state. Review of Miyake Akimasa/Yamada Masaru (eds.): Discrimination in History. What is the "Sangokujin"-problem about?)
In: Jinmin no Rekishigaku 153. pp. 25-29, 32.
2001
Lone, Stewart: Army, Empire and Politics in Meiji Japan. The Three Careers of General Katsura Tarō. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000. vii+247 S., US$ 65,-
In: Saaler, Sven; Conrad, Harald (Ed.) Japanstudien 13. Wohnen in Japan: Markt, Lebensformen, Nachbarschaft. Japanstudien 13.00. München: iudicium Verlag. 539 p., hardcover
2001
Sebastian Conrad: Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Nation. Geschichtsschreibung in Westdeutschland und Japan, 1945-1960. Göttingen 1999
In: Nachrichten der Gesellschaft für Natur- und Völkerkunde Ostasiens e.V. (NOAG) 167-168 (2000-2001). pp. 413-417.

Other Reviews

2001
Frederick R. Dickinson: War and National Reinvention. Japan in the Great War, 1914-1919. Cambridge/Massachusetts, London 1999
In: Haak, Ulrike; Haak, René (Ed.) Newsletter. DIJ Newsletter 13.00. Tōkyō: iudicium Verlag.
1999
Pamela Rotner Sakamoto: Japanese Diplomats and Jewish Refugees. A World War II Dilemma. Westport/London 1998
In: OAG Notizen 10/1999. pp. 18-25.

Working Papers (Book)

2002
Pan-Asianism in Modern Japanese History: A Preliminary Framework . Working Papers 02/4. Tōkyō: Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien.

Other Articles

2003
Doitsu ni okeru Nihon kenkyû no jôkyô (The state of Japanese Studies in Germany)
In: Fukuoka Unesco Dai 39 go. pp. 49-54, 118-119.
2002
[With: Suzuki, Sadami; Conlan, Thomas D.; Inoki, Takenori] Nihon kenkyū no kako, genzai, mirai (Past, Present and Future of Japanese Studies)
In: Kokusai Kōryū. Tokyo: Japan Foundation. pp. 68-79.
2002
Dogs and Whales – Far Eastern Delicacies and the 2002 Soccer World Cup
In: OAG Notizen 06/02. pp. 8-17.
2002
[Dictionary entries] ‘Yamagata Aritomo’, ‘Tanaka Giichi’, ‘Hara Takashi’, ‘German-Japanese Relations’, ‘Choshu Expeditions 1864/1866’
In: Encyclopedia of Modern Asia. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons.
2002
Bürgerinitiativen gegen Geschichtsrevisionismus. Neue Entwicklungen im japanischen Schulbuchstreit (Grassroots Initiative against Historical Revisionism)
In: Saaler, Sven; Ducke, Isa (Ed.) DIJ Newsletter. DIJ Newsletter 15.00. Tokyo: iudicium Verlag.
1999
[Dictionary entries] ‘Takasugi Shinsaku’, ‘Enomoto Takeaki’, ‘Ōyama Iwao’, ‘Saigō Tsugumichi’, ‘Yamamoto Gonnohyōe’
In: World Military Leaders, ABC‑Clio Biographical Dictionary CD‑ROM. Santa Barbara: ABC-Clio.

Presentations

March 30, 2005
Men in Metal — A Topography of Japanese Public Statuary in Bronze. Men in Metal — A Topography of Japanese Public Statuary in Bronze.

September 7, 2004
Takeuchi Yoshimi, Asianism and International Relations – what can philosophers tell us about politics?. Takeuchi Yoshimi – Thinker of a Different Modernity in East Asia?.

December 13, 2003

March 27, 2004

September 25, 2002

September 25, 2002
Implikationen der Debatte um japanische Geschichtslehrbücher für die japanisch-koreanischen Beziehungen. Japan und Korea auf dem Weg in eine gemeinsame Zukunft - Aufgaben und Perspektiven (Japan and Korea on the Road to a Joint Future - Tasks and Perspectives).

November 29, 2002

November 29, 2002

November 29, 2002

March 14, 2001
Military and Politics in Modern Japan: The Imperial Army during the Meiji and Taisho Era. Military and Politics in Modern Japan: The Imperial Army during the Meiji and Taisho Era.

November 14, 2001
Pan-Asianismus im Japan der Meiji- und Taishō-Zeit: Wurzeln, Entstehung und Anwendung einer Ideologie. Discourses of Cultural and Political Self-Assertion in East Asia.

September 21, 2001
Introduction: Background and Results of the Textbook Selection Process. Making History: The Quest for National Identity through History Education.

CV


Since November 2000
Researcher at DIJ

1999 - 2000
Lecturer at the Center for Japanese Studies, Marburg University

1998 - 1999
Lecturer (kōshi) in Economic History at the Faculty of Economics, Kanazawa University

1999
Completed doctoral studies in Japanology, Modern History and Political Science at the University of Bonn with a doctoral dissertation on the role of the Imperial Army in Japanese politics during the Taishō era (1912-26)

1996 - 1998
Research student at the Faculty of Economics, Kanazawa University with a scholarship awarded by German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

1994
Awarded a Master’s degree from Bonn University, Faculty of Letters

1991 - 1992
Research student at the Faculty of Economics, Kanazawa University

1987 - 1994
Studied Japanology, modern history and political science at the Universities of Mainz, Cologne and Bonn

1968
Born in Mainz