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The Japanese National Character

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Chapter Summary

The 1930s marked a professional turning point for Hasegawa Nyozekan. When government repression curtailed free expression in the middle of the decade, Nyozekan turned his attention away from overt political and social criticism and focused on the study of the Japanese national character. The roots of Nyozekan's character studies lay in the atmosphere of change that surrounded him in his youth. Members of both the Seikyosha and the Minyusha felt compelled to define the national character, or kokusui, a phrase coined by Shiga Shigetaka of the Seikyosha, to mean national essence or nationality. The realism of the Japanese character influenced the people in a number of ways, Nyozekan believed, contributing to the Japanese tendency to reject extremes and embrace balance in all things. The ancient Japanese texts, the Kojiki and the Manyoshu, provided him with some of the intellectual ammunition he needed in his opposition to government propaganda.

Keywords: Hasegawa Nyozekan; Japanese national character; Kojiki; Manyoshu; Minyusha; Seikyosha; social criticism



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