chapter  1
21 Pages

Nihonjinron: The ideology of Japaneseness

All countries lay claim to uniqueness. As some of the scholars such as Stuart

Hall and Homi Bhaba suggest, countries identify themselves in relation to

their others.

Or, put differently, nations assert their difference through a

contrast with other countries. However, there is one country which believes

that its culture is ‘uniquely’ unique. This is ‘Japan’. Since its emergence as a

modern nation-state, Japan has been obsessed with its alleged uniqueness,

and its uniqueness has continuously been narrated in a set of discourses called

‘nihonjinron’ (discourses of Japaneseness). The types of nihonjinron are varied,

and sometimes they are not coherent. Some of them are even conflicting or

contradictory to each other. Yet, strangely, they all advocate the uniqueness

of Japan. In this respect, although the two quotations indicated above may

appear to contradict each other, they may also be seen, in fact, as two sides of

the same coin. While the second quotation is originally from Luchiano Vis-

conti’s film Il Gattopardo [The Leopard] (1963), it is used by Kang Sang-Jung

to describe post-war Japan. More than anything else, it perfectly explains how

nihonjinron function. In order to legitimise its uniqueness, nihonjinron have

kept changing their content.