By Watanabe Hiroshi (Professor, Hosei University)
Translated by David Noble
First English edition / 2012
560 pages / hardcover
Originally published in Japanese in 2010 by University of Tokyo Press, as Nihon seiji shisoshi: 17–19 seiki.
¥3,000 (¥2,858 + tax) / Discount rate* ¥2,100 (inclusive of tax)
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Watanabe Hiroshi traces the quiet changes in political thought that culminated in the dramatic events of the Meiji Revolution in 1868. Confucian ideals such as a universal Way and benevolent government under a virtuous ruler possessing the mandate of heaven were taught by successive Japanese Confucians and came to permeate the country, posing an implicit threat to military rule. Over time the development of a national consciousness, the rising prestige of the imperial court in Kyoto, and increased knowledge of the Western world created the conditions for a national debate over opening up to the West—and for radical political change.
Quoting extensively from contemporary sources, Watanabe provides a concise but wide-ranging introduction to three centuries of political thought in Japan. In examining the implications of applying Chinese political philosophy to a very different Japanese culture, he offers a fascinating look at early modern Japan, touching upon, for example, the sorrows of the samurai, avenues of protest for the peasantry, sexuality and the social order, and the excitement of new ideas and freedoms in the early Meiji period.