Nakae Chomin’s Discourse

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Nakae Chomin’s Discourse was published in 1887, a period that demarcated a crucial turning point in Japan’s politics and economy. The book itself suggested the great debate that the people of Japan were having in deciding the future of the nation, and draws on Chomin’s studies on Western politics in France and his journalistic and political involvements in Japan.

The Discourse acts as a forum for the exploration of the political pathways that Japan could follow following the Meiji Restoration in 1868. At a time when Japan had just begun to consolidate herself, Chomin’s Discourse was aimed at discussing Japan’s long-term trajectory through three imaginary mouthpieces, ‘The Gentleman of Western Learning’, his opposition ‘The Champion of the East’, whose debate is being observed and arbitrated by a ‘Master Nankai’.

The “Gentleman of Western Learning” presents arguments centered around the political ideology of pacifism and can be seen as the “idealist” of the book, advocating ideas out of his time, seemingly to be a man of vision in today’s context. He proposes the abolishment of the Japanese military and believes that a moral defense built through the virtues of liberty, freedom, equality and fraternity would be more than sufficient to safeguard the nation’s shores and interests (Pg. 51). His cause for unilateral disarmament is indeed noble, though sadly, a pipe dream in his era.

I found two other ideas, which the “Gentleman” propagated, interesting. Firstly, the idea of self-defense is evil that is based on the philosophical justification that life is most precious and that if one were to kill, it would be hypocrisy. The “Gentleman” essentially argues that any nation cannot defend itself without killing, and thus is unable to j...

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...feat of Japan in World War 2). With the changes of the nature of power, Japan by balancing out aggressive economic policies and a quiet military buildup, was able to build herself up to become a prominent player in the international sphere today. In closing, while Japan’s policies today in general have been skewered towards the arguments of the ‘Gentleman’, increasingly Japan has considered more realist concerns of security in the escalation of tensions of the East Asian geopolitical sphere. Chomin’s Discourse has nonetheless served as a prophetic blueprint for more than a century of Japan policy-making.

Works Cited

Chomin, N., & Tsukui, N. (1992). A Discourse By Three Drunkards On Government. -: Weatherhill
Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution. (n.d.). Global Article 9 Campaign. Retrieved February 10, 2014, from

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