September.24.2020 KIP Forum "Series ‘Onko-Chishin’ the first ‘studying the features and the history of Japanese politics to learn new things’"

The first session of “Onko-Chishin”, the new program of KIP has started. In this program, we try to rethink Japanese custom and find out its roots through discussion. Entitled "Learning from the World of Politics," the event began with a discussion by Mr. Osaki on Japan's press conferences with preestablished harmony, which was seen in the resignation press conference of Prime Minister Abe. Then we introduced each other to the typical practices in Japanese politics, examining their origins and intentions from various perspectives.

At the beginning, Mr. Takuma Osaki gave us presentation about some practices unique to Japan in politics. First of all, the word “Seiji”, which is translation of politics, originally means making things peaceful. He presented his opinion that the natural idea of “Seiji” built up principle of Japanese politics so that there are customs such as a prior consultation, cliques, and an all-things-scheduled press interview.

We discussed about the political habits such as prior consultation, cliques, and an all-things-scheduled press interview as a free discussion, and many of members said that one of the reasons for these customs could be related to the fact that the idea of politics or democracy was not achieved by Japanese people but rather imported from Europe. Taking it into account, it can be said that Japanese tend to be indifferent to politics. For instance, one of the member shared the story of a person who experienced the conflict over the Security Treaty saying that beginning of the campaign, they did not pose a problem to politics but to their individual problem of too expensive tuition fee. Also, some members pointed out that the Meiji Restoration was not a civil revolution because just some high-ranking people brought about it and monopolized all important role in new government. However, there were some opinions saying that we can take this government as a form of government unique to Japan, which attaches great importance to the harmony of a group, so that we need not to criticize all of today’s situation.

In the discussion, some tried to find religious roots of a Japanese form of government and democracy, only to realize that there are little things to say based on the religious difference between Europe and Japan. On the other hand, one member stated that religion is still used in order to lead authority to today’s politics and we will have to keep in mind the influence of them.

At the latter half of discussion, we focused on the relation between daily customs and politics. Here, we discussed topics such as “If Japan follow the principle of separation of church and state or not” or the convention of upper and lower seat in daily life. This Confucian culture respecting the superior remained in Korea. One member indicated that this was not just appearance of Confucianism, instead it might be a certain kind of initiation to integrate oneself into society.

Furthermore, we discussed about “Misogi”, a concept of Shinto, which means a purification ceremony. There is the idea in Japan that once the slate is wiped clean though this ceremony, they can comeback. It can be said that this concept has expanded the role of apology in Japan and makes politicians coming back easier.

Though this discussion, I realized again that it is important to continue to consider. I should not ignore questions found in daily life and should put forward a hypothesis and deduce the conclusion. Also, understanding Japan does not just mean getting knowledge about Japan but also raise a question about environment where I grow. In the upcoming sessions of “Onko-Chishin”, I will try to deepen my understanding to Japan and myself by discovering values and biases affected unconsciously.

(Chiori Shiba, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, international society, 2nd year)