By Christopher W. A. Szpilman
Pan-Asianism crops up in most unexpected places. Take the case of one Hiroshi Takashi. Hirose (b. 1943), a self-styled expert on nuclear energy, is a best-selling if controversial Japanese author. Since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, if not earlier, he has been crowing on about a looming nuclear catastrophe and, in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster, he has emerged as a leading critic of Japan’s nuclear energy program. Although I agree with Hirose that nuclear power is replete with danger, I must note that his premises are largely false and his reasoning fallacious. But my goal here is not to dwell on the content of the anti-Western and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories Hirose propounds. I merely want to note that he can be legitimately described as a pan-Asianist. I realized this after I read Hirose’s Japan’s Destiny, Asia’s Destiny, published in 2004.
In this book, echoing the views of Japan’s prewar pan-Asianists, Hirose bemoans the moral decay and vulgarity of the United States and deplores what he believes is the slavish dependence of the Japanese establishment on America. Noting that America has fallen into moral decrepitude, is “spiritually stagnant,” and weakened politically by its military overstretch throughout the world, Hirose argues that “at long last we, the Japanese, have now a chance to lead Asia independently. No better opportunity than this will ever come our way….We must view Asia as our new paradise” (p. 374).
As Hirose sees it, it is the pernicious American influence that prevented Japan from remaining a genuine Asian country in the first place, because it caused the Japanese to lose empathy with their fellow-Asians. “After the war in Japan,” he says, “the feeling of friendship and solidarity with Asians was largely lost” (p. 382), presumably on account of the shameless deal with the United States by Japan’s leaders who swapped their (and Japan’s) Asian soul in exchange for material prosperity.
The conclusion is obvious. The long-lost empathy with their fellow-Asians can be regained, says Hirose, only if Japan “renounces its alliance with the United States.” Only then, he insists, Japan will be able to become the leader of Asia.
Such expressions of solidarity with Asia may come as a surprise when voiced by an anti-nuclear campaigner (for surely the problem of nuclear energy is not only limited to Asia but is of concern to all mankind), but they have much in common both with the views of many idealistic Japanese volunteers working to help the needy in war-afflicted Asian countries and, on the opposite extreme of the political spectrum, with the views of Ishihara Shintarô, a populist politician whose Pan-Asianist views we document in our Pan-Asianism: a Documentary History. Hirose’s case provides further evidence for the great relevance of Pan-Asianism to understanding modern Japan and Asia.
Christopher W. A. Szpilman is professor of modern Japanese history and international relations at Kyushu Sangyo University, Fukuoka. He is the co-editor of Pan-Asianism: A Documentary History, Volumes 1 and 2.