Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 4 No. 1, May 2004

Document Type

Full Issue



The Future of U.S. Relations with Japan and China: Will Bilateral Relations Survive the New American Unilateralism? by Rita Kernacs

The following paper examines how America's bilateral relations with Japan and China may be affected by Washington's recent move towards an increasingly unilateral foreign policy. Immediately after the tragic attack on the United States on September 11th, it appeared that relations with Japan and China, as with many countries around the world, would grow stronger. Finding a common enemy in "militant Islam" did much to improve U.S.-China relations. But, despite the temporary warmth, issues related to Taiwan, a lack of trust regarding each nation's intentions for dominance of the region, the quest for oil, the increased likelihood of a regional arms race, and differences over how to guarantee human rights still served to cool the relationship.

In the case of Japan, relations between President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi have been very strong. But with public opinion in Japan becoming increasingly anti-American, a situation exacerbated by the Iraq war, there are increased calls from the left and the right for Japan to distance itself from the U.S. Japan's growing right wing has advocated that Japan should re-militarize and become a “normal nation,” play a more independent role in international affairs, and strengthen its multilateral relations in the region. With increasing trade and investment between Japan and China, some strategists have anticipated a new regionalism that would interlock the two nations economically and serve as a balancing force in the world.

The Maintenance of Imperial Shintô in Postwar Japan as Seen at Yasukuni Shrine and its Yûshûkan Museum by Richard Lambert

What is commonly known as "State Shintô" was put into place in the late 1860’s by Japan's elites. The invention of a "modern" Imperial Shintô tradition resulted through a series of conscious political acts in the name of the Emperor. Hoping to unite the people to handle the challenges of modernization, Shintô was used as a political tool, drawing upon the old legends of Japan’s origin together with a tradition predating the Meiji era (1868-1910) that I will call “Folk Shintô.” The local power represented by thousands of small independent shrines throughout Japan carrying the authority of numerous divinities (kami), was cohered into national unity under State Shintô, with the Emperor proclaimed as religious and political head, resulting in what I call “Imperial Shintô.” By examining the conditions that allowed a highly politicized Shintô to develop, we can more easily see how ingrained it had become by the time of Japan's defeat in 1945, and how difficult it was for the Occupation to extinguish. We can also see how some of these conditions continued into the current day thanks to institutions like Yasukuni Shrine and its attached Yûshûkan Museum. Both continue to exert undue political influence in a secular democratic society.

The Sôka Gakkai in Australia and Quebec: An Example of the Globalization of a New Japanese Religion by Daniel A. Metraux

A key characteristic of new Japanese religions, one that distinguishes them from more traditional religions in Japan, is their universalistic orientation and international missionary zeal. The goal of this paper is to portray the globalization of one new religion through an analysis of the growth of the Sôka Gakkai International (SGIA) in Australia. SGIA's appeal is both social and religious. The fast pace of life, constant movement of people, and a sizeable growth of immigrants have created a sense of rootlessness among many Australians. Thus, a primary factor for SGIA's growth in Australia has been its emphasis on the concept of community. SGIA's tradition of forming small chapters whose members often meet in each other's homes or in local community centers creates a tightly bonded group. SGIA members find their movement's style of Buddhism appealing because they say it gives them a greater sense of confidence and self-empowerment to manage their own lives in a more creative manner.

Memory and the Vietnam War: A Daughter's Choice in Yung Krall's A Thousand Tears Falling by Nathalie Huynh Chau Nguyen

This article examines the representation of memory and loss in Yung Krall's A Thousand Tears Falling: The True Story of a Vietnamese Family Torn Apart by War, Communism, and the CIA (1995). The Vietnam War split this particular family along geographical and political lines. Krall's account narrates her observations, as a female child, of the hardships suffered by her mother and siblings in South Vietnam after the departure of her father and older brother for North Vietnam in 1954. Her story articulates and reconstructs a past framed by the war and the trauma and family division it engendered. Although she never stopped loving her father, Krall gave her allegiance to South Vietnam, working for the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), marrying a US Navy pilot and eventually becoming a spy for the CIA. Her narrative is an extraordinary account of the opposing choices that she and her father (a highly-placed official in the North Vietnamese hierarchy) made with regard to the war and to Vietnam.