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Japan’s Exclusionary Nationalism: A Striking Essay
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There is a striking long essay on Japan in the current (Fall 2017) issue of American Affairs by Asia scholar Michael Auslin.

It opens with some lines from an eighth-century Japanese poem:

Eight clouds arise. The eightfold fence of Idzumo makes an eightfold fence for the spouses to retire [within]. Oh! that eightfold fence.

Auslin then proceeds via a historical account of Japan’s sense of nationhood to some remarks comparing present-day Japan’s “exclusionary nationalism” with the rising ethnic chaos of the West.

Unlike in modern Europe—where ethnic groups compete not only for geographic, but also for political space—in Japan, a powerful sense of group identity serves to unify politics and society, particularly after World War II. Resistance against the state has come largely from workers’ unions and leftist parties during the first half of the twentieth century, along with a brief spasm of student-led rebellion in the 1960s, but there has been little after that. Instead, most Japanese appear to welcome both a stable political system and the physical security brought about by Japan’s exclusionary nationalism, even as they choose how and when to integrate with the surrounding world.

. . . . .

It is an almost heretical thought, but maybe Japan has made better national choices since the 1990s than we have given it credit for. It has succeeded in providing a stable and secure life for its people, despite significant economic challenges and statistical stagnation. It has done so in part by maintaining cohesion at home and certain barriers against the world. By comparison, America and Europe appear increasingly confounded by their failures to ensure sociocultural integration, keep their economies growing equally for all, and provide security in the heart of their great cities. When historians look back on global history from the 1990s into the first decades of the twenty-first century, how will they judge which nations were successful, and which failed to provide a good life for their people?

Some negatives are duly noted:

Socially, Japanese youth are widely reported to be dissatisfied with their future prospects, and the scope for individualism in the workplace remains tightly constricted. Foreigners are tolerated but not particularly welcomed, and Japanese of Korean descent still face discrimination. Immigration is all but absent. Moreover, Japan has faced its own homegrown terrorists, like the millennial Aum Shinrikyo cult back in the 1990s. Above all, the country faces a debilitating demographic collapse, one that no modern democracy has ever encountered and that poses the single greatest threat to Japan’s future.


Compared with the problems that both the West and many of its neighbors face, Japan’s relative strength and stability should at least cause us to rethink our assumptions about social and economic policy.

And reports of Japan’s economic demise have been greatly exaggerated:

Japan remains a high-income country by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standards. Its GDP per capita at purchasing power parity rates increased from \$35,779 in 2011 to \$40,763 in 2015, while the cost of living in Tokyo and other major cities declined, due in part to moderate deflationary trends. Japan’s Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, stood at 0.32 in 2008 (the latest year available), according to the World Bank. Though higher than many European nations, it likely remains lower than America’s 2013 measure of 0.41.

Whether Japan might have done better for itself economically by embracing globalism, there can’t be much doubt that “exclusionary nationalism” has proved a winner socially.

Economic data tell only part of the national story. Other measures show a picture of social strength. To give just a few examples, Americans are five times as likely to be murdered as their Japanese counterparts, according to the United Nations. Japan, with approximately 40 percent of the population of the United States, recorded just 442 cases of intentional homicide in 2011, a rate of 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, in America, 14,661 persons were murdered intentionally, a rate of 4.7 per 100,000. While gun control advocates point out that Japan has far more stringent gun laws than the United States, crimes of all kinds, especially violent crimes, occur far less frequently in Japan than in America. Japan is a more peaceful society because of factors other than regulation of guns. There are few debates over what it means to be “Japanese,” and different segments of society rarely seem to be at one another’s throats.

Not much worry about Islamist terrorism, either.

Unlike the West, consumed by the threat of terrorism for half a generation, Japan is a modernized and liberal society not directly at risk from the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and homegrown Islamist radicals. Like any nation, it offers a plethora of soft targets, but the reality is that Japan is in comparatively little danger. Its people live in a reality entirely different from that of the West, spared from a seemingly endless fight against an implacable enemy who now lives among them.


A still-strong sense of being a country apart, a desire to maintain domestic social and political stability, and a wariness of draining national wealth on overseas interventions will continue to demarcate the limits of Japan’s engagement with the world. As it has from time immemorial, the eightfold fence continues to ring, and to protect, the islands of Japan.

Long may it continue to do so, to preserve at least one of the world’s nations (“the wealth of mankind; its collective personalities”—Solzhenitsyn) from the evils of totalitarian globalism.

Footnote: Concerning that “debilitating demographic collapse” that “poses the single greatest threat to Japan’s future,” I said the following thing in Chapter 11 of We Are Doomed:

It is a plausible general principle that, when the human race in its overall development comes to some kind of bridge, the first nation to cross the bridge successfully has a great advantage over other nations. Britain was the first nation to industrialize, and dominated world affairs for a century afterwards. If demographic decline is inevitable—which of course it is: the Earth must have some maximum carrying capacity—the first nation to get through the transition intact, and conquer the associated problems, will be at a huge advantage. On current showing, that will be Japan.

(Republished from VDare by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Japan 
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  1. RodW says:

    There are unfortunately growing calls here in Japan to ‘solve’ the demographic problem through immigration, and recently I’m starting to see a lot of women from Indonesia around wearing their hideous Islamic head tents. Already the Muslims have begun their insidious calls to provide them with halal this and that so that the whole of society is inconvenienced for their comfort.

  2. Yan Shen says:

    Honestly, I’ve long been saying that Confucian East Asia and by extension East Asian Americans remain the last bastion of sanity in a world otherwise consumed by left-wing post-modern PC lunacy. And really one need not look to a Japan to see clear evidence of this fact. I mean just uh look at the video of the now infamous Asian guy in the library.

    I contend that by and large East Asians are the only ethnic group that eschews the many delightful memes of PC insanity such as safety spaces, trigger warnings, check your privilege, and whatever else that the left-wing nutjobs have been coming up with in recent years. Instead they mostly keep their heads down and skew towards quantitative fields in STEM that many would argue embody the essence of value creation.

    On the other hand I see too many people in other ethnic groups in this country engaged in not particularly productive behavior, Charlottesville being one sad example. I mean as the impending great war approaches in this song of ice and fire, where ice, i.e. whites, presumably faces off against fire, i.e. blacks and possibly Hispanics as well, I see East Asians as the primary ethnic group sitting out this utterly pointless racial war that the various extremists for whatever reason see themselves as being part of.

    Didn’t someone once refer to the illustrious author of this blog post as being essentially the white Ta-Nehisi Coates? I know Mr. Derbyshire disagreed on the basis that 1) he was smarter than Mr. Coates, especially quantitatively, and 2) he had only written one article about being self consciously white. On the other hand, both Mr. Coates and Mr. Derbyshire seem to view these sorts of issues primarily through the prism of race and clearly see themselves on the opposite side of some impending race war, a real song of ice and fire if you will. Alas. Identity politics, especially in a multiracial society, seems to me to never be a particularly productive frame of mind.

    I won’t get sidetracked by some of the arguments I’ve made before, but suffice to say, my position has always been that while it’s easy to argue for ethnic nationalism for the countries of Europe, Africa, or Asia, America has a unique history that implies that a certain amount of multiculturalism will always be the case.

    Even if you recognize that fact and aren’t pushing for something so extreme as deportation and a white ethno-state, but perhaps merely think that immigration has gotten out of hand in recent decades and pine for the good ole days when America was still 90% white, I think any reasonable person needs to come to grips with the fact that what’s done is done. No one who’s here legally is going to be deported.

    So change the message. Don’t make it about white identity politics. Instead, make it about true nationalism. Reasonable people can agree that all Americans stand to benefit if we reduce immigration and curtail some of the other excesses that seem to have gotten out of hand. Convince the country that what you’re pushing for isn’t just for your own tribe, but in fact stands to benefit all of us as Americans. Otherwise by pushing identity politics, you’re just going down a path that as far as I can tell doesn’t seem to be all that productive.

    I think white nationalists draw the wrong lessons from countries like Japan or South Korea. For sure Japan illustrates the numerous benefits of ethnic homogeneity and sanity as opposed to PC lunacy. But more importantly it illustrates the importance of just plain old Confucian common sense. Look at how Lee Kuan Yew made multiculturalism work in Singapore. He was at heart a race realist, but at the same time adopted a highly pragmatic mindset that united rather than divided. He said in order to make this shit work, we need to agree as citizens of one nation to a common set of principles. For sure what won’t work, in my opinion, is the kind of identity politics of a Ta-Nehisi Coates or his white counterpart The Derb. All that will get us is a song of ice and fire and the few sane people remaining will just have to pray that what’s left from the ensuing fracas is still salvageable.

    By the way Mr. Derbyshire, as a fellow member of the ice people in this saga of ice and fire, along with your fellow white walkers and army of the dead, seeking no doubt in the minds of your critics to perpetuate wight supremacy across Westeros, I have to commend you on your impeccable throw last weekend. Truly Olympian form!

  3. @Yan Shen

    Socially, Japanese youth are widely reported to be dissatisfied with their future prospects…

    This is pretty huge, though and is being understated here. Japanese youth often do feel that their country isn’t providing them with enough opportunities and this motivates both efforts to “liberalize” at home as well as to seek greener fields elsewhere. Whether Japan can maintain whatever culture they have is under challenge due to that.

    At the end of the day, people follow their pocketbooks and sense of prospects. The idea that anywhere is exactly immune from the madness is questionable, because a lot of it is a function of modern society rather than merely attitudes.

    Of course, its possible that they leave Japan and return a few years wiser and less eager to import Western ideas after seeing it in practice. We’ll see.

    • Replies: @Sunbeam
  4. Sunbeam says:
    @Daniel Chieh

    “Japanese youth often do feel that their country isn’t providing them with enough opportunities ”

    That seems like it is a valid issue that would affect any young person, ambitious or not really.

    But that particular issue is worldwide now. Technology has changed things such that this is an issue everywhere, regardless of social or economic system.

    China seems not to be affected by this for now. Not sure how many more decades the “Boom” will last there, but one day it will end, and they will decline to a growth rate more akin to the rest of the world. Then this rears its head there as well.

  5. ‘… from the evils of totalitarian globalism…’

    Steve Sailer drives a Japanese car. Do you?

    You might also want to ask your Chinese wife about how hostile Japan has been to ‘totalitarian globalism’.

    • Replies: @Daniel Chieh
  6. @anony-mouse

    In their defense, they didn’t particularly want to lose themselves as part of the East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere. They were planning to vastly increasingly their population of native Japanese, and if necessary, cleansing non-Japanese people from their lands except for those who seemed like they could be integrated as second-class citizens.

  7. Diversity+Proximity=War
    This is old news Derb. Time for the conversation to move forward. What should we on the dissident right do now?

  8. Smiddy says:

    The fact that Japan hasn’t created a fertility program yet is practically proof that they’re globalist controlled (like China or SK).

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  9. Bliss says:
    @Yan Shen

    I’ve long been saying that Confucian East Asia and by extension East Asian Americans remain the last bastion of sanity in a world otherwise consumed by left-wing post-modern PC lunacy. And really one need not look to a Japan to see clear evidence of this fact. I mean just uh look at the video of the now infamous Asian guy in the library.

    The video cracked me up. Thanks for the laugh.

    However I am not buying your claim that East Asia is the last bastion of sanity in the world. Does North Korea really look like a sane nation to you?

    • Replies: @Jason Liu
  10. @Smiddy

    They pay parents more money to have children than (say) the British state does. I can’t remember the exact amount, but it’s non-negligible. Here we are, it’s about \$90 per month per child

    • Replies: @üeljang
  11. üeljang says:

    The plural of anecdote is not data, but based on comments I have heard from Japanese friends and acquaintances, I would say that there is an impression among people here that a disproportionately large percentage of the individuals who take advantage of the government-provided stipend for support of children are “dumb chicks from the boondocks” (田舎のバカ女) .

    I have also heard opinions from some that there are a lot of “shotgun weddings” (デキ婚 dekikon, from できちゃった結婚 dekichatta kekkon) these days. The Japanese expression does not imply any of the violence of the English one (dekichatta is simply the past tense of a verb that means “to be made, to be done; to be completed; to be able, to be capable” plus a suffix that indicates that the event is regrettable or unintentional, i.e. it denotes “(a child) has been conceived (accidentally),” “I’m pregnant”). Many Japanese men appear to be of the opinion that some cunning and unscrupulous women are using the fact that they have gotten pregnant to force reluctant men into marriage and fatherhood for which they do not feel themselves to be ready or qualified. There isn’t really any religious proscription against sex before marriage or anything like that in Japan; the men just feel that women are trying to trap or “gyp” them. I wonder what this might portend for future divorce rates.

    • Replies: @Che Guava
  12. üeljang says:

    By the way, I just noticed that there is an article on the English version of Wikipedia about “Oops! I’m pregnant” marriages in Japan: . It seems like you can find almost anything on Wikipedia these days.

    • Replies: @YetAnotherAnon
  13. @üeljang

    “pregnancy is one of the most common motivations for marriage”

    And a very good one it is too, assuming that

    a) the male can support from his wages a wife and child

    b) that she won’t then divorce him “for cash and prizes”, as is common in the West.

    A lot of marriages in England were of this sort, including some marriages in my own family which went on to be long-lived with many children.

  14. Jason Liu says:

    Right, ethnic homogeneity always takes precedence over economic concerns. Anyone who brings up labor shortage before racial composition is disingenuous, or just stupid, and can be dismissed on those grounds.

  15. Jason Liu says:
    @Yan Shen

    Civic nationalism has a poor record.

    Ideally, Americans would be happier if they stopped being Americans, and split into several smaller, more homogeneous countries in the way Europe did after the Roman empire’s collapse. There can even be one multicultural state among several ethnostates, for the people who like that kind of thing.

  16. Jason Liu says:

    North Korea isn’t replacing its own people and has a good chance for recovery in the future. Keep in mind that South Korea was also very authoritarian just a few decades ago.

    • Agree: Che Guava
  17. Thirdeye says:
    @Yan Shen

    It’s important to not conflate the US being a mulitiethnic nation with being a multicultural nation, The challenge with each successive wave of immigration has been to integrate each new ethnic group into American civic culture, which is what the citizenship process is supposed to foster. It of course worked most smoothly with northern European immigrants. Immigrants were generally quite motivated to adopt American ways, since they were moving away from environments where they saw themselves as being held back and had no desire to bring such baggage with them. They often became superpatriots.

    The east Asians tended to remain insular – partly as a matter of self-protection in the face of open racial hostility and, in the case of the Japanese, the idea that their move was a temporary sojourn that would end once economic conditions improved in the motherland. The civic integration of east Asians was relatively slow. They were by cultural inclination apolitical.

    The rise of identity politics towards the end of the 1960s changed the meaning of immigration and ethnicity. Ethnicity is seen as a path to power. Immigrants are encouraged to identify with their ethnicity over their country. Compliance with American laws and social norms is seen as something oppressive. That is the essence of multiculturalism and it has undermined the social contract with immigrants that worked so well for nearly 200 years. It is time to end the failed multicultural experiment and work on restoring the consensus on American civic culture.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  18. Anonymous [AKA "SNP"] says:

    Won’t work. Brazil and Central America have a unified culture and high religiosity yet remain poorly developed with low social cohesion, high corruption scores, high violent crime etc.

    In reality it’s genetics that count. Likely allelic richness or heterozygosity, genetic distance between random individuals or even within families, plays the deciding role. Ethnography coorelates with allelic richness.

    We can see the effect of genetic distance in what sociologists call the Cinderella effect. This well studied phenomena regards the fact stepfathers are much more likely to act violently and commit lower parental investment with stepchildren then with their genetic children. Many excuses are made by sociologists over this effect but what is left unsaid is that there is a strong coorelation between genetic distance and violence or trust even within families. Extrapolate the Cinderella effect outwards across entire societies and we can easily see certain societies are more violent or feature less social cohesion.

    It’s just what Rushton used to infer with kin selection and altruism. Everyone knows it. Everyone does it. I bet you don’t think twice about eating a cow or chicken. Every day of your life is a veritable farm animal genocide. But don’t think of yourself as a meat eater or carnivore. Think of yourself as utilizing greater degrees of violence and lesser degrees of altruism given the greater the genetic distance from you and another organism.

  19. BozoB says:

    Can someone (Mr. Derbyshire, I know you’re a whiz at this sort of thing) explain to me the math behind the quoted material that says that Americans are “five times as likely to be murdered as their Japanese counterparts, according to the United Nations. Japan, with approximately 40 percent of the population of the United States, recorded just 442 cases of intentional homicide in 2011, a rate of 0.3 per 100,000 inhabitants. Meanwhile, in America, 14,661 persons were murdered intentionally, a rate of 4.7 per 100,000.” Isn’t it closer to 16 times, (4.7 divided by 0.3)?

    • Agree: Che Guava
  20. Che Guava says:

    I don’t think you have the diagnosis right.

    Also, I think what you are being told has an element of dissembling, since there are logical problems in it.

    Another factor seems key to me: a culture of extreme vanity among many in the midle classes and up, so the only real love (or lust perhaps) object is seen in the mirror. Nobody can be good enough for the image in the mirror. This trend has been gaining since the run-up to the bubble ecomomy in the mid-eighties.

    Nobody is good enough for the surface-image narcissist.

    Women are more prone to it, but men, too.

    The above comments apply mainly to the conurbations around Tokyo and Osaka, and to most (not all) provincial cities in their orbits, not so much elsewhere.

    You are not quite correct about 出来ちゃった, dekichatta. It is just a non-polite contraction of 出来てしまいました。

    In many other parts of society, bar operators, workers, some other parts of working classes, men and women frequently have lasting and often life-long marriages without ever having a formal ceremony (as I would guess you know, what most middle-class women are expecting in that way is costing a small fortune).

    Over ten years ago, the govt decided that married women have the right to half of their husband’s pensions, even after separation or divorce. This led to a big spike in divorces by wives, particularly for those in their sixties at the time. Met several sad victims of it at the time.

    Still, there are nothing like the punitive arrangements for men in the case of divorce that seem to exist in most western countries.

    Also, last time I checked, baby bonuses are at the prefectural level, so not ‘the government’.


    • Replies: @üeljang
  21. üeljang says:
    @Che Guava

    “You are not quite correct about 出来ちゃった, dekichatta. It is just a non-polite contraction of 出来てしまいました。”

    Where in Hell are you from? 出来てしまいました dekite shimaimashita is the intransitive verb deki- (“to be made, to be done; to be completed; to be able, to be capable”) followed by the auxiliary verb shimaw-, which indicates regrettableness, unintentionality, etc. in this context as I have explained in my previous comment. (Shimaw- in some cases may indicate completion, but that is not what is implied here.) -te shimaw- is usually contracted to -chaw- in colloquial Standard Japanese; this is the source of the suffix -cha(w)- appended to the verb stem deki- in dekichau (past tense dekichatta).

    In other words, you have repeated my explanation in an incomprehensibly abbreviated form while claiming that you are saying something to the contrary. You are either an imbecilic foreigner pretending to be Japanese, or you are an impudent liar.


  22. Che Guava says:

    I will be repiyng to ueljiang in english, because his japanese is full of holes, and his logic very stupid. I was wanting to reply in my best yakuza style, but not being one, can writing and interprbting it, but cannot speaking it well.

    Am also thinking, this good site is in English, so long passages in a language almost nobndy here reads is stupid.

    The part in Japanese:

    BTW, regarding if [I, Che] am said to have wanted to say that our women don’t want to marry because they are obsessed with their own figures in a mirror, [the next part is incomprehisably poor, so a paraphrase, not that the former wasn’t to having remedial surgery by me] the majority judgement of those women said, beyond my thinking, that the head wanted laughing at. Hey, it does not make me laugh, the [very impolite word, written incorrectly.]

    What does the jerk with yellow fever expect them to saying? At least I was extending the vanity problem to men, too. One has to have no perception to not be spotting it.

    • Replies: @üeljang
  23. üeljang says:
    @Che Guava

    Jesus Christ! Your Japanese comprehension ability is atrocious. A schoolchild could produce a better translation than that using Google.

    Thanks for clarifying for me beyond a doubt that you are not a Japanese, but some sort of foreigner posing as one.

    For the edification of anyone else who might happen to read this, what I wrote in Japanese actually means the following:

    “By the way, if we assume that the reason why most Japanese women do not want to get married is because they are ‘in love with their image in the mirror’ [as you have claimed], then they must be even more insane than I thought they were. Don’t make me laugh, you idiot.”

  24. Che Guava says:

    I just did a literal translation. Quite accurate. Yours is not at all accurate, which is why the false repJy from you was taking so much time to be composed, many days.

    From your u-name, you are clearly what many sites term a weeaboo, spelling varies.

  25. I arrived at this via a link to one of your later pieces and I haven’t done the homework of reading Chapter 11 of We Are Doomed but want to suggest to you that Japan’s advance on the rest of us in handling old age and declining population is not comparable to the advantage England got from leadimg the world into the Industrial Revolution. Part of the analogy which is correct is that others will learn from the first mover and maybe the greatest long term beneficiaries. (One might argue that the Germans – and maybe the Japanese – almost made it. All plus and going well while the first welfare state was showing the way to one necessary adaptation to industrial society, but without any slowdown in fertility or getting rid of the Kaiser and Prussian militarists they were doomed). My prediction is that Japan won’t have to worry about invasion so that is going to allow smooth passage into the demographically different future but the great beneficiaries will be countries which are a generation and more behind in their demographics who can learn from Japan’s experience at a rate compatible with the feckless, cowardly vote buying of countries like Australia who are lucky now in the unironic sense of Donald Horne’s book title “The Lucky Country”.

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