On November 13th, a Japanese scholar Jun’ichi Isomae gave a talk titled “Visions of Post-secular Society after Fukushima: Plurality and Exclusion.” In his speech he lamented the Japanese people’s hesitance to recognize the pain of others, a phenomenon which, in his opinion, resulted from the exclusion of the minority in the public sphere.
What mildly surprised me was that the speaker actually took a critical stance toward his country’s tradition and the government. He implicitly noted that this “immature” aspect of Japanese interiority and subjectivity was partly attributable to the traditional Japanese “public religion,” the emperor system through which “the interiority of the nation was absorbed within the state authority.” He also expressed concern over the Japanese government’s concealment of information to the general public, saying that numerous Japanese do not have a full knowledge about what happened after the Fukushima nuclear accident. I felt that his attitude was strikingly different from the situation in Japan before the World War II, during which the public would follow the government’s ideas without question.While Isomae urged for the need to discipline the Japanese people’s minds to be more sensitive to others’ suffering, I thought this change in mentality should be directed not merely toward the neglected ones among their own nationals, but also toward those in other countries, especially the ones Japan colonized in the past in an attempt to create their own Japanese world order in East Asia. The Japanese government and the public should understand the importance of acknowledging the mental and physical agony the subjects experienced under their ironfisted rule, the most famous examples including the enforcement of Korean worship at Japanese Shinto shrines, comfort women, and ban on the use of Korean language. Only when the “communicative action” is extended beyond the excluded Japanese minorities to reach the populaces of these foreign nations can the darkness and immaturity of Japanese people’s private spheres be rectified.
Minh Joo Yi, SAS'13