“…in Susanoo-no-Mikoto…”

When we look at Japanese politics 1866-1945, it is so, so easy to simply pick out the adopted similarities to Western-style politics and ignore everything else that is so very different – and hard to understand. And it is so, so easy, too, for that matter, to make judgements in hind-sight: as if a politically active person in 1920 could know where a new Emperor and a politically resurgent army could take the nation, its institutions, and the adjacent areas of Eastern Asia.

But to the celebrated but hypothetical ‘cultural anthropologist from Mars’, it would be clear that in the late nineteenth century context of sudden top-down, forced ‘Westernisation’ – which included the religious and the spiritual – one of the deepest social contradictions would be that between the impulse to Westernise,  and nostalgia for the established affective life of the culture…

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