The Case of Taiwa Shinron

In addition to preparing for my oral exams, the most significant project I have been working on recently involves research on the early US occupation period in Japan and especially the postwar fate of Japan’s pan-Asianism. The sources I have looked at so far are almost exclusively early occupation period magazines and journals, all of which were under censorship by SCAP authorities. Despite the obstacles that a system of censorship poses for a research project like this, I found what I believe to be some interesting discoveries.

1) Wartime language, symbols, and stock phrases almost completely disappear in the early postwar publications of Japan, including those calling for political, economic, and spiritual union with Asia.

2) A significant number of intellectuals who supported Japanese imperialism and pushed for pan-Asian unity during the war, both from the “left” and the “right” join together with many old-fashioned “liberal” internationalists whose voices largely drop out during wartime to support a brief but significant movement supporting world federalism. In other words, a broader transnational idealism persists into the early postwar period and is at its strongest up until the outbreak of the Korean war.

The second of these two is where I think I have something important and original to say and I will try to make time to post more about my research in this area here at some future point. The first of these, however, you might call my, “Duh!” thesis. It seems fairly obvious that in the aftermath of war, with the wartime regime fallen into almost universal disrepute, with US propaganda and occupation censorship in full swing, and with the left at its most powerful in decades, wartime language and symbols are not going to be in vogue. By making use of the wonderful Prange collection of occupation period magazines, complete with US censorship documents and the actual censors comments and markings on the original submissions, I can confirm that whether due to self-censorship or some other reason – there are few articles which even try to submit something using any of the familiar wartime expressions.

However, there is at least one very interesting exception to this that I came across which, after much feedback, I have decided to drop completely from my writing on this topic. This is the case of an obscure Ibaraki prefecture publication that goes by the name of Taiwa Shinron (大和新論)and it is interesting to me because, while it is quite representative of the kind of early postwar global-oriented “transnational idealism” I have found to be so strong at the time, it continued to use the now discredited idiom of Japan’s wartime empire.

In May, 1946 the inaugural issue of Taiwa Shinron (New Thesis of the Great Peace) announced the goals of its new publication with an article entitled “Abandon War in Order to Establish World Peace.” It had been less than a year since Japan had surrendered to Allied forces. The General Assembly of the new United Nations had met for the first time just a few months earlier on January 10, and a draft of Japan’s new constitution, eventually promulgated in November, had been unveiled to the public only two months earlier on March 6.

Before celebrating Japan’s abandonment of war in the draft constitution, proclaiming early support for the United Nations, and discussing the need to establish a new, “moral order based on coexistence and co-prosperity [共存共栄]” the magazine’s editor, Matsunobu Kitarō (松延其太郎) explains the title of the magazine:

Today [is] the second creation of Japan. We must become 8,000,000 gods and bring to realization the ideal of an exalted and beautiful state. And moreover, this must not stop at just the reconstruction of Japan. The nations of all the world, in other words, the entire world must unite in the supreme aim of our notion that is [read as] TAIWA [世界の各国家が即ち全世界が国家最高の目的に帰一する其最高目的とは即ち大和の大道に帰一することである].1

This passage failed to pass the inspection of the SCAP occupation authority’s Civil Censorship Detachment (CCD). The examiner’s notes gives us an explanation:

Ex’s Notes – Above objectionable propaganda. External meaning of world peace ok, but TAIWA has a double meaning – “Great Peace”, and when read Yamato, “Japan”. Particularly since the magazine is called TAIWA SHINRON and its nature is reactionary, the clever use of this as propaganda deserves attention. (Quotation DISAPPROVED – propaganda)2

The compound being using to describe a great peace, taiwa [大和] is most commonly read as yamato, referring to Japan. Indeed, with the exception of one name of a town in central Miyagi prefecture, there are no entries in any major Japanese dictionary that lists taiwa as the pronunciation of this compound on its own.3 And yet, beginning with the second issue and in every issue thereafter, any ambiguity surrounding the pronunciation of the two characters was removed by adding the Romanization of the publication’s title on the cover next to its Japanese equivalent: “Taiwa—Shinron.”

Since the explanation quoted above was banned by the censors, however, the first issue is left without any explanation of the “reactionary” magazine’s interesting title, and its readers had to guess for themselves what the title is all about as they go on to read the next article which argued that women’s involvement in politics is crucial for the country’s reconstruction.4 Over two hundred articles from the magazine, covering the years 1946-1949 can be found, along with censorship documents, in the Gorden W. Prange collection, and their contents range from praise for land reform and democratization to local news from Ishioka and articles on developments in agriculture.

In addition to adding a Romanization of the title, the second issue of the publication makes one more major adjustment by changing its motto, printed next to the header of each issue, from “Our principle is to support Great Peace for eternity” (吾が主張は萬世の大和なり) to “Harmony is a most precious thing” (和を以て貴しとなす), thus removing the only other major reference to taiwa besides the publication’s name. Somewhat ironically, however, the new motto invokes an even more powerful link to Japan’s past. The phrase is taken from the opening line of Prince Shōtoku’s famous Seventeen-Article Constitution from the early 7th century, the third article of which begins with, “When you receive the imperial commands, fail not scrupulously to obey them.”5 Wartime booklets issued by the Ministry of Education go into great detail on how exactly this harmony, or wa, is to be achieved, for example, through a “self-negating devotion” to one’s superiors.6

The censors failed to notice this reference or, for some reason, did not find it as problematic as the “clever” use of taiwa in the opening issue. Nor did censors find objectionable the name of a similarly entitled magazine Daiwa, which uses the same two characters. The only way this second more moderate magazine dedicated to politics, economics, and literature resembles Taiwa Shinron is when it justifies its choice of title to show its high regard for “peace, that is, great peace [大和].”7 This is in stark contrast to the handling of a third publication of genuinely nationalist credentials, Yamato Damashii [大和魂], a small Hokkaido literary magazine filled with poems dedicated to the Japanese emperor. The magazine’s few issues are heavily censored and suspected by some examiners of being in league with other nationalist organizations and publications.8

Censorship examiners continued to censor Taiwa Shinron in later issues however, despite increasing evidence that it had anything but “reactionary” content. The magazine uses the vocabulary and symbols of wartime Japan not only to advocate world peace, but to buttress a strong editorial policy supporting world federalism. In a September 1948 article on “The Establishment of a World Government” we find the following passage, again by Matsunobu:

There is no goal more important than to build a peaceful world without war and human conflict, that is, the world must become as one family [世界一家]. It is exactly this philosophy of the world as one family that emperor Jinmu was proclaiming when, on ascending the throne, he issued an imperial rescript which put all of mankind together, united the world as one family [天下一家], and made a roof [宇] to cover the eight corners of the world [八紘].9

Only after pre-publication censorship ended in the summer of 1948 and a more focused post-publication censorship took over could an author be confident that a passage like this would make its way to the Ibaraki reader.10 The passage almost exactly reproduces the slogan of “the eight corners of the world under one roof” [hakkō ichiu 八紘一宇] found in plans for establishing the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere and appearing frequently in wartime publications.11 Just as Nishida Kitarō [西田幾多郎] (1870-1945) tried to rehabilitate the term hakkō ichiu in his weak critique of the Japanese military’s “ethnocentric egoism,” and use it to support a conception of global unity based on independent ethnic nations, here the term is invoked to support global unity and the eradication of war without any reference to preserving nations or ethnic identities at all.12

The same kind of language could not have been used at all a few years earlier, and the CCD was sensitive to anything which even resembled wartime ideology. The censors, for example, took issue with a few poetic lines in the opening issue of Taiwa Shinron written by a far better known author, the aging parliamentarian Ozaki Yukio, entitled “The Whole World as One Family”:

[In t]his land of the Gods where now[,] because of the avarice of some, the people are starving and freezing and homeless.
The name nation sounds dignified and austere, but it has become a world smaller than a clan [藩].
Because clans were abolished and provinces established, our Land of Yamato became great.
If there are no clans, nor any nations, then the whole world would become as one house (family) and the people shall be prosperous.
This land of the Gods where world justice [天地正大] is the aspiration, has surrendered to those republics.13

Along with the translation of most of the poem, the examiner’s notes say, “Not the famous ‘Hakko Ichiu’ phrase, but a modern version of it. Not very good…(Poems DISAPPROVED – propaganda)”14

From this brief look at a small regional publication from Ibaraki prefecture and a few of the Allied censorship documents attached to it in the Prange archives one can make a number of observations. I’ll only make two here. First, one finds in this curious little journal a strong internationalist tone. However, word “internationalist” is a somewhat problematic, since this is not the classic internationalism of Nitobe Inazo [新渡戸稲造] (1862-1933) and others who believed that “internationalism was based on the nation-state, and loyalty to the international community was compatible with loyalty to one’s nation.”15 Instead, there are a number of articles throughout the issues of this magazine committed to the complete dissolution of, or transcendence of the national community to form a political unit, if not an entire moral order, on the global level. In the early aftermath of the war, those who supported more radical proposals for global union, ones which were often critical of the United Nations, often supported various conceptions of world federation, world governments, or world constitutions (such as the “Chiago Draft”). Ozaki Yukio, whose poem was quoted above, became one of the most enthusiastic spokesmen for the World Federation movement in postwar Japan, right up until his death. Like so many writings one can find in the early occupation period, Taiwa Shinron is filled with optimism for a new age of democracy, peace, and reform. However, it also embraces a transnational, or supra-national vision which we might believe to have been thoroughly discredited along with the wartime ideology proclaiming a pan-Asianist co-prosperity sphere under the tutelage of a benevolent Japanese empire.

Secondly, we see that the use of symbols and language to express such idealistic visions for the future are put under unique constraints in an occupied Japan where an elaborate Allied bureaucracy is dedicated to censoring any publications that are deemed too reactionary or radical in political leanings, or which critique any of the Allied nations. Ozaki Yukio, for example, would have plenty of opportunities to support world federalism and peace among peoples in other publications, but only by using language found appropriate to the occupation authorities. His poem found here in Taiwa Shinron, mixing the story of the unification of the “land of the Gods” with dreams of world unity were censored as being too close to the wartime “propaganda” of hakkō ichiu, and contributed to the magazine’s label as “reactionary,” a label which could lead to far closer scrutiny of the publication by SCAP censors.

My reading in dozens of other contemporary magazines reveals that Taiwa Shinron, though only a regional and obscure publication, is highly representative in terms of its content and goals. While far from the center, it shows the same interesting shift from support for Asian unity to global unity that I can show for major intellectuals supporting Japan’s wartime pan-Asianism. However, it is a rare exception in terms of its language, and at the hands of occupation censors it would share the fate of those rare but more genuinely “reactionary” nationalist publications which, instead of praising peace and reform, tried to continue publishing articles and literature dedicated to emperor and empire.

1. Matsunobu Kitarō “Sensō wo suteyo, sekai heiwa kakuritsu no tame ni” Taiwa Shinron 1 (5/15/1946):1 [ZZ10 T60]. Because I am here discussing the interpretation of the CCD authorities, this passage is not my own translation but that of CCD with minor corrections for grammatical mistakes. All articles cited below that are found in the Gorden W. Prange collection are indicated by location numbers. They are all from the archive’s Magazine Collection and can be located with the magazine classification number (ZZ10) and the code number for the magazine itself (T60). General information about the collection can be found at the collection’s homepage and a free article index database is available for search to registered members at the “Senryōki zasshi kiji jōhō dêtabêsu” located at
2. Censorship Documents attached to Taiwa Shinron 1 (5/15/1946) [ZZ10 T60]
3. “daiwa” on the other hand is frequently found in names (such as the Daiwa bank).
4. ibid., “Nihon sai shuppatsu no jōken: fujin san seiken no igi jūdai nari” Although, I use the word “magazine” the format of the publication changes shape and form between issues, at times resembling a newspaper, a short pamphlet, or a magazine.
5. Ian Reader, Esben Andreasen & Finn Stefánsson Japanese Religions Past & Present (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1993), 167.
6. Fujiko Isono “Post-surrender democratization of Japan – was it a revolution?” in Ian Neary War, Revolution & Japan(London: Routledge, 1995), 109.
7. “Sōkan no ji” Daiwa 1.1 (2/28/1947): 2 [ZW01 D66] Emphasis in original. The pronunciation of the title is confirmed in the Romanization of the title on the magazine’s back cover.
8. See censorship documents attached to Daiwakon [ZZ10 D67]. Note how the title is Romanized in SCAP records, in later issues, an examiner writes the more likely reading “Yamato Damashii” over the original Romanization and it is referred to by this name intermittently. Examiners are confused by the origins of the magazine and one examiner (labeled as B. Inomata) suspects the whole magazine, submitted in handwritten manuscript, is published “by some senior middle school boys secretly gathered together.” See censorship documents attached to the June, 1947 issue.
9. Matsunobu Kitarō “Sekai seifu no juritsu: heiwa he no doryoku dai undō” Taiwa Shinron 29 (9/25/1948):1 [ZZ10 T60]
10. For a concise description of the CCD and the CIE (Civil Information and Education) sections and their activities during the occupation see Taketoshi Yamamoto (who manages the Prange collection’s online index) article Taketoshi Yamamoto “Senryōki no media tōsei to sengo nihon” Kan 22 (Summer 2005), 250-262. Actually, the process of moving from pre- to post-publication censorship had already started much earlier for some publications. For a more detailed analysis and chronology of this shift, including tables showing the gradual decline in military staff at the CCD, see Taketoshi Yamamoto Senryōki media bunseki (Tokyo: Hōsei daigaku shuppan kyoku, 1996), 299-303.
11. William Theodore De Bary Sources of Japanese Tradition (New York, Columbia University Press, 1964 [1958]), 294-5. The phrase is also translated as “universal brotherhood” see W. G. Beasley Japanese Imperialism 1894-1945 (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1987), 244.
12. Michiko Yusa “Nishida and Totalitarianism” in Rude Awakenings: Zen, the Kyoto School & the Question of Nationalism. ed. James W. Heisig (Honolulu, University of Hawaii Press, 1995), 127.
13. Translation is again taken, with very minor modifications, from the Censorship documents attached to Taiwa Shinron 1 (5/15/1946) [ZZ10 T60]. I would not have chosen, for example, to use the word “clan” for han. Original poems on page 3 of the issue. I have not been able to determine when Ozaki’s poems were originally written or where it was initially published. The content suggests that it was written after Japan’s defeat. The obscure nature of Taiwa Shinron makes it unlikely that the poems were written for that publication.
14. ibid.
15. Tomoko Akami Internationalizing the Pacific: The United States, Japan, and the Institute of Pacific Relations (London: Routledge, 2001), 146.

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