Aizawa Yasushi on America

In the Prefatory Remarks to Aizawa Yasushi‘s 1825 New Theses (新論) we find an interesting little gloss on the relationship of the “Divine Realm” of Japan and the Western world:

The earth lies amid the heavenly firmament, is round in shape, and has no edges. All things exist as nature dictates. Thus, our Divine Realm is at the top of the world. Though not a very large country, it reigns over the Four Quarters because its Imperial Line has never known dynastic change. The Western barbarians represent the thighs, legs, and feet of the universe. This is why they sail hither and yon, indifferent to the distances involved. Moreover, the country they call America is located at the rear end of the world, so its inhabitants are stupid and incompetent. All of this is as nature dictates.

The translation is by Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi.


  1. today such a piece could be ended in ^__^ or similar, or (笑) to indicate it is pure 皮肉.

    this text predates the meiji era by decades; maybe its author wanted to dodge 幕府 censorship and point out that there was a chance that people who had made it all the way from the ‘rear end’ to the ‘top of the world’ could indeed have an influence on a political system perceived as eroding and outmoded. The ‘top od the world’ is defined as thhe place where the Ruler from the ‘Imperial line [that] has never known dynastic change’ had his court, a wording that sounds very supportive of a re-installation of the tenno, the 治天下大王 (あめのしたしろしめすおおきみ; すめらのみこと), who at that time was but a political shadow.

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