Japanese Mythology and Nationalism: Myths of genesis, Japanese identity, and Familism


In the nationalism's toolbox, mythology is one of the most useful and productive tools for the construction of national identity. Mythic tales provide a sense of 'essence' for the nation; in a way, they symbolize the 'roots' for the members of nation. Because of this valuable meaning, pre-nationalist /nationalist thinkers revive and reproduce them according to their agenda. By the revival of mythic stories, a discoursal link which works as cement is created between the nation and the selected ethnic group. Within the mythology, especially the myths on genesis are functional for building a family-nation concept which enhances solidarity and unity between the members of the nation. Being a country which has a rich culture and strong historic roots, Japan has a great variety of mythic stories in its literature. In an attempt to discover the links between the myths and the discoursal construction of Japanese nation and Japanese national identity, this study focuses on the Tale of Izanagi and Izanami, Amaterasu-omikami, Ukemochi-no-kami, and Jimmu Tenno These myths were revived first by Motoori, who is a pre-nationalist thinker, and then by Yanagito Kunio, who is a Meiji period nationalist; therefore, it is also important to analyze the relations between these myths and the discourses of these nationalist thinkers. Considering that the details of the mythic stories contain many hints about Japanese minzoku ('nation' and kazoku kokka ('family-nation' concepts, a review of these tales from the viewpoint of political science can also depict the 'nature' of nationalism with more vibrant colors.

Author Information
Merin Sever, Istanbul University, Turkey

Paper Information
Conference: IICJ2016
Stream: Japanese History

This paper is part of the IICJ2016 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon