I. Introduction

Ito Kenichi
The Japan Forum on International Relations

1. The Most Basic Given Condition for Japan

    Since the end of the Cold War, the world has become increasingly borderless and globalized, while at the same time, there has been considerable reappreciation of national traditions and values to keep them from being swept away by the phenomenon of globalization. The collapse and dismantling of nations have led to such bloody tragedies as those witnessed in Rwanda and Kosovo, examples which serve to bolster the views of those who point out the importance of a sense of nationhood and of nation building. Major world powers such as the US, China, and Russia have very openly asserted their respective national interests and values, but even countries such as the UK, France, and Germany, who should be promoting borderless integration in Europe, are intent on discovering means of enhancing the presence of their individual nations in this integration process. Global standards continue to permeate widely and deeply into politics, economics, and culture everywhere, even as the Islamic world and other civilizations with distinctly different values fiercely resist this trend. The world order of the 21st century will be formed from these two forces and the intense interaction between them. Viewed in this way, one can understand the importance, on the one hand, of adapting to the expanding globalization and accepting it, and on the other, of contemplating a course which will ensure one's own identity and allow one to advance on the basis thereof.
    Aware of the issues at hand, last year we released "Japan's Identity: Neither the West Nor the East", and this year we have gone another step further in considering what direction Japan, given this identity, should take for the 21st century. The result has been this text: "Japan's Grand Strategy for the 21st Century: From an Insular Nation to a Maritime Nation". There may be some who question the appropriateness of the approach implied by the title which refer to “Maritime”, saying that there is no need to fix upon the concept of “Maritime” as a starting point for discussions, and that perhaps more freedom should have been allowed in determining the concepts to be discussed at the outset. In fact, not a few of the members of the Seminar on "The Maritime Nation of Japan: Its Civilization and Strategy" (hereafter to be referred to as the "Maritime Nation Seminar") themselves raised these very same points. If, however, we were to enter into discussions without any established starting point whatsoever, undoubtedly a great deal of time and energy would be consumed simply to determine where to begin thinking about "Japan's Civilization and Strategy". In avoiding this, we could have chosen other starting points from which to approach the question of Japan's identity, such as the emperor system or bushido. One must bear in mind in looking at the civilization and strategies of this archipelago and its inhabitants over the span of thousands of years though, that these concepts did not appear until a certain stage in history and that they are preconditioned by a particular set of values. To enable a truly free conceptualization of the civilization and strategies of the archipelago and the people living thereon, one must choose a starting point unburdened by a predetermined set of values and representative of aspects that have not changed in this country for the past several thousand years. From this standpoint, the most basic given condition for Japan is its location in this specific spot on the globe, surrounded on all sides by water. It is this very situation that allowed the inhabitants of Japan to retain a certain distance from both Chinese and Western civilization and to develop their own unique civilization. This then set the stage for the eventual creation of both the emperor system and bushido. Being completely surrounded by the sea has taught Japan two ways of relating to the outside world, that of a self-complacent “insular nation” of introverted inhabitants, and that of a maritime nation of people open to the world beyond.

2. The Sea as a Clue to Japan's Grand Strategy

    As we near the beginning of the 21st century, we will need to redefine such ideas as "seagirt," "insular nation," and "maritime" in ways better suited to the new age. The Pacific is now emerging as the central stage for exchange among world civilizations as the successor of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The sense of the sea as a means of communication must now be broadly interpreted to include the air, space, and even such communication tools as the Internet. Inherent in the use of the term sea here is the sense of frontier, and this frontier continues to expand from the ocean surface to the ocean floor, to Antarctica, and into space. Japan's future within such a framework will depend on to what degree the country can master these communication structures and to what extent it goes in actively relating with the outside world through these means. If a national objective is to be determined in accordance with the place a nation occupies within this global communication framework, then we must first firmly establish our own identity of who we are. Japan must therefore understand its place and role in the relationships between civilizations and nations in today's world. This will lead to the development of a concrete grand strategy for a Japan open to the outside world.
    It is especially necessary and important that the issue be framed in this manner and that a solution be consciously pursued because Japan's leaders, its elites, and even the general populace have throughout Japan's history been introverted (reflecting the fact that Japan is an insular nation but also contributing to the cultivation of a unique Japanese culture and civilization) and have tended to give little attention to those segments of society open to the outside world. One might say that herein lies the difference between Great Britain, which unhesitatingly encouraged its seafarers, pirates, trading merchants, etc. and Japan, which in the end cast away the wako, the goshuinsen (its ocean-going merchant ships), and the Nihonjin-machi. While Great Britain launched itself into world history as a "maritime nation.” Japan locked itself into seclusion as an "insular nation.” There is little interaction in Japan between those elements oriented inwards and those open to the outside world, and for that reason Japan tends frequently to lack a balanced judgment in relating to the international community. Japan still pays little interest to the outside world and seems even to have lost an awareness of its own role within today's interlinked world, thereby repeating the same errors it has made thus far.

3. The Maritime Nation Seminar

    To address these issues, the Japan Forum on International Relations will over a span of four years host a series of in-depth and multi-faceted discussions among a wide range of intellectual leaders from different fields, with the objective of making public the results of these discussions in the hope that they will contribute to enhanced awareness on these important issues among the general public. We have accordingly planned and organized a seminar project on "The Maritime Nation Seminar.”
    This seminar will take up a different sub-theme in each of the four years of its activities, and the overall results of the seminar will seek to shed light on the civilization and strategy of Japan as a "maritime nation.”

Term 1 (1998-1999)  

"Japan's Identity: Neither the West Nor the East"

Term 2 (1999-2000)  

"Japan's Grand Strategy  for the 21st Century: From an Insular Nation to a Maritime Nation"

Term 3 (2000-2001)  

"The Vision of the Maritime Nation of Japan: The World Order and the Regional Order"

Term 4 (2001-2002)  

"The Maritime Nation of Japan: Its Civilization and Strategy"

    The following 26 persons participated in the second-term activities of the "Maritime Nation Seminar":

Aichi Kazuo

Member of the House of Representatives

Endo Koichi

Critic, Visiting Researcher, Institute of Japanese Identity Takushoku University

Fukushima Glen. S

President, Arthur D. Little (Japan), Inc.

Gao Haikuan

Director, Center for Peace and Development Studies, China Association for International Friendly Contact

Hakamada Shigeki

Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University

Inoguchi Kuniko

Professor, Sophia University

Iokibe Makoto

Professor, Kobe University

Irie Takanori

Professor, Meiji University

Ito Kenichi

President, The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc.
Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University

Ito Tsuyoshi

Assistant Professor, Meiji University

Kabayama Koichi

Professor, University of Tokyo

Kawakatsu Heita

Professor, International Research Center for Japanese Studies

Kojima Tomoyuki

Professor, Keio University

Kondo Takeshi

Managing Director, ITOCHU Corporation

Konno Shuhei

Professor, Osaka Sangyo University

Mano Teruhiko

Adviser to the President, BOT Research International Ltd.

Matsumoto Kenichi

Critic, Professor, Reitaku University

Nakamura Kimikazu

President, Sankyu Inc.

Nishimura Shingo

Member of the House of Representatives

Ohya Eiko


Sakonjo Naotoshi

Research Associate, The Research Institute for Peace and Security

Sase Masamori

Professor, National Defense Academy

Tanaka Akihiko

Professor, University of Tokyo

Yamada Hiroshi

Senior Research Fellow, Yomiuri Research Institute, The Yomiuri Shimbun

Yoshida Haruki

Senior Advisor and Chief Economist, The Wako Research Institute of Economics, Inc.

Yoshida Makoto

Director and Senior Advisor, Nippon Steel Shipping Co., Ltd.

 (In alphabetical order)

    During the second-term of the "Maritime Nation Seminar" (April 1999- March 2000), four "free discussion meetings" attended by all members were held on May 12, June 10, July 8, and November 25, featuring in-depth discussions chaired by Ito Kenichi.
    At the first such meeting, entitled "The Path for a Maritime Japan: Japanese Perceptions of the Sea and the History of Japanese Maritime Expansion.” Kawakatsu Heita presented as a focus for discussions the idea that "Japan should serve as a model for building an idyllic city-state in the Pacific Rim zone linking maritime Japan, maritime Russia, maritime China, the islands and seas of Southeast Asia, and Oceania.” For the second meeting, entitled "The Strategic Value of Maritime Space: Its Military, Political and Economic Significance.” Sakonjo Notoshi offered the following topic: "Vice-Admiral Sato Tetsutaro developed a strategy of 'sea first, land second' - a theory comparable with those offered by Mahan, Tirpitz, and Gorshkov - in which he urged Japan to cooperate with the rest of the world and make the sea the core of its existence, living not as a continental nation but as a maritime nation, not as a land power but as a sea power. Japan erred in not listening to this advice." In the third meeting, "The Japan-US Alliance as a Maritime Alliance," Iokibe Makoto proposed the following: "No party must be allowed to change by force the status quo of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole. In the context of building up free trade and exchange amidst the region's diversity, the Japan-US alliance should be viewed as a maritime alliance which serves to provide stability to the region.” At the fourth and final meeting - "The Rise of China and Changes in the Balance of Power in East Asia" - Tanaka Akihiko proposed for discussion on this topic: "Equating the rise of China with an increased threat from China is a somewhat unjustified assessment of circumstances. It is unlikely in the foreseeable future that the military balance in East Asia will tilt dramatically in China's favor, and the pattern of behavior apparent in China's foreign dealings has been basically passive and reactive, oriented towards maintaining the status quo. One cannot, however, dismiss the possibility, that the democratization of Taiwan will provoke the Chinese to use military force.” All four meetings began with a presentation of the topic for discussion, followed by a spirited debate between those participants who accepted and those who rejected the premise given.

4. Acknowledgements

    The intellectual workings of this second-term "Maritime Nation Seminar" have been compiled in a very basic format, translated into English, and printed in this volume. Space restrictions have unfortunately allowed us to focus on the keynote presentation of the two of the four discussion meetings only: the third, "The Japan-US Alliance as a Maritime Alliance" (submitted by Iokibe Makoto), and the last, "The Rise of China and Changes in the Balance of Power in East Asia" (submitted by Tanaka Akihiko). We hope that the publication of this volume will be of some use in enhancing the understanding of overseas readers on matters of intellectual interest in Japan.
    This seminar was conducted with the cooperation of the Yomiuri Shimbun and with the support of the Nippon Foundation. We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to these two organizations.