I. Introduction


by
Ito Kenichi
President
The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc.

1. Globalization and National Identity

While changing its participating members, we, the Maritime Nation Seminar Group, have continued during our three-year marathon discussions to mull over the following questions: “What is Japan’s identity?” “What is Japan’s grand strategy for the 21st century?” and “What is the vision of the maritime nation of Japan?”
With the Cold War ended and with powerful forces called ‘borderless exchanges’ and ‘globalization’ influencing world affairs, these questions have arisen from a sense of crisis brought on by the fear that Japan and the Japanese have lost both their frame of reference and their sense of the direction they should take. This crisis mentality afflicts not only Japan and the Japanese but has been experienced more or less by all countries and people since the end of the Cold War. However, there is a growing gap between those countries skillfully crystallizing this mentality into greater self-awareness and a strategic direction, and those countries that are not. This gap is on par with another gap, the digital divide that separates those who actively utilize information technology (IT) and those who do not.
The assertion that “the world is becoming a borderless global village of world citizens” and that “while sovereign states, national borders, and governments are losing their significance, individuals, markets, and NGOs will become primary actors in world affairs of the 21st century” is talked about not simply as an abstract theory but as a reality that might someday actually emerge. It brings to mind the fact that, for some time after the Russian Revolution, a large number of people worldwide were bewitched with the passionate message that “the age of states and nations is over and that it is an inevitable course of history that the working class will unite and become center players in the world.”
Is paralyzing Japan as a state and dismantling the nation truly the course we should take, the path down which we should go? Is this the road that will allow each and every Japanese citizen to become truly happy? Americans never cease preaching the gospel of “democracy and market economies” to the other countries, but in debates back home among themselves, “national interest” trumps all other arguments. This is hardly unique, though: “national interest” is the be-all and end-all of values for the Chinese and Russians, as well. While it might seem that the Europeans now banded together in the European Union would be different from these Chinese and Russians, they are in fact not. They have established a new identity as Europeans to compete with Americans and the Japanese, and are not seeking to lead a movement to become cosmopolitans.


2. Japan's Identity and Two Facts

Nations must confirm their own identities and address the spread of globalization based on these identities. Otherwise, they will find it impossible to cope with globalization effectively and to respond adequately and selectively to various forces which this globalization has brought about. This was the approach adopted by Nara- and Heian-era Japan to cope with Sui- and Tang-dynasty China and by Meiji Japan in facing up to the United States and Europe. Our Maritime Nation Seminar Group has met in numerous occasions over a period of three years, confirming Japan’s identity in the first year as “Japan: Neither West nor East,” and conceiving a grand strategy for Japan in the second year with a conceptual goal of “From an Insular Nation to a Maritime Nation.” Based on the results of these discussions, we decided upon “The World and Regional Orders that Japan Should Seek” as a topic for discussions during the third year. Failing to pay attention to the outside world and lacking a self-awareness of their own place and a role within mutual relationship in the world have been chronic maladies for the Japanese, and the Japanese today seem to be repeating many of the same errors their ancestors committed.
We, the Maritime Nation Seminar Group, have sought our nation’s identity ultimately in the two following facts. They include: Japan is “a maritime nation located in Northeast Asia and surrounded on all sides by the sea” and Japan is also “the first non-Western nation to modernize through its own efforts.” These two facts are closely interrelated, and, combined together, they seem to suggest a path that Japan and the Japanese should follow in its interrelationship with the region and the world. In other words, Japan and its people must be a presence that gives hope to developing non-Western nations and at the same time, offers a new alternative (the possibility of a post-modern civilization) for the future of human civilization, as the negative aspects of modernization (or Westernization) continue to emerge in the modern civilization. While eventual unification such as that of the European Union may still be a distant dream in East Asia, Japan must for the time being play a leading role in forming an open and cooperative regional order in the economic, political, security, social, and cultural arenas. This is the conclusion reached in this paper and the very conclusion of our three-year discussions on “the Vision of the Maritime Nation of Japan. ”


3. The Maritime Nation Seminar

To address these issues, The Japan Forum on International Relations have hosted during a span of four years a series of in-depth and multi-faceted discussions among a wide range of intellectual leaders from different fields of Japan. These discussions, by making their conclusions available to the public, are aimed at raising 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 sets up three sub-themes in each of the first three years of its activities. It will summarize the overall conclusions of the seminar in the fourth year, seeking to shed light on the civilization and strategy of Japan as a “maritime nation.”

The 1st Year (1998-1999)

“Japan's Identity: Neither the West Nor the East”

The 2nd Year (1999-2000)

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

The 3rd Year (2000-2001)

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

The 4th Year (2001-2002)

“The Maritime Nation of Japan: Its Civilization and Strategy”


The following 23 persons participated in the third year activities of the “Maritime Nation Seminar”:

Akimoto Kazumine Representative, Rear Admiral (Retired), Akimoto Ocean Institute
Akiyama Masahiro Visiting Scholar, J. F. Kennedy School of Government & Asia Center, Harvard University
Ebata Kensuke Japan Correspondent, “Jane’s Defense Weekly”
Endo Koichi Visiting Researcher, Institute of Japanese Identity, Takushoku University
Hasegawa Kazutoshi Senior Advisor, ITOCHU Corporation
Hata Kei Member of the House of Councilors
Hirano Takuya President, Japan Marine Science and Technology Center
Ishii Takemochi Professor Emeritus, The University of Tokyo
Ishizuka Yoshikazu Director and Managing Editor, The Japan Times
Ito Kenichi President, The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc.
Ito Tsuyoshi Research Fellow, The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc.
Kobayashi Manabu President, Keihin Special Printing Co., Ltd.
Koike Yuriko Member of the House of Representatives
Konno Shuhei Professor, Osaka Sangyo University
Morimoto Tetsuro Critic
Okazaki Hisahiko Director, The Okazaki Institute
Ota Hiroshi Executive Vice President, The Japan Forum on International Relations, Inc
Sakurada Jun Columnist
Sam Jameson Journalist
Takashima Hatsuhisa Director, United Nations Information Center, Tokyo
Takase Yasuo Director of Ocean Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Takeuchi Sawako Associate Professor, The University of Tokyo
Yamada Hiroshi Senior Research Fellow, The Yomiuri Shimbun Research Institute

(In alphabetical order)

At the first such meeting, entitled “What Can We Learn from the History of Maritime Nations?”, Morimoto Tetsuro presented as a focus for discussions the idea that “Looking back at the activities of such maritime peoples as those in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, we can find a pattern that ‘those who control the sea control the world.’” He also argued that Japan, surrounded by the sea, would be expected to have the character of a maritime nation, but that in fact this trait is lacking in Japan. He concluded that we should turn our eyes once more towards the sea. For the second meeting, entitled “The Vision of a Maritime Nation in the Age of the Information Revolution,” Ishii Takemochi offered the following perspective: “When considering the nations and the seas in the 21st century, we must expand the definition of sea to include the new sea of information networks.” He further argued that it is essential that the theory of complex systems must be applied to the concept of an information-maritime nation. In the third meeting on “The Prospects for an Order in Northeast Asia and the Conception of Japan,” Okazaki Hisahiko argued that between the two events, the North-South Summit meeting and Chen Shui-bian’s victory in Taiwans presidential election, we can safely limit our attention almost exclusively to the latter when considering the paramount issue in the security of Northeast Asia, in particular, the issue regarding the security of maritime transport in that region. He then highlighted the strategic significance and value of Taiwan for the security of the East Asia region. At the fourth and final meeting on “The Vision of the Maritime Nation of Japan: The World Order and the Regional Order,” Ota Hiroshi proposed for discussion on this question: “Being both ‘a maritime nation located in Northeast Asia and surrounded on all sides by the sea’ and ‘the first non-Western country to modernize through its own efforts,’ Japan should contribute to the resolution of the North-South Issue, to the formation of a post-modern civilization in the context of a world order, and to constructing an open and multifaceted system for cooperation in East Asia.” All these four meetings began with a presentation of the topic for each 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 third year’s “Maritime Nation Seminar” have been compiled in a very basic format, translated into English, and printed in this volume. Space restrictions have unfortunately forced us to focus on the keynote presentation of the two out of the four discussion meetings only: the third, “The Prospects for an Order in Northeast Asia and the Conception of Japan” (submitted by Okazaki Hisahiko), and the last, “The Vision of the Maritime Nation of Japan: The World Order and the Regional Order” (submitted by Ota Hiroshi). We hope that the publication of this volume will be of use in enhancing the understanding of overseas readers on matters of intellectual interests 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 use this opportunity to express our great gratitude to these two organizations.