Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Sterotype

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Overview

The popularity in Japan of books about Jews has climbed to staggering proportions....What explains the virtual obsession with Jews in Japan—a country that has no Jews? Many of the Japanese books about Jews are overtly antisemitic; but even a large number of otherwise respectable scholarly books are replete with egregious distortions and antisemitic canards, and most propagate the myth that Jews control the American media and dominate international finance. How can we account for the indiscriminate mixture of fact and fantasy in the Japanese view of the Jews? In this cultural and intellectual history of modern Japan, authors David Goodman and Masanori Miyazawa use the Japanese image of the Jews to illuminate the Japanese mind. Tracing the sources and historical development of this image of the Jews against the background of Japan's emergence from centuries of cultural isolation, the authors reveal how its subtle alterations over time also reflect the changing character of Japanese social and political experience in this century. But while the Japanese do seem to have accepted all of the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes at face value, the remarkable fact is that, unlike Western antisemites, the Japanese frequently admire the Jews for achieving such disproportionate power, and argue that their countrymen should follow their example.

Oddly, although the Japanese believe that Jews "control the media" and "dominate international finance, " they do not fear and hate Jews; rather they admire and strive to be more like them. This intellectual history of modern Japan uses Japanese attitudes about Jews as a prism for examining the peculiar isolation of the Japanese mind, even as it contemplates a world in which Japan is ever more powerful.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Times Book Review
An enlightening and thorough examination of Japanese notions of the Jews. . . . "Jews in the Japanese Mind" is not a book about Jews. It is a book about being different, about not being Japanese, about the vast array of people with whom Japan still struggles to come to terms.
Washington Post Book World
A serious, thoroughly researched scholarly work that not just explains the superficial side of Japan's bizarre fascination with "Jewish" themes, but presents a balanced historical survey of Japan's encounter with Judaism from the end of the Tokugawa period to the establishment of a Jewish Cultural Center in Tokyo [in 1994].
Donna Seaman
Why are the Japanese so obsessed with Jews when there is no visible Jewish presence in Japan? How did anti-Semitism become so prominent a part of Japanese thought and anti-Semitic rhetoric so pervasive in the media? Goodman, a professor of Japanese literature, and Miyazawa, a history professor, have written an often surprising and consistently dismaying history of Japan's negative attitude toward Jews. Japanese anti-Semitism is based on the "persistent, chimerical belief in a global Jewish conspiracy bent on destroying Japan." Curiously, this paranoia is wedded to an odd fascination with the idea of common ancestry between Jews and the Japanese and an identification with the Jews of the Holocaust. Goodman and Miyazawa attempt to explain these seemingly opposite points of view by examining various influential and wildly popular Japanese anti-Semitic books and other texts. They begin with discussions of Japan's deeply entrenched xenophobia, periods of spiritual crisis, and carefully orchestrated nationalism, and then consider the aftermath of World War II and the economic surge that has left many middle-class Japanese overworked, angry, and eager for a scapegoat. Goodman and Miyazawa rate high praise for explicating this sickeningly familiar tale and defining its implications.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780029124826
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 9.57 (h) x 1.29 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
I What the Japanese Think of Jews and Why Anyone Should Care 1
II Momotaro as Antisemite: The Cultural Roots of Japanese Images of Jews 16
III God's Chosen People: Jews in Japanese Christian Theology 37
IV The Protocols of Ultranationalism: The Rise of Antisemitism Between the Wars 76
V Jews as the Enemy: The Function of Antisemitism in Wartime Japan 106
VI Identification and Denial: The Uses of the Jews in the Postwar Period 135
VII The Socialism of Fools: Left-Wing Anti-Zionism and Antisemitism 183
VIII A Signal Failure: Recrudescent Antisemitism and Japan's "Spiritual Condition" 220
IX Japan's Jewish Problem: Implications in a Multicultural World 252
Notes 261
Bibliography 307
Index 347
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