Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

MA Asian Studies


Language/Literature /Culture


Deborah A. Brown

Committee Member

Yinan He

Committee Member

Edwin Pak-Leung


National identity, Japan, National security, Nationalism


This thesis examines the interrelation between national security and nationalism in Japan. Beginning from the stance of classical realism as put forth by Hans Morgenthau, the essay takes a "culturalist" view as its starting point. The culturalist view, in accepting the basic assumptions of classical realism as given, understands that all states act freely and rationally to maximize their interests, defined in terms of power. Power, as Morgenthau points out, is not a fixed concept, its definition being subject to the vicissitudes of time and culture. The culturalist model attempts to understand how each civilization understands power by examining its cultural assumptions. In the present case, we are attempting to understand the ideas undergirding Japanese policymakers in the field of national security. The essay traces the evolution of the nationalist discourse from its first manifestation in the early Edo period up to its manifestations in contemporary Japan. Since the time of the Meiji Restoration, the thesis argues, the nationalist discourse has been the prominent form of socio-political discussion in Japanese policy circles, and is indispensable to any understanding of the decisions of Japanese policymakers, especially in the area of national security. The thesis argues that there have been three paradigmatic shifts in Japanese society, all of which have engendered shifts in the nationalist discourse and in security policy. These shifts have been, 1) the Meiji Restoration, 2) defeat in the Pacific War, and 3) the 1991 Gulf War Crisis. The thesis further argues that a shift is now underway in the post-9/11 world. All of these shifts have been undergirded by the ideas of the nationalist discourse, making the study of nationalism in Japan integral to any competent understanding of Japanese security policy. The essay ends with a discussion of what American policy in the region should be, taking Japanese security policy as a base.