Cultural Identity and Modernization in Asian Countries


INOUE Nobutaka

This symposium was one of a series of events held to commemorate the centennial anniversary of the foundation of Kokugaku[Glossary: kokugaku]in University. It was sponsored by the Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, and one of its basic aims was to foster relations with research institutes overseas.

The symposium was specifically designed with the following objectives in mind:

  1. To promote personal and organizational exchange among Asian countries;

  2. To consider the concept of Kokugaku or National Studies, and to debate its applicability in other Asian countries;

  3. To compare and contrast processes of cultural transformation in Asia, especially in the area of religion.

The theme of the symposium was based on the results of various individual projects conducted by members of the Institute staff, as well as the comprehensive, collaborative results of their research.

The executive committee was organized in the autumn of 1981. It was composed of 18 members from several universities:

ABE Yoshiya; ASOYA Masahiko; FUJITA Tomio; HIRAI Naofusa; INOUE Nobutaka: MIYAZAKI Michio; NAGAFUJI Takeshi; ODAGIRI Hiroko; David REID; SAKAMOTO Koremaru; SAKO Kazumitsu; SONODA Minoru; Jan SWYNGEDOUW; TAKEUCHI Issei; TODA Yoshio; UCHINO Goro; UEDA Kenji; and YANAGAWA Keiichi.

Two "pre-symposiums" were held during this period of preparation: one on " The Modernization of Japan and Kokugaku" in June of 1982, and one on "The problem of Secularization in Asia" in November of the same year.

It was through the course of these two years of preparation that the outline for the symposium was determined, entitled "Cultural Identity and Modernization in Asian Countries."

The symposium was held from January 9 to 13, 1983. Open lectures were held at Meiji Jingu Hall on January 9. Professor Ballah and Professor Berger were invited as keynote speakers. The audience of over a thousand gave their undivided attention to the opening speeches which laid the groundwork for the sessions to follow.

The following sessions were held from January 11 to 13 at the International House:

Session A, "Religion and Secularization" (January 11)

Speakers: IKADO Fujio; SONODA Minoru; Arifin BEY; René MENZODA.

Commentators: Peter BERGER; YANAGAWA Keiichi.

Chairperson: ABE Yoshiya; Co-chairperson: INOUE Nobutaka.

Session B, "Traditionalism and Modernization" (January 12)

Speakers: HIRAI Naofusa; ITO Abito, KUO Edi.

Commentators: Robert BELLAH; NAKANE Chie; CHAN Jukon.

Chairperson: Jan SWYNGEDOUW; Co-chairperson: ASOYA Masahiko.

Session C, "The Humanities and National Identity" (January 13)

Speakers: UCHINO Goro; RYU Tongshik; T. MADAN; Ratanakul PINIT.

Commentators: SUZUKI Mitsuo; UEDA Kenji.

Chairperson: FUJITA Tomio; Co-chairperson: David REID.

The schedule and format was the same each day. In the morning, from 10:00 to 12:00, the speakers gave supplementary explanations on the papers which had been submitted and distributed to the participants; this was followed by remarks from the commentators. In the afternoon, from 2:00 to 5:00, the speakers first responded to questions raised by the commentators, and then the discussion was opened to all participants over a scholars from such diverse fields as religion, sociology, anthropology, history, and folklore attended the sessions. At times their interests were so diverse that the process of discussion was difficult. But it was due to the high degree of interest in the general theme of the symposium that so many of the participants felt motivated to express their opinions, and it is only to be regretted that there was not more time for freer discussion.

The keynote lectures by Professor Bellah and Professor Berger are presented here, together with the papers submitted for presentation at the three sessions and a synopsis of the discussions that took place on those discussions have made every effort to outline the basic remarks made by the commentators and the course of the discussion which followed.

It is hoped that this symposium will serve to further comparative research in the cultural identity and tradition of Asian countries, particularly the recent developments in aspects of thought.