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Ten Essays on National Character by Haga Yaichi

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In the late 19th - early 20th centuries we see active search for the national characteristics of the Japanese people. This article analyzes the book by a famous expert on Japanese literature Haga Yaichi (1867-1927) Ten Essays on National Character (1907). This book was, to a large extent, a response to the work by Kishimoto Nobuta, Five Features of the Japanese (1902), who was a Christian. A number of similarities are observed in these works (they appreciate the cleanliness of the Japanese, their cheerfulness and activity, ability to adapt borrowings, their sense of beauty, politeness, and etiquette behavior). However, there are radical differences too. For Kishimoto, “the Japanese” was an independent entity, while Haga described the Japanese in their relation to the state and as its attachment. Kishimoto talked about the character of the Japanese in peaceful times, while Haga Yaichi interpreted the peculiarities of the national character primarily from the viewpoint of readiness for war and death for the emperor and the motherland. Kishimoto’s writing was not popular and was forgotten. But the views of Haga Yaichi were adopted by the propaganda machine and became one of the main sources for the Kokutai no hongi, the fundamental text of Japanese totalitarianism.

About the Author

A. N. Meshscheryakov
National Research University “Higher School of Economics” (HSE)
Russian Federation


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For citations:

Meshscheryakov A.N. Ten Essays on National Character by Haga Yaichi. Russian Japanology Review. 2020;3(1):77-96. (In Russ.)

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