Taiga Meibun

Writing about the thinking of a defeated Hirohito post World War II, David Bergamini says:

Hirohito had always minimized the danger of democratic sentiments taking hold in Japan. He felt that the Anglo-American type of government was too individualistic to be compatible with Japanese society. In a democracy each voter needed a conscience of his own and an absolute scale of right and wrong. But in Japan these prerequisites did not exist. Every act, from casting a ballot to committing a murder, could be right or wrong depending on whether or not it was in the interest of the family or clan or nation. The highest justification which any Japanese ever sought for an action was taiga meibun, “individual share in large righteousness.” And for many Japanese the largest conceivable righteousness was mere feudal loyalty—loyalty to the next man higher on the totem pole. During the early years of his reign, Hirohito had made a point of impressing on every man to whom he gave an office or assignment that taiga meibun meant sharing in national rather than clan or family righteousness. The idea of an individual striving to transcend the morality of his group by reference to a universal frame of reference struck Hirohito as a Western hypocrisy. Individualism, he felt, could only lead to misery and bad government.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.