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Bureaucrats and villagers in Japan: Shimin and the crisis of the early 1930s

Wilson, S.ORCID: 0000-0002-8341-3120 (1998) Bureaucrats and villagers in Japan: Shimin and the crisis of the early 1930s. Social Science Japan Journal, 1 (1). pp. 121-140.

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Bureaucrats have often been held responsible for collaborating with the military in the 1930s and 1940s to encourage ultranationalism and steer Japan towards war. Similarly, villagers have been portrayed as the backbone of 'Japanese fascism'. This paper suggests that, for the early 1930s at least, such views not only distort the picture of the Japanese countryside, but also overemphasize the coherence of the elites. Through an examination of the journal Shimin, which was produced largely by Home Ministry bureaucrats and directed at village leaders, it is shown that Home Ministry bureaucrats did not universally adopt the military viewpoint, particularly in relation to Japan's invasion of Manchuria and subsequent events. Though they were certainly nationalistic, they continued to direct moderate views of foreign policy to the countryside, while retaining their traditional emphasis on the importance of co-operation and conciliation in village life. Thus, in marked contrast to the sorts of views being directed by the army towards the countryside through the magazine le no Hikari, they reserved their enthusiasm, not for Manchuria or for the military's agenda, but for the government's economic revitalization movement. The material examined here suggests the complexity of the relationship between bureaucrats and the military in the 1930s, and raises questions about the place usually accorded to the early part of the decade in analyses of 'Japanese fascism'.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Copyright: © Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo 1998
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