Emma Luster HIS 282 November 6, 2011 A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government Nakae Chomin wrote A Discourse by Three Drunkards on Government in 1887. It is a work of debate literature that presents us with multi-dimensional characters with very specific and indefinable beliefs about how Japan should be run. Nakae Chomin studied in France for some time and this certainly must have influenced his thoughts and writings. In our textbook, Modern East Asia, we learned about many different movements and developments that were going on at the time that this book was written.
In terms of political developments, there were a lot of changes going on in Japan. Japanese officials sent forces into Taiwan, which eventually lead to the Chinese suffering a defeat and the samurai still feeling betrayed by the Meiji leaders, which in turn lead to an uprising in Hizen and other areas of Japan. This was the start of the end for the Samurai (Schirokauer, 163). However, despite this rebellion, other leaders praised those in charge of the uprising for their spirit and enthusiasm. There was a great amount of discontent and opposition to the Meiji government at this time and antigovernment groups began to pop up everywhere.
It is also notable that political parties began to emerge at this time. Not only were there political developments, but there were also many changes in terms of intellectual progress. Many people in Japan were greatly influenced by Western ideals, specifically in the areas of science and technology (Schirokauer, 168). The Europeans Enlightenment also influenced Japanese intellectuals. To me, it seems as though the intellectual movements were for the most part stimulated by ideas that did not come directly from Japan. With all of these changes, the foreign relations that Japan had with other countries began to change.
He thought that the crisis was that conflicting opinions were not being compromised and no one really wanted to be the one to lead Japan successfully into the future for fear of failure. His concern was the Japan would fall apart and that there would be nothing anyone can do. One of the three characters in the book, Champion, had a very unique view of how Japan should be that was extremely different from that of the Gentleman. The Champion thought that Japan should step it up and become more forceful in its handling of foreign disputes.
He thought that if Japan was going to be attacked by another nation, Japan should not be passive and should in fact answer with strength and force. He brings up a good point when he says that Japan could not respond to foreign attacks by trying to verbalize and reason through the problem. Champion is a skeptic when it comes to relations with other nations and thinks that other countries are solely looking out for their own best interests which to me seems to make sense, and that is why Champion believes that Japan needs to take a stand and project its own desires and interests.
Another point that I find to be particularly powerful is that Champion tells the Gentleman that just because Japan is adopting Westerns values, it does not mean that these other nations such as France or the United States will aid Japan in a time of need. According to the Champion, war is inevitable and it should not be feared because it will leave Japanese citizens with a sense of pride and pleasure that they have accomplished something that is of great importance.
In short, Champion thinks that weakness and passiveness is the problem and that Japan needs to not rely on other countries as much, and should take caution to create a system where Japan can stand on its own. To me, I think that Champion does seem to be realistic in his arguments because he knows that discussion and reasoning will not be effective once a violent attack has already been launched. However, I think that the degree to which militaristic views were pushed is slightly extreme and that Champion should realize that there is some validity to not being so outwardly aggressive.
Next, we have the Gentleman, whose argument is the opposite of Champion’s. The Gentleman believes that as the Western world develops, Japan will quickly be left behind in the dark. To prevent this, he argues, Japan should try to keep up with the times and stay as modernized and Westernized as possible to reduce the risk of being left behind. This means that Japan should try to adopt a political system such as democracy, which in turn, attempts to promote pacifism over violence at all costs. Namely, that conflict with the larger and stronger European nations is avoided.
These powers are of concern to the Gentleman and he stresses the point that trying to stand against these powers on war would be a foolish decision because if Japan is victimized, they will not be in the wrong for also engaging in violence. In the government, the Gentleman believes that the power should lie in the hands of the people, eliminating the tension that citizens had with the government in previous years. If the citizens felt like they are more involved, perhaps they would have more of a sense of national pride in their homeland.
The Gentleman specifically mentions China and Russia as rivals that should be watched closely. In my opinion, I feel as though the Gentleman is too optimistic in his thinking that pacifism is a realistic approach to solving world problems, especially after the development of stronger and more powerful weapons. Despite the fact that he promotes pacifism, I also feel as though the Gentleman’s promotion of his tactics, as well as his hope and desire for an instant change is far too aggressive for something that would be so radically different for the Japanese.
His ideas are good in theory, and if they would really work I think it would be the best situation. Lastly, we encounter the mediator of the two other men, Master Nankai. Master Nankai has a clear passion for talking about politics and believes that it is of high importance. Master Nankai takes bits and pieces from both arguments and it seems as though he promotes the best of both worlds. He is clearly a supporter of democracy, but he also realizes that it has its drawbacks. He believes that Japanese officials should not seek out violence but if needed, they should be able to protect their country to the best of their abilities.
It is also said that European nations such as, France, Germany, and Russia set the standard for what Japan should strive for. However, as much as it seems as though Master Nankai supported these ideas, he also makes strong statements that he cannot accept either set of beliefs as they stand. Nankai wants the men to try and revise their ideas, and give them time to be tested in the real world before one can be accepted as the whole truth. To him, Master Nankai thinks that a constitutionalism system should be put in place where the emperor still has power but the peace and happiness of the Japanese citizens is still promoted.
Now we come to the hard part, deciding where my beliefs lay and which of any of these main characters do I support? I would have to say that I cannot say that I could pick one of the main characters arguments. Both are far too idealistic and would not work in the real world. To me, the perfect situation would be a combination of both Champion and Gentleman’s beliefs. If the Japanese could learn from other countries, and strive for more independence in the world, that can only be beneficial.
However, it is important that the Japanese culture is maintained and that precautions are taken so that it can protect itself if need be. In conclusion, we can learn a lot about Meiji Japan from this book that at first did not seem to be strictly informational. The book as a whole focuses on the international relations of Japan with other world powers as well as the future of Meiji Japan. I think it is clear that Japan is at a major crossroad right now where things could take a drastic turn for the worse if the right decision is not made.