Japan's Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism

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Japan's Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism
By Walter A. Skya
Duke University Press, 2009
400 pp. $25.95

Skya argues, controversially, that the wave of political assassinations and ideological crackdowns that led to Japanese militarism were not just about power struggles and nationalism; instead, they grew out of a fundamentalist Shinto movement promoted by certain writers whose influence has been largely overlooked. Shinto fundamentalists believed that the emperor's rule was sacred, absolute, and direct; that the divine oneness of the Japanese nation was an attribute not shared by any other people (such as the neighboring Chinese, whom they saw as a mere congeries of individuals and groups occupying a geographic territory of no sacred significance); and that the emperor's rule should be worldwide even though no other ethnic group could stand on an equal cosmic plane with the Japanese. Skya finds numerous parallels with contemporary Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. The study may help illuminate some otherwise indecipherable currents of thinking that exist in Japan even today.

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