Rethinking Japanese Public Opinion and Security: From Pacifism to Realism?

By Paul Midford | Go to book overview

Preface

During an early morning panel on Japanese foreign policy at the 2003 annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) in New York City, I was struck by several claims made there that Japanese public opinion was becoming hawkish on security, even to the point of getting out in front of the conservative ruling LDP, then led by hawkish Prime Minister Koizumi Jun’ichirō. These claims provoked me to wonder whether they were true. I started looking for answers, and soon I realized three things. First, I discovered an embarrassment of riches in polling data, especially Japanese-language data. Second, I found that, although it is common for academic works on Japanese foreign policy to cite a poll result or two here and there, there was exceptionally little scholarly research, even in Japanese and especially in English, on Japanese public opinion and its influence on security policy. Finally, I saw that Koizumi’s bold plans, and the equally bold predictions of pundits, for the Japanese military to begin playing a significant (read “combat”) role in international security were going largely unfulfilled.

Fortuitously, several months after the meeting I received an invitation from friend and colleague Robert Eldridge to join a project he was organizing on Japanese public opinion and the war on terrorism. He had received a Humanities and Social Science Grant (Jinbun Shakai Kagaku Joseikin) from the Suntory Foundation and was assembling a group of expat American scholars (plus a Japanese scholar) based in Japan to examine this topic. Robert and I eventually published the results of this project in our coedited volume with Palgrave Macmillan in 2008: Japanese Public Opinion and the War on Terrorism. I

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