In Search of Identity: The Japanese Overseas Scholar in America and Japan

In Search of Identity: The Japanese Overseas Scholar in America and Japan

In Search of Identity: The Japanese Overseas Scholar in America and Japan

In Search of Identity: The Japanese Overseas Scholar in America and Japan

Excerpt

Two homecomings tell much of our story:

On a hot summer day in 1874 Jo Niishima, Amherst 1870, stands on the deck of the big four-master looking out over the bustling Yokohama harbor scene for the first time in many years. Back in Japan after his covert and illegal trip to America, he feels himself on the threshold of an exciting future. The Japan he had left has changed dramatically. It is now in a mood to welcome people who can teach the new "Western knowledge," rather than, as at the time of his departure, to suspect them, or even to punish them as subversive elements. The times are auspicious, change is in the air, the new Western knowledge is eagerly sought, and the Western-educated person like Jo Niishima is a rarity, who can feel with satisfaction that he has a unique and desired contribution to make to his country.

Our second homecoming is -- and now we must use a fictitious name -- that of Yoji Watanabe, Midwest University 1953, who walks down the runway of a Stratocruiser and looks out across the crowded and noisy vista of Haneda Airport, only a few miles from where Jo Niishima landed. Yoji fingers the lapel of his American suit, takes a deep breath, and begins to move toward the little group of relatives and friends waiting for him at the gate. He wonders if he will get the job he wants, what people will think of his new clothes and his new manners, and whether his socialist friends at his old university will be suspicious of him. Japan, he has heard, is bustling and active, but also restless and uncertain, and he wonders how he will get along in this highly industrialized postwar country. Will Japan want what he has to offer -- or is he to be a stranger in his own land, never fully accepted or accepting?

Between these two homecomings lies the whole of Japan's modern history, her development of a national identity in the modern world. Both . . .

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