Journeys to the Japanese, 1952-1979

Journeys to the Japanese, 1952-1979

Journeys to the Japanese, 1952-1979

Journeys to the Japanese, 1952-1979


Morton White, one of America's most distinguished and intellectual historians, was among the first Western academics invited to Japan after the Pacific War. With his wife and co- author Lucia, he first went there in 1952 and subsequently made four more trips, the last one in 1979. During these visits the Whites became friendly with many Japanese intellectuals and their families and were able to observe Japan and Japanese life during a crucial part of this century.

Through personal reminiscences based on their journals and correspondence, the Whites introduce the reader to the great intellectual, social, and economic changes that took place in Japan during the nearly thirty-year span of their visits. They provide penetrating sketches of the personalities and attitudes of an important group of Japanese academics -- leaders who acted against the prevailing opinion to introduce well-known intellectuals from the United States to help break down the stereotypes created by World War II. Reflecting on the changing trends and practices of the Japanese philosophers, the Whites note the gradual shift in orientation from the European to the American tradition in philosophy and comment on how this produced tensions in the Japanese philosophers who lived through it -- issues of great interest both for students of the history of philosophy and for anyone interested in the spread of American influence.

Outside the precincts of the universities, the Whites are keen observers of a culture they have come to respect and admire. The delicacy of Japanese social arrangements, the importance of 'face,' the self-consciously problematic position of women in Japanese society, as well as the intricate web of courtesy are given life through many insightful examples.

In the book's final chapter, the Whites ponder upon things Japanese they have yet to understand and how their visits have made them more conscious of their own cultural tradition and what they perceive as its deficiencies.

Journeys to the Japanese both entertains and informs about an important period and significant individuals in Japanese history. It is an affecting account of how lasting international sympathy and understanding can be nourished by encouraging cultural exchange and personal friendship.


In this book, which is based on journals, correspondence, and recollections, we record some experiences and present some reflections on roughly thirty years of association with the Japanese, primarily with scholars and their families. Most of our contact with them occurred while we lived and travelled in Japan during five visits there, some of it while they visited in the United States. We saw our friends in seminars and conferences, in the lecture-hall and the beer-hall, in their homes and in restaurants, in the city and the country, at work and at play. We watched some of them move from youth to the ripeness of age, and we saw their country rise from abject military defeat to the economic pre-eminence it now holds in the world. We were therefore able to observe Japan and Japanese life during a crucial part of this century. We watched it change in a period of turbulent and rapid transition; we also saw it maintain many of its ancient traditions.

Not being professional students of Japanese language, history, or culture, we have not written a scholarly work. Rather, we have presented some impressions and ideas of Japan which we hope will interest the reader who can find more scientific information elsewhere. Although our responsibilities and personal connections led us to spend a good deal of time with philosophers, students of American life, and their families, our frequent visits and our travels within Japan gave us an opportunity to see beyond the confines of the classroom. the reader will observe that we give more space to our first visit in 1952 than to any other visit. This is partly owing to our having been assaulted by a great variety of novel experiences on our first encounter with Japan, experiences that we were moved to report in the fullest journals we kept.

We wish to thank Rebecca Davies for cheerfully typing the manuscript.

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