Japanese Nationalism: Death in Battle = Fusion with the Emperor
by Richard Koenigsberg
According to the ideology of Japanese nationalism (which generated World War II), the body of the Emperor encompassed all human beings. Western individualism, on the other hand, negated this fantasy that all human bodies were fused within the Emperor’s body. The Japanese waged war in order to proclaim the Emperor’s omnipotence. While citizens of Other nations proved recalcitrant—asserting that they did not wish to assimilate into the Emperor, the Japanese proved the truth of their theory—by dying in battle. The Japanese soldier died imagining he would merge into body of the Emperor.
Walter A. Skya. Japan's Holy War: The Ideology of Radical Shinto Ultranationalism
(Duke University Press)
Description: http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41B4%2B1WS9TL._SL210_.jpg

Japan’s Holy War reveals how a radical religious ideology drove the Japanese to imperial expansion and global war. Bringing to light a wealth of new information, Walter A. Skya demonstrates that whatever other motives the Japanese had for waging war in Asia and the Pacific, for many the war was the fulfillment of a religious mandate.

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Japanese totalitarianism and warfare, Walter Skya says, grew out of a radical, nationalistic ideology—revolving around the idea or fantasy that individuals could fuse or merge with the Emperor.

A key thinker was Kakehi Katsuhiko (1872-1961), who developed the theory of “one heart, same body,” which advocated “abandoning the self and offering one’s entire body and soul to the emperor.” A true Japanese does not think of self-interest, but rather forgets one’s own concerns and “completely offers oneself to the Emperor.”

Achieving the state of “one heart, same body” required discarding or annihilating the self. Any consideration of personal needs was wrong: one had to submerge the self entirely into the collectivity.

Hozumi Yatsuka (1860-1912) developed a similar theory. According to Hozumi, the individual exists for society, and society for the individual. The Western clash between individualism and socialism is resolved by his concept of godo seizon (literally, fusion, or amalgamated existence): the merging of the individual into society.

Society was composed of merged individuals. The ideal person, according to Hozumi, was one who desired total assimilation into society, which was a “higher organic totality.” Hozumi had a special term for this: kodoshin, the desire for two or more independent elements to become one.

The purpose of all ethics and morality in society was to direct the individual to “submerge the self totally into the social totality.” Ethics and morality revolved around the idea that individuals should aspire toward “total integration into the society.”

Opposing the belief that human beings should merge with society was the idea of individualism. When Kakehi spoke of the bad aspects of Western culture, according to Skya, he was referring to the evils of Western secularism and individualism. Kakehi believed that the Western focus on the value of the individual was the “greatest threat to the Japanese nation.”

Similarly, Hozumi believed that the Enlightenment thought of Western liberal democracy was the ultimate ideological threat to the Japanese ethnic state. Skya tells us that Hozumi attacked Enlightenment thought with every theoretical weapon at his disposal.

Hozumi’s work contains statements such as, “The individual does not exist in isolation,” and “It is a mistake to think that society is made up of isolated individuals.” Hozumi’s war with Western civilization, Skya says, was a “holy war.” What is the nature of this “war against the individual” which lay at the core of Japanese nationalism, and of so many totalitarian movements?

Japanese nationalists wrote about “absorbing the self into the Emperor,” of becoming “part of” the Emperor, of the dying of the self and being “reborn” in the Emperor. In a perfect world, individuals would merge with one another—and with society—to create a single body controlled by the will of the Emperor. The individual who seeks to be “separate,” according to this way of thinking, is an apostate, an infidel—whose very existence as a separate being denies or contradicts the fantasy that all individuals are united to constitute one nation, under the Emperor.

Margaret Mahler defined symbiosis as the state of “undifferentiation or fusion” in which the “I is not differentiated from the not I.” Psychoanalysts endlessly debate the issue of a “symbiotic phase of development.” But it doesn’t matter. They are looking for love in all the wrong places.

Symbiosis is a fantasy. The essential feature of the symbiotic fantasy, Mahler says, is that of “hallucinatory or delusional omnipotent fusion,” and in particular the delusion of a “common boundary of two actually and physically separate individuals.”

Radical Japanese nationalism articulated a symbiotic fantasy. The theory of “one heart, one body” conveyed the idea that there was a single heart and single body, that of the Emperor, and that every Japanese was fused or assimilated into this body.

Individualism was conceived as a “crime” because it contradicted this fantasy. Japan waged war in order to destroy the idea of the separate individual.

According to this Japanese ideology or fantasy, the body of the Emperor encompassed and contained all human beings. The idea that a body was not contained within the body of the Emperor constituted an affront to the fantasy. Individualism negated symbiotic fantasy: that all bodies are merged, fused united into one body.

Of course, while citizens of other nations might be recalcitrant—asserting that they did not wish to assimilate into the body of the Emperor, the Japanese at least could prove the truth of their theory through their actions.

One overcame the unbearable feeling of separation from the Emperor by dying for him. By dying for the Emperor, one imagined that one’s own being would merge into the mystical body of the Emperor, thus closing the “unbearable gap.”