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Breaking Company: Meiji Japan and East Asia

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In a famous 1885 editorial, Fukuzawa Yukichi urged his nation to “escape from Asia.” Japan could not afford to wait patiently for China and Korea to develop on their own, argued the Meiji era’s most influential scholar. To Japan’s strategic disadvantage. “civilized Western peoples” considered the Japanese to be akin to their backward neighbors. “If we keep bad company,” Fukuzawa wrote. “we cannot avoid a bad name. In my heart I favor breaking off with the bad company of East Asia.”1


1. Fukuzawa Yukichi. “Datsu-a ron,” quoted in Kenneth B. Pyle, The New Generation in Meiji Japan: Problems of Cultural Identity, 1885-1895 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1969). 149. See also Miwa Kimitada, “Fukuza, wa Yukichi’s ‘Departure from Asia’: A Prelude to the Sino-Japanese War.” in Japan ‘s Modern Century, ed. Edmund Skrzypczak (Tokyo:Sophia University, 1968). 1-26.