The Origins of Multilateralism in the Japanese Intellectual Tradition

  • Michal Kolmaš
Keywords: Japan, multilateralism, Nakae, Yoshino, Asia


The aim of this consultation is to identify the roots of Japan’s perception of multilateralism through the work of two pre-war Japanese scholars – Chomin Nakae and Sakuzo Yoshino. The article assumes that intellectual and cultural traditions influence modern perceptions of basic political concepts. Japan is a country which has long been marked as isolationist and militarist, and whose political thinking has been disregarded by the discipline of international relations. However, on the example of Nakae and Yoshino’s thought, we can observe that the idea of international cooperation had been researched well before the end of the 19th century. However, Japanese scholars projected their cultural and sociopolitical background into their perception of multilateralism. Nakae depicted a vision of a functional long term cooperation uniting Western and Confucian thought; meanwhile, Yoshino saw multilateralism as a way towards the emancipation of the enlightened Japanese man.

Author Biography

Michal Kolmaš
Born in 1985, he is a lecturer at the Department of Asian Studies and International Relations of Metropolitan University Prague and also at the Department of International Relations, Charles University. He focuses on current IR theory, culture, identity and discourse in foreign policy and on the society and politics in Japan, where he spent two years as a researcher. He authored one book (Karolinum, 2016), co-authored two more, and authored several peer-reviewed articles (in Perspectives, China Report, etc.) and book chapters.