Dialogue and Universalism

Volume 32, Issue 1, 2022

Do We Need a New Enlightenment for the Twenty-First Century? Part III

Tanishe Otabe
Pages 221-232

Kakuzô Okakura and Another Enlightenment in Early Twentieth-Century Japan

Western Enlightenment ideas had already been introduced to Edo-period Japan in the early nineteenth century. However, it was not until the Meiji Restoration in 1868 that the modern Japanese Enlightenment movement really took off, when Japan left the sinocentric sphere and adopted Western civilization as its frame of reference. In this paper, I focus on two contrasting thinkers: Yukichi Fukuzawa (1835–1901) and Kakuzô Okakura (pseudonym: Tenshin) (1863–1913). Fukuzawa, one of the leading thinkers of the Japanese Enlightenment, internalized the Eurocentric view of the history of civilization as a norm and made a significant contribution to the Westernization of Japan. In contrast, in the face of the oncoming modernization, or Westernization, Okakura sought on the one hand to revive the ideals of the East, which were in danger of being forgotten, and on the other hand, to relativize Western modernity itself. He thus reveals the possibility of another Enlightenment.