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Symbols of State Ideology: The Samurai in Modern Japan

Author(s): Lisa Narroway

Journal: New Voices : A Journal for Emerging Scholars of Japanese Studies in Australia and New Zealand
ISSN 1833-5233

Volume: 2;
Start page: 63;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Samurai | ideology | nationalism | symbol | state

Between the Meiji period (1868-1912) and the end of the Pacific War in 1945, the Japanese state systematically created and propagated a nationalistic ideology in order to foster a coherent, unified identity among the newly nationalised population and mobilise support for its agenda. This ideology was represented by a series of discursive symbols, of which I examine the particular image of the samurai. Through the deliberate glorification and imbuement of this image with certain moral and behavioural values including the ideals of loyalty, obedience and self-sacrifice, the state elite deployed the samurai symbol to promote its ideology. This symbol was widely disseminated via official indoctrination efforts, but as I will demonstrate, this did not necessarily translate into a profound impact on the popular mindset. Drawing on a range of sources, I investigate the construction, projection and significance of the samurai image in the particular context of pre-war and wartime Japan, and in so doing shed some light on the function of symbols as tools of ideology.
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