Nagasaki: An Act of State Terrorism

August 9, 2023 is the 78th anniversary of the destruction of the oldest, largest and most historic Catholic community in Japan, that of the Urakami District of Nagasaki, whose Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception lay 1,650 feet beneath the airburst of the 21 kiloton Fat Man plutonium bomb.

Faith and Martyrdom in Nagasaki

The Catholic Faith was first brought to what is now the Nagasaki Prefecture by Saint Francis Xavier, following his arrival in Japan in 1549. The first Catholic missionary to evangelize the town of Nagasaki was a Portuguese Jesuit, Father Gaspar Vilela, who erected a church on the site of a pagoda in 1569.

The harvest of conversions was plentiful. By 1587, there were three parish churches and numerous chapels in the former fishing village, which was then growing into a city and a major seaport. Buddhism and Shintoism had all but disappeared from within its municipal confines.

By 1588, the year that the first Catholic diocese was established in Japan — the Diocese of Funai, centered on Nagasaki — there were at least 200,000 Catholics in the Land of the Rising Sun. Some place the figure above a half million.

Persecution however, would soon follow. Beginning in 1587, the Imperial Regent and Chancellor, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, influenced by the Bonzes — Buddhist monks — issued the first prohibitions directed against the missionaries.

The pagan monks, affronted by the dramatic growth of Catholicism in their country, bore false witness against the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, accusing them of territorial ambitions within Japan, on behalf of the then united Spanish and Portuguese Crowns.

In this lethal calumny they were to be abetted, later, by Protestant Dutch and English merchants and sea captains who hated the Catholic Faith.

In 1597, the Twenty Six Martyrs of Japan — Saint Paul Miki and Companions — were crucified in Nagasaki, the first of hundreds of thousands of Catholics to suffer for the Faith in Japan.

In 1614, Catholicism was proscribed in Japan and would remain so until 1873. For the next two and a half centuries, Nagasaki would give seed to the Church through the blood of her martyrs.

Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits and lay Catholics would die there in 1622, followed by Augustinian Recollects in 1632. Martyrdoms would continue until the end of the 1850’s.

When the first Catholic missionaries returned to Japan in 1865, they discovered the extraordinary phenomenon of a clandestine church, the church of the “Hidden Christians,” consisting of thousands of secret Catholics living near Nagasaki, and existing, impoverished, on the very margins of Japanese society. They kept the Faith, without priests and without most of the sacraments, and without contact with the outside world, for 250 years.

It is no wonder that Nagasaki has been described as the “heart and soul” of Japanese Catholicism and the “Cradle of the Catholic Church,” in Japan.

After several years of de facto toleration, the ban against Catholicism in Japan was finally lifted in 1873. Nagasaki then resumed its place as the religious and cultural center of the Catholic community.

As early as 1866, the Apostolic Vicariate of Japan was located in Nagasaki. The Diocese of Nagasaki was erected in 1891. By 1925, the great Romanesque Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the largest Christian church in East Asia, was completed, to the immense joy of the Catholics of the city.

A saint of modern times was among those who preached the Gospel in Nagasaki. Saint Maximilian Kolbe spent six years in Japan, from 1930 to 1936. In 1931, the Polish martyr founded a Franciscan convent on the outskirts of the city.

The Bomb

Shortly before 11 am on Thursday, August 9, 1945, three Silverplate (nuclear capable) Boeing B-29 Superfortresses of the 509th Composite Bombardment Group, of the Twentieth United States Army Air Force, approached the City of Nagasaki, at an altitude of 29,000 feet.

The aircraft had left Tinian, in the Marianas, eight hours earlier. Upon the completion of their mission, they would land in U.S. occupied Okinawa.

The lead plane, the weather reconnaissance plane, was the already famous Enola Gay, which had dropped the first atomic bomb, Little Boy, on Hiroshima, three days before.

The second plane, the observation aircraft, carrying cameras and measuring instruments, was The Great Artiste.

The third B-29, Bockscar, carried a plutonium implosion atomic bomb named Fat Man. The aircraft was piloted by Major Charles W. Sweeney, an Irish American Catholic from Lowell, Massachusetts.

At 11:02 am, 43 seconds after its release from the bomb bay of the B-29, Fat Man exploded, with force of 22,000 tons of TNT, over Urakami District of Nagasaki, 1,650 feet above Immaculate Conception Cathedral.

The population of Nagasaki in 1945 was, officially, 263,000. Because of conventional bombing raids, thousands of children had been evacuated to the countryside. There were, perhaps, less than 200,000 residents remaining in the city on August 9th.

Of these, 40,000 were vaporized in a millisecond. Another 34,000 would die from burns, blast injuries and radiation poisoning before the end of the year. Because of the long term effects of radiation sickness, and the cancers it engenders, the total fatalities, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, may have approached 140,000.

Nothing survived within a kilometer of the epicenter. Everyone in the Cathedral died. The physical destruction was horrific, with 14,000 homes incinerated.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe estimated that there were a 100,000 Catholics in Japan in the 1930’s, of whom 60,000 lived in the Diocese of Nagasaki. Of these, 12,000 lived in the city itself, in the Urakami District.

Mortality estimates for the Catholic community range from 8,500 to 10,000 dead. This means that somewhere between 71% and 83% of the Catholic population of Nagasaki was destroyed, with perhaps as much as ten percent of the entire Catholic population of Japan killed in a single mass casualty event.

Statues found among the ruins of Urakami Cathedral.

Ironically, only 150 Japanese military personnel died in the bombing, but the bomb killed 2,000 Korean forced laborers.

Although the plutonium bomb used at Nagasaki had, at 21 kilotons, a 40% higher yield than the uranium device detonated over Hiroshima, it produced less than 29% of the initial fatalities.

This was because the port city of Nagasaki, like the American seaport of Boston, is a geological basin, surrounded by a ridge formation. This contained the blast. Providentially, Saint Maximilian placed his convent on the reverse side of the mountain overlooking the city. It survived.

Why Nagasaki?

Suspicions remain as to why and how Nagasaki became a target for the atomic bomb.

Nagasaki was added, at the last moment — on July 24th or later — by an unknown hand, to the target list.

St. Agnes, from Urakami Cathedral. Found in the ruins of the cathedral after the nuclear attack.

According to U.S. Army Air Force protocols, it should never have been on the list at all, as it was not pristine, having been firebombed four times by the B-29s of the Twentieth Air Force.

The U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey wanted only completely undamaged targets to measure, more accurately, the blast and incendiary impact of the atomic bomb.

Another mitigating factor was the presence of 884 Allied prisoners of war in the city — British, Dutch and Australian — who worked as forced labor in the two Mitsubishi factories.

Major General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project which developed the A-bomb, was the chairman of the target list committee. He later claimed, implausibly, that he had no idea of how Nagasaki made the list.

Nearly eight decades on, the Nagasaki target map remains missing from the National Archives.

Kyoto, Hiroshima, Yokohama, Kokura and Niigata were on the initial target list. Yokohama, with its navy yard, was removed because of the extensive damage it suffered from the conventional munitions dropped in B-29 raids.

Kyoto, with its 2,000 Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, was removed from the list after Secretary of War Henry Stimson personally interceded with President Harry Truman. Stimson said that the destruction of the religious and cultural capital of Japan would permanently alienate the Japanese people, whose support the United States might need in a future conflict with the Soviet Union.

It seems, sequentially at least, that Nagasaki was placed on the target list following the removal of Kyoto, possibly as its replacement. Its inclusion came in the form of a hand scrawled note, by an unidentified person, which was added to the already typewritten list.

On August 9, 1945, Kokura was the primary target. As it was socked in — no visibility — Major Sweeney, running low on fuel, turned to the secondary target. That was Nagasaki.

There Was Widespread Opposition in America’s Military
Leadership to the Atomic Bombing of Cities

Conservative writers, journalists, intellectuals and media talking heads — including the putatively Catholic George Weigel — continue to defend the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, despite its clear contravention of Catholic just war doctrine, first expounded by Saint Augustine.

For decades, conservatives maintained that it was a binary choice between the A-bomb and the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

They cited Winston Churchill, who claimed that the invasion would cost the lives of a million American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines, the lives of a half million British Commonwealth forces and the lives of untold millions of Japanese soldiers and civilians.

In recent times, their arguments have become more refined. Some now claim that the maintenance of the American naval blockade of Japan would have resulted in tens of millions of Japanese deaths from starvation.

Overlooked in all of this is the fact that while modern day opinion givers justify the use of nuclear weapons on civilians, most of America’s military and naval leadership at the time opposed it.

Of the six Allied Supreme Commanders in the Second World War, all three Americans, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight Eisenhower, and Chester Nimitz, opposed, on moral or practical grounds, the atomic bombing of Japan.

In his memoirs, President Richard Nixon said that what impressed him most about Douglas MacArthur was the General’s principled opposition to the indiscriminate killing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As MacArthur would have led the invasion of Japan, and would therefore have been acutely aware of the potential for massive American casualties, this is no small thing.

President Eisenhower, in his 1948 memoir, Crusade in Europesaid he “disliked seeing the United States take the lead in introducing into war something as horrible and destructive as this new weapon.” Fifteen years later, in a second memoir, he charged that “Japan was already defeated and . . . dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary.”

America’s senior officer in World War II was Fleet Admiral William Leahy, who was the Chairman of the Joint Board of the Army and the Navy and the Chief of Staff to the President — the 1940’s equivalent of Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and National Security Advisor.

Leahy called the atomic bombing “an act of barbarism.”

The entire leadership of the Navy was opposed to the bomb. Besides Leahy and Nimitz, the Chief of Naval Operations, Ernest King, and Nimitz’s two Pacific fleet commanders, Admirals Halsey and Spruance, were critics of the bomb.

Even the Twentieth Air Force commander, Curtis LeMay — whose planes dropped the bombs — said it was unnecessary.

LeMay’s objections were operational, not ethical. General LeMay always maintained that the war would have ended with a Japanese surrender in September of 1945. That is when his target list, for the obliteration of Japanese cities through conventional firebombing, would have been completed.

Stalin Did We Asked Him To Do

One of the more fatuous arguments made by defenders of the A-bomb was that the Soviet Union rushed, opportunistically, to enter the war against Japan after the U.S. bombed Hiroshima. This is an imbecility.

It presumes that the plodding and ponderous Russian Army was suddenly transformed into the Wehrmacht, ready to launch a blitzkrieg against the Japanese in Manchuria within 48 hours of the bombing of Hiroshima.

The truth is quite different.

At Yalta, in April of 1945, three months before the successful test of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill were supplicants to Joseph Stalin, cajoling him and wheedling him to declare war upon Japan.

Suitably bribed with territorial concessions in the Far East, Stalin agreed. He promised to enter the Pacific war against Japan three months after the European war against Germany ended.

VE Day was May 8, 1945. Russia entered the war punctually, exactly on time, as Stalin said he would, three months later, on August 8, 1945.

If the bombs were dropped to shock the Japanese into surrender, then the question remains of why the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Japanese civilians two days before Japan’s greatest fear—a Russian declaration of war—materialized, which we knew was coming? And why did we drop a second bomb the day after the Russian entry into the war?

We will also examine the moral compass of Major Charles Sweeney.


C. Joseph Doyle is the Executive Director of the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts. Since 2019, he has also served as the Communications Director of the Friends of Saint Benedict Center. This article appears courtesy of Catholicism.


Featured: Urakami Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Nagasaki, January 7,1946.


The Paradox of Japanese Modernity

Modernity, as it appeared in Japan in the 19th century, baffles the Westerner who might consider questioning it. Because it is often wrongly perceived as an exclusively European phenomenon, its Japanese expression is reduced to an attempt to imitate it in order to make up for economic, political and military backwardness. Yet, in Moderne sans être occidental: Aux origines du Japon aujourd’hui (Modern without being Western: At the Origins of the Japan of Today), Japanese history specialist Pierre-François Souyri demonstrates that Japanese modernity, far from being an ersatz of Western modernity, has an identity and genesis of its own.

The identity between modernization and westernization of Japan is one of the most commonplace points of view. Writers, filmmakers, but also, more seriously, historians often describe a feudal archipelago that embraced Western modernity by discovering the new power of the expanding European empires in the mid-nineteenth century. The British gunboats created a sense of urgency and weakness in this traditionally isolationist people, forcing them to catch up technically, economically and politically. This approach thus holds that Japanese modernity is the product of the West; that the deep causes of the transformation of Japanese society are exogenous and that this radical change can be understood in the mode of pure and simple imitation, in particular through new tendencies, such as nationalism, imperialism or Japanese-style capitalism.

However, defends the thesis of an autonomous development, by underlining the internal causes that pushed the archipelago to embrace a specific and, precisely, non-Western modernity. In his opinion, if modernity has its origins in 16th century Europe, it also found its expression in 19th century Japan which, independently of the arrival of the Americans on its territory, experienced upheavals that profoundly redefined the organization of Japanese society, as well as the very mentality of its people. According to him, “the European vision of modernity… permeated Japanese discourse, to the point that some see it as a ‘spiritual colonization from within’ that polluted their historical imagination for more than a century.” In other words, the Japanese themselves were until recently unable to think of their own modernity outside the Western paradigm. They “long sought to conceive of the gap between Japan and the paradigm, consciously or not, by doing ‘Eurocentric comparatism.’”

It is not a question here of affirming that Japanese modernity owes nothing to Western modernity; rather, it is a question of restoring the originality of a historical phenomenon, by avoiding a systematic comparison with the European model. “For the past twenty years, this way of looking at things has been revisited in Japan, to the point that the history of Japanese modernization is now conceived at a pace identical to that of the ‘great powers,’ with shifts that were often less relevant than one might have thought.” From then on, Japanese modernity was no longer to be apprehended negatively, i.e., by always looking for what Japan does not have compared to Europeans, but positively, i.e., by reflecting on the nature of this modernity. In short, it is no longer a question of reasoning in terms of failure but of difference. “History indeed invites us to see that specific forms of modernity were born in Japan, with their own dimensions, hybrid and heterogeneous, and that they can sometimes be exported.”

The Japanese “Enlightenment”

The change of regime is decisive to understanding this period of Japanese history. The Meiji Restoration (1867-1912), the return of the emperor to the forefront, after more than two centuries of rule by the Tokugawa shogunate (1603-1867), is part of the Japanese “Enlightenment” (bunmei kaika). In the ninth century, with the failure of the central state to defend the provinces, the political power of the emperor had faded to give way to a feudal Japan, dominated by daimyos (lords) and several centuries of civil war, until the arrival in power of Tokugawa Ieyasu in the early seventeenth century. The authority of the Tokugawa shogunate had been based in part on its ability to pacify Japan; but, faced with the military and technical superiority of the West, the regime no longer seemed to have the means to protect the country. From then on, only a central state with a modern army could ensure the security of the Japanese people against a possible invader.

The supporters of the Japanese “Enlightenment” were particularly impressed by Bismarck, during the Iwakura mission, which toured Europe from 1871 to 1873. The restoration of the Emperor was thus part of a context of modernization and “civilization;” but, unlike Western modernity, it did not involve the creation of a new type of regime, as in France or the United States. The writer and political theorist Fukuzwa Yukichi refers to this as “revolutionary restoration.”

From the outset, Japanese political modernity had something “conservative” about it; and Westerners were perfectly comfortable with the authoritarian character of the new regime. The Japanese case is thus very different from the French and American cases marked by intrinsically progressive revolutions. Moreover, if the West appears as a model in technical and military terms, it is also a rival, an enemy that must be imitated in order to better protect Japan. It is thus a double movement, both xenophilic and xenophobic, which conditions the advent of Japanese modernity.

That said, many supporters of the “Enlightenment” felt that political change was insufficient and that it was also necessary to transform society in depth by influencing mentalities. This is the case of the Society of the Year VI, which imported from Europe the practice of public debate, which had been completely absent in the archipelago. “We knew the palabra or the informal discussion in small groups; but confrontational debate was hardly in use. It would even have been shocking,” explains Souyri.

Muragaki Norimasa, deputy head of the Japanese delegation that went to Washington in 1860, was very surprised by the verbal violence of certain exchanges in parliament. “A minister who was taken to task by a member of parliament replied calmly, whereas a samurai would have drawn a sword!” Feudal Japan was administered by the samurai who respected a strict code of honor. The elites were forged by a warrior mentality and not a politician one. Insults were answered with weapons. There was therefore a long way to go to move from a society of hierarchy and honor to a society of free individuals practicing public debate and exchange between equal citizens.

Some members of the Year VI Society understood the link between the nature of the political regime and individual mindsets, as despotism was not really able to produce “civilized” individuals as in the West. The philosopher Nishi Amane said: “Docility is an important quality for the Japanese. In a despotic regime, it is indeed a highly prized quality.” Nakamura Masano, on the other hand, believed very early on that assemblies and councils elected by the people should be created to break with this despotic tradition and awaken the Japanese to the practice of politics.

The “Doctrine of the Quintessence of the Country”

Japanese modernity was also characterized by the emergence of nationalisms of different kinds. If the first intellectuals of the Meiji period wondered about the possibility of a change of regime to allow the Japanese to have more individual rights (freedom of assembly, association, expression) and real political freedoms, the debate then turned to the question of defining this new Japanese identity. “From the years 1887-1888… the terms of the debate evolved and henceforth crystallized around the question of identities within the nation, with a balancing act between three elements, the West and its always fascinating and threatening influence, the East (but this is mainly China) which became a kind of land of utopia or expansion, and finally Japan, whose essence had to be constantly redefined between the two previous poles.”

What is particularly interesting in the Japanese case is that nationalism, which is par excellence a modern political doctrine, was not only formed from the Western model. This is particularly true of a trend called the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” (kokusui shugi). “They wanted to be the defenders and promoters of a pure national identity, of a form of nationalism of a new nature, of a national idealism,” Souyri emphasizes. From then on, we must not blindly imitate the Western model, which destroys what makes up the Japanese identity, but build a nationalism capable of grasping and respecting Japanese history and ethos. By adopting Western mores and techniques, Japan risked losing its soul, losing what is specifically Japanese. Those who defended the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country” believed that Japan should not be absorbed by modernity but should invent its own modernity, especially by preserving what is specifically Asian.

The Meiji government used an ancient concept to define the nature of the Japanese nation in order to confront popular demands and the supporters of the old feudal system: kokutai, which “refers to the national peculiarity of the imperial dynasty that has ruled the country forever and ever.” However, kokutai originally meant only the form and identity of a state, Japanese or not. It was a form of mystical nationalism in the 19th century that gave kokutai a new and specifically Japanese meaning: a conservative, national and anti-feudal doctrine. The idea of kokutai disrupted the old feudal hierarchies that structured society under the Tokugawa dynasty. It was used to build a strong central state that advocated the equality of all subjects before the deified person of the emperor, a particularly effective way to foster the emergence of a modern nation. “The emperor combines political authority with prestige of a spiritual nature. He is both the German Kaiser and the Pope of Rome embodied in one individual.”

Once again, we observe that Japanese political modernity was built by borrowing and recasting notions inherited from tradition, not by wiping the slate clean. The term kokutai appeared in the Imperial Constitution of 1889. Its first article states: “The Empire of Greater Japan is under the government of the emperor whose lineage has ruled our country since the beginning of time. The historical continuity of the Japanese Empire, despite periods of displacement, notably under the Tokugawa shogunate, allowed the defenders of the new Meiji regime to make themselves the guarantors of an absolute political authority, capable of resisting Westerners and defending a threatened ancestral Japanese identity.” Paradoxically, this new form of nationalism, out of rejection of Western values, turned in particular to Confucianism. “If there is a doctrine, it is rather a form of syncretism in which the most conformist Confucian thought is allied with the national precepts of autochthonist thought, mixed with forms of social Darwinism and modern nationalism,” says Souyri.

Japanese Anti-Modernism

In 1886, Shiga Shigetaka founded a new type of nationalism of cultural type. In Landscapes of Japan (1894), he explained that the beauty of Japanese nature is superior to that of Western countries and that from this aesthetic superiority should come a feeling of pride. “Shiga bridges the gap between a poetic and impressionistic discourse, and a naturalistic discourse that is scientific but based on the comparison, implicit or not, with the rest of the countries.” The objective of this book was to decompress the Japanese towards the Westerners by insisting on the natural beauty of the archipelago but also by praising the greatness of their poetry. Shiga’s thought thus went against the universalism of the Enlightenment to develop a new form of particularism but without falling into the xenophobia of the “doctrine of the quintessence of the country,” in which he did not recognize himself. “More than a political ideology, it is a thought with a cultural vocation,” insists Souyri.

In the same vein, we can cite Okakura Tenshin, famous for his Book of Tea, who understood early on the importance of valorizing Japanese art in the establishment of the new state. He participated in the creation of museums, the protection of heritage and the teaching of art. In his eyes, “fine arts are the quintessence and splendor of a nation.” While the Japanese were fascinated by Western art, Okakura Tenshin, who was a connoisseur of Western art, had the ambition to bring the importance of traditional Japanese art to the West. He “[was] at the origin of this image of an anti-modernist Japan, based on a mysterious and refined Japanese culture.” In this, Okakura Tenshin’s modernity can be compared to the anti-modern modernity of a Baudelaire defined by Antoine Compagnon. His anti-modernism is a reaction to Western cultural domination that sought to reactivate, within the framework of the development of the modern state, the aesthetic forms of Japanese tradition. In doing so, he participated in creating “a kind of invariance, the ‘eternal’ Japan'” as well as his “own orientalism.”

Pierre-François Souyri’s book allows us to understand that Japanese modernity was structured as much by imitating the Western model as by rejecting it. If there was indeed, in the history of Japan, a first movement influenced by the European Enlightenment, it was quickly counterbalanced by political doctrines that sought to preserve the spiritual and cultural identity of Japan, drawing on heterogeneous elements: Asianism, Confucianism, but also on a reinterpreted kokutai. This book is thus an invitation to detach oneself from any ethnocentrism in order to better understand the conditions of possibility of the emergence of a specifically Japanese modernity. “This forces us to assimilate in our mental schemas this simple idea: we are not the sole depositaries of modernity. Modernity was not invented once and for all by Europeans, and European modernity is perhaps not an exceptional and almost miraculous phenomenon. Other forms of modernity have manifested themselves elsewhere, and particularly in Japan.”


Matthieu Giroux is a Dostoyevskian sovereignist and the editorial director of PHLITT. This article appears through the generous courtesy of PHLITT.


Featured: “Founding of the Nation,” by Kawamura Kiyoo; painted in 1929.

The Use and Misuse of Yukio Mishima

The mode of death of a novelist is rarely a cause for concentrated attention by a public beyond that of his or her readership. When, on November 25, 1970, the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima died, it was in a manner that made an impression on the cultural world quite out of proportion to his diminutive physical stature.

On that date, Mishima, accompanied by several subordinates in his private militia, stormed into the Tokyo headquarters of the Jieitai, the Japanese Self-Defense Force, and took a general hostage. He then demanded an audience with the assembled soldiers from the attached garrison. When this was granted, he called for them to throw off the post-WWII ‘Peace Constitution’ of 1947 and return Japanese sovereignty to the Emperor.

The soldiers, young men already a quarter-century from the nationalist Japan of the pre-war period, jeered him. He cajoled them, to no avail. Finally, in disgust, he shouted the traditional salute of nationalist Japan—Tenno Heika Banzai! (Long Live the Emperor!)—and returned to the room where the general was held hostage by his compatriots. There, he committed seppuku, the samurai form of ritual suicide, disemboweling himself with a dagger. The rite was botched, however, by his second or kaishakunin, whose job it was to behead Mishima with a single blow from a sword immediately upon completion of the abdominal cut. His first strike landed on Mishima’s back, and two more were needed to remove his head from his body, before the kaishakunin himself was beheaded by another member of the militia group.

Mishima’s final act–not only the suicide but the effort to rouse the troops and bring about a popular uprising—was a total disaster by any reasonable estimate. But owing solely to this spectacular, scandalous end, his reputation in some circles of both left and right grew and evidence for this can still be found a half-century later. Most of his political admirers on the right—at least if my own anecdotal experience interacting with them online is indicative of anything–have read little of his writing. But it is there, if anywhere, that we must look for evidence if we want to evaluate his contribution to conservative ideology.

Mishima wrote a voluminous amount over a career of a quarter-century, but it is the work of his last five years that is most relevant for our purposes. In 1965, he began work on a multi-volume novel, titled The Sea of Fertility, that dealt with one remarkable individual incarnated four times in different human forms. Each incarnation is personally known by another character, Honda, who appears in every volume of the novel and reflects through the various reincarnations of his friend on the meaning of human life. In August of 1967, after the completion of the first volume, Spring Snow, Mishima wrote a short interpretive commentary on Hagakure, a classic text from the early 1700s on bushido, the samurai code of war and ethics. This work displayed Mishima’s interest in the traditional principles that informed the Japanese warrior class during the country’s feudal period. A central theme emphasized in his commentary is the superiority of honor to mere survival. A vision of one’s own death should be before one’s eyes daily, as the samurai pledged, in situations of uncertainty during battle, to choose always to wade into the fray and embrace death rather than calculate and strategize to survive solely for the sake of surviving.

The next year, 1968, Mishima completed both the second novel of the tetralogy, Runaway Horses, and an autobiographical book that may well be the key text in understanding his view of life, art, and politics, Sun and Steel. Runaway Horses told the tale of the reincarnation of Kiyoaki, the male in the couple from Spring Snow, as Isao, a militant student who carries out an act of political violence Mishima closely modeled on an historical event. In 1877, a group of former samurai revolted against the Meiji government and what they saw as the Westernizing influence it represented, striking against military and political targets until the authorities brutally put them down. Several of the rebels committed seppuku rather than be taken by the enemy. Isao engages in a similar plot, killing a businessman who represents the destruction of traditional Japan for profaning a religious shrine, then, at the novel’s culmination, taking his own life by the samurai rite as the sun rises before him and the police close in. This novel is perhaps the most striking literary document Mishima ever produced. The dramatic narrative is enthralling, and Isao is a compellingly committed character, precisely because Mishima has written him in such a way as to present his actions as more purely rooted in a traditional ethic than was likely the case in the author’s own ostensibly similar final act.

Sun and Steel describes autobiographically Mishima’s commencement, in his third decade of life, of the ascetic and aesthetic regime of physical training that he presented as his modern effort to reinvigorate bushido. Here and in the commentary on Hagakure Mishima expresses abhorrence of the way the American presence in Japan was corroding Japan’s unique world of beliefs and values. He also rejects the manner in which the modern division of labor has caused scholars and warriors to separate themselves one from the other with a completeness that warps both callings, and negates the very possibility for a man to fully know how to live and how to die. The writer or scholar separated from the martial practice and values, in Mishima’s analysis, can only be a flabby, weak wordsmith, and a soldier without wide reading and aesthetic cultivation will not escape vulgar barbarism.

These themes—the rejection of cultural imperialism and embrace of the organic cultural originality of each nation, and the critique of the dilution of the potency of traditional masculinity—are frequently encountered in some Western conservatisms. To this degree, Sun and Steel might be read as a properly right-wing text. Yet, much of the book is dominated by the narcissism that had marked Mishima’s personal life from his sensitive, emotionally withdrawn, and rather sickly youth. There is much evidence of the extra-political motivations for the ethic he expresses here, specifically, in his pathological and sexually perverse obsession with the violent death of young men, and especially soldiers. Physical vigor and fearless disdain of death are presented as values here, but they are corrupted by the deep nihilism that infects the entire text. The ethic of Sun and Steel accepts and even longs for annihilation in the void.

This nihilism is made apparent in the final two major books he wrote prior to his death. Throughout 1969, Mishima worked on the third novel in The Sea of Fertility collection, The Temple of Dawn, which is dedicated to a lengthy discourse on religion, specifically the doctrine of reincarnation that informs the entire tetralogy. The Kiyoaki/Isao character reappears here as Ying Chan, a young Thai princess who dies, like the earlier two incarnations of the same individual, at the age of 20, this time from the bite of a cobra. The last year of Mishima’s life was dedicated largely to completion of the final volume, The Decay of the Angel, which was mailed to the publisher on the very morning of the assault on the Tokyo military compound. In this final novel of The Sea of Fertility, Honda returns as an old man to visit his friend Kiyoaki’s mistress from Spring Snow, Satoko, who is now an old woman and the abbess of a nunnery. To his astonishment, Satoko claims never to have known anyone meeting Kiyoaki’s description. Honda’s entire worldview and his sense of his own identity melt away to nothingness: “If there was no Kiyoaki, then there was no Isao. There was no Ying Chan, and who knows, perhaps there has been no I.” The novel concludes with Honda being led by Satoko to a sunlit garden, where cicadas call and carnations bloom, “a place that had no memories, nothing.”

This nothingness is where the Western conservative necessarily takes his leave of Mishima as a political theorist, even if he might yet find aesthetic value in the brilliant literary expression of an ethic that he finds so personally unacceptable. The goal of human striving as the nothingness of escape from the cycle of rebirths is an Eastern value with no resonance in our traditions.

The culture of the Christian West—not the materialist consumer culture Mishima despised in its imperial strangulation of Japan, but rather the West’s traditional culture of order and faith—offers another way toward the purity of action Mishima described in his writing, and Mishima himself recognized the fact. In his commentary on Hagakure, he cites Toynbee favorably on Christianity’s power to “gather…so many avid converts so suddenly…because these people had fervently wished for a goal worth dying for.” Purity of action is, according to Hagakure, the only value in human life worth pursuing. The outcome of the action—success or failure in external terms–is purely secondary to that fundamental. It perhaps would not have escaped Mishima’s attention that some number of those early Christians to whom he affirmatively alludes were the first martyrs of the faith, who, hearing their captors tell them that if they would but make a sacrifice to one of the Roman idols their transgressions as Christians would be forgiven, haughtily shook their heads and walked to the stake or the crucifix to die—not to cease existing, but to refuse the very power of death. Later, on numerous occasions, many took up arms to defend their church and their civilization against cultural invaders at least as formidable as the ones Mishima opposed.

Mishima’s nihilism posits non-existence as the final goal toward which political action—indeed, all action—moves. Western conservatism, at least insofar as it is infused with the spiritual energy of the chief religious system of the West, defies this void and, in the manner so eloquently expressed by Miguel de Unamuno, overcomes it in its furious willful refusal to come to terms with mortality. The dangers of Mishima’s ethic are only too apparent: empty, narcissistic embrace of death for the sake of nothing more than death itself. Our danger in the West is something quite different: it is the quietism that can descend upon us when we are too assured of the gift of immortality. The victory over death is not given passively in our tradition. It must be won through furious striving, even if the striving is only internal. And even a solely internal striving will inevitably and necessarily lead to action in the world when others attempt forcibly to rob us of the cultural scaffolding within which such spiritual pursuits are taken as the highest good. When cultural decay erodes the space within which such striving is to take place, men will have to act, or the striving will die along with the culture that envelops and shelters it.

The ethic from which Western conservatism draws its deepest inspiration is evidently more consistent with the furious striving of humankind than nihilist aestheticism such as that we find in Mishima. It must not however forget the physical vigor and the fervent desire so vividly expressed in his literary work. Of course, it is not the specific form of Mishima’s action—a ritual suicide—that might inspire Western conservatism. It is the principle of the pursuit of vigorous action that is worshipful of honor and tradition. In the West, too much of what is left of our religious tradition today fails in its inability to provide real motivation for courageous action in resistance to the cultural demolition of our traditions, and one can see the results in the ranks of young men on the contemporary right who contemptuously reject forms of passive, feminized Christianity that offer no space for vigorous, masculine affect and action. Too much of contemporary Western Christianity in its more liberal forms has effectively embraced the secularizing processes that have led, in the United States specifically and throughout much of the West more generally, toward the same kind of cultural suicide to which Mishima’s Japan fell victim after the conclusion of World War II. Here, though, it is not an external military conqueror who oversees the death of our own traditional culture, but rather a deeply radical internal cultural elite who impose on the country an anemic, destructive doctrine of multiculturalist pluralism in a manner only slightly less vigorous than the occupying American pressure on Japan post-WWII.

I remember, long ago, when I was a young student just discovering Mishima’s writing, seeing a wheat-pasted poster on the wall of a building on the university campus where I was enrolled, put there by some radical leftist student group or another. It read “No Guts, No Revolution.” I thought then and now that this is a call to action that might be admired by conservatives, even if the revolutionary goal is abhorred. From the combination of our own cultural ideals and the Hagakure-inspired ethic of Yukio Mishima, the American right might perhaps fashion our own such slogan: “No Guts, No Counter-Revolution.”


Alexander Riley is a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. He writes at Substack.


Featured: Yukio Mishima delivers a speech on the balcony of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) building in Tokyo, before committing Harakiri with a short sword, on November 25, 1970.

Yukio Mishima: The Pen and the Sword

If Yukio Mishima remains a key figure in Japanese literature and beyond, it is undoubtedly because he was able to weave a perfectly fitting samurai costume. The writer rejected the mechanization and modernization of Japan to the death. He embodies the spirit of sacrifice in the service of an age-old aesthetic and a nationalism rooted in the smoldering ruins of imperial Japan.

On November 25, 1970, after submitting the manuscript of his tetralogy to his publisher, The Sea of Fertility, and its fourth part, The Decay of the Angel (a somewhat clumsy translation after Marguerite Yourcenar, who suggested “the rotten angel”), Mishima went to the Ministry of the Army accompanied by three of his disciples. He took the General Commander-in-Chief of the Self-Defense Forces hostage and had the troops summoned. He made a speech in favor of traditional Japan and Emperor Hirohito. Very quickly, he was forced to give up in front of the hostile reaction of the soldiers. He then proceeded to his ritual suicide by seppuku, following the tradition of bushido (“the way of the warrior”), and was decapitated by one of his acolytes. More than a ritual suicide, it was a real ritualized and theatrical killing, because it was filmed and photographed. Until death, Kimitake Hiraoka remained Yukio Mishima; that is to say an artist, the “Japanese Jean Cocteau,”, as he was sometimes nicknamed. Marguerite Yourcenar even said that “Mishima’s death is one of his works and even the most prepared of his works.”

Born in 1925 in Tokyo, Mishima appears both as an anachronism, and as a synthesis of European and Japanese classical genius. It was perhaps even in the European classical genius that he found a hope to rectify a Japan that was modernizing (he wrote mainly in the 1950s and 1960s) and Americanizing at full speed (the country is a quasi-American protectorate since the Japanese defeat following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki). Mishima was therefore undoubtedly the last samurai of Japan. This is how he thought of himself, paying homage through his book on Japan and the Samurai aesthetic, a critical essay on Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure. He was the last to have cultivated this synthesis of the literate spirit and the cult of the body.

Mishima’s Obsession with Death

Mishima was haunted by the idea of death as a memory. This can be seen in three major facts: the first is the memory of burned Tokyo, which did not begin to haunt him until many years after the end of the war. This vision, as well as the two American nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, influenced Mishima’s entire generation, down to today, in cinema and literature. The bombings forged the relationship of the Japanese to the war, to the foreigner and to this brand new nuclear energy, in the Kaiju films, starting with the first of them, directed by Ishiro Honda in 1954, Godzilla (Gojira/ ゴジラ in Japanese).

Then, this culture of death also influenced and nourished him through his fascination with figures of European classicism—how can we forget the striking photo of Mishima as Saint Sebastian, hands tied, pierced with arrows, the body tense and muscular?

In the end, it was in the cult of the way of the samurai that he was able to find a means out of a Japan in decline. Mishima, a fearful, solitary child, refusing the modern Japan that was thrust on him, nevertheless decided to be a samurai of his time, the only authentic way for him to go his way and go to his end; by refusing modernization and mechanization, he chose the time and the way of his death. Between the code of chivalry, philosophy and religion, doesn’t the Hagakure say “I understood that the way of the warrior is death?” Every day, he “followed the way” and trained with a sword, even though the use of swords was forbidden at the end of the Edo period.

Therefore, how can we not understand his distress and anger, especially through his novel After the Banquet, which denounces the vanity of the behavior of the new Japanese bourgeoisie and especially the parliamentary system that Mishima hated. Similarly, in his novella, The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, he evokes themes of traditional Japan—beauty, ugliness and community.

In 25 years, Mishima wrote about a hundred works: plays, short stories, novels, essays. This is not the work of a man lost in an era that is not his own, wandering aimlessly, but that of a man who realizes that feudal Japan and the samurai are no more.

The Samurai and the Martyr: A Sense of Duty and Self-Improvement

But Mishima is also the paradoxical synthesis between Japanese samurai education and European classical literature. He loved Racine, Balzac, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde and many others. In his quest for excellence and, again, for a lost ideal, since Europe had stepped into the midst of industrial and mechanical modernity, Mishima found a bridge in the figure of Saint Sebastian. Indeed, the Christian martyr, like the samurai, dies when his time has come, without shirking. Yamamoto Jōchō, in his Hagakure, writes: “True courage consists in living when it is right to live, and dying when it is right to die,” insisting precisely on the necessity to do one’s duty and not to run away from death. If the deep reason for Mishima’s morbid and almost erotic fascination with Saint Sebastian remains to be determined, the link between self-sacrifice and surpassing oneself, dear to the martyr and the samurai, undoubtedly enabled him to create this character, which is now almost mythical.


Antoine Pizaine is a historian, monarchist and Maurrassian. This article appears through the kind courtesy of PHILITT.

Genetics And The Dynamics Of History: A Conversation With Kenya Kura

We are so very pleased to present this conversation with Kenya Kura, who is Associate Professor at Gifu Shotoku Gakuen University in Gifu prefecture, Japan. He holds a PhD from the University of California, San Diego, and has published in the area in genetics and history. Some of his publications include, “Why Do Northeast Asians Win So Few Nobel Prizes?” and “Japanese north–south gradient in IQ predicts differences in stature, skin color, income, and homicide rate.

He is here interviewed by Grégoire Canlorbe, the French philosopher, whose work has appeared often in the Postil.


Grégoire Canlorbe (GC): Could you start by reminding us of your main findings about IQ differences?

Kenya Kura (KK): My first motivation about IQ study, basically, came from the simple fact that some IQ researchers, way back, like Richard Lynn and Arthur Jensen among others, reported that East Asians are higher in their IQ. And I was just wondering if it was true or not, and then, I went into the field of whether or not there is some kind of gradient of intelligence among Japanese prefectures.

And so far, what I have found is very much in line with other findings that the Northern Japanese are somewhat more intelligent than the Southern residents on these islands. As for the gradient amount for the Japanese people, what I have found is not at all unique. In Northern Japan IQ tends to be probably about three points higher than the average Japanese.

Kenya Kura.

And in the Southern Island of Okinawa, for example, it is like seven points lower than the average. And pretty much, it varies. A type of stylized pattern which I figured out many times and very consistently. That’s pretty much it. Also, I’ve been probably more interested in the psychological differences between East Asians and Europeans than most of the European psychologists.

GC: Could you comment on the dysgenic patterns (i.e., the factors of genetic decline at the level of things like fertility gaps) in contemporary Japan – compared with the West?

KK: Actually, Richard Lynn has been asking me for probably more than a decade, probably 15 years or so, if I can get some kind of evidence about this genetic effect in Japan. But unfortunately, I haven’t got a very solid dataset on the negative correlations – the so-called and famous dysgenic trend found almost everywhere in the world that more intelligent women tend to have fewer children.

But, having said that, it’s very, very obvious that in Japan, this genetic effect is going on as much as in Western society. For example, Tokyo has the lowest fertility rate – precisely where most intelligent men and women tend to migrate when they are going to college or when they get a job. So, it’s apparent that most intelligent people are gathering in the biggest city areas like Tokyo; and Tokyo has the lowest fertility rate.

So, it gives us some kind of evidence but, unfortunately, this is not a really solid analysis. I also figured out that the more educated you are, the fewer children you have. This is a very much a stylized or prominent sort of phenomenon also found in Japan. So, I’m sure about this genetic effect.

GC: Is it true that the taboo about genetic differences in intelligence is far less prevalent in Japan (and the other East-Asian countries) than it is in the West?

KK: I have been working on this subject matter for at least 20 years, and I got the impression that the real taboo of this kind of research is pretty much the same as in Western society. But there is one very big difference – in Western culture you can always pursue your scientific theme or scientific field and prove you are right. And it’s a very Western idea: individuals have a right to speak up and try to prove they are right.

But Asian culture doesn’t have that. So, the problem is that Japanese scholars are scholars in some sense, including myself; but, actually, most of them are just mimicking or repeating what Western people are doing. So, there aren’t many Japanese scholars actually trying to show or present their own thesis, their own theory. So, in that sense, if Western society or Western science says A is right, B is wrong, Japanese society will be subordinate to this Western conclusion.

So, I would say that mainstream Japanese scholars tend to just follow the mainstream Western culture. Personally, as for this sensitive scientific field, I really don’t have any friend working on this topic. People, including myself, are afraid of being regarded as a very strange, cranky person who is saying: “look, in group data, we are so different that there isn’t much we can do to, for example, alleviate poverty in the third world or in developing countries.” If you say that, then people think, “What?” Even though you might be right – and many people think you might be right – but it is not part of our culture to speak up. That’s why I don’t expect anything to come out of the Asian scientific community that will have an influence on the Western scientific community.

GC: While any evolutionary psychologist will agree, in principle, that human individuals are not tabula rasa genetically; most evolutionary psychologists nonetheless refuse to admit that it applies to groups as well, i.e., that human groups exhibit as much specific genetic characteristics as do human individuals.

In other words, all agree that a human individual (whoever he is) is endowed with a specific individual genome that contributes to shaping his psychological identity; but only a minority agrees that a human society (whatever it is) is also endowed with a specific collective genome that contributes to shaping its cultural identity. How do you account for this duality?

KK: On this sort of question, I have pretty much the same opinion as other IQ researchers of this kind. Basically, as you said, many people agree about the genetic differences between individuals; whereas, when it comes to group differences, they try to negate the existence of genetic differences.

So, yes, there is a dichotomy, here. But I also understand why this is so – because everybody wants to be a nice person. Right? So, if you are seeking the truth only as a scientist, that is fine. But we do not live some sort of abstract existence with no relationship to physical reality – everyone around you will feel awkward, probably, if you say – Yeah, but, you know, group difference makes a lot of sense. And most of the sort of talk that inequality existing in this world is probably explained by genetic differences, as Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen said, makes all the people around you feel very, very awkward or strange about you or your political views. I can say only probably this much. So, many people are just politically persuaded not to mention – and not to recognize – with a lot of effort the difference, and try to negate the fact. That’s my understanding.

GC: It seems the Indo-European cultural pattern that is the tripartite hierarchy of society for the benefit of a warlike, sacerdotal aristocracy with a heroic ethos (i.e., the ethos of self-singularizing and self-immortalizing oneself through military exploits accomplished in contempt of material subsistence) has been present or paralleled in traditional Japan. Do you suspect an Indo-European influence in Japan?

KK: Oh, I have sort of an idea. It’s not very much proven, but Japanese society or Japanese people are basically a hybrid, about 30 percent of the original so-called Jomon, before the Chinese or Koreans came, about two thousand years ago. And this Korean or, I would say, Chinese genetic factor constitutes about 70 percent.

So, 70 percent of Chinese plus 30 percent of indigenous Japanese people is the basic genetic mix of current Japanese people. And this huge 70 percent explains the East Asian characteristics. Basically, it gives us looks like mine, right? Probably, any European can notice that Japanese, Korean, Chinese typically have different facial characteristics. And although, as I said, Japanese people have 70 percent retention of this genetic tendency, the 30 percent remains in our genetic structure.

And I suspect that this natural 30 percent gives us more of a war-prone personality than the Chinese or the Koreans. So, that’s why we put a lot of war emphasis, like the Samurai theory, as you might know – more martial arts, real battle and war, and real domination, all over Japan. That’s my understanding.

GC: The traditional Japanese have been highly creative and sophisticated in the martial-arts – to the point of surpassing the Westerners in this regard. Yet only the traditional Westerners have come to transpose to the field of science the art of fighting, i.e., to transpose to science the spirit of competition, innovation, and assertiveness associated with physical combat. How do you make sense of it?

KK: It’s a very good point – an interesting point for me, too. My understanding about it is that, for example, French people seem to like judo a lot. I have heard that it’s very popular. So, for example, judo, or we have a similar sort of art that is huge called kendo. But that kind of martial art, as you said, has been very sophisticated in this country, and also in China, to some degree, maybe even more so.

But that brings to mind the idea of science itself, because science itself is equally divided into both natural reality and the analytical approach for every kind of phenomenon. For example, we in Japan don’t have social science, and so we just import it from the West. It’s the same. I mean, natural science was imported from the West. And when it comes to science, it’s also based on logic – a heavy dose of logic and mathematics, usually.

None of the Asians were interested in mathematics, at least not as much as Western people had been. So, when it comes, for example, to geometry, even the ancient Greeks were very much interested in it. The Chinese people never developed the equivalent of that kind of logic. And it’s also true that mathematics has been developed almost exclusively in Northern Europe within the last five hundred years. And Chinese people, although they were in higher numbers than White Europeans, they didn’t develop anything. Neither did the Japanese or the Koreans.

So, the problem is that East Asians tend to neglect the importance of logic. They don’t see that much. They just talk more emotionally, trying to sympathize with each other, and probably about political rubbish, more than Western people. But they don’t discuss things logically, nor do they try to express their understanding and make experiments to determine if something is true or not.

Scientific inquiry is very much unique to Europeans. That’s my understanding. So, although it seems like East Asians are very quick to learn things – the Chinese are probably the quickest to learn anything – but they’ve never created anything. That’s my idea. So, they don’t have the scientific mentality, that ability of inquiry or sufficient curiosity to make science out of sophisticated martial arts.

It may be true that the “traditional Japanese have been highly creative and sophisticated in the martial-arts field – to the point of surpassing the Westerners.” But I guess nowadays even judo or any kind of martial arts is more developed or more sophisticated, a lot more sophisticated, in European countries.

The Japanese or Chinese created the original martial arts. But their emphasis – especially the Japanese – is too much on their psychic rather than physical power. So, when you look at any kind of manga or anime, the theme is always the same: the rather small and weak main character has got some kind of psychic power and a special skill to beat up the bigger and stronger enemy. And it’s pretty much like “the force” in the Star Wars movies. But in the case of Japan, it’s a lot more emphasized. So, they tend to think less about physical power and more about the psychic personality. That’s the sort of phenomenon that we have, which shows some lack of analytical ability, from my point of view.

GC: A common belief is that the Japanese people are both indifferent to the culture of Western peoples – and genetically homogenous to the point of containing no genius. Yet contemporary Japan is displaying much ingenuity in videogames (like Shigeru Miyamoto), music (like Koji Kondo), etc., and is quite open to the Western world culturally. Videogames like Zelda and Resident Evil are highly influenced by the West (Western heroic fantasy in the case of the former) and George Romero’s movies in the case of the latter. Some Japanese actors (or movie directors) enjoy worldwide fame, like Hiroyuki Sanada who portrays Scorpion in the new Mortal Kombat movie.

KK: Regarding personality and the intelligence of geniuses, that is Dr. Templeton and Edward Dutton. I’m sure that you talked with him – Edward Dutton wrote a very good book about why genius exists and what kind of mixture of personality and intelligence we need to make a real genius.

And I do agree basically with Edward Dutton’s idea that we don’t have the sort of good mixture of intelligence and, at the same time, a sort of very strong mindset to stand out from other people. The Japanese tend to be like others too much. So, they can’t really speak up and have a different kind of worldview from other people. As I said, Japanese scholars tend rather to avoid discussion or serious conflict with other scholars; so, that’s why there is no progress or no need to prove what you’re saying is true or not. That is a problem.

Yes, this is only a partial answer to your question. And the other thing is – and as I’ve been talking about science – in order to be a scientist, you have to basically propose some kind of thesis and at least show some evidence that your thesis is right or proved piecemeal. But when it comes to fine arts or Manga, Anime or literature, movies or games, you don’t really have to argue against other people. You just create what you feel is beautiful or great – whatever.

So, because Japanese culture basically avoids discussions or arguments against each other, the Japanese are more inclined to create something like visual arts. That’s why I believe Japanese manga or anime has been very popular also among Europeans. Probably including yourself, right? I’m sure you’ve played video games from Japan.

You mentioned Hiroyuki Sanada. He’s one of the most famous action movie stars, a Tom Cruise type. So, I understand what you mean. And the other thing is – it’s pretty much the same. In the Edo period, about 300 years ago, there was a type of fine art called, ukiyo-e. These paintings and prints were sold to the public. And the French impressionists in the 19th century were, as far as I know, very attracted to the ukiyo-e and they got some inspiration from them, how to draw the lighting or nature itself.

So, I do believe that Japanese people are probably genetically talented to some degree. I would dare to say they’re talented in the visual arts. But it does not mean that they are talented in science. These activities are totally different, which gives me a very interesting sort of contrast.

GC: In intergroup competition, the Empire of Japan was highly successful militarily – until the 1945 nuclear bombing, obviously. How would you account for this success?

KK: A German soldier was a very effective soldier, even compared with Americans or Swedes. So, I believe it’s very similar in the case of Japan. The Japanese tend to be tightly connected to each other, which gives them a very high advantage in military activity. That’s why they first tried to really dominate the whole of Asia, and, eventually, they had a war against the US in order to sort of get the whole of the Chinese mainland. And, of course, Japan was defeated.

But Japan is not so much endowed with natural resources like oil or coal, and so forth. In some sense, we’re very strong in military acts. That’s true. So, it’s very similar to the story that the Chinese are probably more inclined to study and learn original things like Confucius or the old stuff, in order to show how intelligent they are; whereas the Japanese tend to be more war-prone, more warmongers. They think more seriously and put more emphasis on military actions than the Chinese or Koreans.

So, that’s why Japan, in the last century, first invaded Korea, and then, moved into the Chinese mainland and defeated the Chinese army. That’s just how I understand it. It’s very similar to German history.

GC: Democracy is commonly thought to allow for an “open society” in which every opinion can be discussed – and in which ideological conflict can be settled through exclusively peaceful, electoral means, without the slightest drop of blood. Does the democratic regime in Japan since 1947 corroborate that vision?

KK: You’re right. Exactly. You are French, so you have a serious understanding of how people can revolt against the ruling class because of the French Revolution, which is the most famous revolution in human history. So, you have a serious understanding of the existence of conflict; and that the product of this conflict may be fruitful, good for all human beings. But, unfortunately, Asia does not have that sort of culture; that if you say something true and then have a serious conflict of opinions about it, it may turn out to have a fruitful result. That’s very Western to me.

GC: Thank you for your time. Would you like to add a few concluding words?

KK: I’ve probably said pretty much everything in a scattered manner, but let me emphasize one thing – usually, for any kind of European person, the Chinese, Koreans and Japanese look very similar or the same; but genetically, we are probably somewhat different, much as, for example, Slavic language people and the Germanic language group. So, there might be some kind of microdifference of this kind which may, especially in the future, explain the dynamics of history. That is what I want to know and what I try to understand.


Some recent publications of Dr. Kura:

Kura, K. “Japanese north-south gradient in IQ predicts stature, skin color, income, and homicide rate”, (2013), Intelligence, 41, 512-516. doi10.1016/j.intell.2013.07.001

Kura, K., Armstrog, E. & Templer, D. “The cognitive functions among the Ainu people”, (2014) Intelligence, 44, p149-154.

te Nejenhuis, J., Kura, K. & Hur, Y.M. “The correlation between g loadings and heritability in Japan: A meta-analysis” (2014) Intelligence, 44, p. 275-282. doi: 10.1016/j.intell.2014.07.008

Kura, K., te Nijenhuis J. & Dutton, E. “Why do Northeast Asian Win so Few Nobel Prize?” (2015), Comprehensive Psychology, 4, 15. doi: 10.2466/04.17.CP.4.15

te Nijenhuis, J. Kura, K. &Dutton, E. “Spearman’s Hypothesis Tested Comparing 47 Regions of Japan Using a Sample of 18 Million Children”, (2019) Psych 2019, 1(1), 26-34. doi:10.3390/Psychology1010002

Kirkegaard, E. Lasker, J. & Kura, K. “The Intelligence of Biracial Children of U.S. Servicemen in Northeast Asia: Results from Japan” Psych 2019, 1(1), 132-138.


The featured image shows, “Sudden Shower over Shin-Ōhashi bridge and Atake,” a print by Utagawa Hiroshige, 1857.