During her question in the Diet last week, Junko Mihara, a member of the Upper House who belongs to the Liberal Democratic Party, employed a phrase closely associated with Japan’s militarism and nationalism in the 1930s and ’40s — “Hakko Ichiu,” which literally means putting all the eight corners of the world under one roof — in a positive tone and proposed using the idea behind it as a means of overcoming the “law of the jungle” in today’s globalization. She later wrote on her website that she was indeed aware how the phrase was utilized during the wartime years. If so, Mihara’s use of the term was utterly inappropriate and demonstrates her insensitivity not only to the implications of her actions but to the feelings of other people in Asia who suffered greatly from Japanese militarism.

The phrase was coined by Chigaku Tanaka, an activist of the Nichiren school of Buddhism, in 1913 by taking a cue from a remark attributed to Japan’s legendary first Emperor Jinmu. Nihon Shoki (The Chronicles of Japan), an official history book completed in 720, quotes him as saying just prior to his enthronement in the legendary palace of Kashihara in what is now Nara Prefecture: “I will cover the eight corners of the world and make them my abode.” Although Tanaka is said to have opposed war and called for total disarmament, the Japanese military adopted the phrase as its slogan in the 1930s — a period marked by the Mukuden Incident staged by Japan’s Kwantung Army, the ensuing military occupation of Manchuria, the establishment of the puppet state of Manchukuo and Japan’s full-scale military aggression against China.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.