Ibuki Bunmei's romantic racialism

The reinvention of "traditional social norms"

By William Wetherall

First posted 1 March 2007
Last updated 19 March 2007

New breath of old civilization
"Single ethnic nation" website statement
"Single ethnic nation" MEXT committee statement

New breath of old civilization

On his official website, Jiminto (Liberal Democratic Party) Diet member Ibuki Bunmei bills himself as "a fresh breath in the Diet" -- punning his name "ibuki" as the more elegant word for "iki" (breath).

Graphically, "bunmei" means civilization -- an apt name, perhaps, for a Minister of Education who is bent on mandating schools in Japan to regenerate social norms Ibuki believes have weakened or been lost since the introduction of the Fundamental Law of Education in 1947, during the Occupation of Japan following World War II. Under the terms of surrender in 1945, Japan transferred its sovereignty to the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers (SCAP), General MacArthur's office, and its sovereignty was not restored until the San Francisco Peace Treaty came into effect in 1952.

In a web-posted platform statement dated 26 October 2006, Ibuki said this.

As the son of a textile wholesaler, [I spent] 22 years until college graduation, [then] chose work to publicly serve and spent 22 years at the Ministry of Finance. My work as a politician after that has surpassed 22 years.

My political goals are (1) "a society that can warmly live together", (2) "an economy with a vitality from creativity and self-help", and (3) "a regeneration of a human power of Japanese people who have acquired traditional social norms". When these become possible, through education in the broadest sense," he says, "Japan will become a country with a dignity that will receive the esteem [love and respect] of the world.

Regeneration as a conservation that reforms

Ibuki was born in 1938 in Kyoto and was eight years old at World War II ended in 1945. After graduated in economics from Kyoto University in 1960, he joined the Ministry of Finance. From 1965 he spent four years at the Japanese embassy in London. He left the finance ministry after serving as Private Secretary to the Minister of Finance when Watanabe Michio (1923-1995) was the minister in 1980-1982. He began his career in politics in 1983 when elected to the House of Representatives from a district in Kyoto.

"Regeneration" (再生 saisei), one of Ibuki's favorite words, is the cornerstone of his conservatism, and the keyword in the title of his book, coauthored with Watanabe Yoshimi, Watanabe Michio's son and successor.

シナリオ・日本経済と財政の再生 ー いま、改革する保守の時
Shinario / Nihon keizai to zaisei no saisei -- Ima, kaikaku suru hoshu no toki
[ Scenario / The regeneration of Japan's economy and fiscal policy:
Now is the time for conservation that reforms ]
Tokyo: Nikkan Kogyo Shinbunsha, August 2001.

Nakasone clone

Ibuki is merely revoicing, in practically the same language, the calls made by Nakasone Yasuhiro over the decades to restore to Japan the racioethnic traditions and pride he feels were abandoned by the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education.

Ibuki has been strongly influenced by Nakasone's 1997 essay on Japan as a "natural state", in which he called both the 1947 Constitution and the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education "stateless" (mukokuseki-teki-na), and argued for reforms that would inculcate more respect for racioethnic culture and traditions.

"Single ethnic nation" website statement

Ibuki, in a number of venues, has boasted of Japan as a country of one ethnic nation, under the rule of one ethnic nation, and with one language and no religious conflict, throughout eternal history. The following statement was posted on website as of 28 February 2007.

Through history eternal
One ethnic nation, one language, no religious conflict
Ibuki Bunmei website Translation by William Wetherall

Exceptions there are, but fundamentally Japan -- a country of one ethnic nation, rule of one ethnic nation, one language, and no religious conflict -- is a rare country in the world. The endeavors of ancestors through history eternal, have come to form silent conventions, a normative consciousness, stronger than laws.

One time only, after the Second World War, Japan's right to rule [sovereignty] was transferred to the Occupation Army, and for nearly ten years, Japan's culture was suspended. The Fundamental Law of Education and the education system created during this time have continued for about sixty years, and Japanese who received an education [under] this system, make up practically the [entire] population. The effects of an education appear fifty years later, and its regeneration [will take take another fifty years for] a total of one-hundred years.

"single ethnic nation" MEXT committee statement

At 9:30 on the morning of 20 October 2006, a Friday, during the 165th session of the Diet, there was a meeting of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) Committee, to give Ibuki Bunmei, the newly appointed MEXT ministry, an opportunity to field questions about the future of education in Japan. A bill for a new Fundamental Law of Education would be coming up for vote, and it was Ibuki's mission to defend the bill, in particular its inclusion, as one of the purposes of eduction, the following goal (Section 5 of Article 2 of Chapter 1, my translation).


Cultivation of an attitude that would respect other countries, and contribute to the development of peace in international society, while loving our country and provinces, which have come to respect tradition and culture, and fosters them.

Teaching national history

During the discussion Noda Yoshihiko, a member of the House of Representatives, affiliated with Minshuto (Democratic Party of Japan), talked about the Japanese history as a compulsory subject in high school. Noda introduced statistics showing that, in college entrance exams held that year (2006), some 25.6 percent of the examinees took compulsory world history exams, whereas 41.7 percent and 32.7 percent sat for elective exams in Japanese history and geography.

Noda suggested that these figures, while not comprehensive, reflected the extent to which Japanese history is given more attention than world history in Japan's high schools. While acknowledging that this meets the needs of students to first study Japanese history, when it comes to world history, it is mostly the history of Europe and the history of China, and Noda had doubts that this could be called world history.

Noda suspected that, in other countries too, students first study the history of their own country, then take up the histories of other countries, but make world history, rather than the history of their own country, compulsory in high school. Or are there countries like Japan, which focus on their own history, even in high school?

This is how Ibuki fielded Noda's question, alluding to the views of Samuel P. Huntington, author of The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), who considers "Japanese" one of eight distinct civilizations, though he characterizes Japan as a hybrid of Chinese civilization and older Altaic patterns.

Japan as a single-state, single-culture sphere
One ethnic nation and the language of one ethnic nation
National Diet transcript Translation by William Wetherall

[Regarding what you've said], wouldn't [the situation] be very different depending on a country's origin? Our country is an extremely exceptional country in the world; needless to say, Ainu people and Zainichi, and people who have taken the nationality of Japan are of course symbiotically living [here], but fundamentally speaking, [our country] originated as a single ethnic nation, and the language of a single ethnic nation is in common use everywhere in the state to which sovereignty extends, and that single ethnic nation has always controlled that country, and [we] share a religious mood in the sense that religious . . . , in Japan religion has practically never clearly emerged. So as Huntington says, [our country] forms an extremely rare cultural sphere, a single-state/single-culture sphere.

However, if you go to Europe, understandably, there are quite a number of countries that seem not to be teaching their own history, if you look at Europe by country. If you like I will give come concrete names. But, as for these countries, there are many countries where, rather than teach the history of one's own country, the origin of their own country is understood by learning the history of the Roman Empire. So, in a country such as Japan, I think what you are saying is correct.