Datsu-A Ron (Argument for Leaving Asia) (脱亜論)

Datsu-A Ron was an an editorial published in the Japanese newspaper 'Jiji Shinpo' on March 16, 1885.

It is thought that the writer was Yukichi FUKUZAWA, but the original editorial was written anonymously. Because 'Datsu-A Ron' was included in the "Zoku Fukuzawa Zenshu (Vol. 2)" (The Continued Complete Works of Fukuzawa) (published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers) in 1933, Datsu-A Ron has been regarded to be an editorial written by Fukuzawa.

There was no comment found about 'Datsu-A Ron' before 1950. The first comment found was the 'Nisshin Senso to Fukuzawa Yukichi' (Shino-Japanese War and Yukichi FUKUZAWA) ("Fukuzawa Kenkyu" [Study of Fukuzawa], Issue No. 6, edited by Fukuzawa Kenkyu-kai Group), written by Shigeki TOYAMA in 1951.


Below is a summary which includes some quotes from the original 'Datsu-A Ron.'

From the first paragraph

First of all, the writer expressed that due to the development of transportation, fast-spreading Western civilization 'is like a pandemic of measles.'
For this, he says that it is important not to stop it but 'to help it spread faster so that our people may bathe in this force quicker.'

He said that, Japan accepting the idea of civilization, was 'not only stripping away its old self, but also creating a new axle in the entire continent of Asia,' Japan is the only country that succeeded in escaping Asian sense of values, in another word, 'Datsu-A.'

From the second paragraph

As in 'it is unfortunate for us (Japan) that there are neighboring countries,' that were Shina/China (Qing) and Chosen (Joseon Dynasty Korea), he pointed out that both countries had been rejecting modernization and concentrating on an old business-as-usual system based on Confucianism, etc. to 'remain nationally independent under this violent wind of civilization eastward.'

Having the Gapsin (Kapsin) Coup in mind, he says that it would be good if noble heroes stood up in both countries to transform their political systems like Japan's Meiji restoration, otherwise 'it is most likely that their empires will fall within a few years' or their land will be split up by the Western countries.

Implying the rampageous behavior to citizens by the Chinese Amy at the Gapsin Coup, he says that the Westerners might see Japan as the same type of country as China and Korea, which might indirectly become an obstacle in foreign diplomacy and that will be 'a great misfortune for my Japan.'

With 'Those who cherish bad friends cannot escape the fate of being branded as a bad person,' my heart and determination lie in the refusal of bad friends,' he says that Japan should promote modernization by cutting ties with bad friends in East Asia.

Editorials before the publication of the 'Datsu-A Ron'

There was an editorial called 'Chosen Dokuritsu-to no Shokei (I & II)' (Executions of the members of the Korean Independent Party), published on the 23rd and the 26th of February, 1885, about three weeks before the 'Datsu-A Ron.'

Assistant Professor of the Faculty of International Relations of University of Shizuoka, Yo HIRAYAMA mentioned in pages 200 to 203 of the "Fukuzawa Yukichi no Shinjitsu" (The Truth about Yukichi FUKUZAWA) (Bunshun Shinsho paperback, Bunheishunju Ltd.), that the 'Datsu-A Ron' was an abstract of the editorial (II).

He pointed out that the description below might affect the 'Datsu-A Ron' (Page 201).

The hell of the Saha World (a Buddhist term for the land on Earth) appeared in Gyeong-seong, Korea. Rather than calling the country bestial, I would like to call it the land of hell with yoma (specters) and demons. If you ask who the authority of the hell land is, it is the officer from the Satedan Party (pro-Chinese) government; and the person who has the power to control him is Chinese. Although I am living in a neighboring country, far-away from theirs and I am only an individual with no link to their politics, I feel very sorry to hear this; while writing this sentence, tears come to my eyes and wet the paper.

Editorials after the publication of the 'Datsu-A Ron'

An editorial called 'Chosen Jinmin no Tameni Sono Kuni no Metsubo o Gasu' (Celebrate the destruction of the country for Korean people) published five months after the 'Datsu-A Ron.'

The editorial strongly suggests that for Korean people it would be better to be ruled by British or Russians who began to hold control in various places than Korean nationals who have no 'protection for their private property, life and honor as a citizen' by the government. The conclusion of the editorial is as follows.

Therefore, thinking that the destruction of Korea is not far away, for the government I will show remorse, but for the people, I feel like celebrating.'

Public Opinions in China and Korea

In China and South Korea, 'Datsu-A Ron' is 'a theory of disrespecting Asia and approving foreign invasion' and Yukichi FUKUZAWA has been treated critically as a person who supported aggressive foreign policy. As examples, there are responses within China as mentioned below in the thesis by Si Yun LIN and a column 'Japan, Come Back to Asia' by Young-hee KIM, a senior journalist in international affairs, published on November 25, 2005 in the Joong Ang Ilbo, a newspaper in Korea.

According to Si Yun KIN's thesis below, his whole Chinese translation of the 'Datsu-A Ron' done by him is open to public inspection now.

Public Opinion in Japan

In the history textbooks for elementary and secondary education in Japan, 'Datsu-A Ron' is defined as 'a theory to urge Japan to get closer to European and American powers by disassociating from Asia and to deny Japan is a country in Asia' and it is taught at most schools as 'the thesis which causes Japanese to disrespect other Asian countries.'
However, because most of them do not teach about the Gapsin Coup and the other historical background at that time that led to the 'Datsu-A Ron,' some say that this is not a proper understanding of the 'Datsu-A Ron' but just picking a part of it out of context.

For this, Shunsaku NISHIKAWA, a staff writer of the "Fukuzawa Yukichi Shokanshu" (Collection of letters of Yukichi FUKUZAWA) pointed out that "Judging Fukuzawa as the 'initiator' of the 'Datsu-A Nyu-O' (Leave Asia, Enter Europe) movement from a part of this short (about 2000-character) editorial is too shortsighted and it is a view from someone who does not properly understand the relationship among the three countries of East Asia at that time."

Takao SAKAMOTO, a former professor of the Faculty of Law of Gakushuin University explained that, with the background of the failure of the Gapsin Coup and China's strong army, "'Datsu-A Ron' was not written from an assumption for Japan to go against other Asian countries with the same position of superiority as European countries, but was written because he felt deeply disappointed by the incident in Korea and was concerned about China."

A scholar of political science, Masao MARUYAMA said that, from frustration of the Gapsin Coup being short-lived and disappointment toward Japan, the Chinese government and the Yi government when all of them were just watching the Coup and using the results, "the editorial of the 'Datsu-A Ron' should be read as an emotional explosion of Fukuzawa's frustration and rage."

A professor emeritus at Tokyo University, Junji BANNO emphasized that Fukuzawa's situational remark corresponded to recognition of the international situation and domestic economy at that time and he explained that the 'Datsu-A Ron' was written when this situation recognition changed when the Gapsin Coup failed; he corrected it as follows:
"To sum up, in Fukuzawa's theory of East Asian policy from the beginning of 1881 to the end of 1884, there was a consistency in supporting revolutionaries within Korea and the 'Datsu-A Ron' was just his concession speech for what he had been insisting." "Therefore, it is a total misunderstanding to see the 'Datsu-A Ron' as the beginning of Fukuzawa's disrespect against other Asian countries or the beginning of his Asia invasion theory."

Some thought that 'Datsu-A Ron' was published against the 'Ko-A Ron' (Stay-with-Asia Theory).

Also, Junosuke YASUKAWA, a professor emeritus at Nagoya University said that, because Fukuzawa's national power perspective can be detected in his earlier thoughts, the 'Datsu-A Ron' was no different from what he had said before.

A novelist Yoshinori SHIMIZU let the literature detective in his novel talk about the 'Datsu-A Ron' after reading it as follows:
He did not think it was OK for Japan to rule China and Korea because Japan was a civilized country and of course he did not write to tell us that.'
Under the fierce international circumstance when Western powers had high ambitions, it was necessary for Japan to reluctantly keep away from China and Korea to keep independence as a country... the choice was to leave Asia.'

Noting that the 'Datsu-A Ron' was written because of the Gapsin Coup and the suppression after that, an assistant Professor of the Faculty of International Relations at the University of Shizuoka, Yo HIRAYAMA, explained as follows:
"Although, after World War II, some descriptions such as 'The Chinese are shameless people who do not understand humbleness and humility' (page 240, 全⑩) and 'Koreans are extremely atrocious when punishing their own people' were specifically picked out of the 'Datsu-A Ron,' these were not expressions rooted in the sense of discrimination, but just some criticism toward the harsh follow-ups of the Gapsin Coup." "Without these topical subjects, the 'Datsu-A Ron' is no different from what was said in the "Bunmeiron no gairyaku" (An Outline of a Theory of Civilization) saying semicivilized countries need to positively introduce Western culture to modernize their countries."

In the latest study, noting that the 'Datsu-A Ron' was an anonymous editorial published in the Jiji Shinpo newspaper, the focus has now been on who wrote it.

Also, it is important to note that Fukuzawa never used the word "Datsu-A Nyu-O" (Leave Asia, Enter Europe).

Historical Background

Unlike the thought which put a high value on 'Equality,' 'Righteousness' and 'Independence' by Yukichi FUKUZAWA and others, 'Bad friends' in the 'Datsu-A Ron' was the word used meaning the Qing and Joseon Dynasty Korea where, adhering to their old customs of Keibatsu (network by blood connection), lineage government and petit Sinocentrism (idea of disrespect for Japan), bloody strifes over authority were repeated, being Sadaejuui (Loving and admiring the great and powerful) and faithless in diplomacy and diplomatic policies changed so often.

What Japan should do for their neighboring country (Korea) was generally understood as 'not giving it special treatment and allowing more time for Kaimei (enlightment) just because it is our neighboring country, but Japan should treat them in the same manner as Western Europe does.'

Historical Background of Strife over Authority at the Imperial Court and Sadaejuui (Loving and admiring the great and powerful) Diplomacy in Korea before the 'Datsu-A Ron'

At that time, in Korea, it was when there was no hiring of personnel outside of families and they could not shed their old system of selecting high officials from families and the Queen Min group was fighting with the Heungseon Daewongun (regent of Joseon) group in the Imperial Court.

November 1873:
Gao Zong Government (Daewongun group were exiled, deported and executed. More than 30 members of the Min family became high officials)

December 1873:
A bomb set at the Queen Min's Palace exploded (Heungseon Daewongun)
The Imo Incident (aka. the Jingo Incident) (July 23, 1882):
In this incident, with the abetment by Heungseon Daewongun group, government high officials of Queen Min's family members who were in charge of administration, killed Japanese military advisors and Japanese legations were killed and the Japanese Legation was raided.

The Jemulpo Treaty (August 31, 1882):
It was concluded as a preventive measure as a result of the Imo Incident.
It included 'the arrest and execution of the perpetrators who raided the Legation, consolation payment of 50,000 JPY to each family of the victims and injured in Japan, 500,000 JPY to fill the shortfall in the expenses for the dispatch of troops, the right to have an army around in Hanseong (the present Seoul) as a guard for the Legation, setting up barracks and the repair of them were at Korea's expense and sending a 'mission of expiation' and so on.'

Byeongin Persecution
In 1866, nine French priests and 8,000 Catholics were captured and executed (Byeongin Persecution) and Christianity was thoroughly oppressed.
(Heungseon Daewongun)

Before the Treaty of Ganghwa (Japanese-Korea Treaty of Amity) and the system of the post-1868 embassy from Korea, even Gyu-su PARK who was one of the most civilized at that time around up until 1872 and the common view of the Korean government including his was 'Europeans and Americans are animals without humanity who are only after profit from trade and Japanese are the same (Wayo Ittai ron theory to consider Japan, European countries and the USA as one).'
The Heungseon Daewongun group recruited others but most of them had strong 'Petit Sinocentrism' and totally rejected the West. The Queen Min group valued lineage and Keibatsu blood connection; and never recruited outside the network. Both groups used the power of neighboring and foreign countries in turn for their strife over authority, so neither of them were really 'the Gaehwadang' (Progressive group). In the Korean Dynasties at that time, government officials who cast off the Petit Sinocentrism, lineage, and Keibatsu blood connection were quite a minority.

While diplomatic measures were conducted based upon the request of the domestic administration reform toward the Korean government by the Meiji government, Yukichi FUKUZAWA and others were not against it but two years after that, after watching suppression of the pro-domestic administration reform group (Progressive group 'the Kaehwadang') by the Korean government as below, they reached a totally opposite conclusion to their former attitude saying 'we do not have the luxury of time to wait,' 'Simply adapting the ways of the Westerners is sufficient' and 'the refusal.'

The Relationship between Yukichi FUKUZAWA and Progressive Group Members such as Ok-gyun KIM

Gapsin Coup (December 4, 1884)

In the Joseon Dynasty at that time, Heungseon Daewongun was taken to China after the Imo Incident (1882) and the Min family including Queen Min were changing their policies from pro-Japanese to Sadaejuui (Loving and admiring the great and powerful). Members of the Korean Progressive group (Independent Party) such as Ok-gyun KIM, Yong-hyo PAK and Jae-pil SEO, who thought that modernization might not be attained if Korea stayed as it was, contacted Yukichi FUKUZAWA, Shigenobu OKUMA and some of the key people in the political and business world in Japan that succeeded in modernization earlier and deepened their friendship.

Gao Zong, whose power was taken by his maternal relatives of Min family and China and could not do as he wanted, approved the implementation of the modernization policy.

The Queen Min group was overthrown temporarily but returned with China's backup and in December of the same year, the Japanese Legation was burnt down for helping the Gapsin Coup (interfering in domestic affairs).

With the movement to a sudden return to Sinocentrism and petit Shinocentrism to have the Qing Dynasty in the middle and revival of the administration based on the Sadaejuui policy, members of the Progressive group such as Ok-gyun KIM were in trouble. Ok-gyun KIM and other members of the Progressive group fled their country to Japan with the help of Kakugoro INOUE (who was recommended by Yukichi FUKUZAWA to the Korean Dynasties for a newly published newspaper and was invited to the country).
(The families of Yong-hyo PAK and Jae-pil SEO were forced to commit suicide by taking poison or were executed.)

Later on, when a secret agreement was signed between Korea and Russia and Yukichi FUKUZAWA and others who heard about it from Kakugoro INOUE, they gave up on the government of the Korean Dynasties that were against equality, righteousness and independence with their Sadaejuui policy and petit Sinocentrism.

For Fukuzawa, the government of the Korean Dynasties appeared to be totally against 'Equality' by discrimination by putting too much value on lineage and Keibatsu blood connection, Sinocentrism or petit Sinocentrism and disrespect for Japan as well as families repeating bloody strife over authority, no intention to be independent with their Sadaejuui policy and no consistency in their diplomacy; these things led him to write 'Datsu-A Ron' with his standpoint of 'ten wa hito no ue ni hito o tsukurazu...' (The heavens do not create Man above his station...) ("Gakumon no Susume" [An Encouragement of Learning]).

Is it 'Datsu-A Nyu-O Ron' (Theory of Leaving Asia and Entering Europe)?

A political scientist Masao MARUYAMA pointed out that (assuming that it was Yukichi FUKUZAWA who wrote the 'Datsu-A Ron') Fukuzawa only used the word 'Datsu-A' (Leaving Asia) in the 'Datsu-A Ron.'
Therefore, he said that the word 'Datsu-A' could not be a keyword in Fukuzawa's works. As for the word 'Nyu-O' (Entering Europe), he said that Yukichi FUKUZAWA (among all his signed literary work and anonymous editorials) never used it, so the combined word of 'Datsu-A Nyu-O' was never used by Fukuzawa.

Fukuzawa titled his editorial published in the Jiji Shinpo newspaper on March 16, 1885 as the 'Datsu-A Ron' and unfolded his 'Datsu-A' argument. This is the only case when he used the word 'Datsu-A' as a title of his thesis or contents of an editorial and after that, he never used the word again in his numerous books and thesis.
It means at least that the word 'Datsu-A' was not a keyword in his mind unlike 'freedom,' 'human right,' 'civilization,' 'national power' and 'phenomenon of independence.'
Fukuzawa never used the word 'Nyu-O' (therefore, no 'Datsu-A Nyu-O').

Identifying the Author

Shinya IDA, a professor at the Otsuma Women's University, tried to identify the author of the 'Datsu-A Ron' and other related thesis, using the Ida Method. The Ida Method is a way to identify the author by analyzing the pattern of word choices and the usages in anonymous written works. The identification of the authors are ranked in likeliness from A, B, C, D and E.
On page 104 of his book "Rekishi to Text - Saikaku kara Yukichi made" (History and Text - from Saikaku to Yukichi) (Kobosha Publishing, 2001), Ida concluded as below saying that he could not totally exclude the possibility of Yoshio TAKAHASHI (Chajin [a master of tea ceremony]) wrote it after conducting an identification of the author of the 'Datsu-A Ron.'

In the first paragraph of the 'Datsu-A Ron,' there are some unusual expressions for Fukuzawa such as '東洋に國するもの,' '力めて' and '揚げて' which Fukuzawa rarely used, Takahashi's favorite word '了る' (Fukuzawa rarely used this) and '横はる;' so unless his hand written draft was found, we cannot totally exclude the possibility of the author being Takahashi but I say 'Almost A' assuming that Fukuzawa painted Takahashi's draft in black like he did before.

He also tried to identify the authors of the 'Datsu-A Ron' related thesis. This is the list of the result of identification of the related thesis of the 'Datsu-A Ron' taken from page 105 of the book. Takahashi means Yoshio TAKAHASHI (Chajin) and Watanabe means Osamu WATANABE.

The History and its Impact

Below is the abstract from pages 82-85 and 193-239 of the "Fukuzawa Yukichi no Shinjitsu" (The Truth about Yukichi FUKUZAWA) (Bunshun Shinsho paperback, ISBN 4-16-660394-9) by Yo HIRAYAMA, an Assistant Professor of the Faculty of International Relations of University of Shizuoka.

On March 16, 1885, Datsu-A Ron was published as an editorial in the newspaper "Jiji Shinpo." The original was an anonymously written editorial, in Katakana and Kanji (Chinese characters) and in approximately 2400 characters.
(pp. 195-196)

In 1885, no comments were found about 'Datsu-A Ron.'
According to Hirayama's research, there was no reference on 'Datsu-A Ron' in the "Jiji Shinpo newspaper" on March 16, 1885 or later. There were no comments found between March 17 and 27 1885 in other newspapers such as "Tokyo Yokohama Mainichi Shinbun," "Yubin Hochi Shinbun," or "Asano Shinbun" either. Therefore, Hirayama concluded that 'Datsu-A Ron' did not have any impact in 1885.
(p. 203)

After that, from 1885 to 1933, no comments on 'Datsu-A Ron' were found. So Hirayama assumed that 'Datsu-A Ron' had been forgotten for fourty-eight years.
(p. 203)

In July, 1933, 'Datsu-A Ron' was included in the "Zoku Fukuzawa Zenshu" (The Continued Complete Works of Fukuzawa) (published by Iwanami Shoten Publishers) edited by Keio Gijuku. There were no comments on 'Datsu-A Ron' found between 1933 and 1951.
(pp. 204-208)

According to Hirayama's research, the first comment on 'Datsu-A Ron' was found in 'Nisshin Senso to Fukuzawa Yukichi' (The Shino-Japanese War and Yukichi FUKUZAWA) ("Fukuzawa Kenkyu" [Study of Fukuzawa] ) by a historian Shigeki TOYAMA published in November 1951. Toyama introduced 'Datsu-A Ron' as a thesis about an Asian invasion because of Japan's Imperialism.
(pp. 209-210)

The second comment was found in 'Toyo ni Okeru Nihon no Ichi' (The position of Japan in the Pacific) ("Kindai Nihon Bungaku Koza" [Modern Japanese Literature Course], published from Kawade Shobo) by a historian Shiso HATTORI in May, 1952.
(p. 214)

The third comment was found in 'Bunmei-kaika' (The civilization) ("Gendai Rekishi Koza" [Current History Course], published by Sobunsha) by a historian Shiso HATTORI in August, 1953.
(p. 217)

The fourth comment was found in "Nihon Kindai Shiso no Keisei" (The formation of Japanese modern ideas) (published by Shin Hyoron-sha) by a historian Masanao KANO in June, 1956.
(p. 218)

Datsu-A Ron' was contained again in "Fukuzawa Yukichi Zensyu Vol.10" (The Complete Works of Yukichi FUKUZAWA) (published by Iwanami Shoten) edited by Masafumi TOMITA and Shunichi TSUCHIHASHI in June, 1960.

The fifth comment was found in 'Asia to Nihon' (Asia and Japan) ("Asia no Naka no Nihon" [Japan in Asia], published by Chuo Koronsha) by geographer Koji IIZUKA in June, 1960.
(pp. 219-220)

The sixth comment was found in 'Kokuminteki Dokuritsu to Kokka Risei' (National Independence and Reason of State) by a political scientist Yoshitake OKA and 'Nihon to Asia' (Japan and Asia) ("Kindai Nihon Shiso-shi Koza" [Modern Japanese History of Ideas], published by Chikuma Shobo) by a scholar of Chinese literature Yoshimi TAKEUCHI in June, 1961.
(pp. 220-224)

In August 1963, Takeuchi contained the full text of 'Datsu-A Ron' in 'Asia Shugi no Tenbo' (Foresight of Asianism), a commentary in "Asia Shugi" (Asianism) (Gendai-Nihon Shiso Taikei Vol.9 [The survey of current Japanese ideas], published by Chikuma Shobo).
(pp. 221-222)

In April 1967, "Fukuzawa Yukichi - Ikitsuzukeru Shisoka" (Yukichi FUKUZAWA - Living Theorist) (published by Kodansha) by a scholar of Western History of Ideas Kenji KONO was published. In December 1967, "Fukuzawa Yukichi" (published by Shimizu Shoin) by Masanao KANO was published. Because both of them were paperbacks containing comments on 'Datsu-A Ron,' the editorial became notorious as the theory of Japanese Imperialism since then.
(pp. 224-225)

In the 1970s, there were many editorials with similar comments.
(pp. 226-227)

In March 1981, a political scientist Junji BANNO published the new interpretation of 'Datsu-A Ron' in the commentary of "Fukuzawa Yukichi Senshu Vol.7" (Selected works of Yukichi Fukuzawa) (published by Iwanami Shoten, ISBN 4-001-00677-4). Banno interpreted 'Datsu-A Ron' as the declaration of failure of modernization by Korea.
(p. 227)

In 1996, a scholar of Comparative Literature Shinya IDA developed the decision method of writer by style and lexicon (the Ida Method). Ida adapted his method to this anonymous editorial of the "Jiji Shinpo newspaper" to identify the author.
(p. 239, pp. 82-85)

[Original Japanese]