Zhao on Mikuriya, 'Seisaku no Sogo to Kenryoku: Nihon Seiji no Senzen to Sengo'

Takashi Mikuriya
Jing Zhao

Takashi Mikuriya. Seisaku no Sogo to Kenryoku: Nihon Seiji no Senzen to Sengo. Tokyo: University of Tokyo Press, 1996. 250 pp. 5,150 yen (cloth), ISBN 978-4-13-030102-2.

Reviewed by Jing Zhao (US-Japan-China Comparative Policy Research Institute, San Jose, USA)
Published on H-Japan (January, 1997)

The ambiguous book title and the chapter headings make the book difficult to read. The author claims in the preface, "Although dealing with independent themes, all four papers share a preoccupation with the analysis of power implementation with a common perspective of policy integration" (p. 1). The concept of "policy integration" itself is ambiguous enough, though. Only in the postscript does the author introduce the original sources of the four chapters, which help readers to understand their contents.

The first chapter, "The historical development of the issues of establishing national policy integration agencies--On the formation of the principal force of national policy and functional reform," was originally published in Annual Modern Japanese Study, No. 1: The Gunbu (Military) during the Showa Times (Yamakawa Press, 1979), with a different subtitle, "The political dynamics of the establishment of the Kikakuin (Planning Institution)." What is the relation of the Kikakuin's establishment in 1937 and "the formation of the principal force of the national policy"? The author mentions that since the integration function of political parties declined after the May 15th Incident of 1932 (p. 13), the role of polity integration moved to other political collectives/groups along with the international "crisis," especially from the view of the Rikugun (Army). He argues that from the establishment of the Cabinet Resource Bureau in 1927 to the establishment of the Cabinet Research Bureau in 1935, the main task of integration was concentrated on the innovation of a general system to mobilize national resources for the coming "general war." Then the February 26th Incident (1936) stimulated the government to merge the two bureaus, under the influence of the Ishihara Group's plan of a "General Affairs Agency." The author does not describe how the Army, the real master of these integration processes, hurried the establishment of the Kikakuin in order to push Japan into total war against China by the July 7th Incident (1937). He points out that, although there was no consensus on betting Japan's destiny on the Army's "Mainland Policy" (p. 87), Japan's national policy was completely identified with the general national mobilization for the coming Sino-Japanese War. Finally, the author roughly concludes, without further analysis, that though the Kikakuin itself played a great role in promoting war, being degraded only as an executive institution, it failed to become a principal force for total policy integration.

As the principal part of the book, this chapter offers a good case study of power in 1936-37 and the reciprocal political dynamics among the bureaucrats of the Army, the Navy, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Finance Ministry, the Commerce and Industry Ministry, the Resource Bureau, the Research Bureau, et al. The recent movement of Japanese people pressing the government to open administrative information (for example, to open the wartime records of the Imperial Representative House), makes further research increasingly possibl, for excellent Japanese historians such as Professor Mikuriya. Though apparently to fit the book title, the chapter heading and its subheading are ambiguous, the content is rather definite and narrow. To change from a well-defined frame with a suitable subtitle to a much wider topic, the author needs to supply further details. Did other political forces, besides the bureaucracy, try to integrate national policy? Did they try to resist the Army dictatorship in the process of power integration? What was the effect of policy integration on the decline of parties?

Also, reworking the whole tone of the contents seems necessary. In the micro-description of the establishment of an institution (as this article sought to do in its original publication), it is clever to avoid ideological judgments; but in a macro or middle-range analysis of a national integration policy (the author's purpose in this book), one cannot advance without making some value-laden arguments. I found no criticism of Japanese fascism. Rather, indirectly, the author exposes his ideological commitments in some places. With the expression "the Japanese Army's resistance (taiko) to the northern spread of Chinese nationalism" (pp.13-14), he seems to suggest that the international situation (the Washington Conference system, the rise of the Soviet Union, and the formation of a united China) inaugurated a crisis in Japan. I wonder whether the author's other work, The Formulation of the Meiji State and Local Management (University of Tokyo Press, 1980), which built on similar research approach, moving from the Meiji to the prewar period, offers a wider perspective.

The second chapter, "Water conservancy development and prewar party politics--On the mutual development of water conservancy policy and strategical systematization," was originally published in Annual Political Science 1984: The center-local relation of modern Japanese politics (Iwanami shoten, 1985), with the subtitle "The interactions between parties and the bureaucracy, and within bureaucracies." Compared with the first chapter, which deals with the complex issue of national integration, this chapter is concerned with a specific case of integration: the prewar party politics of water conservancy development from the Hara Cabinet (1922) through the Kato and Wakatuski Cabinets, the Tanaka Cabinet, the Hamaguchi and Wakatuski Cabinets, and finally the Inugai Cabinet (1932). The author discusses the conflict between the agricultural irrigation aspect and the hydraulic power conservancy aspect in the traditional management policy, and the process toward a new integrated water policy. He assesses the mutual relations between the party cabinets and the bureaucracy, the power (im)balances within the bureaucracies of the Agriculture and Commerce Ministry (later the Agriculture and Forest Ministry), the Communication Ministry, and the Naimusho (the Interior Ministry, though Japanese prefer to translate it as the Home Affairs Ministry). Through the gap of the formulation of a systematic policy and the implementation process, he concludes that the reasonsfor the failure of integration, i.e., sectionalism, could not be resolved under the prewar political system. As shown by the purpose of the Administrative Research Council (p. 132), the policy integration of water conservancy requires a higher level of political integration, namely a real party-advantage system and a thorough reform of the bureaucracy. Though still limited by a narrower frame than the author intends, this chapter is the most successful of the book's four chapters. The author further suggests that readers refer to his The Politics of the Capitol Planning--The reality of the formulation of the Meiji state (Yamakawa Press, 1984), which sparked the author's concern with the relation between infrastructure and politics.

The third chapter, "Water resource development and the postwar policy-making process--On the mutual development of water resource policy and its systematic accomplishment," was originally published in Annual Modern Japanese Study, No. 8: The formation and development of the bureaucracy (Yamakawa Press, 1986), with the subtitle "Between the Showa 20's and 30's." In the two important postwar economic recovery plans, the author argues, river development was at the center of the general plan to develop national land resources, while hydraulic power development was at the center of the electronic industrial reform plan. Hence, the water resource development issue became the focus of postwar policy-making (pp. 159-60). So the postwar democratization of various institutions (the Resource Committee of the Economy Stability Headquarter, the Densan Union, the Diet) became the principal political springboards for policy integration. The author illustrates the process and systemization of the postwar policy of integration by close examination of the establishment of two bills on water resource development promotion (1961) under the new LDP Diet member Tanaka Kakuei, and the New River Bill (1964) under Minister Kono Ichiro of the newly established Construction Ministry. He shows that the "postwar democracy" functioned better than prewar "planning" in the policy integration concerning water resources--a matter of historical import. Since then, with the transformations of the main tasks of the two recovery plans (one from river to road development, the other from hydraulic to thermal power development), water resource development has become a less central issue. Conjunctive with the second chapter, this chapter offers a brief history of water resource development. Yomiuri Shimbun on 5 December 1996 reported that the New River Bill will be revised in the 1997 Diet, mainly in respect to environmental conservation.

The fourth chapter, "Kokudo (national land resource) planning and the prewar society, the postwar society--On the space networking of national land policy and the ideological implementation," was originally published in A History of Japanese Economy, No. 7: "Planning" and "Democratization" under the title "The prewar and postwar societies" (Iwanami shoten, 1989). Trying a political sociology approach, the author here uses an actor's diary to describe the mental changes in the prewar and postwar societies. The diary itself may be interesting for the author's original purpose; however, it offers no new knowledge of the prewar and postwar eras, nor does it prove relevant to the implementation of national land resource planning. Given the book title, "Policy Integration and Power," I could not help feeling disappointed by the lack of a serious treatment of the "power implementation" of this great issue, which involves the core of Japan's postwar political structure after the transformation from resource (coal)-concentrated to finance-oriented planning.

Not offering any analysis, this chapter can only be considered a preface to a study of this issue, because the national land resource development was implemented since the 1960s, through Tanaka's "Japan Islands Reform" plan in the 1970s, Takeshita's "Furusato Sosei" plan in the 1980s, to the present-day "Capitol Move" issue. Readers are encouraged to consult the author's other studies for adequate treatment of this area. One is NIRA Research Report: The Study of Postwar National Land Policy, 2 vols. (NIRA, 1995), and the other paper is "National land planning and development politics" in Annual Political Science 1995: The Formation Process of the Relation between Politicians and the Bureaucracy in Contemporary Japanese (Iwanami shoten, 1995). I wonder why the author did not include the latter in this book.

Ultimately, the author fails to integrate his independent researches into one book by changing original titles or subtitles. Selecting another longer narrative book title, subtitle and other chapter headings will improve this situation a little. In addition, the author should pay more attention to editing his previous independent papers. For example, some sentences are repeated in different chapters; and the acronym "TVA" in water resources development appears dozens of times without any explanation until close to the end (p. 230), which seems to give it as Tennessee River General Development Planning (though the acronym is for Tennessee Valley Authority). The book could have benefited from supplemental explanations of particular historical events in order to make the work accessible to readers who are not specialists in the field of modern Japanese history.

Though the author did not succeed fully in accomplishing his stated goal, "to approach twentieth century Japanese political history, consisting of the prewar and postwar periods, with an emphasis on 'policy integration' by analysis of the details of power implementation" (p. 1), he does suggest a new path for future research. Reading through these somewhat disjointed chapters, readers may sense the author's challenge to the canon of twentieth-century Japanese politics as he develops his approach to studying the power implementation of policy integration. As a pioneering study, this book offers a thoughtful and new perspective and employs interesting empirical data (such as materials from newly opened government records, private diaries, and personal interviews). Everyone who is interested in the power implementation processes of modern Japanese politics should read it. This book, except perhaps chapter 4, deserves more than one reading.

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Citation: Jing Zhao. Review of Mikuriya, Takashi, Seisaku no Sogo to Kenryoku: Nihon Seiji no Senzen to Sengo. H-Japan, H-Net Reviews. January, 1997.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=762

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