This project studies the ideational factors influencing Japanese foreign aid policy. It builds on previous research in political science on perception and foreign policy decision-making, Japanese political economy, economic and technological development, foreign aid, and in anthropology on perception, worldview, and international development.
The main goal of the research is to answer the question of how Japan's historical experiences with technology, development, and foreign relations (and key leaders' views of those areas) from 1850 to 1945 have influenced current aid policies. Second, the project aims to answer whether the Japanese development concepts of "modernization," internationalization and translative adaptation accurately reflect Japan's own experience. Third, the project asks how spirituality and religion may be influencing current aid policies.
In the research, I review key contexts of Japan's historical experience from 1850 to 1945 in several important areas. I also study the beliefs and worldviews (cognitive frameworks) of seven key Japanese leaders for the same period: Fukuzawa Yukichi, Mori Arinori, Ito Hirobumi, Yamagata Aritomo, Kato Hiroyuki, Yanagita Kunio, and Emperor Hirohito. I analyze these historical experiences and leaders' views through analytical concepts and lenses from political science, anthropology, and economics, in three main areas: development, technology, and cognition.
Among my key findings are that there is much continuity between Japan's prewar culture of politics and the postwar system, including examples and ideas, which shape the policy environment in which Japan's aid operates. Many of these are negative in nature, and some are ideas based on Japan's own development experience. Several key lessons emerge, including the importance of: (1) a strong civil society to prevent abusive politics for the achievement of Japan's national interests, whether in its prewar politics or the current aid system; (2) a strong, effective state for encouraging successful development; (3) Japan's development experience for other regions (if carefully applied); and (4) the concept of translative adaptation, the idea that each nation's development must be customized for its own conditions and experiences. I conclude that Japan needs better consideration of ground level factors in its assessments of ODA policy and international affairs.