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Paragons of Culture: The Soft Power of the Japanese Emperors
- Ben-Ami Shillony (Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel)
The emperors of Japan, for at least the last 12 hundred years, lacked political, military, economic and judicial power. Nevertheless, their dynasty has never been toppled or challenged. The enormous prestige of the imperial family derived not only from the belief that the emperors were descendants of the Sun Goddess, but also from the soft power which they wielded as paragons of culture. Detached from the hard power of other heads of state, they engaged in performing religious rites, composing poetry, compiling anthologies, and pursuing arts. The imperial court played a crucial role in the cultural development of Japan. It preserved Shinto, patronized Buddhism, advanced Chinese civilization, promoted Confucianism, and championed Western culture. The Shōwa emperor started a new tradition of imperial family members engaging in science. During the period between 1894 and 1945, when the emperors were used to sanction Japan’s wars of aggression, their cultural activities continued unabated. Today the imperial family of Japan excels in science and poetry more than any other royal family in the world.
Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
Ben-Ami Shillony is Professor Emeritus at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, and member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities. He received his Ph.D. in 1971 from Princeton University. In 2000 he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold and Silver Star. In October 2010 he received the Japan Foundation Award and was granted an audience with the emperor and empress. In 2012 he was elected as the honorary president of the Israeli Association of Japanese Studies. His books include: Revolt in Japan (1973), Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan (1981), The Jews and the Japanese (1991) and Enigma of the Emperors (2005). http://pluto.huji.ac.il/~shillony/