Understanding Japaneseness

A Fresh Look at Nipponjinron Through "Material-filial Affection"

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Kosuke Nishitani
Michael J. Sherrill
  • Lanham, MD: 
    Rowman & Littlefield
    , September
     268 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Fabio Rambelli forthcoming.


Japan, although a small country, is identified as perhaps the only civilization composed of just one nation. In spite of its many encounters with axial civilizations Japan has somehow preserved a unique sense of self. This enduring quality lends an air of mystery to Japanese culture that continues to draw the fascination of many. Such curiosity about the nature of Japan and its people has prompted the publication of many books that contribute to the academic genre known as “Nipponjinron.” 

This book makes a distinctly new contribution as a theological anthropology of Japaneseness by paying careful attention to the religious sensibilities that undergird Japanese behavior. The author draws on numerous seminal works of Nipponjinron to build a sturdy philosophical and historical platform. Through concrete examples, classic literature, historical analysis, and religious reflection, the author carefully and skillfully illuminates a new path to understanding Japaneseness by drawing the reader’s attention to the lifeblood of Japanese behavior, “maternal-filial affection.”

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Kosuke Nishitani is professor of business ethics in the Graduate School of International Management of Aoyama Gakuin University. As an ordained minister he serves as Campus Chaplain as well as Pastor of Toyama Church, United Church of Christ in Japan. Founded in 1950, this church was commissioned by General Douglas McArthur as a religious community center for Toyama Heights, a thousand-home subdivision in Tokyo constructed on the site of the demolished Toyama Military Academy of the Imperial Japanese Army. Nishitani’s work sustains the bold herald that on the other side of difficulty lies the path to new hope.

Michael J. Sherrill is associate professor of intercultural studies and chair of religious affairs in the School of International Politics, Economics and Communication of Aoyama Gakuin University. His research interests center on ancient spirituality and the role of religion in contemporary society. He is ordained in the Mennonite Church and has served in Japan in church ministry and Christian higher education for over twenty years.

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