Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Japanese – Utsukushii kuni

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Japanese, Stability

美しい国 (うつくしい くに)

Utsukushii kuni

“Beautiful country”

 

Relates to stability and harmony

This phrase became popular through Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (who was PM from September 2006-September 2007). He was a conservative politician (even by Japanese standards) who denied the abduction of comfort women by Japan in WWII and who supported the controversial and revisionist New History Textbook. He was elected in 2006 to the office of Prime Minister to carry on the post-Koizumi fiscal reforms and the plans for 美しい国づくり utsukushii kunizukuri ‘beautiful country building’. This phrase was popularised through his book美しい国へ, Utsukushii kuni e ‘Toward a Beautiful Nation’, which sold more than 500,000 copies in Japan.

What does it mean for Japan to be a 美しい国 ‘beautiful country’? According to a survey (multiple answers possible) commissioned by the Cabinet Office in 2007, most people surveyed (80%) thought that this was best represented by natural phenomena such as mountains and forests; next was traditional crafts (58.5%); rural areas and woodlands (52.8%); and traditional culture such as kabuki and festivals (50.8%).

It was, however, unclear to many what Abe actually meant by the phrase. It was clear that he was trying to put forward a positive image of Japan in an age where Japan no longer had to shelter under the American nuclear umbrella—a Japan which was discussing the revision of the clause in its constitution (Article 9) which renounced war; a Japan which was lobbying for a seat on the UN security council; a Japan which had re-named its defence agency a ministry. On the other hand the government had botched the issue of lost pension funds, the disparity between rich and poor was growing, and the number of suicides per year had reached 30,000, tripling the number of people who died on the roads. Even a member of his own party, Kohei Tamura, claimed not to really understand what was meant by 美しい国.

 

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