Yoshimitsu, benedict, endo: Guilt, shame and the post-war idea of Japan

Adrian Pinnington*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The idea that Japan is a ’shame culture' and that the Japanese have a weak sense of sin has been an influential one, both in Japan and abroad. It has also often influenced attitudes towards Japan’s behaviour in World War II. This idea, however, has its roots in the Japanese critique of pre-war ideology after World War II and in the Japanese reception of Ruth Benedict’s The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. In various forms, the idea also became an important element of Nihonbunkaron, those theories of Japanese culture which have been so popular in post-war Japan. The same idea was also given a powerful and influential expression in the novels of End l Sh ˆ saku (1923-96). Earlier Christian theologians in Japan, such as Yoshimitsu Yoshihiko (1904-45), had often seen traditional Japanese culture as closer to Christianity than modern European culture. To such thinkers, Japan’s war with Britain and America was in part a war on modernity itself. By contrast, End l accepted the post-war belief that Japan was a shame culture, distant from European Christianity. As his career proceeded, however, he came to take a more positive view of the 'weak' Japanese self. In this sense, his work closely parallels the development of Nihonbunkaron itself. Paradoxically, however, End l ’s 'Japanese' reinterpretation of Christianity proved highly popular not only in Japan but also abroad, raising the possibility that it was less exclusively Japanese than his work suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-105
Number of pages15
JournalJapan Forum
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001 Apr


  • Benedict
  • Catholicism
  • Endo
  • Japan
  • Nihonbunkaron
  • Yoshimitsu

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Yoshimitsu, benedict, endo: Guilt, shame and the post-war idea of Japan'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this