Book title in big black typography on a white cover


Nihon wo tokihanatsu (Liberating Japan)




424 pages, 127x188mm




January 31, 2019



Published by

University of Tokyo Press

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Nihon wo tokihanatsu

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I co-authored this book with Prof. Yasuo Kobayashi. Rather than a simple collection of independently written essays, however, it is an edited compilation of seven essays and seven dialogues. We chose this format because we were reminded that philosophy is essentially dialogue for which there is no predetermined conclusion. It is a process of layer upon layer of questions, occasional retreats, and sprawling forward with over-eager steps. Our objective through these dialogues is to place Japanese philosophy and its ideas into a broader context and clarify what has rarely been touched upon through a new configuration of thought. This is what we hope to have achieved. Though our respective fields of expertise are primarily French and Chinese philosophy, this non-expert approach has allowed us to freely explore Japanese philosophy and its ideas in an adventure that has been supported by our friendship with Thomas P. Kasulis, author of the over 700-page tome, Engaging Japanese Philosophy: A Short History.
We begin with Kūkai and conclude with Tōru Takemitsu. The book includes a letter written to Prof. Yasuo Kobayashi by Takemitsu that I highly recommend you read. It shows clearly how philosophy consists not only of abstract concepts but also of our way of being. Notable are the recipes Takemitsu wrote on a sketch pad in his last year of life. Prof. Kobayashi explains: “Take, for example, his detailed instructions on how to prepare abalone rice. ‘Wash the rice and add a piece of dried kelp. Just a pinch of salt. Cut the abalone into bite-size cubes around 5-millimeter square. Wash with sake.’ I find these recipes—50 in all written in orderly detail with accompanying sketches by a dying man at the very end of his life—incredibly moving. Somehow, they speak more beautifully of the human condition on this earth than any words of philosophy can possibly convey.” This kind of way of being is in stark contrast to our contemporary lives of information overload. At another place in the book, Prof. Kobayashi says, “The more we are flooded by information, the more removed meaning is from our sense. Meaning is increasingly being diluted to the point of meaninglessness. Every day we consume large amounts of ‘diluted meaning’ we call information, but there is no ‘meaning’ there.” Our book is an attempt to refute this current condition and provide the keys to liberating Japanese philosophy and its ideas by purposely adhering to the physical conditions of being. Ten Satō has wonderfully expressed this intent through his illustration for the book.

(Written by NAKAJIMA Takahiro, Professor, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia / 2019)

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