Having read an article by an obvious Genyosha sympathizer, it seems that the picture is not so clear cut. While it is true that the Genyosha were nationalists, they were at the same time `ultra-nationalists` (in that their ideas incorporated a framework greater than their own nation) and that their ideology was often in conflict with and a direct contrast to that of the government. The Genyosha itself was centered in Fukuoka, as Kyushu had proven to be the most vocal in opposition to the imposition of reforms by the Meiji government (not exclusively limited to the abolition of the province system and the establishment of prefectures). The society itself was a by-product of the mass movements for liberal and independent rights that emerged during the 1870s, and some of its members had previously been imprisoned for their anti-government activities. The society was, however, devoted to strengthening Japan against what it saw as the encroaching power of European nations in the Asia Pacific. It actively supported liberation movements and their leaders across Asia (particularly after Toyama Mitsuru took over as head of the organization).
Yet one of the curious things that the author of the article stated was that the Genyosha exercised a lot of influence on government, the economy, and the military. If the Genyosha had originally begun in defiance of the government, how did it manage to acquiesce with and persuade members of the government to listen to its rhetoric? Another curious piece of evidence to emerge from the article was that concerning the attitude of the Genyosha towards Japan`s Korean colony. The head of the organization at the time expressed his disappointment with policies enacted towards the Koreans by the Japanese government and military, believing that they had squandered an opportunity to improve relations between the two nations as a result of heavy-handed tactics by the two latter institutions. If so, then how did the Genyosha come to influence the government in the manner that the author says they did, and what exactly did they advocate?
One further question to ask is how did the Genyosha come to exercise such influence when compared to the many other right-wing organizations in Japan at the time? The Genyosha were one of many, however they became the best known, and many of their members would go on to play prominent roles in government after the Genyosha was disbanded by the GHQ in 1946. There must have been something about them that differentiated them from other societies at the time and gave them added exposure. A final question that is related to those above is what Chinese organizations (particularly right-wing organizations) existed in China during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and was there any contact between these and the Genyosha? Did the Genyosha actively advocate the invasion of China in 1931?
The reason I am asking all of these questions stems from an interest in nationalism and how the right-wing elements of political parties (and right wing parties themselves) attempt to influence national policy. Nationalism in Japan and China are two subjects that have been extensively studied over the past few decades, however I wish to go back and look at the earlier manifestations of nationalism (in two states that had only recently come to perceive themselves as `nations`) and how this was transformed into political action.
Another question of some relevance would be to ask how the Genyosha are perceived by historians in Japan of today. Having read an article by a lecturer who sympathizes with the Genyosha and their history, is this indicative of the majority of post-war studies on the Genyosha in Japan, or is there a definite split between critics and supporters of the Genyosha`s activities and legacy? In addition, what distinguishes the Genyosha from right-wing organizations of today – do they share similarities, or are they fundamentally different? Given the passage of time and the change of government in Japan from an autocracy to (at least in outward form) parliamentary democracy, one would imagine that there are substantial differences between pre and post war nationalism, yet the only way to resolve this question is to investigate it.