This paper aims to introduce a neglected methodology from Japanese international relations (IR) – the culturalist methodology – to Anglophone specialists in IR. This methodology is neglected not only by an Anglophone audience but also by Japanese IR scholars. I argue here that despite this negligence, the culturalist methodology has great potential to contribute to contemporary post-Western international relations theory (IRT) literature by posing radical questions about the ontology of IR, as it questions not only the ontology of Western IR, but also the IR discourses developed in the rest of the world. Consequently, in understanding and imagining the contemporary world, I clarify the importance of perceptions based on what, in Japan, are commonly called ‘international cultural relations’ (kokusai bunka) and ‘regional history’ (chiikishi). I also indicate how our perceptions of the world are limited by the Westphalian principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention among ‘equal’ nations on the basis of state borders. While historical understanding is widely recognised as an important approach to contemporary IR, its scope is limited by its universalised principles.
This paper investigates the risk presumably involved in the narratives of non- Western international relations theory (IRT) by focusing on a similar historical case in Japan. It reveals the risk of uncritically accepted geographical division, and particularly focuses on the discourses of the Kyoto School’s theory of world history as an example of non-Western narratives in the past, which was to ‘overcome’ the Western civilization similar to the contemporary non-Western IRT. However, they are also infamous for providing justification for the wartime regime in Japan for their aggression in the Asian continent. What is the connection between their philosophy and support for the imperialist regime? If there is a connection between them, is there any possibility of the resurrection of the same results in the case of non-Western IRT? To answer these questions, the article introduces the philosophy of Tosaka Jun who was critical of the School but, unlike Kyoto School philosophers, stubbornly fought against the mainstream politics of the time.