Japanese Pan-Asianism… and… Hawai‘i?: The omission of Hawai‘i in Japanese Pan-Asian Thinking

  • Daniel Davenport


Pan-Asianism, a Twentieth-Century Japanese ideology, provides a robust explanation for Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor. It proposed an encompassing identity for Asia that placed Japan at the centre and appealed to many in Japan. A militant version of the ideology became dominant and became the framework for Japan’s justification of its expansionist policy to rid Asia of Western influence. On the surface, this ideology has sometimes appeared genuinely anti-colonial in theory if not in practice. However, scholarship on Pan-Asianism has failed to take into account the place of Hawai‘i, the site of Japan’s attack against the United States. There were two main approaches to Hawai‘i in Japanese thought at the time. Firstly, the mainstream Pan-Asian propaganda ignored Hawai‘i and presented the attack on Pearl Harbor as an attack on the United State in general. Nevertheless, an additional specific thread of Pan-Asian thought at the time considered Hawai‘i to be a part of Asia and in need of incorporation into Japan’s Pan-Asian project. In some corners of Japanese thinking in the wake of the opening of hostilities, thinkers drafted plans for the governance of the islands under Japan. These two contrasting strands of thought and rhetoric show the colonial nature of the Pan-Asian ideology as it imposed whatever identity on Hawai‘i that Japan found most convenient. For Japan, Hawai‘i was a part of the United States when Japan needed to demonstrate victory over the West and it was a colonised Asian territory when Japan needed to justify annexation plans. Scholarship on Hawai‘i demonstrates that the islands and their Indigenous people are Pacific Islanders rather than Asians in need of Japanese liberation. This research helps us understand Japan’s ideology, the Pacific War, and the important place of Hawai’i in Pacific and global history.

How to Cite
Davenport, Daniel. 2024. “Japanese Pan-Asianism… and… Hawai‘i?: The Omission of Hawai‘i in Japanese Pan-Asian Thinking”. the Ascendant Historian 3 (June), 35-42. https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/corvette/article/view/22014.