Japan, Past and Present

Japan, Past and Present, is a three-year project initiated by the Ax:son Johnson Foundation to promote a better understanding of Japanese society. In 2018, it will be 150 years since Sweden, as the first nation in the world, signed a treaty with Japan’s newly-appointed Meiji government. Japan had recently left a feudal system and was taking giant steps towards modernity. Only a decade was needed for the country to ostensibly become an industrialised democracy on a par with the Western model.

Today, Japan is one of the world’s three largest economies and a leading industrial nation. But it is facing enormous social, cultural, financial and political challenges. What are the potential future scenarios for Japan? Will the country come to terms with its problems and resume its leading position in Asia?

And what happened to the Japanese national spirit? Could it adapt to the rapid social change precipitated by the Meiji restoration? To what extent has Japan retained its old traditions? What can we learn from contemporary Japanese society by studying the past?

Project manager: Yukiko Duke Bergman