Two traditional approaches to the study of Japan in the West—comparison and a focus on connections—both fundamentally regard Japanese culture as a distinct entity. A less essentialist and more fruitful approach might be to see Japanese culture as the product of responses to global developments and conjunctures that the West has also been subjected to. Classical modernization theory, the multiple modernities approach, and, more recently, the Great Divergence debate have each in their own way situated Japan within global history, although they have usually been accompanied by presumptions about the West’s importance for Japan, while at the same time removing Japan from its Asian context. Resituating Japan in its Asian context from a transcultural perspective yields unexpected insights. One example is the role of Islam in Japan, a topic that, although almost entirely unexplored, is closely bound to modern Japanese political history.
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