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Embodying Otherness: Religion, Colonialism, and Japanese Intelligence Agents under Inner Asian Buddhist Disguises


Abstract for Online Program Book (maximum 1200 characters including spaces)

This paper is about two Japanese intelligence agents, Kimura Hisao (1922-1989) and Nishikawa Kazumi (1918-2008), who carried out missions assigned to them by the Japanese military in Inner Asia under the disguise of Buddhist monasticism. This paper explores the roles that Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism played in Japan’s expansionist ambitions in early twentieth-century Inner Asia and the transformations of Kimura and Nishikawa’s colonial gazes through their embodiments of Inner Asian Buddhist identities under the changing variables of time and space. As Kimura and Nishikawa traversed the Inner Asian landscape embodying the exact people they were attempting to “liberate” and colonize, tension and anxiety arise. By conflating the “self” and the “other” for the purpose of their intelligence missions, they began to question the superiority of Japan as a modern nation, and the Japanese Empire as a truly pan-Asianist utopia. Reflecting on how these travelogues written by Kimura and Nishikawa were published in the postwar, this paper also interrogates the two agents’ memories of their missions in Buddhist Inner Asia in the context of the geopolitical entanglements in the Cold War.