This article will attempt to show how Japanese identity was conceptualised within the theories and models of Japanese physical anthropology after the fall of the colonial empire in 1945 as part of the broader debate about the ‘origins of the Japanese’. Whereas at the time of the colonial empire, researchers considered that the ‘Japanese people’ had arrived on the archipelago during the proto-history of the archipelago, after the late 1940s, major researchers such as Hasebe Kotondo, president of the Tokyo Anthropological Society, stated that the Japanese had never known any interbreeding and form an uninterrupted line of descent since the Palaeolithic period. This theory was transformed into a model during the 1950s and 1960s by Suzuki Hisashi of the University of Tokyo, using the concept of microevolution and the craniometrical analysis of thousands of skeletons discovered after the war. It then became the dominant paradigm from the 1950s to the 1970s. However, at the same time, researchers from old colonial universities in Taipei and Seoul formulated an opposing model, based on the work of Kanaseki Takeo, who thought the Japanese people were the product of interbreeding, as the excavations he led in western Japan tended to show. This idea was further developed by Hanihara Kazurō in his Dual Structure Model and then by several geneticists from the 1980s–1990s onwards. This, therefore, permitted an alternative to the ‘homogeneous people’ paradigm, but at the same time showed a persistence towards the concept of ‘race’ within the research on ethnogenesis, as well as what must be called an obsession with identity that goes beyond variations between models in physical anthropology.

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