Sixth Asian Studies Conference Japan
    Saturday and Sunday, June 22-23
    Ichigaya Campus of Sophia University


last update 2002/03/09

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181


Session 15
Military Cemeteries, Memorials and Community: War and Memory in Postwar Japan
Organizer: Barry Keith, Gunma University

In Postwar Japan, war memory in Japanese communities is a kaleidoscope of the individual and community's experiences. With such varied memories of its wartime experience, the manner and act itself of memorializing the war dead is not only the concern of the bereaved family, but wed to the interests of their communities and the ultimately, the State. This panel will discuss various Japanese memorials to its war dead, past, present, and future. Keiichi Harada focuses on public Japanese military cemeteries (gun'yô bochi), explaining their foundation and administrative structure. He describes their transformation from a "military" to a "public" space during wartime, and their state and local administration in the postwar following the abolition of Japan's armed forces. Barry Keith discusses the ambitious wartime project to build a war memorial in each of Japan's townships, as promoted by The Greater Japan Association to Exalt the Loyal Spirits (Dai Nihon Chûrei Kenshô Kai). Nam Sangu investigates the construction of war memorials in Chiba prefecture and ways in which communities there remembered their war dead. All presentations discuss on memorials' history and their roles within their communities, and will touch on the future of Japanese war memorials as war-era society ages and eventually disappears.

1) Keiichi Harada, Bukkyo University. "Dead Soldiers, Mourning, and School Girls: The Transformation of Japanese Military Cemeteries within the Community"

From 1871 to 1945, the Japanese government established 88 national military cemeteries (88 Imperial Army, 7 Imperial Navy). This presentation examines the transformation of these cemeteries from their beginnings as privately "administrative" sites within the military apparatus to their much broader role as a center for public mourning during the Pacific War. When first built, Japan's military cemeteries housed remains of soldiers who died in peacetime. At this stage, cemeteries were home to individual headstones where the soldier was buried. During the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895), soldiers buried in temporary graves near the front were later disinterred and permanently buried in national cemeteries. As casualty figures reached unprecedented levels during the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), however, individual graves were increasingly consolidated into mass burial tombs. This practice continued during the war with China and the Pacific War (1931-1945), but during this time the role of the cemetery fundamentally changed. No longer a private military site, the cemetery was incorporated into the larger community's memorial services and eventually became the local symbol of the state hierarchy for memorializing the war dead. During their 74-year existence under state control, we see a change in the cemeteries from being an exclusive place to honor servicemen within the military community. We also see a change in the memorials themselves, from personal headstones to collective tombs. Finally, the cemeteries played an increasingly important role as a public venue - the expression of the community's cooperation with the war effort and state ideology to honor it war dead.

2) Barry Keith, Gumma University. "Donate a Day to Die a Battle Death": General Hishikari and Chûrei-tô Monogatari"

The war-era Greater Japan Association to Honor Loyal Spirits (Dai Nippon Chûrei Kenshô-kai) was founded in 1939 under the auspices of the Imperial Army. The movement's central figure, General Hishikari Takashi, had grand designs to construct Chûrei-tô memorials throughout Japan and Asia. This presentation considers the ideas set forth in Hishikari's book, The Tale of the Memorial to Loyal Spirits (Chûrei-tô Monogatari) and the construction of these memorials. Gen. Hishikari called for the construction of over 500 memorials within Japan and throughout the empire to house the remains of Imperial soldiers. Though most Japanese municipalities already had a local war memorial by 1939, the Chûrei-tô were elaborate ossuaries to be constructed in every Japanese town and at major battle sites where imperial forces had fought. Unlike the smaller and ubiquitous 'Memorial to the Loyal Spirits,' or Chûkon-hi, the granite memorials were often massive, imposing structures, which ranged from 10 to 60 meters in height and, as a result, cost considerably more to build. An ambitious national campaign solicited donations to pay for their construction, and by mid-1942, 104 had already been built in Japan and abroad. Under the slogan of Ichi Nichi Senshi, or "Donate a Day to Die a Battle Death," citizens were urged to donate a day's wages to the Association. The memorials represented, in the Association's terms, nothing less than "an everlasting expression of the Japanese Spirit."

3) Nam Sanguu, Chiba University. "Memory and Mourning for the War Dead in the Postwar Era: War Memorials in Chiba Prefecture"

Journalist Tanaka Nobumasa writes, "The [Japanese] people have yet to come up with their own words to express their grief, nor have they devised their own way to mourn for soldiers killed in battle." Even during the Postwar, as Tanaka points out, pre-war and wartime-era memorials continued as centerpieces when communities remembered and mourned their dead. This does not necessarily mean, however, that the Japanese have been held captive by the state as they mourn for the dead. On the contrary, in addition to state-sponsored memorial services, communities have responded according to their own beliefs as they both remember and mourn. One yardstick by which this question can be explored is the construction of community war memorials.
Mourning for the dead in the Postwar placed the individual in a stratified and vertical structure consisting of, from top to bottom, the central, prefectural, and local governments. This administrative structure is mirrored in the hierarchy of mourning sites, i.e.,Yasukuni Shrine, the Prefectural Nation-Protecting Shrine [gokoku jinja], and community war memorial [chûkon-hi or chûrei-to]. Based on field research, this paper will discuss the construction of war memorials in Chiba Prefecture in the context of both state-sponsored and local commemorations. These include organized visits by bereaved children to Yasukuni Shrine, tours to construct and or hold memorial services at battle sites overseas, tours to collect soldiers' remains overseas, commemorative ceremonies held within the community, and finally, presentations of awards of valor by the central government.

Discussant: Tadashi Otani, Senshu University


list of panels