ASCJ 2009
Session 3: Room 11-405

Old Responsibilities Never Die; They Just Fade Away? Approaching War Responsibility in Modern and Contemporary East Asia

Organizer: May-yi Shaw, Harvard University

Chair: Katsumi Nakao, J.F. Oberlin University

Japanese history textbook controversies and visits to the Yasukuni Shrine made by the former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi have periodically raised tensions between Japan and its East Asian neighbors. In May, 2008, the release of a documentary titled Yasukuni once again evoked a new round of rightwing protests, government officials' condemnation, and theater boycotts within domestic Japan. This point to an alarming reality that the issue of war responsibility continues to drive divided opinions in contemporary East Asia not only within the political realm but also deep among the arts circles and the general public.

This panel seeks to approach the subject of war responsibility beyond that of the Japan government's by drawing attention to role of the “people” - both the colonizer and the colonized in a transwar context. Kirsten Ziomek sets the stage by examining the naichi kankô policy in Colonial Taiwan and reveals the Taiwanese Aborigines' proactive adherence to the policy. Benjamin Uchiyama continues by looking at how battlefront violence was marketed as humor and wonder at home by the Japanese mass media during the 1930s and raises questions about the diffused nature of war responsibility. Carrying on, Yi-Chieh Lin presents the testimonies of Taiwanese comfort women and discusses their silenced position before the 1990s and their increasing vocalization thereafter. Finally, May-yi Shaw concludes by reviewing the recent debates arising from the screening of Yasukuni and Ashita e no yuigon and examining several museum exhibitions in Japan on World War II history and memories to reveal the cacophonous views of the current Japanese public regarding war responsibility.

1) Kirsten Ziomek, University of California, Santa Barbara

Tours to the Metropolis

In this paper, I will examine naichi kankô (tours to the metropolis), a Japanese colonial policy in which Taiwanese Aborigines were taken on tours to witness Japan's advanced culture and development. The policy was created under the goal of raising a new class of people, who upon their return would take the lead in developing the Aborigine settlements in Taiwan as facilitators of Japanese colonial rule. The tours began in 1897 and continued until the 1940s. While initially financially supported by the government, they were later funded by the Aborigines and thus touted a success by the colonial government. In examining this policy, I will discuss what propelled the Aborigines to self-fund themselves for the tours. I will also examine how power relations shifted in Aboriginal communities as a result of this policy, granting the participants economic advantages such as control of trade goods and prestige goods, and providing the Japanese new ways to coerce the Aborigines through embargoes and threats of force.

Through the study of colonial policies like naichi kankô, I argue that approaching the reactions of the colonial Aborigines as a collaboration-resistance dichotomy does not fully explain the success or failure of colonial policies. Furthermore, such policies reveal that power relations during the colonial period were not fixed, thus allowing us to challenge the previous assumptions about Japan being an omnipotent colonial power and when discussing the issue of war responsibility.

2) Benjamin Uchiyama, University of Southern California

“Enjoying the Thrills of Modern Warfare”: Japanese Media Coverage of Shanghai Street Fighting, Hundred Man Killing Contests, and the Fall of Nanjing, 1937 - 1938

War responsibility in Japan must also consider the global context of total war in the early twentieth century, when all the major belligerent powers committed mass, industrialized violence. Total war heralded not only the expansion of state power but also the increasing sophistication of the mass media. What was the role of technological and media innovations in marketing violence to the public? What does this say about mobilizing for total war in the age of mass culture and mass media? This paper will examine Japanese media coverage of the Shanghai-Nanjing campaign during the fall and winter of 1937 and argue that the war fever leading up to the Nanjing Massacre unleashed subversive energies in the culture industries despite the government's press controls and “spiritual mobilization” campaign. For several months after fighting expanded into Shanghai in August 1937, the mass media promoted a riotous atmosphere in the home front by articulating a sense of wonder, “humor” (yūmoa), and “thrills”(suriru) over “Shanghai street fighting” (Shanhai shigaisen), hundred man killing contests, and the fall of Nanjing. Such behavior disturbed government officials, who urged the culture industries to be more serious and patriotic in time of war and cease their “raucous carnival” (omatsuri sawagi). Addressing the connections between imperialism and mass culture in the age of total war will help us move away from ahistorical cultural stereotypes and approach the war responsibility debate with a deeper awareness of the historical and modern context of mass violence.

3) Yi-Chieh Lin, Harvard University

The Comfort Women in Taiwan and Their War Memories

In this paper, I first summarize the testimonies of sixty-four Taiwanese comfort women from the 1990s to the early 21st century and argue that the Japanese government was directly involved in the mobilization of comfort women in Taiwan. The signing of the Sino-Japanese Peace Treaty in 1952 explained why the Nationalist government of the Republic of China failed to file for indemnification for the comfort women or preserve necessary documents during its postwar rule in Taiwan. Cultural reasons such as the emphasis of virginity in Chinese society also accounted for the silence of these women until the late 1990s.

In the second part of the paper, I examine the recent efforts made by the Taiwanese comfort women to vocalize their experience and the oppositions met, in particularly the works by the Japanese right-wing manga columnist, Kobayashi Yoshinori, and the debates surrounding his publication of Taiwan Discourse (Taiwanron) in 2001. In the same year, the Taiwanese comfort women filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in the Tokyo District Court but lost their case. Thereafter, they had appealed to the High Court but lost again in 2005. As visits made to the Yasukuni Shine were resumed by the former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, it is crucial to reassess the issue of war responsibility by paying greater attention to the role of the minority, namely that of the former colonial subjects' and the women's, in the reconstructing of historical memory.

4) May-yi Shaw, Harvard University

In the Name of Peace: Wartime History Reapproached and Memories

Reappropriated in Contemporary Japanese Films and Peace Museums

This paper attempts to examine the contemporary public discussions in Japan on the subject of war responsibility by examining recent two films on the topic of war crime and Yasukuni controversy. It also aims to analyze a number of public exhibitions of war history and memories in the so-called “peace museums” in the Tokyo Metropolitan area.

At the premiere screening of Ashita e no yuigon (Best Wishes for Tomorrow) at the Tokyo International Film Festival in October 2007, a full theater of audience shed tears for Lieutenant General Tasuku Okada, tried at the Yokohama War Crime Trials and executed as a Class-B war criminal in 1948. Six months later in spring 2008, on the other hand, the debut screening of Yasukuni in Japan, a documentary on the controversial Shinto shrine, met fierce protests from the rightwing activists and last-minute boycotts from theaters across the country. Meanwhile, the content and artistic arrangement of a number of museum exhibitions in Tokyo - the Showa Kan, the Heiwa Kinen Tenji Shiryo Kan, and the Yushukan managed by the Yasukuni Shrine - reveal a wide spectrum of attitudes towards Japan's involvement in the Second World War. How history of war is presented and how memories of war - especially those of the past military personnel, the families of the deceased, and the regular citizens who suffered greatly both at home and abroad - are recalled or reappropriated for specific political purposes and appeals are examined to reveal how divided the current public views on the subject of Japan's war responsibility remain.

Discussant: Katsumi Nakao, J.F. Oberlin University