Trans-Asia as method seminar: Japan, the war, and post-war recriminations: Rethinking the end of the Japanese Empire

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Date(s) - 22/08/2013
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

ACJC Seminar Room Building H, 8th Floor (H8.06 H8.05)



Trans-Asia as method seminar

Japan, the war, and post-war recriminations: Rethinking the end of the Japanese Empire

22 August, 3-5pm, ACJC Seminar room, 8th floor, H Building, Caulfield campus


Speaker: Dr. Beatrice Trefalt

Discussant: Prof. Bruce Jacobs


Japan, the war, and post-war recriminations: Rethinking the end of the Japanese Empire

The long shadow cast by Japan’s aggression in Asia in the first half of the 20th century continues to affect Japan’s relations with its neighbors. Current sovereignty disputes over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands, the Dokdo/Takeshima Islands and the Kuriles are deeply mired in lingering regional resentments over Japan’s imperialist expansion and wartime aggression. Less well-known internationally are the domestic rifts that the mid-twentieth century war continues to create in Japan itself nearly 70 years after its end. Examples include the anti-American base movement in Okinawa, debates about the peace clause (Article 9) in the current Japanese constitution, debates about commemoration of fallen soldiers, and debates about the contents of school textbooks. The prospects for domestic and international reconciliation are inhibited by competing versions of nationalism’s and the apparently constant relevance of symbolic nationhood as a core determinant of group and individual identity.

This paper seeks to rethink some of the origins of such issues by returning to 1945 and the end of the Japanese Empire. Specifically, it focuses on the victorious Allies (and especially the U.S.)’s attempt to disassemble the Japanese Empire into component parts of and reorganize the region according to perceived and assumed notions of ethnicity and nationality. While much of the population movements provoked by this dissembling were relatively unproblematic and uncontested, there were also instances in which policies were contradictory, and reveal the constructed nature of national identity. This paper revisits aspects of the repatriation of Koreans and Chinese out of Japan, of the repatriation of Japanese out of China and Korea, and the indictment of Taiwanese and Korean soldiers as ‘Japanese’ war criminals. It also examines the preparations for the repatriation of the ‘Japanese’ population of the small Pacific Islands of Saipan and Tinian, which provides specific insight into American post-war planning and assumptions of Japanese ethnicity.