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It has been 60 years since the Asia-Pacific War ended in August 1945. War memories have been fading as members of the war generation grow old and pass away. In their social studies classes, Japanese sixth-graders study the Asia-Pacific War for the first time, and they ask their grandparents about their memories of the war. Most grandparents today are too young to have fought or participated in the war, though they may recount their childhood recollections of the war.
When I was a sixth-grader, I asked my grandmother to tell me what the war had been like. When my grandfather went to China as an army civilian employee in 1937, she had to raise their two small children alone until the war ended in 1945. To make ends meet, she had sold her kimonos in order to buy food. Whenever she heard air-raid sirens, she and her children fled to nearby fields, though her hometown of Marugame was never bombed.
Peace education, with anti-militarism based on the renunciation of war in Article Nine of the Constitution, has played an important role in raising a generation of peace-loving Japanese citizens. Until the early 1980s, peace education emphasized the cruelty of war and the Japanese deaths caused by the bombing of major cities and of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Peace education regarded Japanese people as “victims” (higaisha) of the war.
However, since the 1980s, particularly after the 1982 Textbook Controversy, liberal and leftist historians and journalists have started paying more attention to the victims of Japanese militarism and imperialism, while portraying Japanese people as “victimizers” (kagaisha). The issue of the victimizer’s view of history has been much debated, particularly since the death of Emperor Hirohito in 1989. With the support of Japanese liberals and historians, Asian war victims, including “comfort women,” filed lawsuits seeking formal apologies and compensation. More books and further discussion of war responsibility and postwar compensation appeared around 1995, the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II. However, the overwhelming majority of Japanese people are reminded of the war only when they read occasional newspaper articles about memorials and compensation.
The purpose of this book is to discuss the questions of war responsibility, compensation for victims, the emergence of peace movements, and the way in which Japanese history textbooks describe the Asia-Pacific War. Chapter 1 provides general information of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945), introduced the questions of postwar responsibility and reparations. The Tokyo War Crimes Trials judged Japanese military leaders as A-class war criminals, while B-class and C-class courts in the Republic of China, the United States, Britain, Holland, Australia, France and the Philippines, as well as war crimes courts in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China tried Japanese soldiers and civilian employees of the army and navy. Through the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty and various reparation agreements and joint declarations, Japan has paid war reparation to the countries except for North Korea (and Taiwan).
Chapter 2 discusses war compensation problems involving Korean and Taiwanese soldiers and civilian employees of the military, Korean and Chinese forced laborers, foreign atomic bomb victims, comfort women, POWs, and other foreign victims, in addition to war compensation for Japanese soldiers, civilian employees, and atomic bomb victims. In the early 1990s, foreign war victims started to file lawsuits demanding official apologies and compensation from the Japanese government and Japanese companies. The courts in Japan usually dismissed the cases and ruled that the legislature, not the courts, would determine compensation matters legally. In response to these ruling, the Japanese government enacted laws to compensate foreign war victims, while several Japanese companies paid some consolidation money to them.
Chapter 3 focuses on the process and discussion of war responsibility and compensation problems for comfort women (jūgun ianfu). Since Korean women’s organizations brought the plight of women who had been forced to offer sexual services to Japanese soldiers during the war to the UN Human Rights Commission in the early 1990s, this human rights issue has received a great deal of publicity. The Japanese government officially acknowledged the involvement of the wartime regime, apologized, and provided financial aid for former comfort women through the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF), a non-governmental organization. The South Korean and Taiwanese governments also provided financial assistance for Korean and Taiwanese comfort women who refused to accept aid from the AWF because the AWF is privately funded, not directly from the Japanese government.
Chapter 4 explores national defense, peace movements and peace education. Japan has had the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) since 1954, and under the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, the U.S. military has been stationed in Japan for the defense of Japan. Although Article Nine of the Constitution renounces “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential,” the Supreme Court has reaffirmed the constitutionality of both the U.S. military presence in Japan and the existence of the Self-Defense Forces. Furthermore, the majority of Japanese people recognizes the constitutionality of the SDF and has praised the Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) of the SDF. Moreover, Japan has kept the percentage of the GDP used for defense to one percent, and, as the only victim of atomic bombs to date, it has led international peace movements through anti-atomic and anti-hydrogen bomb projects. Peace education has emphasized both the tragedies of the war and the war responsibility and war crimes of the Japanese military mainly through history classes, and especially the textbooks, which have been the main vehicles for peace education.
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