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The History ProblemThe Politics of War Commemoration in East Asia$

Hiro Saito

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780824856748

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824856748.001.0001

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Cross-National Fragmentation, 1945–1964

Cross-National Fragmentation, 1945–1964

(p.20) Chapter 1 Cross-National Fragmentation, 1945–1964
The History Problem

Hiro Saito

University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract and Keywords

Between 1945 and 1964, the history problem did not yet exist because Japan had no diplomatic relations with South Korea and China. In the meantime, the Tokyo Trial prosecuted Japanese leaders for waging an aggressive war against the Allied Powers. But conservative politicians in power openly rejected the trial as invalid and instead justified the Asia-Pacific War as an act of self-defense and honored Japanese war dead at the Yasukuni Shrine. After the conservative LDP came to dominate the government in 1955, it promoted nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration. In contrast, the Japan Socialist Party and the Japan Communist Party actively commemorated Japan’s past wrongdoings against Korea and China. Moreover, A-bomb victims and affiliated NGOs began to adopt cosmopolitanism to commemorate all war victims irrespective of nationality. Since these political parties and NGOs were outnumbered by the LDP and its supporters, however, they did not influence Japan’s official commemoration.

Keywords:   Japan, South Korea, China, Tokyo Trial, LDP, Yasukuni Shrine, nationalism, Japan Socialist Party, A-bomb victim, cosmopolitanism

The focus of the history problem, the Asia-Pacific War, was not a single, clearly bounded event. Instead, it evolved through a series of armed conflicts between Japan and China that began with the Mukden Incident in September 1931 and eventually led to the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War in July 1937. Japan then proceeded to war with the United States and other Allied powers in December 1941 and quickly advanced to the Pacific and Southeast Asia. But the tide of war began to turn at the Battle of Midway in June 1942, and Japan was increasingly overwhelmed by the Allied powers. By the end of June 1945, the Allied powers had defeated Japanese troops on the Okinawa Islands; the Potsdam Declaration was issued on July 26, demanding that the Japanese government “proclaim now the unconditional surrender of all Japanese armed forces.”1 The Japanese government rejected the ultimatum, and the Allied powers responded with further military actions. The United States dropped atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, respectively. On August 8, the Soviet Union also broke the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact to attack Manchukuo, the Kuril Islands, and South Sakhalin. These military actions finally led the Japanese government to accept the Potsdam Declaration on August 14. The next day, Emperor Hirohito read the Imperial Rescript on the Termination of the War in a radio broadcast, officially surrendering to the Allied powers.2

The Japanese government immediately ordered civilian bureaucrats and military officers to destroy classified documents. The Army Ministry followed the order most thoroughly. They destroyed not only classified documents at the ministry but also army-related documents at the municipal (p.21) level. The Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs also destroyed a large number of classified documents.3 The destruction of war-related documents continued until the Allied powers arrived at Atsugi Naval Air Base on August 28.

After the Allied powers occupied Tokyo on September 8, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) Douglas MacArthur ordered the arrest of forty-three Japanese civilian and military leaders for crimes against peace, commonly known as Class A war crimes. The Allied powers also arrested people suspected of conventional war crimes and crimes against humanity, Class B and Class C war crimes, respectively. During the Occupation, more than ten thousand Japanese were either arrested or indicted for these three types of war crimes.4 In January 1946, SCAP proceeded to enact the Charter of the International Military Tribunal in preparation for prosecuting Class A war crime suspects.

In the meantime, SCAP implemented policies to demilitarize and democratize Japan. In October, SCAP released communists and other activists who had been imprisoned by the Japanese government, purged militaristic teachers from schools, and encouraged women’s political participation and the formation of voluntary associations. In December, SCAP terminated government sponsorship of Shintoism and ordered the Japanese government to suspend from school curricula moral education (shūshin), Japanese history, and geography—three subjects that had played a central role in inculcating nationalism in Japanese citizens.5 SCAP also purged from public office, corporations, and universities war crimes suspects, militarists, and those who had collaborated with the war time government.6

Concurrently, SCAP pressed the Japanese government to create a new constitution. Since the Japanese government, headed by Prime Minister Shidehara Kijūrō, was hesitant to make a significant departure from the prewar Imperial Constitution, SCAP intervened and handed out its own draft to the Japanese government in February 1946. The Japanese government used the SCAP version to draft a new constitution and presented it to the public in April. The new draft constitution included many important changes from its prewar counterpart: the emperor was divested of political power, basic human rights and equality of the sexes were guaranteed, and war as a sovereign right was renounced, to name but a few. In the midst of these profound transformations under the Occupation, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, also known as the Tokyo Trial, opened on May 3, 1946.

(p.22) The Tokyo Trial and the Reverse Course

The Tokyo Trial seated eleven judges from eleven Allied powers: Britain, British India, the United States, the Republic of China, France, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Philippines, and the Soviet Union. The same eleven countries also sent eleven prosecutors with support teams. Twenty-eight Class A war crime suspects were tried, including Tōjō Hideki, the former prime minister who had made the decision to enter war with the United States in December 1941; Itagaki Seishirō, an army general who was involved in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in July 1937; and Matsui Iwane, another army general who had directed the attack on Nanjing in December 1937. These and the other twenty-five Class A suspects were defended by a team of Japanese and American attorneys.7

A focal point of the Tokyo Trial was the category of crimes against peace, or Class A war crimes, defined as acts of planning, conspiring, and executing an aggressive war. Whereas the Nuremberg Trials determined that a war of aggression was a punishable crime under international law, the eleven judges of the Tokyo Trial were still divided over the issue.8 Toward the end of the trial, however, the judges from Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the Philippines, and the United States formed a majority accepting the Nuremberg Trials’ position; three judges, from British India, France, and the Netherlands, dissented.9

The Japanese defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges. Kiyose Ichirō, a chief defense attorney for Tōjō Hideki, justified the Asia-Pacific War as an act of self-defense. Kiyose argued that the Chinese military had been responsible for the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, and that Japan had begun the war with the Allied powers because “Japan had no other choice but [to] exercise its right to self-defense, simply to survive the impossible situation.”10 Tōjō, too, justified the war as an act of self-defense and stated that he had made the right decision, both legally and morally.11

Along with crimes against peace, the Tokyo Trial prosecuted violations of war conventions (e.g., abuse of prisoners of war) and crimes against humanity (e.g., killing of civilians). The prosecutors submitted a number of testimonies about Japan’s war time atrocities against civilians across Asia, such as Japanese troops executing people in Singapore, and forcing local women to serve as military “comfort women” in the Dutch East Indies.12 Among these atrocities against civilians in Asia, the Nanjing Massacre was the most extensively investigated at the trial because the prosecutor from the Republic (p.23) of China brought a large amount of evidence and many testimonies. Although people in Japan had not been informed of the massacre during the war because of government censorship, the evidence and testimonies were so overwhelming that the defendants and defense lawyers managed to make only brief counterarguments.13

On November 4, 1948, Chief Justice William Webb of Australia handed out the 1,445-page judgment. The Tokyo Judgment accepted that the leaders of the Japanese government had conspired for aggression, rejecting the argument that Japan had only exercised its right to self-defense. The judgment also accepted Japan’s conventional war crimes against the Allied powers.14 Seven defendants, including Tōjō, were sentenced to death. Sixteen were sentenced to lifelong imprisonment, including Kaya Okinori, who would later become a minister of justice. Two defendants, including Shigemitsu Mamoru, a future minister of foreign affairs, were sentenced to imprisonment for multiple years. Two other defendants died during the trial, and a third was taken out of the trial because he became mentally ill. In addition to the majority opinion, Delfin Jaranilla of the Philippines filed a separate opinion criticizing the sentences as too lenient. William Webb also hinted at the emperor’s war responsibility in his separate opinion, though he agreed with the majority about the legal basis for prosecuting crimes against peace. Radhabinod Pal of India, Henri Bernard of France, and B. V. A. Röling of the Netherlands filed dissenting opinions. While Pal rejected the legal basis to prosecute crimes against peace, Bernard and Röling accepted it but disagreed with the majority about its justification. Bernard also questioned the tribunal’s decision not to indict Emperor Hirohito.15

Although the Tokyo Trial exposed Japan’s war crimes, it did not prosecute all Class A war crime suspects. Originally, SCAP had planned multiple rounds of international military tribunals. But the trial exposed significant logistical problems and disagreements among the Allied powers.16 By the late 1940s, the Cold War had also intensified between the United States and its Western allies, on the one hand, and the Soviet Union and its satellite countries, on the other. SCAP therefore shifted its policy focus from thorough demilitarization and democratization to swift reconstruction and remilitarization of Japan as an ally in the fight against communism. As part of this “reverse course,” SCAP released nineteen Class A war crime suspects—including Kishi Nobusuke, who later became a prime minister—from Sugamo Prison on December 24, 1948, one day after seven (p.24) Class A war criminals were executed. Moreover, SCAP made only microfilms of the trial records available, and only at select places, such as the Library of Congress—a stark contrast to the proceedings and judgment of the Nuremberg Trials, which were published in forty-two volumes in Germany.

This reverse course in SCAP’s policy accelerated after the Korean War broke out in June 1950. SCAP pressed the Japanese government to establish the National Police Reserve (Keisatsu Yobitai) in August 1950, so that Japan could defend itself while US troops moved out to the Korean Peninsula. During the buildup to the Korean War, SCAP also purged communists from public office, newspaper companies, and corporations, as well as suspended the communist newspaper Akahata. Moreover, SCAP began to allow former war crime suspects, militarists, and collaborators to return to public office in June 1951. Against the backdrop of the reverse course, Yoshida Shigeru’s government signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty on September 8, 1951, by officially accepting the Tokyo Judgment as a condition for regaining Japan’s independence.

Rejection, Acceptance, and Critique of the Tokyo Trial

Domestically, Yoshida’s government rejected the Tokyo Judgment and used the rejection as the basis for justifying the release of war criminals. As Minister of Justice Ōhashi Takeo stated, “The Military Tribunal for the Far East and other tribunals by the Allied Powers were not carried out according to Japan’s domestic law. Therefore, those acts that were judged war crimes according to the tribunals and international law can no way be regarded as crimes as far as Japanese law is concerned.”17 The release of war criminals was widely supported by Japanese citizens. Former war crime suspects created the Aid Association for War Criminals (Sensō Jukeisha Sewakai) in May 1952 to lobby the government to recommend the prompt release of war criminals. The Japanese Red Cross, religious organizations, and other NGOs also supported the release of war criminals. When the National Rally for the Release of All War Criminals in Sugamo was held in November 1953, approximately thirty million signatures had been collected in support of war criminals.18

With independence regained, Yoshida’s government first ended the purge of war criminals, militarists, and collaborators from public office, allowing Hatoyama Ichirō, Kishi Nobusuke, and Shigemitsu Mamoru, among many others, to return to influential positions in politics. The Diet also (p.25) adopted three resolutions between June 1952 and August 1953 that recommended clemency, reduced sentences, and parole for war criminals.19 Conservative politicians supported these resolutions most actively. For example, Tago Kazuomi, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (Jiyūtō), advocated the release of war criminals by arguing that the Tokyo Judgment was “persuasively objected by Justice Pal of India. All the defense attorneys also argued that the tribunal was unfair … and destined to add more wrongs to the wrongs of the war.”20 Hitotsumatsu Sadayoshi, a member of the Progressive Reform Party (Kaishintō) led by Shigemitsu Mamoru, also argued that war criminals were in effect “patriots” (aikokusha), and that the government should save “those who had sacrificed their lives and fought for our country but were given the bad name of war criminal because Japan lost the war.”21

The conservative attacks on the Tokyo Trial intensified when Hatoyama Ichirō became prime minister in December 1954. Hatoyama not only wanted to change the postwar constitution that he thought had been imposed by the Allied powers but also appointed as ministers several former war criminals and purgees, such as Shigemitsu Mamoru (minister of foreign affairs and vice prime minister) and Shōriki Matsutarō (chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission). To be sure, these politicians had been critical of the military leaders during the Asia-Pacific War, but they nonetheless rejected the Tokyo Trial.22 Shigemitsu, in particular, publicly criticized the Tokyo Trial over and again because he was “firmly convinced that those who are called ‘war criminals’ are, in fact, victims of the war.”23 A war criminal was “something that the victors made up one-sidedly,” and it was yet to be determined “whether the Greater East Asia War was really a war of aggression according to the international law.”24 Moreover, Shigemitsu thought that the war was justifiable not only because it had been an act of self-defense, but also because it had benefited Asian countries: “I feel very happy that Asian countries attained the right of self-determination and gained independence after World War II. Japan should be satisfied with this outcome of the war that it participated in.”25 Thus, even though the Japanese government accepted the Tokyo Judgment to regain independence, it was politicians in government that most openly denounced it. This contradiction, which historian Yoshida Yutaka called the “double standard” in addressing international and domestic audiences, was going to define the government’s commemorative position for the following decades.26

In contrast, members of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) commemorated foreign victims actively. Since communists had opposed Japan’s (p.26) imperialist expansion prior to the Asia-Pacific War, many of them had been tortured to death or imprisoned. JCP members therefore felt that it was crucial to vigorously criticize Japan’s war crimes to prevent postwar Japan from regressing into its prewar state. JCP members were also the most internationally oriented among Japanese politicians at the time because they maintained solidarity with other communist countries, including the People’s Republic of China, which had suffered greatly from Japan’s past aggression. During the Diet session in April 1952, for example, JCP member Katō Mitsuru expressed his objection to the release of war criminals by citing graphic details of Japan’s war crimes from the Tokyo Trial:

In Nanjing in December 1937, even after the battle ended, the Japanese army killed about 95,000 Chinese citizens, women, and children by committing every conceivable atrocity under the command of Matsui Iwane: execution, decapitation, cutting out a tongue, burning to death, hollowing out eyes, beating and kicking to death, raping as an individual and as a group, raping a dead body, and so on. … The Japanese imperialists killed ten million Chinese, more than one million Filipinos, and committed all sorts of atrocities in Vietnam, Malay, Indonesia, Burma, New Guinea, and elsewhere.27

From the JCP’s perspective, the release of war criminals would amount to forgetting Japan’s war crimes and evading its war responsibility.

The JCP was also opposed to signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty because the treaty excluded the People’s Republic of China from its signatories. JCP member Hayashi Hyakurō argued that a “peace treaty” without China would not bring peace in the real sense: “If we want to rebuild Japan as a peace-loving and democratic nation in Asia, we should offer atonement and apologies for China, the country that we victimized most severely, and build friendly relations with the Chinese people. I believe this is the most urgent task for the government in its attempt to settle legacies of the Asia-Pacific War.”28 Thus, JCP members, who completely accepted the Tokyo Judgment, strongly protested against the conservative government.

The JSP, the largest opposition party in the postwar period, took a somewhat different position than the JCP on both the release of war criminals and the Tokyo Trial. Representing the JSP, Taman Hirofumi supported the release of war criminals “by considering the plight of families of war criminals … and especially the fact that many of the Class B and C war (p.27) criminals have turned out to be wrongly convicted.”29 Taman did not endorse the release because he rejected the Tokyo Trial, as his conservative counter parts did, but because he felt sympathy for the wrongly convicted Japanese soldiers and their families. From the JSP’s perspective, clemency, reduced sentences, or parole for the wrongly convicted was not meant to absolve Japan of its war crimes. As another JSP member, Ōno Kōichi, put it, “We must express our remorse (kaigo) and repentance (kaihsun) for the mistakes, the atrocities that we committed against people in Asia,” and such remorse and repentance was the precondition for the release of war criminals.30

At the same time, the JSP took a critical stance toward the Tokyo Trial. JSP member Furuya Sadao argued that he could never accept the act of prosecuting only Japan’s war crimes, especially when he considered the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “the most atrocious acts in human history. Since these atrocities have not been prosecuted, we the Japanese people cannot accept the fact that Class B and C war criminals, prosecuted for far less atrocious acts, are still imprisoned.”31 Another JSP member, Aono Takeichi, went so far as to suggest that the US generals, officers, and pi lots should be prosecuted by an international war tribunal for their “inhumane act of atomic-bombing.”32 In this regard, the JSP was different from the JCP, which uncritically accepted the Tokyo Judgment. The JSP accepted the judgment but explicitly argued that the trial had serious flaws, including the failure to subject the Allied powers to the same standards of criminal justice.

But the position of JSP members also differed from that of conservative politicians. Although members criticized the unfairness of the Tokyo Trial, they did not deny Japan’s war crimes as the conservatives did. Instead of entirely discrediting the trial for failing to prosecute war crimes committed by the Allied powers, JSP members called for a fairer international tribunal that would prosecute war crimes on both sides. The JSP thus occupied a middle ground between conservative politicians and the JCP.33

In summary, after Japan regained independence in 1952, roughly two different commemorative positions on the Asia-Pacific War emerged through the debates surrounding the Tokyo Trial. The first, dominant position was taken by conservative politicians who embraced the nationalist logic of commemoration and refused to remember the suffering of foreign victims of Japan’s past aggression. In contrast, the opposition parties, such as the JCP and the JSP, commemorated foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings by (p.28) adopting the cosmopolitan logic, though they adopted different positions on the Tokyo Trial. These proponents of cosmopolitan commemoration, however, were outnumbered by the conservatives. The latter seized the political opportunities after SCAP’s reverse course, gained access to the government, and promoted nationalist commemoration by rejecting the Tokyo Trial as invalid and justifying Japan’s past aggression as an act of self-defense.

Nationalist Commemoration of War Dead

In addition to the Tokyo Trial, Japanese politicians debated how to provide relief for soldiers who had served in the Japanese military during the Asia-Pacific War. In prewar Japan, the military had enjoyed a privileged position. Originally, the Meiji government had established military pensions in 1875, nine years before it had established less generous pensions for civilian bureaucrats. The military pensions also had been deeply rooted in the logic of nationalism, since they had been called onkyū, meaning “bestowed favor” in Japanese. Sacrifices for the nation—ultimately centered on the emperor, the human deity and sovereign—had been defined as worthy and deserving favors from the government. SCAP regarded the military pensions as the mechanism that had facilitated prewar Japan’s militarism, and it suspended them as part of its effort to demilitarize Japanese society.34

The suspension of the military pensions forced injured veterans and bereaved families into economically dire situations. The number of bereaved family members was particularly large, for about 2.3 million soldiers and civilian personnel in the military had been killed during the war. To ameliorate their worsening economic situations, bereaved families formed associations at the prefecture level and then proceeded to create the Bereaved Families Welfare Association (Izoku Kōsei Renmei) at the national level in November 1947. At first, SCAP hesitated to authorize the establishment of the association because it feared that the association would interfere with demilitarization. SCAP, however, approved the association after stipulating three conditions—namely, that the association should include in its membership bereaved families of civilians who sacrificed their lives for public good; define mutual assistance as its main purpose; and exclude government officials, purgees, and former military personnel from its board of directors.35

Upon SCAP’s approval, the association proceeded to lobby politicians and the Ministry of Welfare, and both houses of the Diet responded in May (p.29) 1949 by adopting resolutions that requested the government to provide pensions, condolence money, and social welfare relief for bereaved families. The association also succeeded in electing its president, Nagashima Ginzō, to the House of Councillors in June 1950.36 At its first national meeting in Tokyo in February 1951, the association adopted a resolution declaring that “we bereaved families are war victims who suffered most. Our family members died in the line of duty for the country (kokka). Naturally, the government should compensate (hoshō) bereaved families.”37 After the meeting, association members submitted petitions to Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru and house speakers, requesting pensions and other forms of relief.

In response, Yoshida’s government proposed the Bill on Relief for Injured Veterans and Bereaved Families (Senshōbyōsha Senbotsusha Izoku Engo Hōan) in March 1952. The bill proposed to provide pensions and condolence money for veterans and bereaved families while limiting eligibility to those who had been officially employed by the government. Ōishi Buichi of the ruling Liberal Party explained the spirit of the bill: “It is natural for the government to provide for bereaved families and injured veterans who showed the highest level of patriotism and died for our country, whether war was won or lost.”38 Put another way, the bill was meant “to give thanks and condolences to those who had sacrificed their lives for Japan during the war.”39 This justification of the bill, to honor sacrifices for the Japanese nation, departed from the 1949 Diet resolutions that had critically probed the government’s responsibility for injured veterans and emphasized antiwar sentiments among bereaved families.40

The JSP opposed the bill for two reasons. First, the JSP argued that “relief” (engo) implied governmental paternalism and should be replaced with “compensation” (hoshō), which included the Chinese character meaning “to atone” (tsugunau), to clearly define fallen soldiers, bereaved families, and injured veterans as victims of the war that the Japanese government had started.41 Second, the JSP criticized the scope of the proposed pension scheme. The JSP argued that too few funds—about 2.6 percent of the 1952 budget—were allocated to welfare of injured veterans and bereaved families. JSP member Oka Ryōichi cited the example of West Germany, where 24 percent of the 1951 bud get had been used to compensate war victims, including civilians, and urged Yoshida’s government to spend the similar amount.42 Moreover, the JSP suggested that pensions be offered not only to bereaved families of fallen soldiers but also to those of technicians and students who had been killed while mobilized for military-related services.43 (p.30) The JCP raised similar criticisms, but it also went further than the JSP by associating the bill with Japan’s ongoing rearmament. As JCP member Kanda Asano put it, “By limiting the coverage to military personnel that had received direct payment from the government, this bill aims to facilitate Japan’s rearmament. The coverage should be expanded to include all war victims, at least returnees from former colonies, sailors, technicians, mobilized students, female volunteer corps, and those who lost their breadwinners to the atomic bombings.”44 She also questioned why former colonial subjects, such as Koreans, who had been mobilized for war efforts as Japanese citizens, fell outside the scope of the bill simply because they lost Japanese citizenship after the war.45 Thus, the opposition parties argued that all war victims, both military and civilian, should be compensated because they had suffered from the wrong war that the government had started.

Yoshida’s government gave the opposition parties a concession: to base the proposed bill on “the spirit of government compensation” (kokka hoshō no seishin), if not “government compensation” per se. The opposition parties still objected, but Yoshida’s government successfully passed the bill in April 1952 and proceeded to submit another bill, proposing to create an additional pension scheme for professional military personnel, including former Class A war criminals. Specifically, the new bill proposed to reinstate the military pensions that SCAP had suspended during the Occupation and to create a two-tiered pension system for two groups of military-related personnel, professional and conscripted. Again, the JSP and the JCP opposed the government’s proposal. JSP member Naruse Banji argued, “The government should compensate all victims of the war in a fair and reasonable fashion. In fact, ordinary citizens suffered most. … Professional soldiers were not the only victims. … It is extremely hard for me to understand why Class A war criminals, who were responsible for the war, will receive pensions, whereas many other war victims will receive nothing.”46 JCP member Iwama Masao also criticized the comeback of “militarism” lurking behind the proposed bill, which he argued was “written by those who intend to make Japanese people forget the tragedy of the war and wage another one.”47 Despite the strong opposition, Yoshida’s government managed to pass the bill in August 1953 as well as extend pension eligibility to bereaved families of war criminals who had been executed or died while serving their sentences.48

In the midst of political struggles over war-related relief, the Bereaved Families Welfare Association became the Japan Bereaved Families Association (Nihon Izokukai) in March 1953 and began to promote nationalist (p.31) agendas more explicitly than before. Although the association had previously defined its purpose as “to make efforts to create a peaceful Japan, prevent war, establish perpetual world peace, and therefore contribute to welfare of humankind,” it eliminated these words from its new statement of purpose.49 Instead, the association defined one of its principal goals as “to honor war gods” (eirei no kenshō) and “memorial services for war dead” (irei ni kansuru jigyō).50 Thus, having succeeded in restoring material privileges—pensions—for military-related personnel who had died for the nation, the association now aimed to restore a symbolic privilege for the military war dead. To this end, the association began making efforts to rehabilitate the status of the Yasukuni Shrine, the center of nationalist commemoration in prewar Japan.

In prewar Japan, the government-owned Yasukuni Shrine had enshrined fallen soldiers as “war gods” (eirei) according to Shintoism: the shrine had functioned as the most sacred site of Japanese nationalism to give ultimate, religious meaning to sacrifices for the nation. The shrine had been not only nationalist but also militarist, because it honored soldiers, not civilians. The shrine’s militarist nature also had manifested in its administrative structure in prewar Japan: army and navy generals had controlled the shrine as agents of Emperor Hirohito, the human deity of Shintoism. Precisely because the Yasukuni Shrine had served as the religious center of prewar Japan’s nationalism and militarism, SCAP eliminated government sponsorship of the Yasukuni and other Shinto shrines in December 1945. This separation of religion and state was confirmed by the new constitution that took effect in May 1947. During the Occupation, prime ministers and imperial family members also suspended their visits to the shrine.51 The Yasukuni Shrine was thus stripped of the special status it had enjoyed in prewar Japan.

As soon as the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed, however, Yoshida Shigeru made a prime ministerial visit to the shrine. After the treaty took effect and Japan officially regained independence, Emperor Hirohito also paid his first postwar visit in October 1952, cheered by about three thousand members of bereaved families.52 Because of the constitutional separation of religion and state, Yoshida’s government did not try to restore government sponsorship of the Yasukuni Shrine, but it did provide special treatment for the shrine. When annual spring and fall festivals to honor war gods were held at the shrine, the government arranged extra train rides and offered discounted fares to help bereaved families come to Tokyo. The government—the Ministry of Welfare in particular—also (p.32) covertly helped Yasukuni priests enshrine war dead by providing the names of fallen soldiers and the times and places of their deaths. Especially after the newly created LDP took control of government in November 1955, the shrine began to enjoy unofficial government sponsorship to a greater extent. In April 1956, for example, the Ministry of Welfare issued a directive to guarantee financial and logistical support for the shrine to identify fallen soldiers and enshrine them as war gods.53

The Ministry of Welfare actively supported the Yasukuni Shrine because it oversaw the Division of Returnees Support (Hikiage Engokyoku), which dealt with issues regarding returnees from abroad, war criminals, bereaved families, and injured veterans. In fact, staff in this division had been recruited from the former Ministry of War and the Ministry of the Navy. These bureaucrats, many of whom had participated in the administration of the shrine in prewar Japan, were eager to support the shrine, albeit unofficially. They even took the initiative to press Yasukuni priests to enshrine those who had been charged with Class B and C war crimes. In addition, after all war criminals had completed their sentences in Sugamo Prison in March 1959, the Ministry of Welfare sent the shrine “deity enshrinement documents” (saijin meihyō) for deceased Class B and C war criminals. Yasukuni priests then covertly enshrined 346 Class B and Class C war criminals in April 1959.54

Bereaved families also increased their efforts to reinstate government sponsorship for the shrine. In March 1956, the Japan Bereaved Families Association created the Sub-Committee on Government Sponsorship of the Yasukuni Shrine (Yasukuni Jinja Kokkagoji ni kansuru Shōiinkai). Between 1959 and 1960, the association collected about three million signatures in support of government sponsorship for the shrine and lobbied six prefectural and 345 municipal councils to adopt resolutions endorsing renationalization of the shrine.55 Then, in September 1961, the association submitted petitions to speakers of both houses of the Diet, requesting them to promptly create a government commission to consider reinstating government sponsorship for the shrine.56

Through these lobbying activities, the association strengthened its connections with the government. To begin with, Takahashi Ryūtarō (1953–1961), a former minister in Yoshida’s government, became the first president of the association. Then, in March 1953, the association also obtained the right to use the government’s property, the building near the Yasukuni Shrine that had been reserved for professional soldiers in prewar Japan. The second president, Yasui Seiichirō (1961–1962), was an LDP member, and the third (p.33) president, Kaya Okinori (1962–1977), another LDP member, had been prosecuted as a Class A war criminal but later became minister of justice in Ikeda Hayato’s government. Moreover, during Ikeda’s tenure as prime minister, the government resumed awarding decorations to veterans in April 1964 to “offer sincere thanks to those who sacrificed their precious lives for the country and honor their accomplishments.”57 Then, in August 1964, Ikeda’s government held the National Memorial Service inside the property of the Yasukuni Shrine. In the same year, the Association of Diet Members of Bereaved Families (Ikazoku Giin Kyōkai) also adopted a resolution to demand renationalization of the shrine.58

While lobbying politicians with another campaign that accumulated more than six million signatures in 1964, the Japan Bereaved Families Association held its first liaison conference with the Yasukuni Shrine in January 1964, to coordinate their efforts to reinstate government sponsorship for the shrine.59 After the conference, Yasukuni priests submitted a petition for renationalization to the prime minister and speakers of both houses. Thus, from the early 1950s through the mid-1960s, the LDP and the Japan Bereaved Families Association combined their mobilizing structures to consolidate the LDP’s monopoly of the government and promote nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration by honoring Japanese soldiers without regard for the suffering of foreign victims.

Reinserting the Nationalist Logic into Education

After the end of the Occupation, the conservative government also tried to revitalize nationalism in Japanese education. Prime Minister Yoshida Shigeru criticized the postwar education system because he felt that it failed to “cultivate love of the nation” (aikokushin) and educate young patriots willing to fight for their country.60 Amano Teiyū, minister of education in Yoshida’s government, similarly advocated greater emphasis on patriotism in education on several occasions.61 In essence, these conservative politicians disliked the 1947 Basic Act on Education (Kyōiku Kihonhō), which defined the purpose of Japanese education in predominantly cosmopolitan terms: “We have established the Constitution of Japan and declared our determination to create a democratic and cultured country and contribute to world peace and welfare of humankind. Realization of this ideal depends fundamentally on the power of education. We shall educate human beings who revere the dignity of the individual as well as seek truth and peace ardently while vigorously promoting the creation of universal and unique culture through (p.34) education.”62 Here, the Basic Act on Education promised a significant departure from the prewar education system based on the Imperial Script on Education, which had promoted the education of “imperial subjects [who] in a time of crisis shall bravely and loyally shoulder the divine imperial destiny.”63

The conservative attacks on the Basic Act on Education increased after Hatoyama Ichirō became prime minister in December 1954. His minister of education, Kiyose Ichirō, a former defense lawyer for Tōjō Hideki, openly criticized the act, which he felt “connects the individual to the world directly, but it totally lacks a concept of the nation that mediates the two.”64 Then, in February 1956, Hatoyama’s government submitted to the Diet a bill to set up the Ad Hoc Council on Education to review the postwar education system based on the act by arguing that the education system had been “reformed too rapidly in the peculiar situation under the Occupation and, as a consequence, it is incompatible with the reality [of Japanese society] in more than a few respects.”65 When explaining the motivation behind the bill, Kiyose stated that he had no problem with moral principles that the basic act promoted, except that “when I read the act, I cannot help wondering, ‘Where on earth does it mention loyalty to our Japanese nation?’”66

The bill, however, was heavily criticized by the JSP for “trying to place education under government control.”67 The bill passed the House of Representatives in March 1956, but it was discarded at the House of Councillors because Hatoyama’s government focused on two other education-related bills during the 1956 Diet session: the Bill on Local Administration of Education (Chihō Kyōiku Gyōsei Hōan) and the Bill on Textbooks (Kyōkasho Hōan).68 The Bill on Local Administration of Education aimed to replace the Act on Boards of Education that had been created during the Occupation to decentralize and democratize the process of education policy making. Specifically, the bill proposed to replace local election of board members with appointment by municipal heads because the LDP wanted to keep supporters of the JSP and Japan Teachers Union (JTU) from taking control of local boards of education. In April and May 1956, JTU and other education-related NGOs issued joint statements against the bill.69 In addition, approximately five hundred thousand teachers across Japan cancelled classes to protest what they saw as a regression to prewar Japan’s governmental control of education.70 In the end, the LDP used its numerical majority in the Diet to push through the bill in June 1956 in the midst of angry cries and fistfights with the JSP and other opposition parties.71

(p.35) Concurrently, the LDP tried to modify the process of textbook inspection with the Bill on Textbooks. The government had monopolized the production of school textbooks in prewar Japan, but the government monopoly was abolished in 1949 and replaced by the government-administered system of textbook inspection. This encouraged teachers to produce textbooks of their own in collaboration with university professors and textbook companies.72 Under the reformed system, textbook selection also happened at the school level, allowing teachers to participate in the selection process. In early 1955, however, Hatoyama’s Japan Democratic Party (Minshutō) began to criticize textbooks of JTU members by publishing a series of pamphlets, The Problem of Worrisome Textbooks (Ureubeki kyōkasho no mondai).73 Then, after the creation of the LDP in November 1955, attacks on “biased textbooks” (henkō kyōkasho) culminated in the Bill on Textbooks, which proposed to increase the government’s prerogative in textbook inspection and to authorize a board of education to select textbooks uniformly for schools in its district.74 The bill was therefore designed to reduce the influence of JTU members in the production and selection of school textbooks.

Given the strong opposition from the JSP and the JTU, Hatoyama’s government gave up the Bill on Textbooks because it judged that passing the Bill on Local Administration of Education was more important. The Ministry of Education nonetheless proceeded to use its bud get and discretionary power to expand its staff to conduct textbook inspection within the Textbook Department of the Division of Primary and Secondary Education in late 1956.75 Then, in July 1957, the ministry issued an administrative directive, declaring that a board of education should have the authority to select textbooks for schools in its district.76 Moreover, when the Course of Study for elementary and junior high schools was revised in 1958, the ministry made it legally binding to require textbook writers and teachers to conform more closely to the ministry’s curricular guidelines. A board of education was also legally authorized to select textbooks for its district in December 1963 when the LDP succeeded in creating the Act on School Textbooks for Mandatory Education.77

The growing governmental control over education affected textbook writers who were critical of Japan’s actions during the Asia-Pacific War. One of these writers was Ienaga Saburō, a history professor at Tokyo University of Education. His struggle with textbook inspection began in 1955, when he submitted his draft high school textbook New Japanese History (Shin nihonshi) for textbook inspection.78 Although his draft textbook was (p.36) approved, textbook inspectors required Ienaga to respond to a total of 216 suggested revisions: for example, “Replace the sentence ‘the Japanese military occupied Beijing, Nanjing, and Hankou in succession and expanded the battle line across China’ with ‘the battle line expanded across China’”; “Delete the figure with the caption ‘women and children running in confusion in Hiroshima after injured by the atomic bombing’”; “Delete the figure with the caption ‘workers opposing Japan’s rearmament.’”79 After incorporating the majority of the suggested revisions, Ienaga’s draft textbook was approved for use at high schools. But Ienaga had to go through another round of textbook inspection immediately because the Course of Study for high school was revised in 1955. This time his draft textbook did not pass inspection. The Ministry of Education explained the rejection as follows: “Since the author [Ienaga] has too much enthusiasm for critical reflections in light of historical facts, this textbook strays away from the educational objective of Japanese history, to make students recognize the efforts of their ancestors, strengthen their awareness as the Japanese people (nihonjin to shite no jikaku), and cultivate abundant love for the Japanese nation.”80 After learning the reason for the rejection, Ienaga revised and resubmitted his textbook, which was approved in 1959.

With another revision of the Course of Study in 1960, however, Ienaga’s draft textbook was rejected again. After Ienaga revised and resubmitted his textbook, the Ministry of Education approved it on the condition that Ienaga should respond to nearly three hundred suggested revisions. For example, the ministry requested Ienaga to “delete the word ‘hopeless (mubōna)’ from the phrase ‘hopeless war’ because it seems unreasonable to blame Japan alone for the Asia-Pacific War in light of the worldwide situation at the time,” and to “qualify the word ‘war criminals (sensō hanzainin)’ by explaining how the Tokyo Trial was conducted one-sidedly by the victor countries.”81 This prompted Ienaga to file a lawsuit in June 1965. Ienaga and his lawyers did not challenge the required revisions per se but the constitutionality of textbook inspection itself. They argued that textbook inspection violated Articles 13, 23, and 26 of the Japanese Constitution, which guaranteed freedom of scholarly research and education, as well as Article 10 of the Basic Act on Education, which prohibited the government’s “illegitimate control” (futōna shihai) of education.82 Put another way, what came to be known as the Ienaga Textbook Lawsuit questioned the nationalist logic at a fundamental level—namely, the very institutional arrangement that authorized the government to exercise control over the education of citizens and (p.37) promote nationalism in history education. Soon after Ienaga filed a lawsuit against the government, university professors in education and history, schoolteachers, and lawyers met in Tokyo in August 1965 to discuss strategies to support his lawsuit, and they proceeded to create the National Liaison Council for Textbook Inspection Lawsuits (Kyōkasho Kentei Soshō wo Shiensuru Zenkoku Renrakukai).83 This was the beginning of the long battle that Ienaga and his supporters were to fight in the coming decades.

During this period, then, conservative politicians tried to exploit the political opportunity—their monopoly of the government—to reinsert the logic of nationalism into the postwar education system; however, their success was compromised because the JSP, the JTU, and other opposition parties and NGOs had sufficient mobilizing structures to resist the education-related bills proposed by the conservative government. The opposition emphasized the evils of war in pacifist terms and criticized the government’s education policy as a regression to prewar militarism. To be sure, the opposition failed to stop the government from strengthening its control over education, but it nonetheless succeeded in preserving the Basic Act on Education that institutionalized cosmopolitanism.

Imperfect Cosmopolitan Commemoration in Hiroshima and Nagasaki

In postwar Japan, cosmopolitanism manifested most clearly in the commemoration of the atomic bombings. When people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki began holding peace memorial ceremonies in 1947 and 1948, respectively, they commemorated the atomic bombings as epoch-making events and urged the whole of humanity to strive for world peace in light of the worldwide threat posed by potential nuclear war. The 1947 Peace Declaration of Hiroshima City called out, “Let us eliminate fear and crimes from the earth, so that we can establish genuine peace. Let us realize the ideal of world peace by renouncing war forever.”84 Similarly, the 1948 Peace Declaration of Nagasaki City promised to “establish eternal peace on earth by pleading to the entire world, ‘No more Nagasaki.’”85 This cosmopolitan orientation was partly induced by the censorship during the Occupation. Since SCAP did not allow Japanese citizens to criticize the United States for the atomic bombings, A-bomb victims had to use the universalistic language that transcended nationality.86 This cosmopolitan frame was also facilitated by emerging worldwide antinuclear and peace movements. In March 1950, for example, the World Peace Council released the Stockholm Appeal, which collected more (p.38) than five hundred million signatures around the world to demand an absolute ban on nuclear weapons. Japan contributed about 7.4 million signatures, and the A-bomb poet Tōge Sankichi wrote the poem “The Call” (Yobikake) to support the Stockholm Appeal.87

A-bomb victims and their supporters not only commemorated the atomic bombings but also lobbied municipal and national governments. In August 1952, about 250 A-bomb victims in Hiroshima City formed the A-Bomb Victims Association (Genbaku Higaisha no Kai) to request free medical examinations, welfare support, and subsidies for treatment of diseases related to the atomic bombing, among other forms of relief.88 While the Diet debated the Bill on Relief for Injured Veterans and Bereaved Families in 1952, Nitoguri Ikkō, a former speaker of the Hiroshima City Council and chair of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Reconstruction Committee, testified in front of the House of Representatives Welfare Committee. There he requested that committee members consider expanding the scope of the bill to include civilians who had been killed by the atomic bombings while being mobilized for military-related services.89

The JSP supported A-bomb victims most actively. In February 1952, JSP member Oka Ryōichi relayed petitions from Hiroshima to the Diet and urged the government to protect “A-bomb orphans” (genbaku koji), children who had lost their parents to the atomic bombing, “as part of the attempt to reconstruct Japan as a peaceful nation, as the first and only victim of atomic bombs on earth.”90 In April, another JSP member, Aono Buichi, argued that the Bill on Relief for Injured Veterans and Bereaved Families should encompass civilian victims of indiscriminate aerial bombings, especially those who had suffered from the atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.91 JSP members regularly chaired the Welfare Committee in the Diet and invited people from Hiroshima to testify about their economic and health situations.

Then, on March 1, 1954, the Lucky Dragon 5 Incident (Daigo Fukuryūmaru Jiken) occurred near Bikini Atoll, where the crew of a Japanese fishing boat was exposed to the fallout of a hydrogen bomb. The crew suffered from acute radiation sickness, and the tuna that they brought back to Japan showed high levels of radiation. The shock of the Lucky Dragon 5 Incident reverberated across Japan to the extent that all forty-six of the country’s prefectural councils passed antinuclear resolutions between March and October 1954. A nationwide campaign to collect signatures against nuclear weapons began in August 1954 and accumulated more than thirty million signatures within a year.92 In response to the nationwide antinuclear (p.39) movement, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution to ban the use of nuclear weapons in April 1954. During the Diet session, filled with passionate speeches and loud applauds, JSP member Kinoshita Yū endorsed the resolution enthusiastically: “We the Japanese people established the so-called ‘peace constitution’ in light of our deep remorse (fukai hansei) for our past wrongdoings. … Since we are also the only people who experienced atomic bombings, I believe it is our duty to adopt a nuclear-related resolution of this kind.”93

The nationwide antinuclear movement culminated in the World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs in August 1955. Representatives of fourteen countries and those of forty-six prefectures of Japan attended the conference in Hiroshima, which opened with testimonies from A-bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Core participants of the world conference proceeded to create the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs (Gensuibaku Kinshi Nihon Kyōgikai) to continue their antinuclear campaign and started collecting signatures to request government compensation for A-bomb victims.94 The second world conference in Nagasaki in August 1956 adopted a resolution to demand government compensation for A-bomb victims. After the conference, A-bomb victims created their own national-level association, the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Gensuibaku Higaisha Dantai Kyōgikai) to organize victims across Japan to lobby the Japanese government more effectively.95

To support A-bomb victims, JSP published An Outline of the Bill on Relief for Patients of A-Bomb Diseases (Genbakushō kanja engohōan yōkō), proposing to make the government pay for medical treatment of those affected by the atomic bombings. Similarly, Hiroshima and Nagasaki Cities jointly proposed a draft bill regarding government relief for A-bomb victims in November. Then, in early December, the Japan Council against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs met with Diet members and submitted a petition to Prime Minister Hatoyama Ichirō and speakers of both houses, requesting government relief for A-bomb victims.96 These lobbying activities led the JSP and the LDP to jointly propose a resolution asking the government to provide medical treatment for A-bomb victims “from a humanitarian standpoint” (jindōjō no kenchi kara).97 After the resolution was unanimously adopted at the House of Representatives, Ishibashi Tanzan’s government proposed the Bill on Medical Care for A-Bomb Victims (Genshi Bakudan Hibakusha no Iryōtō ni kansuru Hōritsu) in February 1957. Since the bill had broad (p.40) support, it passed both houses quickly and took effect on April 1. The newly created act was to issue “health record books” (hibakusha kenkō techō) for A-bomb victims. Owners of these health record books were designated as “official A-bomb victims” and entitled to free medical checkups twice a year. They were also eligible for free medical treatment fully funded by the government if their symptoms met the criteria of “official A-bomb patients” (nintei kanja). Although the act made the government responsible for providing medical treatment of A-bomb victims, this responsibility was defined as voluntary.

This definition of the government’s responsibility was challenged in April 1955, when a team of lawyers from the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (Nihon Bengoshi Rengōkai) helped three A-bomb victims file a lawsuit against the Japanese government—the so-called A-Bomb Trial (genbaku saiban) began. Originally, the lawyers tried to seek compensation from the US government, on the grounds that it had violated the Hague Convention prohibiting the use of inhumane weapons; however, the American Bar Association denied any legal basis for such compensation.98 After the lawyers realized that it would be too difficult to pursue a lawsuit against the US government, they decided to target the Japanese government by advancing the following argument: the United States had violated international law by using the inhumane atomic bombs; however, the Japanese government had signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951 to renounce all compensation claims, including those of A-Bomb victims, against the United States; thus, the Japanese government should compensate A-bomb victims on behalf of the US government.99

Concurrently with the A-Bomb Trial, the JSP pressed the LDP government to expand relief for A-bomb victims. In November 1959, the JSP submitted a bill to expand the Act on Medical Care for A-Bomb Victims into the Act on Relief for A-Bomb Victims (Genbaku Higaisha Engohō), comparable to the Act on Relief for Injured Veterans and Bereaved Families. Although Kishi Nobusuke’s government refused to provide compensation for A-bomb victims, it agreed to expand the coverage of the existing act for A-bomb victims in July 1960 to subsidize medical treatment of diseases that were not directly related to the atomic bombings, as well as to provide monthly allowances for A-bomb victims during their medical treatment.100 In the 1950s, opposition parties and left-leaning NGOs seized the political opportunity—the growing antinuclear movement both inside and outside Japan—to press the LDP government to admit its war responsibility and (p.41) offer compensation for A-bomb victims. They challenged the logic of nationalism in Japan’s compensation policy that recognized only those who had sacrificed their lives for the nation through military service. The opposition’s challenge ultimately failed, however, because the LDP, given its robust mobilizing structures and control of the government, defended the existing compensation policy.

While politicians and NGOs debated government compensation for A-bomb victims, people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki gradually consolidated the cosmopolitan logic of commemoration. In February 1963, four Japanese Buddhist monks embarked on the “Hiroshima-Auschwitz Peace March.” They walked from Hiroshima to Auschwitz and visited twenty-four countries to deliver the message “no more Hiroshima, no more Auschwitz.”101 In April 1964, forty A-bomb victims also began the “Hiroshima-Nagasaki World Peace Pilgrimage.” They visited a total of 150 cities in eight countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, to appeal for world peace.102 This universalistic frame of commemoration, however, had one fundamental flaw: it failed to encompass foreign victims who had suffered from Japan’s past wrongdoings. This was a self-serving kind of cosmopolitanism, induced largely by the fact that Japan had no official diplomatic relations with South Korea and China, its two closest neighbors, which had suffered greatly from Japan’s past aggression.

Postwar Japan’s Relations with South Korea and China

Japan’s relations with China faced, first of all, the obstacle of Cold War geopolitics. After Japan signed the peace treaty, as well as the bilateral security treaty, with the United States in San Francisco in 1951, the United States demanded that Japan recognize Taiwan as the legitimate China. The US Senate even argued that the ratification of the San Francisco Peace Treaty should be contingent on Japan’s recognition of Taiwan.103 Given the strong pressure from the United States, Yoshida Shigeru’s government decided to normalize its relations with Taiwan. In turn, Taiwan agreed to renounce its compensation claims against Japan, even though Chiang Kai-shek had initially intended to pursue compensation for war-related damages.104 In April 1952, Japan and Taiwan signed a peace treaty to normalize their relations, locking Japan into the US Cold War strategy in East Asia.

In response, China’s prime minister Zhou Enlai issued a statement in May 1952, criticizing the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the US-Japan Security Treaty, and the Japan-Taiwan Peace Treaty. Zhou, however, directed his (p.42) criticism against the United States rather than Japan. To be sure, Zhou did criticize the Japanese government for going along with the United States: “After signing the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Yoshida’s government immediately released eighty-eight diabolic Japanese war criminals whose hands were all tainted with blood of the Chinese people. This shows that reactionary rulers of Japan have no sense of remorse and atonement … and plan to resume their imperial rule of China and Asian peoples.”105 Zhou nonetheless criticized the United States as China’s real enemy by attacking the San Francisco Peace Treaty as the US government’s attempt to rearm Japan and wage a war of aggression against Asian peoples. Zhou also carefully distinguished the Japanese people from the Japanese government, even praised “the Japanese people’s resistance against the illegitimate San Francisco Peace Treaty [and] the imperialist occupation by the United States,” and went on to express “the Chinese people’s unlimited solidarity and enthusiastic support for the Japanese people’s struggle.”106

Zhou’s statement illustrated the benign commemorative position that the Chinese government took toward Japan’s past aggression. While condemning prewar Japan’s militarist government, high-ranking government officials in China, most notably Mao Zedong, described ordinary Japanese citizens as victims of militarism. Instead, the Chinese government held the Kuomintang responsible for the Chinese people’s suffering.107 For the Chinese government, resistance against US dominance in East Asia was more important than commemoration of Japan’s past wrongdoings.

For the Japanese government, in turn, economic relations with China were more important than war commemoration. From the late 1940s through the mid-1950s, Japanese politicians and businessmen created various associations to promote trade with China as a way to boost postwar Japan’s economic development: for example, the Association of Diet Members for the Promotion of Japan-China Trade (Nitchū Bōeki Sokushin Giin Renmei) in 1949, the Japan-China Friendship Association (Nitchū Yūkō Kyōkai) in 1950, the Committee for the Promotion of Japan’s International Trade (Nihon Kokusai Bōeki Sokushin Iinkai) in 1952, and the Union for Japan-China Trade (Nitchū Yushutsunyū Kumiai) in 1955.108 These efforts resulted in a series of nongovernmental trade agreements with China in the first half of the 1950s, but Japan’s economic relations with China remained limited and fragile. Economic relations between the two countries began to improve only in 1960 when Ikeda Hayato, who was keen to pursue economic development, became prime minister. The Chinese government, too, was (p.43) eager to strengthen economic cooperation with Japan since it had suffered substantial economic losses during the Great Leap Forward movement of the late 1950s. China’s relations with the Soviet Union also began to deteriorate around the same time, thus making rapprochement with Japan more desirable for the Chinese government.109

While Japan-China relations were largely confined to the economic dimension, some NGOs in Japan tried to commemorate Japan’s past wrongdoings against China. The Japan-China Friendship Association, for example, commemorated the “misery that the Chinese people suffered from aggressive policies (shinryaku seisaku) of Japanese militarism” and sought “to correct the Japanese people’s mistaken view on China” that had facilitated Japan’s past aggression.110 When Yoshida Shigeru’s government signed the Japan-Taiwan Peace Treaty, the association also issued a statement criticizing the treaty for “denying Japan’s war responsibility to the Chinese people.”111 Such cosmopolitan commemoration of Chinese victims, however, was rare in Japan at the time.

In the meantime, Japan had more issues with South Korea in terms of war commemoration, even though Japan and South Korea had no official diplomatic relations. Soon after Japan surrendered to the Allied powers in August 1945, Koreans formed associations to demand compensation for their military and labor services during the war from the Japanese government and corporations, and South Korea’s transitional government set up a committee to deal with compensation claims against Japan in August 1947.112 Then, in September 1948, an association of former soldiers and laborers demanded that the Japanese government compensate three billion yen for unpaid military and labor services.113 The South Korean government, headed by Syngman Rhee, a longtime pro-independence nationalist, also submitted to SCAP multiple survey reports on South Korea’s compensation claims against Japan. The amount of total compensation that Rhee’s government demanded exceeded thirty billion yen, covering damages that Korean people had suffered during the war as well as during “Japan’s colonial rule, a coercive act against the will of the Korean people, which violated principles of justice, fairness, and mutual benefits.”114 In addition, Rhee’s government sought to participate in the San Francisco Peace Conference as a member of the Allied powers.

In August 1947, however, the Allied powers decided that South Korea had no compensation claims against Japan and should be satisfied with various facilities and goods that Japan had left behind. (The Japanese (p.44) government and citizens had lost owner ship of their properties in Japan’s former colonies upon their surrender to the Allied powers.) This decision was coterminous with the increasingly lenient position of United States in regard to Japan’s responsibility for compensating war-related damages: the US government judged that it made more strategic sense to quickly rebuild Japan as its ally in the Cold War, rather than impose a large amount of compensation that would hinder Japan’s reconstruction efforts.115

The Japanese government, too, rejected South Korea’s compensation claims. Japanese returnees from Korea even argued that the Allied powers should compensate them for their confiscated private properties, arguing that such confiscation violated the Hague Conventions.116 After Japan signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, these returnees began demanding that the Japanese government should compensate them instead. The logic of their demand was similar to the claim that A-bomb victims made: because the Japanese government had renounced compensation claims against the Allied powers, it should now take responsibility for compensating Japanese returnees from Korea and other former colonies.

Thus, when the Japanese and South Korean governments began the first round of normalization talks in Tokyo in February 1952, they had radically different views on the issue of compensation. While the South Korean side was determined to press its compensation claims, the Japanese side argued that the annexation of Korea had been legal at the time and demanded compensation of confiscated private properties that had belonged to Japanese citizens.117 Japan and South Korea could not resolve their differences during the next two rounds of normalization talks. Then, during the third round, one of the Japanese representatives, Kubota Kan’ichirō from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, remarked, “Even though I admit there was a negative aspect to Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, it is undeniable that Japan also did good things for Korea.”118 This angered the South Korean side, but the Japanese government refused to retract Kubota’s comment. As a result, the normalization talks broke down in 1953.

The normalization talks resumed in 1960, however, when certain key political developments occurred in both South Korea and Japan. In August 1960, Yu Bo Seon became president of South Korea and adopted a new policy toward Japan. Instead of demanding compensation for Japan’s past wrongdoings, the South Korean government began to consider accepting economic aid from Japan in lieu of compensation. The policy shift was prompted by two significant changes in South Korea’s economic situation (p.45) in 1957: US economic aid to South Korea began to decrease, and North Korea launched a five-year plan to industrialize its economy. Under these changed conditions, the South Korean government began to view Japan as an important economic partner. This view was consolidated after Park Chung Hee seized control of the government through a military coup in May 1961. In Japan, too, Ikeda Hayato, who became prime minister in July 1960, was eager to stimulate Japan’s economic growth by exporting goods and services to South Korea. In fact, the Japanese government had already begun to develop this economic approach to compensation of war-related damages in the 1950s, when it had negotiated peace treaties with Southeast Asian countries such as Burma, Indonesia, South Vietnam, and the Philippines. The Japanese government provided these countries with “compensation” for Japan’s past wrongdoings in the form of goods and services produced by Japanese corporations.119

Moreover, the Cold War escalated in Asia in the early 1960s. North Korea signed a mutual defense treaty with the Soviet Union and a friendship and mutual assistance treaty with China in 1961. As the United States was increasingly involved in the Vietnam War, it wanted more stable relations between Japan and South Korea, its two allies in East Asia. From the US perspective, Japan’s economic aid to South Korea would not only help the United States financially but also induce South Korea to send its troops to Vietnam.120 The combined threat of North Korea and pressure from the United States thus moved Japan and South Korea to compromise over the issue of compensation.

During the final stage of normalization talks, the Japanese and South Korean governments agreed that the former should offer grants and soft loans instead of compensation to the latter, and that normalization of their relations should resolve all issues of compensation between the two countries. But opposition parties and university students in South Korea protested against normalization in March 1964. The opposition criticized the terms of normalization for essentially abandoning any demands for apology and compensation from Japan. Protests in Seoul between March 25 and 27 drew forty thousand to sixty thousand participants daily, and university students continued to organize protests until early June, when Park’s government declared a state of emergency to suppress the protests.121

Similarly, opposition parties in Japan pressed the LDP government to confront Japan’s past wrongdoings. To be sure, when Minister of Foreign Affairs Shiina Etsusaburō visited South Korea in February 1965 to conclude (p.46) negotiation talks, he offered his “deep remorse (fukaku hansei) for the unfortunate period in the long history of the two countries.”122 But JSP member Hososako Kanemitsu had already urged Ikeda himself—as prime minister of Japan—to offer an apology to South Korea: “If you want to establish friendly relations with Korea … you should first of all apologize. … It is not shameful to apologize for the wrongs that Japan committed. In fact, it is shameful not to.”123 JCP member Kawakami Kan’ichi also demanded that the Japanese government apologize to South Koreans: “It goes without saying that Japan committed all sorts of atrocities to the Korean people over a long period of time—aggression, oppression, extortion, and enslavement. Today, the Japanese government should reflect on its responsibility for these acts, offer an apology to the Korean people, and set an example of righteousness for the Japanese people.”124 Nevertheless, these criticisms were voiced by only a minority of Japanese politicians. As a result, the Japanese and South Korean governments proceeded to finalize the terms of normalization in Tokyo in December 1964, officially prioritizing economic interests over questions about the past.

After the Asia-Pacific War, Before the History Problem

During the immediate postwar period, the history problem did not really exist. Not only did Japan lack diplomatic relations with South Korea and China, but also discussion of Japan’s past wrongdoings was deliberately suppressed by the governments of the three countries based on their economic interests and political calculations. Furthermore, the United States reversed the course of its policy objectives during the Occupation and allowed Japan to evade its past wrongdoings. The cross-national fragmentation of commemorations and the reverse course thus provided political opportunities for conservative politicians who consolidated their power by creating the LDP and mobilizing support from the Japan Bereaved Families Association and other constituencies. Using their robust mobilizing structures, conservative politicians seized the political opportunities to dominate the government and promoted nationalism in Japan’s official commemoration. As a result, prime ministers engaged in speech and action rejecting the Tokyo Judgment, injured veterans and bereaved families were honored through government compensation, and the textbook-inspection process tried to minimize descriptions of Japan’s past wrongdoings.

The JSP and the JCP, by contrast, adopted the logic of cosmopolitanism to commemorate foreign victims of Japan’s past wrongdoings. Yet, the (p.47) opposition parties had weaker mobilizing structures and few political opportunities to inject cosmopolitanism into governmental speech and action, compensation policy, and education, though they did moderate the degree of nationalism that the conservative politicians were able to institutionalize in Japan’s official commemoration. Moreover, while the JSP worked with A-bomb victims, who began to articulate the logic of cosmopolitanism to commemorate all war victims irrespective of nationality, their cosmopolitan commemoration was imperfect, because it failed to encompass foreign victims of Japan’s past aggression. Nevertheless, the imperfect cosmopolitanism that characterized the early commemoration of the atomic bombings was to play an important role in commemorating South Korean and Chinese victims after Japan normalized its relations with South Korea and China in 1965 and 1972, respectively. At the same time, normalization was also to expand Japan’s interactions with South Korea and China in both governmental and nongovernmental arenas, setting in motion the development of the history problem.


(1) “Potsdam Declaration (Proclamation Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender), July 26, 1945,” http://www.ioc.u-tokyo.ac.jp/~worldjpn/documents/texts/docs/19450726.D1E.html.

(2) For a detailed sequence of the Asia-Pacific War, see Yōko Katō, Manshū Jihen kara Nitchū Sensōe (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2007); Yutaka Yoshida, Ajia-Taiheiyō Sensō (Iwanami Shoten, 2007).

(3) For details of how the Japanese government destroyed and hid classified information, see Yutaka Yoshida, Gendai rekishigaku to sensō sekinin (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1997), 127–141.

(4) For estimated numbers of people arrested for these three types of war crimes, see Hirofumi Hayashi, BC-kyū senpan saiban (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2005).

(p.204) (5) For an overview of prewar Japanese education, see Mark Lincicome, Imperial Subjects as Global Citizens: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Education in Japan (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009).

(6) For the detailed history of the Occupation, see Shōichi Amemiya, Senryō to kaikaku (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2008); John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W. W. Norton, 1999).

(7) For the logistics of the tribunal, see Yuma Totani, The Tokyo War Crimes Trial: The Pursuit of Justice in the Wake of World War II (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2008).

(8) For details of these legal issues in the Tokyo Trial, see Chiaki Hosoya, Nisuke Andō, and Yasuaki Ōnuma, eds., Tokyo Saiban wo tou (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 1989); Yuki Tanaka, Tim McCormack, and Gerry Simpson, eds., Beyond Victor’s Justice? The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Revisited (Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, 2011).

(9) Yoshinobu Higurashi, Tokyo Saiban (Tokyo: Kōdansha, 2008), 264–265.

(13) Noboru Kojima, Tokyo Saiban, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Chūō Kōron Sha, 1971), 74–78; Hiroshi Sugawara, Tokyo Saiban no shōtai (Tokyo: Toshokankōsha, 2002); Seijirō Takigawa, Tokyo Saiban wo sabaku (Tokyo: Tōwasha, 1952).

(14) Higurashi, Tokyo Saiban (2008), 247–251.

(15) Ibid., 264–268.

(16) Ibid., chap. 6.

(17) House of Representatives Justice Committee, November 14, 1951.

(19) House of Councillors Plenary Sessions, June 9, 1952; House of Representatives Plenary Sessions, December 9, 1952, and August 3, 1953.

(20) House of Representatives Plenary Session, December 9, 1952.

(21) House of Councillors Plenary Session, June 9, 1952.

(22) Thomas U. Berger, “Dealing with Difficult Pasts: Japan’s ‘History Problem’ from a Theoretical and Comparative Perspective,” in East Asia’s Haunted Present: Historical Memories and the Resurgence of Nationalism, ed. Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and Kazuhiko Tōgō (Westport, CT: Praeger Security International, 2008), 17–41.

(23) House of Representatives Plenary Session, April 30, 1955; also see House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, December 5, 1955, and House of Councillors Bud get Committee, December 8, 1955.

(24) House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committees, December 5, 1955, and March 10, 1956.

(p.205) (25) House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, March 10, 1956.

(26) Yutaka Yoshida, Nihonjin no sensōkan: sengoshi no nakano henyō (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2005).

(27) House of Representatives Plenary Session, April 15, 1952.

(28) House of Representatives Disciplinary Committee, June 17, 1952.

(29) House of Representatives Plenary Session, December 9, 1952.

(30) House of Councillors Plenary Session, June 9, 1952.

(31) House of Representatives Plenary Session, December 9, 1952.

(32) House of Representatives Bud get Committee, December 3, 1953.

(33) For details of dynamics within the JSP during this period, see Jirō Yamaguchi and Masumi Ishikawa, eds., Nihon Shakaitō: sengo kakushin no shisō to kōdō (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Hyōronsha, 2003).

(34) Nobumasa Tanaka, Hiroshi Tanaka, and Nagami Hata, Izoku to sengo (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1995), 39.

(35) Nihon Izokukai, ed., Nihon Izokukai jūgonenshi (Tokyo: Kyōdō Insatsu, 1962), 21.

(36) Ibid., 31–40.

(37) Ibid., 41–42.

(38) House of Representatives Plenary Session, April 3, 1952.

(39) House of Representatives Welfare Committee Public Hearing, March 25, 1952.

(40) House of Representatives Plenary Session, May 14, 1949; House of Councillors Plenary Session, May 16, 1949.

(41) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, March 20, 1952.

(42) Ibid., April 3, 1952.

(43) House of Representatives Welfare and Returnee Committee, March 31, 1952.

(44) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, April 3, 1952.

(45) House of Representatives Plenary Session, April 3, 1952.

(46) Ibid., March 2, 1953.

(47) Ibid.

(48) Kōseishō Engokyoku, ed., Hikiage to engo sanjūnen no ayumi (Tokyo: Gyōsei, 1978), 243–244.

(50) Nobumasa Tanaka, Yasukuni no sengoshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2002), 63.

(51) For the history of the Yasukuni Shrine, see Shirō Akazawa, Yasukuni Jinja: semegiau senbotsusha tsuitō no yukue (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2005).

(52) Asahi shinbun, October 16, 1952.

(53) “Yasukuni Jinja gōshijimu ni taisuru kyōryoku ni tsuite,” April 19, 1956, reprinted in Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan Chōsa oyobi Rippōkousakyoku, (p.206) ed., Shinpen Yasukuni Jinja mondai shiryōshū (Tokyo: Heibunsha, 2007), 205–207.

(54) Higurashi, Tokyo Saiban (2008), 11–13.

(60) Mainichi shinbun, September 1, 1952.

(61) House of Representatives Bud get Committee, February 6, 7, 9, and 12, 1950; House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, February 14, 1950.

(62) “The Basic Act on Education, March 31, 1947,” http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/kihon/about/index.htm.

(63) “Kyōiku ni kansuru chokugo, October 30, 1890,” reprinted in Monbushō, Gakusei hyakunenshi, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Teikoku Chihō Gyōsei Gakkai, 1972), 11.

(64) Speech by Kiyose Ichirō aired on the radio, January 2, 1956, transcribed and reprinted in Sengo Nihon Kyōiku Shiryōshūsei Henshū Iinkai, ed., Sengo Nihon kyōiku shiryōshūsei, vol. 5 (Tokyo: San’ichi Shobō, 1983), 44.

(65) House of Representatives Cabinet Committee, February 8, 1956.

(66) Ibid., February 22, 1956.

(67) House of Representatives Plenary Session, March 13, 1956.

(68) Sengo Nihon Kyōiku, Sengo Nihon kyōiku, vol. 5, 10.

(69) Ibid., 103–104.

(70) Asahi shinbun, May 18, 1956.

(71) Ibid., June 2, 1956.

(72) Nihon Kyōshokuin Kumiai, eds., Nikkyōso jūnenshi: 1947–1957 (Tokyo: Dō Kumiai, 1958).

(73) These pamphlets, published in August, October, and November 1955, are reprinted in their entirety in Sengo Nihon Kyōiku, Sengo Nihon kyōiku, vol. 5, 236–316. The November issue was published under the name of the Liberal Democracy Party.

(74) House of Representatives Education Committee, March 20, 1956.

(75) “Monbujihō, October 13 and December 3, 1956,” reprinted in Sengo Nihon Kyōiku, Sengo Nihon kyōiku, vol. 5, 381–382.

(76) Akira Igarashi and Akio Igasaki, Sengo kyōiku no rekishi (Tokyo: Aoki Shoten, 1970), 179–180.

(77) “The Act on School Textbooks for Mandatory Education, December 21, 1963,” http://law.e-gov.go.jp/htmldata/S38/S38HO182.html.

(p.207) (78) For the history of Ienaga’s struggles against textbook inspection, see Yoshiko Nozaki, War Memory, Nationalism and Education in Postwar Japan: The Japanese History Textbook Controversy and Ienaga Saburo’s Court Challenges (London: Routledge, 2008).

(79) Reprinted in Saburō Ienaga, Ienaga Saburōshū, vol. 8 (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1998), 214–225.

(80) “Result of Textbook Inspection of the Submitted Draft Textbook, May 20, 1957,” reprinted in Ienaga, Ienaga, vol. 8, 228–229.

(81) Ibid., vol. 8, 236–284.

(82) Ienaga Kyōkashososhō Bengodan, ed. Ienaga kyōkasho saiban: 32-nen ni wataru bengodan katsudō no sōkatsu (Tokyo: Nihon Hyōronsha, 1998), 58–60.

(83) Ienaga, Ienaga, vol. 8, 310–311.

(84) “Hiroshima City Peace Declaration, August 6, 1947,” http://www.city.hiroshima.lg.jp/www/contents/0000000000000/1111795443652/index.html.

(85) “Nagasaki City Peace Declaration, August 9, 1948,” http://www1.city.nagasaki.nagasaki.jp/peace/japanese/appeal/history/1948.html.

(86) For the history of how people in Japan commemorated the atomic bombings in the postwar period, see James J. Orr, The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), chap. 2; Hiro Saito, “Reiterated Commemoration: Hiroshima as National Trauma,” Sociological Theory 24, no. 4 (2006): 353–376; Lisa Yoneyama, Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space, and the Dialectics of Memory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

(87) Nihon Hidankyōshi Henshū Iinkai, Futatabi hibakusha wo tsukuruna, vol. 1 (Tokyo: Akebi Shobō, 2009), 59–60.

(88) Chūgoku Shinbunsha, Hiroshima no kiroku (Tokyo: Miraisha, 1966), 68.

(89) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, March 26, 1952.

(90) House of Representatives Bud get Committee, February 5, 1952.

(91) House of Representatives Welfare Committee, April 3, 1952.

(92) Nihon Hidankyōshi, Futatabi hibakusha, vol. 1, 71–73.

(93) House of Representatives Plenary Session, April 1, 1954.

(95) Nihon Hidankyōshi, Futatabi hibakusha, vol. 1, 88–89.

(96) Ibid., 91–92.

(97) House of Representatives Plenary Session, December 12, 1956.

(99) For a detailed legal argument, see Yasuhiro Matsui, Genbaku saiban (Tokyo: Shin Nihon Shuppansha, 1986).

(p.208) (100) House of Representatives Plenary Session, July 15, 1960.

(101) Chūgoku shinbun, February 6, 1962; January 23, 1963.

(103) Makoto Iokibe, Sengo Nihon gaikōshi (Tokyo: Yūhikaku, 2010), 73–74.

(104) Kazuko Mouri, Nitchū kankei: sengo kara shinjidaie (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2006), 7–9.

(105) Zhou Enlai, “A Statement in Response to the San Francisco Peace Treaty and the Japan-Taiwan Peace Treaty, May 5, 1952,” reprinted in Kazankai, Nitchū kankei kihon shiryōshū, 19491997 (Tokyo: Kazankai, 1998), 39–42.

(107) Yinan He, The Search for Reconciliation: Sino-Japanese and German-Polish Relations since World War II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 135.

(109) Yoshihide Soeya, Nihongaikō to Chūgoku, 19451972 (Tokyo: Keiō Tsūshin, 1995), 102.

(110) “A Statement of Purpose, October 1, 1950,” reprinted in Nitchū Yūkō Kyōkai, ed., Nitchū yūkō undō gojūnen (Tokyo: Tōhō Shoten, 2000), 313–314. For the history of the association’s activities, see Franziska Seraphim, “Relocating War Memory at Century’s End: Japan’s Postwar Responsibility and Global Public Culture,” in Ruptured Histories: War, Memory, and the Post-Cold War in Asia, ed. Sheila Miyoshi Jager and Rena Mitter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007), 15–46.

(112) Osamu Ōta, Nikkan kōshō: seikyūken mondai no kenkyū (Tokyo: Kurein, 2003), 32–34.

(113) Sōji Takasaki, Kenshō Nikkan kaidan (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 1996), 11.

(114) An excerpt of “Survey Report on Compensation Claims against Japan,” reprinted in Ōta, Nikkan kōshō, 50.

(116) Ibid., 66–68.

(118) House of Councillors Fishery Committee, October 27, 1953.

(120) Yoshida, Nihonjin, 135; Masanori Nakamura, Sengoshi (Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten, 2005), 126–130.

(121) Fumitoshi Yoshizawa, Sengo Nikkan kankei: kokkō seijōka kōshō wo megutte (Tokyo: Kurein, 2005), 253–261; Takasaki, Nikkan kaidan, 150–153.

(122) Asahi shinbun, February 17, 1965.

(p.209) (123) House of Representatives Plenary Session, February 21, 1961.

(124) House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, March 22, 1961.