Memory and others

Japan’s mnemonic turn in the 1990s

Authored by: Kazuya Fukuoka

Routledge Handbook of Memory and Reconciliation in East Asia

Print publication date:  October  2015
Online publication date:  October  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415835138
eBook ISBN: 9780203740323
Adobe ISBN: 9781135009212


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The 1990s witnessed a critical mnemonic turn in Japan. Refuting the widespread conventional wisdom of Japan as a non-apologizer on war issues, the awareness of past wrongs at the level of the general public showed a remarkable shift in the 1990s (e.g., Buruma 1994; Conrad 2003; Conrad 2010; Ishida 2000; Saito 2006; Tsutsui 2009; Takahashi 1999, 2002). More people admitted and accepted war guilt and were willing to take responsibility as a nation (Schwartz, Fukuoka, and Takita-Ishii 2005; Fukuoka and Schwartz 2010). Conventionally, the delayed register of Japan’s war memories in the 1990s has been discussed in the context of politics of memory (cf. Gills 1994). The field problematizes two main theoretical issues: (1) who has the power to produce and revise an authoritative history and how (hegemonic memory; cf. Halbwachs and Coser 1992; Hobsbawn 1983); and (2) the struggle among and the roles of commemorative entrepreneurs (memory pluralism; cf. Wagner-Pacifici and Schwartz 1991; Barthel 1996; Fine 2001). Memory studies focus on the workings of civic organizations and political activism (cf. Seraphim 2006) and domestic memory wars among Japan’s mnemonic elites/entrepreneurs (Hein and Selden 2000), including the roles of popular media (Galliccio 2007; Morris-Suzuki 2005). This analytical perspective also emphasizes the importance of political leadership of prime ministers in the mid-1990s such as Hosokawa Morihiro and Murayama Tomiichi. The international memory wars between Japan and the former victim nations, especially China and South Korea, have drawn substantial attention as well (cf. Ducke 2002; Rose 1998, 1999; Lind 2008). At the global level, Japan’s wartime responsibility is contextualized within the emerging universal human rights regime in the 1980s, which was conducive to the subsequent worldwide memory boom (cf. Nora 2002; Trouillot 2000; Huyssen 2003).

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