The History Issue in East Asia 2021

This course has now finished.

This is the class homepage for my course “The History Issue in East Asia” taught in the spring term of 2021. The course is taught in person in a classroom, but provisions will be made to have part of the course online depending on the Covid-19 situation.

Syllabus: 19J4004-多文化社会論1

Grading Rubric: Politics of History in East Asia 2021

End-of-term report formatting instructions: Writing Academic Essays at University


Week 1: Introduction (12 April)

Course explanation.

Reading and discussing the Statement by Prime Minister Abe (14 August 2015). Read in English/Japanese.

Lecture Notes: 20210412 HIEA Week 1

On-demand materials page

Extra Reading: This week’s lecture is based on Chapter 1 of Japan’s Contested War Memories. But, try reading my open access article “Family, Friends and Furusato” for detailed discussion of the issues raised illustrated with examples from war memories in Hokkaido.


Week 2: Japan’s Decision to Go to War (19 April)

Discussing this section of the Abe statement. The Road to War (Abe Statement)

Lecture Notes: 20210419 HIEA 2 Road to War

On-demand materials page

Homework: Prepare for the debate. If you can, read a general history of prewar Japan (possibilities include work by Andrew Gordon, Elise K. Tipton, Brett Walker, James Huffman, S.C.M. Paine etc. etc.) to familiarize yourself with the history of the period.

Open access resources: National Diet Library Chronological Table; Jeffrey Record, “Japan’s Decision for War in 1941”, Richard J. Smethurst, “Japan, the United States, and the Road to World War II in the Pacific”, Yoshizawa Tatsuhiko, “The Manchurian Incident, the League of Nations, and the Origins of the Pacific War”.


Week 3: Debate “Japan had no choice but to go to war in 1941 against the US and Britain” (26 April)

Debate in class.

Homework: 1) Decide the topic for your active learning assignment. Submit an explanation via Socrative (deadline 30 April). Start working on the assignment in preparation for submission on 14 June.

2) Read the following statements regarding history made by Japanese prime (and cabinet) ministers: Kono 1993, Diet Resolution 1995, Murayama 1995, Koizumi 2005, Kan 2010.  How do these compare with the Abe statement of 2015? And how do these compare with the statements at the Memorial Ceremony for the War Dead? Kan 2010, Abe 2013.


Week 4: Japanese Official Apologies, 1993-2015 (10 May)

Class Discussion: Have Japanese apologies for WWII been considered sincere? What is a “sincere apology”? How long after an act of aggression does a country (not only Japan … any country) need to continue apologizing?

Lecture Notes: none. We discuss the official statements designated as homework reading.

On demand materials page

Homework: Prepare for the debate next week about whether Japan has paid sufficient compensation. Start with the official government position here and the various other statements concerning Issues Regarding History. The “comfort women” issue has stirred most debate. See the Asian Women’s Fund, Documents relating the the 1965 Basic Treaty,  Asahi Newspaper special, APJ Fact Sheet, Women’s Active Peace Museum, Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact. And “settling the dispute” (again) in December 2015.


Week 5: Debate “Japan has not paid sufficient compensation for its actions during the Asia-Pacific War” (17 May)

Debate in class.

Homework: In preparation for the class next week about Yasukuni Shrine, familiarize yourself with the Shrine and its history by looking through the Yasukuni Shrine website.


Week 6: The Yasukuni Issue (24 May)

Lecture Notes: 20210524 HIEA Yasukuni

On demand materials page

Reading for Homework: Prepare for the debate next week. Read the research of Akiko Takenaka and John Breen. They have published the two key books on the topic in English. A leading Japanese critic is Takahashi Tetsuya: see The National Politics of the Yasukuni Shrine. Here is a discussion between key members of the Yomiuri and Asahi newspapers. For the pro-Yasukuni position, visit the Yasukuni Shrine website and put “Yasukuni” into the search engine at Japan Forward. Finally, search for other materials online. They’re easy to find!


Week 7: Debate “The Japanese Prime Minister should worship at Yasukuni Shrine on 15 August every year” (31 May)

Debate in class.

Homework: Concentrate on your ALH assignment. Remember, it is due on 14 June.


Week 8: The A-Bombs (7 June)

Lecture Notes: 20210607 HIEA Occupation

On demand materials page

Homework: Reading in preparation for the debate.

Historical Documents: Read the full text of the Potsdam Declaration and the full text of the Emperor’s radio address on 15 August. Here is the Constitution of the Empire of Japan.

Academic/Media Debates: Regarding the debate over whether dropping the bomb was necessary, see Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, “The Atomic Bombs and the Soviet Invasion” and Richard B. Frank’s review of Hiroshima in History. Hata Ikuhiko, Hirohito: The Showa Emperor in War and Peace gives a detailed picture of debates regarding acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. Regarding whether the bombs “saved lives”, read Zachary Keck in The Diplomat and a counterargument by Ward Wilson in Beyond Nuclear International.

On Air Raids: See the historical archive Japan Air


Week 9: Debate “The A-bombs did not force Japan to surrender” (14 June)

Debate in class.

Submission deadline for the Active Learning Hours project (fieldwork at a World War II site). *Because of the state of emergency, the deadline has been extended to Week 12 (5 July).


Week 10: Territorial Disputes (21 June)

Lecture Notes: 20210621 HIEA Territory

On demand materials page

Homework: Reading in preparation for the debate.

Why does territory matter? Here is the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Here is the Japanese government’s position on all three territorial disputes. Here is the Korean government’s position on Dokdo. And Shimane Prefecture’s website about Takeshima. Here is the Chinese government’s position on Diaoyu Dao (Senkaku Islands)

Here are useful articles on each of the three disputes: Reinhard Drifte on the Senkaku dispute, Mark Selden on the Dokdo/Takeshima dispute, Georgy Buntilov on the Northern Territories dispute. And Kimie Hara on a potential creative resolution of the Northern Territories Issue.


Week 11: Debate “The Senkaku Islands, Takeshima and the Northern Territories are Japanese territory” (28 June)

Debate in class.


Week 12: Re-Reading the Abe Statement (5 July)

Materials: Class discussion using these materials.20210705 Reading the Abe Statement

On demand materials page

Homework: Listen to the audio files in the On demand materials page to supplement what we discussed in class. And writing your end of term report.

Revised deadline for the Active Learning Hours Project.


Week 13: Resolving the History Issue (12 July)

Discuss these three questions in groups:

What is the number one thing the Japanese government can do to help resolve the history issue?

What is the number one thing the Japanese people can do to help resolve the history issue?

What is the number one change in behavior by a foreign (= not Japan) government/people that is required to help resolve the history issue?

Class discussion and course wrap up.

On demand materials page