East Asian Languages and Cultures | War and Peace in Modern Japan
E352 | 1683 | O'Bryan


Our purpose in this course will be to examine the roles that war has
played in modern Japanese history and the place it has occupied in
the historical memories of Japanese. In the process, we will seek to
gain broader insight into why nations go to war, how war is
ideologically justified, and alternative models to international
conflict as these have been articulated during the modern period.

Although this course is not a military history narrowly defined, we
will, of course, take up the history of a variety of violent
conflicts in which Japanese have participated since the Meiji
Restoration in 1868, including the Meiji-period wars against China
and Russia and the wars against the Chinese and the Allies in the
1930s and 1940s. We will go beyond these obvious cases, however,
also to consider other conflicts in which Japanese participated in
one way or another, such as the Boxer Rebellion and the Korean War.
We will note both continuities and discontinuities in national
geopolitical thinking, rationales for initiating conflict, and the
shifting modes by which Japanese remembered earlier conflicts and
used them to tell the story of the Japanese nation. At the same time
we will also attempt to understand the ways in which narratives of
the nation in war were linked to individual experience. Finally the
rise of pacifist thought in Japan in the wake of World War II will
be considered in historical context and in connection with wider
anti-war movements during the twentieth century.

We will read from a variety of sources, including memoirs and oral
histories, official policy statements and planning documents, and
popular histories of the war in comic-book form.