War, commemoration and national identity in modern Japan, 1868-1975

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Abstract

In recent work on Japanese history, much emphasis has been placed on the continuities linking pre-war, wartime and post-war Japan. It is a well-established idea that August 1945 does not indicate a definitive break in politics or social structure, even if two of the major legal documents that support the state structure, the constitution and the Civil Code, were radically changed under the Allied Occupation which ensued. Nor were the Occupation's attempts to change what it saw as a 'culture of militarism' always successful. Despite the numerous continuities between pre-1945 and post-1945 Japan, however, it cannot be denied that, in a symbolic sense, the defeat of August 1945 was indeed a watershed, at least in retrospect. And this is particularly the case where ideas about the 'nation' are concerned-the nation in the sense of Benedict Anderson's 'imagined community'.1 Negotiations over the interpretation of the war, and the interpretation of the pre-1945 nation, continue to shape interpretations of Japan as a state and the identity of its citizens. While the war is certainly not the only issue prompting such a process of negotiation and re-interpretation, it is nevertheless an important one, as indicated by the continuing debates over war-related issues in education, for example, or the contents of museums.2 This chapter explores the place of war in constructions of national identity in Japan, with emphasis on the ways in which Second World War has been remembered in the latter half of the twentiethcentury, and with particular focus on issues of commemoration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNation and Nationalism in Japan
EditorsSandra Wilson
Place of PublicationLondon UK
PublisherRoutledge Curzon
Pages115-134
Number of pages20
Edition1st
ISBN (Electronic)9781135024468
ISBN (Print)9780700716395
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2002

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