Date: 9 December 2015
In the last ERC Project guest talk of the Michaelmas Term, Mrs. Sumiyo Nishizaki presented her research on the post-repatriation lives of employees of the South Manchuria Railway (SMR). Mrs. Nishizaki, who is a PhD candidate at the London School of Economics, has conducted extensive archival and quantitative research in several Japanese prefectures, consulting a wide range of primary sources: government records, national surveys, and corporate documents. Using this body of literature, she presented her answers to the issue at the centre of her doctoral dissertation: the impact of the Japanese returnees on the post-imperial economic landscape in Japan.
In her presentation, Mrs. Nishizaki presented extensive quantitative material that shed light on the post-repatriation lives of over 10,000 SMR employees. She challenged the generally accepted view that the reintegration of Japanese repatriates from overseas territories into the post-imperial economy was shaped only by the skills they had. Instead, Mrs. Nishizaki argued that employment policies supported by the government, as well as opportunities in the traditional sectors such as farming and small businesses helped relieve the postwar lives of the thousands of skilled returnees who had set out to Manchurian plains to expand the Japanese empire. As is the tradition, the speaker’s hour-long talk was followed by over an hour of lively discussion, in which questions about the aftermath of the Japanese empire and the making of the contemporary Japanese were raised by the participants.
Date: 30 November 2015
The last East Asian Studies Seminar of the Michaelmas Term was devoted to the importance of war guilt and war responsibility in international relations. Dr. Robert Hoppens presented his research on a very important period in Sino-Japanese Relations of the postwar period: the 1970s, when the two nations finally restored diplomatic relations following the Second World War.
In his talk, Dr. Hoppens, who teaches Japanese, Chinese, East Asian and World History at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, challenged the dominant views about the role of the Japanese war guilt in their dealings with the leadership of the People’s Republic of China. The speaker suggested that the issues of war guilt and war responsibility, which should be seen as distinct concepts, have not played as big a part in the Japanese aid policies and diplomatic overtures towards PRC as has been argued by historians. Dr. Hoppens painted a much more complicated picture, in which even the Japanese journalists such as Honda Katsuichi, who was among the first to investigate the Japanese war atrocities on the Chinese mainland, did not consider feelings of guilt as having a decisive impact on the Japanese attitudes towards China.
Date: 27 November 2015
In the fifth guest lecture organised by the ERC Project in the Michaelmas term, Professor Naraoka Sochi of Kyoto University presented a comprehensive look into Japan’s participation in the First World War. Conducted in Japanese, this lecture presented the Project Research Team, the scholars and students of Japanese language, culture and history at the Faculty, as well as several guest researchers from other universities with a rare opportunity to interact in Japanese with one of the leading scholars of Japan’s early twentieth-century history.
Professor Naraoka started his talk by looking into the existing literature on World War I in English and Japanese, and by pointing out the gaps and controversies in this body of work. He then presented a detailed analysis of Japan’s domestic politics on the eve of the First World War, the deliberations behind the government’s decision to enter the war, and the outcomes of Japan’s participation in the global conflict.
The talk touched on the important issues of Japan’s modern history, starting from the tectonic transformations following the Meiji Restoration, the rise of nationalism, and the political struggles among the various actors for the future of Japan. Professor Naraoka’s presentation touched on the developments related to World War I that had a role to play in Japan’s subsequent descent towards militarism and imperialism.
Date: 25 November 2015
Twenty-five years after its end, the Cold War seems like distant past already. Many of the attendants of the guest lecture by Dr. Masuda Hajimu, as it was pointed out at the event itself, had not even been born when the Cold War ended. Still, this event in twentieth century history has dominated the minds of the historians so much, claimed Dr. Masuda, that it has often been overused. Historians have often – consciously or not – applied the Cold War lens even to events that had more complex local causes.
Dr. Masuda, who is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore, based his talk on his recent book Cold War Crucible: The Korean Conflict and the Postwar World (Harvard University Press, 2015). In this work, Dr. Masuda emphasises the socially constructed nature of the Cold War by analysing the evolution of the concept from ‘a cold war’ in the 1940s to the more familiar capital-lettered ‘Cold War’. More importantly, looking at several important moments in the Cold War, Dr. Masuda points out that these events were not necessarily caused by the great power confrontation.
Dr. Masuda’s arguments inspired a lively debate, especially among the students who attend the class Cold War in East Asia, taught at the Faculty by Dr. Barak Kushner.
Date: 23 November 2015
Relations between Japan and China, the two largest economies in East Asia, have been bumpy in recent years. The past two decades have seen China’s rise to prominence as an economic and military superpower, whereas Japan’s economic fortunes have been declining. These changes have given rise both to scrupulous assessments and complex emotions, both within East Asia and far beyond the two countries.
In her recent book, Intimate Rivals, Dr. Sheila A. Smith, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, has set out to explore the regional dynamics in East Asia through the lens of Japan’s policy towards China. Dr. Smith’s book, which she presented at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies on Monday, November 23, analyses Japan’s attempts to address the so-called ‘Rise of China’.
Dr. Smith shared her experiences of researching the book over several trips to Japan. Her work centres on several areas of contention that have caused controversy in the relations between China and Japan, such as the visits of Japanese prime ministers to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, or the territorial dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea. In her talk, Dr. Smith also touched on the so-called ‘history wars’ – the legacy of the Japanese Empire that continues to haunt the international relations in East Asia even after seven decades following the end of World War II.