Monthly Archives: November 2015

Japanese War Guilt and Sino-Japanese Relations: A Monday Night Seminar with Dr. Robert Hoppens

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.


Japan and First World War: A guest talk by Professor Naraoka Sochi

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.


Rethinking the Cold War: Dr. Masuda Hajimu’s Talk at the ERC Project

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.


Intimate Rivals: Talk by Dr. Sheila Smith

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.


Imperial Subjects to Taiwanese Citizens: A Guest Talk by Dr. Seiji Shirane

Date: 17 November 2015

In the third lecture of the Michaelmas Term Guest Lecture series, Dr. Seiji Shirane, Assistant Professor at City University of New York, presented his analysis of one of the most interesting transformations in post-imperial East Asia. Dr. Shirane, who is working on a book manuscript that analyses Taiwan’s role in the Japanese Empire, shared his research findings on the transition of Japanese Imperial subjects into Taiwanese nationals following the defeat and collapse of the Japanese Empire in 1945.

In his talk, Dr. Shirane presented the cases of several Japanese subjects of Taiwanese origin in the service of the empire, most often as ‘military auxiliaries’ or prison guards in Japan’s colonial possessions in Southeast Asia. Dr. Shirane outlined the differences these subjects demonstrated in their allegiance to the imperial cause, their behaviour vis-à-vis Allied prisoners-of-war whom they often had to guard, and their transformation following the defeat into Taiwanese nationals.

Full of vivid detail and original historical evidence, the talk was greeted by a number of questions and comments from the audience, which, in addition to the Project Research Team, included teachers, undergraduate and graduate students at the Department of East Asian Studies, visiting researchers, and guests from other universities.

Professor Yuma Totani on British War Crimes Trials in Singapore

Date: 16 November 2015

With guest speakers invited from around the world, the Japanese Studies Monday Seminar series have become an important part of the learning experience at Cambridge. In this week’s seminar, Professor Yuma Totani who teaches Modern Japanese History at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, presented her analysis of the British War Crimes Trials over the Japanese servicemen and auxiliary personnel in the camps for Allied prisoners-of-war.

Introducing Professor Totani to the audience, Dr. Barak Kushner talked about the significance of her contributions to our understanding of Allied war crimes trials in Asia. Over the past several years, Professor Totani has conducted research into Allied military tribunals following the end of World War II. This research has resulted in two monographs on the pursuit of justice in East Asia and the Pacific. Professor Totani has also translated these works into Japanese and published them for the Japanese audience. In addition to these works, she has published a number of articles in academic journals, and given talks at numerous venues.

Professor Totani’s work has significant relevance for the research activities of the ERC Project. Through the example of the British war crimes trials in Singapore, the guest speaker argued for a transnational approach to the study of postwar justice. The latest findings she presented on Monday were greeted with interest by both the Project Research Team, and the general audience of teachers and students.

A visit of Hitotsubashi students

Date: 12 November 2015

A student delegation from Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo visited the University of Cambridge on Thursday, November 12, to attend a joint seminar with the members of the ERC Project and students of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Led by Dr. AKIYAMA Nobumasa, their Professor at the School of International Policy of Hitotsubashi, a group of third- and fourth-year undergraduates from Japan made a presentation at the seminar. In their presentation, they presented their vision of an issue of enormous importance for not only Japan, but the whole of East Asian region: the rise of China and its various implications. One of the central issues of both the presentation and the general discussion was the role of history in contemporary international relations.

The presentation was followed by a discussion, both in English and in Japanese, of a number of important topics and issues for Japan’s domestic and foreign policies, its strategic relations with neighbours. The so-called ‘history wars’ between Japan and neighbours (and former colonies) gave rise to a lively dialogue between the Cambridge students and the guests from Hitotsubashi University.

The open exchange of opinions continued in a less formal atmosphere over dinner, where the Cambridge students of Japanese could practice their language skills with their friends from Hitotsubashi.

Driving the Wedge between the USSR and China, or Approaching Both?

Date: 29 October 2015

In the second of guest lectures organised by the Project, Dr. Kanda Yutaka, Associate Professor at Niigata University in Japan, presented his vision of Japan’s postwar foreign policy lines. Dr. Kanda teaches modern Japanese history, international relations and foreign policy at Niigata, and was a Visiting Researcher at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in September-October 2015.

Dr. Kanda presented his analysis of the differences between the two rivalling factions in postwar Japanese politics led by prime ministers Yoshida Shigeru and Kishi Nobusuke. Based on his research conducted in Japanese and foreign archives, Dr. Kanda argued that the major differences between the two leading political figures and their followers were not so evident in their attitude towards the US, Japan’s most important ally during the post-World War II period. Rather, one should look at Japan’s relations with its other neighbouring superpowers: the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China.