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Tag Archives: war memory

During my freakout session last night, a number of alternate research topics came to mind. No doubt I will retread them over the course of my blogging (I hope I do, this is why I started). One that did crop up was whether Japan portrays itself as a victim in its international relations. I will attempt to collect my thoughts on this over the course of this post.

The idea came from a forum mailing-list in which I lurk. I first came across the National Bureau of Research’s Japan Forum, formerly the Japan-US Discussion Forum, when I was collecting research for my undergraduate dissertation not much more than a year ago. It’s a list for academic discussion and is thus something that I don’t have the courage to participate in. However, as a source of Japan-based brain-food it is fantastic, ranking up there with the intelligent Transpacific Radio, Neomarxisme and the Mutant Frog Travelogue (I only just realised that it rhymes…).

As an aside, I receive hundreds of things to read each day. I receive the feeds of 20-odd blogs, plus news and the NBR forum. Part of the problem at the moment is that I’ve let things slide for so long that I’m playing catch up. Part of the process for me is to tag interesting news items to (the latest additions can be seen in the ‘latest bookmarks’ component in the sidebar). I already posted about trying to sort out those links, I’m about halfway through, but things have stalled there while my university commitments heat up and while I try to catch up on those links in my inbox.

Anyway, on NBR’s Japan Forum there is one participant, Dr Robyn Lim who talks of Japan’s “cult of the victim”. I don’t agree with a lot of what she says, she’s a strategist (which I am primarily, but to a lot softer extent) with writing that carries many assumptions. However, on Japan’s victim status she is quite right.


There are several events that have created this status. Firstly, Japan’s encounters with the kurofune (black ships) of Commodore Matthew Perry, commonly believed to have forced Japan open. I say “commonly believed” because there are some revisionist debates that suggest that Japan’s doors weren’t all that closed during the Edo Period. That is a debate best left for someone else as I’ve nothing more than a shallow knowledge of what is being debated. Some quarters of Japan’s society see the attack on Pearl Harbor being caused by the sanctions of the Great Powers: the so-called ABCD (American, British, Chinese, Dutch) encirclement. Anyone who has been to Hiroshima (and maybe Nagasaki, I cannot say for myself) will understand the powerful sentiment attached to Japan as a victim. One could see Japan’s pro-whaling stance as being tinged with victimisation. Finally, it might be possible to argue that the abduction issue is one that see Japan playing the victim.

There is plenty of material to play with, that is for sure. One can certainly justify the belief that Japan might see itself as a victim. This is not a mindset unique to Japan; for instance, much has been written of China as a victim. The question I want to toy with is: does Japan portray itself as a victim in its international relations? Or perhaps: what characteristics does Japan play up to in its international relations? These are from the top of my head, raw, if you’ll allow. This could be an interesting study, and I’m sure there is a lot of strands that can be explored. Perhaps this is one for a later time? Until then, I just want to mull this over for the time being. Feel free to comment with your impression, debates, or knowledge. It’s always welcome.