Kokushi Dialogue in SGRA
Takeshi Kawasaki “Name of the War and Possibility of Dialogue among National Histories” (Report No.2 of the 3rd Asia Future Conference “Environment and Coexistence”)
Many people in Japan understand World War II ended on August 15, 1945. This is because Emperor Hirohito (posthumously known as Showa) announced on radio on this date that the Japanese Government had accepted the Potsdam Declaration by the Allied Powers that demanded unconditional surrender, saying that “we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is insufferable…” In the colonies like Korea, people are said to have given cheers for the Japanese defeat.
However, it was on the previous day, the August 14 that Japan had conveyed to the Allied Nations its acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration. In fact it was on August 10, four days before, that Japan conveyed its intention to accept the Declaration through Japanese ministers in Switzerland and Sweden, both neutral nations.
Victory over Japan Day in the United States is September 2. It was the day that Mamoru Shigemitsu, fully empowered foreign minister, had signed the instrument of surrender onboard the USS Missouri. The counterpart was Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers.
The New York Times on September 2 wrote by just three big headlines;
“JAPAN SURRENDERS TO ALLIES,
SIGNS RIGID TERMS ON WARSHIP;
TRUMAN SETS TODAY AS V-J DAY”
In China, V-J Day is September 3, next day of the signing on the USS Missouri, although the Japanese Army had signed the instrument of surrender in Nanjing on September 9. The Soviet Union followed suit and made its V-J Day September 3. Only Japan set August 15 as the day for the end of the war.
In Europe, the memorial day of victory in this war is May 8, eight days after Adolf Hitler committed suicide. All the countries which fought in this War have their own memorial day.
The names of this war are also different among the countries involved, while recognition of the war is common —Second World War, World War II, Seconde Guerre mondiale, and ZweiterWeltkrieg.
But in the United States, “Pacific War (against Japan)” and “European War (against Germany and Italy)” are well-known. In the Soviet Union, the war was called the “Great Patriotic War”. The name was given because it war was more furious than the war against Napoleon (1812) which has been called the “Patriotic War,” and that “Great” was added to distinguish one from the other. In China, they call the War “Anti-Japanese Revolution” and “World Anti-Fascism.” Each country and people perceives the war in different ways.
In Japan, the Cabinet of Hideki Tojo officially named the war the Great East Asia War on December 12, four days after the declaration of war against allied nations. Including this one, each name contains various sentiments. The Pacific War connotes that it was fought against America but feels like ignoring the battle line in China. The Fifteen Years War, which means the War’s duration of fifteen years, is reasonable considering that the War started from the Manchurian incident in 1931. Other names include “The Second Sino-Japanese War” and “The Asia-Pacific War.”
The reason I am thinking over the name of war and the day when the war ended, although I am not a specialist, is that I was listening at the back row of the forum “Possibilities of Dialogues among National Histories.” What kind of works will be necessary to talk about history among not only specialists or intellectuals but among ordinary people? The round table discussion was meaningful in that specialists from Japan, China and South Korea searched for the present state of “intellectual community” in this region and groped where to go from there.
Professor Liu Jie of Waseda University, raised a question that dialogue on history has been stagnant, emphasizing necessity of finding an agenda that would come after studying each other’s academic research situations. He also said, “The intellectual community in East Asia is the last frontier in the region. I am worried that dialogue among intellectuals might collapse.” “That is why we got together to exchange opinions and each other’s knowledge so that we can make national histories in East Asia that can be shared among us. This forum is important in that we can nurture talented international students, a special group of resources who can understand fellow countries’ material, for the future.”
Cho Kwang, professor emeritus at Korea University in South Korea, said experience of the colonial period can be a factor for providing a country’s national history. He said, “One cannot discuss world peace if his political perspective is right.” I thought it is true, not only for Japan. I thought it is true, not only for Japan. He said “Gokuryeo (高句麗)” hold an important position in Korean history but added that it was also part of the regional history of China. “Things look different depending on perspective — personal-based or location-based,” Kwang said. One solution to overcome different views and misunderstanding can be to compile a history on Japan-China Korea relations Ming dynasty and Joseon missions to Japan （朝鮮通信使）show in which histories of Japan, of Korea and China intersect.
Professor Ge Zaoguang of Fudan University, China, suggested possibilities of compiling diplomatic history of Japan, China and Korea, taking as examples of Mongol invasions of Japan (1271, 1281), Oei Invasion (1419, known as the Gihae Eastern Expedition in Korea) and Japanese invasions of Korea (1592.)
Hirosi Mitani, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, criticized a new high school subject introduced by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, called “comprehensive histories.” The frame work of the new subject dealing with Japanese modern history is taught in the order of (1) modernization, (2) popularization, and (3) globalization. He said, however, “The order is reverse. Globalization was the start of Japanese modern history.” He added that the most important thing for the young generation is “to look at their own country from the outside and learn from each other the histories of neighboring countries. If they do not do this, they will miss a chance to know the histories of East Asia forever”. He urged the participants: “we cannot possibly advance only by dialogue. Let’s collaborate. Let’s create a reference about neighboring countries which can be read in their own countries”.
I was told this type of forum will continue for at least five times hereafter. If young researchers would join, this type of works will become more active, even though political, economic and national security influences of each country would affect the outcome of the researches.
Let me express my hope as a non-specialist. I want to know national histories of Japan, China, and Korea. Also, I want to know history of country-to-country relations, not limited to the three countries. For example, the Vietnam War was fought between the United States and North Vietnam. Vietnam had been fighting against France for their independence. It was Japan that ruled Vietnam before France.
Historical revisionism, which tends to rewrite its own beautiful version of history, is now spreading over Japan. I do not think such atmosphere is temporary and even feel some energy in it. The forum on “dialogue among national histories” supported by a development of intellectual community of Japan, China and Korea will become more important and urgent.
SGRA Kawaraban 507 in Japanese (Original)
(Lecturer at Tsuda College, Former staff writer at The Asahi Shimbun)
Translated by Kazuo Kawamura
English checked by Mac Maquito