Nationalism and revisionism

Hijacking Japan’s security and defence policy agenda?

Authored by: Axel Berkofsky

Security and Conflict in East Asia

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  April  2015

Print ISBN: 9781857437171
eBook ISBN: 9781315850344
Adobe ISBN:


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Since Shinzo Abe came to power in Japan in December 2012 Japanese nationalists’ and revisionists’ (arguably very awkward and more often than not historically questionable and factually incorrect) views and interpretations of Japanese Second World War militarism have made impressive comebacks in the country’s serious and not-so-serious academic and policy-oriented discourses. Indeed, Japanese policymakers and scholars who seek to whitewash Japan’s World War militarism have been on a roll since Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was returned to governing power, openly and self-confidently presenting views, which until then very rarely made it into the open and beyond meetings, pseudo-scientific conferences and round tables among like-minded stick-in-the-mud revisionists. Arguments that Japanese Second World War militarism and colonialism should be referred to as a ‘war of liberation’ liberating Asia from Western colonial powers and (at times noisy) calls to replace the country’s US-imposed post-war Constitution with a ‘truly’ Japanese constitution without a war-renouncing clause 1 have – to a certain degree – become socially acceptable in Japan. In the same vein, Japanese revisionists are planning to reinstall the Japanese Emperor as head of state, 2 complaining (again, often noisily) that Japan has been supressed and ‘kept down’ ever since it accepted the judgements of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, known as the Tokyo Trials (K. Takahashi 2014). Constitutional revision and getting rid of the US-imposed Constitution is – at least as far as Japan’s revisionists are concerned – therefore necessary to restore Japan’s full independence and sovereignty (Tisdal 2013). To be sure, (much) more often than not, Japanese revisionists’ views and arguments are almost completely nonsensical and therefore normally should not have a prominent place in serious academic and policy-oriented publications and discourses. Nonetheless, in defiance of good sense and lessons that should have been learned from history, historical revisionism Japanese-style and calls to restore Japan’s ‘dignity’ by revising Tokyo’s post-war Constitution arguably sound less absurd to a smaller number among Japan’s electorate and public than before December 2012 (Berkofsky 2012).

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