Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
The Victim as Hero

The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan

Copyright Date: 2001
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Victim as Hero
    Book Description:

    This is the first systematic, historical inquiry into the emergence of "victim consciousness" (higaisha ishiki) as an essential component of Japanese pacifist national identity after World War II. In his meticulously crafted narrative and analysis, the author reveals how postwar Japanese elites and American occupying authorities collaborated to structure the parameters of remembrance of the war, including the notion that the emperor and his people had been betrayed and duped by militarists. He goes on to explain the Japanese reliance on victim consciousness through a discussion of the ban-the-bomb movement of the mid-1950s, which raised the prominence of Hiroshima as an archetype of war victimhood and brought about the selective focus on Japanese war victimhood; the political strategies of three self-defined war victim groups (A-bomb victims, repatriates, and dispossessed landlords) to gain state compensation and hence valorization of their war victim experiences; shifting textbook narratives that reflected contemporary attitudes and structured future generations' understanding of the war; and three classic antiwar novels and films that contributed to the shaping of a "sentimental humanism" that continues to leave a strong imprint on the collective Japanese conscience.<

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6515-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Victims, Victimizers, and Mythology
    (pp. 1-13)

    From the end of World War II until Japan became an acknowledged mercantilist success in the 1960s, Japanese presented themselves as first and foremost a cultured, peace-loving nation. The prime axiom of their pacifist sentiment, a rejection of war institutionalized in Article 9 of the postwar constitution, was a resolve never again to experience a debacle on the order of their defeat in World War II. There were many permutations in the pacifist equation, but one central contested variable was war responsibility—though it was sometimes unclear whether it was the moral responsibility for waging a war of aggression or...

  5. Chapter 2 Leaders and Victims Personal War Responsibility During the Occupation
    (pp. 14-35)

    On the Shōwa emperor’s forty-fifth birthday, the day after film director Itami Mansaku wrote these words, the Supreme Command for the Allied Powers (SCAP) announced its list of twenty-eight wartime leaders to be tried as A-class war criminals by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The trials were meant to be the instrument of “stern justice” that had been promised in the Potsdam Declaration, but they also served an educational purpose. SCAP operated under the assumption that because the Japanese people had been slaves to feudal habits of subservience to authority, their leadership had consequently been able to...

  6. Chapter 3 Hiroshima and Yuiitsu no hibakukoku Atomic Victimhood in the Antinuclear Peace Movement
    (pp. 36-70)

    The mythology of Japanese victimhood reached its purest and most universally accepted expression in the public dialogue over nuclear weapons. In the Cold War era, Hiroshima and Nagasaki came to represent an epochal shift in the technology of war engendering a conceptual disjunction between conventional and nuclear warfare. Accordingly, it was in the realm of antinuclear pacifism that Japanese war victimhood was most easily detached from Japanese wartime aggression.

    Japan’s unique experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki gave the Japanese an exclusive and seductive claim to leadership of the world antinuclear weapon movement. Although Gensuikyō, the organizational center of Japan’s ban-the-bomb...

  7. Chapter 4 Educating a Peace-Loving People Narratives of War in Postwar Textbooks
    (pp. 71-105)

    Education was an integral part of the Occupation’s efforts to reconstruct Japan and rehabilitate the Japanese as a democratic, peaceloving people. The strategy was straightforward: SCAP’s Civil Information and Education (CIE) Section eliminated courses in history, geography, and morals that inculcated ultranationalist thought; it then directed the Ministry of Education to produce new textbooks for social studies courses that condemned militarism and ultranationalism and encouraged democratic habits of thought. From the prosaicKuni no ayumi(Footsteps of the Nation) to the dramaticMinshushugi(Democracy), these texts built the basis for pacifism and democracy by condemning the militarist leadership for forcing...

  8. Chapter 5 “Sentimental Humanism” The Victim in Novels and Film
    (pp. 106-136)

    While education curricula reflect the consciously sanctioned national heritage, it is in popular culture that one typically encounters less self-consciously propagated mythologies. The psychology of war victimhood is ubiquitous in postwar antiwar literature. Since my purpose in this chapter is to illustrate victim literature, not survey it, I focus on three novels and their film versions that have earned wide audiences.¹

    Tsuboi Sakae published herNijūshi no hitomi(Twenty-Four Eyes) in late 1952, when Japan was responding to American pressure to rearm during the Korean War. In her epilogue the author wrote: “I was halfway through this novel when one...

  9. Chapter 6 Compensating Victims The Politics of Victimhood
    (pp. 137-172)

    At noon on August 15, 1963, people in public places across Japan observed a moment of silence for the war dead. At Hibiya Hall in Tokyo, for only the third time since independence from the U.S. Occupation eleven years earlier, the government sponsored a memorial ceremony.¹ With the empress at his side, the emperor read a message of regret, condolence for bereaved families, and appreciation to the dead. After one year at Yasukuni Shrine in 1964, the annual ceremony has been held every year since in the Nippon Budōkan.

    The Japan Bereaved Family Association, an organization of families of military...

  10. Chapter 7 Beyond the Postwar
    (pp. 173-180)

    This book has traced the emergence of the ideology of Japanese war victimhood and shown how its iconography has served various interests in the first three decades since the Asia-Pacific War. As I began this study a decade ago, I thought to excavate the origins of an amnesia over Japanese war aggressions by revealing the emergence of victim consciousness as the major mechanism to that amnesia. At that time, I understood victim consciousness to have become hegemonic in public discourse by the middle 1960s, only to be superseded by a gradually emerging public awareness and then concern with national and...

  11. Appendixes
    (pp. 181-184)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 185-242)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-256)
  14. Index
    (pp. 257-271)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 272-272)