It is well known that Japan committed atrocities during World War II. In the 1990s, however, these crimes and related prewar and wartime policies began to be viewed in a new light, as forms of genocide. This characterization of Japan's behavior was controversial, and was challenged for specific historical, political, and conceptual reasons.
For decades, Japan had been virtually absent from postwar discourses on genocide, which gave primacy to the Nazi holocaust as a phenomenon of modernity centered in Europe. This changed in the 1990s, with the rise of new global concerns with restitution and the negotiation of historical injustices. Asian citizens and their governments, in particular China, began to demand official apologies and compensation for Japanese war crimes committed against them. At the end of the twentieth century, the creation of historical knowledge about Japanese genocide and crimes against humanity engaged previously silent or silenced witnesses, changing political constituents in Asia, as well as feminist and postmodern paradigm shifts both in academic and popular discourse. Japanese people asserted themselves not only as perpetrators, but more clearly as victims of crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate firebombing of Japanese cities by the United States in the spring of 1945, and especially the August 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which claimed hundreds of thousands of civilian lives. Meanwhile, many Koreans asserted multiple sources of victimization, first by Japanese colonial policies, and then by U.S. bombing campaigns, and even by the Allied war crimes tribunal, which convicted Korean and Taiwanese guards of prisoners-of-war camps as Japanese war criminals.
These multiple claims for public recognition and justice rendered previous attempts to define and punish Japan's crimes against peace and humanity inadequate, and ended the enduring silences that they inaugurated. The Tokyo War Crimes Trial (1946948), Japan's counterpart to the Nuremberg Trials in Germany, left controversial legacies that became embedded in the cold war structures of international and domestic political relations. The failure of this trial to pursue Emperor Hirohito's war responsibility, the tacit cover-up of Japan's large-scale biological warfare experiments, and the neglect of crimes committed against women in war came to light. This, in turn, led to the public investigation of these issues, albeit belatedly, at a time when the right of individuals (rather than nation-states) to hold states liable for crimes committed against them could no longer be ignored.
For decades after the war, the South Korean, Chinese, Southeast Asian, and Pacific victims of Japanese war atrocities were recognized neither by the Japanese nor by their home governments. The need for newly formed nation-states to find their own niches within the harsh divisions of the cold war world called not for honest reconciliation, but for the ability to move on. In the 1990s, however, an emerging Asian regionalism conferred upon China the ability to wield considerable economic muscle, raised the possibility of a reunified Korea, and led to Japan's expectedet fearedolitical leadership in the region.
The 1990s brought shifting international relations, combined with changes in public culture, which acquired an unprecedented global reach through new forms of non-governmental and cross-national organizing. In addition, communications advances enabled the political viability of diasporas and contributed to a widely shared sensibility for the need to address not only contemporary but historical injustices. In Asia, the combination of unresolved and overlapping legacies of Western imperialism, Asian modern nation-building, Japanese colonialism, and World War II inspired people to address larger questions concerning the global history of genocide and crimes against humanity. Asurvey of Japan's early modern history reveals instances of religious persecution, forced ethnic assimilation, and protracted crimes against humanity committed by military forces as well as bureaucracies, but few qualify as genocide in the strict sense of premeditated and systematic annihilation of a defined population.
Early Modern Eradication of Religious Institutions
Japan has historically accommodated different religious traditions, with few instances of faith-based persecutions. Attempted genocide of religious groups, when it occurred, was limited to specific military, economic, and social policies in the course of political unification between 1570 and 1640. Oda Nobunaga (1834582) emerged as Japan's first unifier at the end of the civil war period. His success was due, in part, to eradicating the Ishiyama Honganji and Enryakuji Buddhist establishments at Mt. Hiei in the 1570s, whose huge landholdings, economic independence, and substantial military power stood in the way of political unification. Between September 30 and October 8, 1571, Nobunaga burned the entire Enryakuji complex and its hundreds of subtemples on Mt. Hiei to the ground. His troops went on to kill the temple community to the last man, woman, and childn estimated 3,000,000 priests and laity. The destruction of the Honganji, in contrast, took ten years (1570580) and claimed more than 40,000 lives, in part because the considerable power of the Honganji rested on the control of local populations rather than on territory. Although Nobunaga clearly targeted selected religious establishments, his rationale for eliminating the temples had little to do with faith-based religious intolerance.
The notorious persecution of Christian missionaries and Japanese converts under Nobunaga's successors, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1534 to 1582), Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543616) and Tokugawa Iemitsu (1604651), must also be understood primarily in political and economic rather than religious terms. Jesuit missionaries were initially not only tolerated, but even welcomed by local rulers in Kyushu, who benefited from the lucrative Portuguese trade in Chinese silk in the 1570s and 1580s. Hideyoshi, Japan's second unifier, abruptly turned against the Jesuits for two reasons: domestic political competition from converted Christian daimy/i> (local lords), and the importation of international power struggles to Japan with the arrival of Spanish friars as well as Dutch and English traders, all of whom competed with one another and with the Portuguese Jesuits. Beginning in July 1587, Hideyoshi and his successors issued periodic decrees expelling all missionaries from Japan. These decrees were at first lightly enforced. Later, more vicious means were used to secure compliance. The first crucifixion took the lives of of twenty-six Christians, nine foreign missionaries, and seventeen Japanese laymen. This took place in Nagasaki in 1597, at the peak of Christianity's expansion, which had achieved an estimated 300,000 converts. Between 1622 and 1633, Tokugawa Iemitsu ordered 131 Christians to be executed in public spectacles witnessed by tens of thousands, in conjunction with elaborate torture methods and rituals of recantation to force public apostasy. By 1637, the shogun's genocidal policies against the Christian community became inter-twined with the last substantial mobilization of military forces in the Tokugawa era (1603868). This action was taken in order to put down a peasant rebellion against taxation in Shimabara, near Nagasaki, which had taken on Christian overtones. In April 1638 37,000 peasants and unemployed samurai, some of them Christian converts, were massacred in the final battle. This marks the official end of the Christian community in Japan and the inauguration of the Tokugawa shogunate's "policy of seclusion," under which all foreign relations were tightly controlled. With the regime change in 1868, an estimated 30,000 "hidden Christians" came forth to revive the church in Japan.
Aggressive Assimilation of Ethnic Groups under Meiji Nation-Building
Japanese employed different discriminatory policies towards its ethnic minorities, who were located at the country's geographical margins (Hokkaido in the north and Okinawa in the south). Once again, domestic and international political pressures converged, this time in the context of establishing a modern nation-state. The Ainu, who comprised the indigenous population of northeastern Honshu, Hokkaido, and the adjacent islands (the Kurils and southern Sakhalin), began to be recognized as a distinct ethnic group only in the sixteenth century. At that time, the Tokugawa shogunate designated Hokkaido a buffer zone vis-à-vis Northeast Asian areas with which the Ainu had once formed an autonomous trading region. This was accomplished by the gradual conversion of much of the Ainu hunting and gathering economy into forced dependency on Japanese contract-fishing. An unintended outcome of this policy was the introduction of new diseases such as smallpox, which reached epidemic proportions in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Yet it was the Meiji state's perceived need to secure Hokkaido as Japanese territory against Russian interests that underlay its aggressive policy of assimilation through deculturation. Begun in 1871, and institutionalized by the Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Act of 1899, the Meiji colonization project systematically eliminated the Ainu language, religion, customs (i.e., tattooing and wearing earrings), and lifestyles. Land redistribution, often accompanied by forced relocation, made Ainu into impoverished agriculturists indentured to Japanese immigrant landowners. The Ainu were classified as imperial subjects, whose decreasing numbers distinguished them in public discourse as a "dying race." From approximately 80,000 in the early eighteenth century, the Ainu population had decreased to 16,000 by 1873, accounting for 14.63 percent of the total population in Hokkaido. By 1939, they constituted only 0.54 percent of Hokkaido's population, even though the actual number of Ainu, now heavily intermarried with Japanese, remained about the same. In the later decades of the twentieth century, an Ainu ethnopolitical movement began to address this historical treatment. The adoption of the Ainu New Law in 1984 marks the viability of the movement, which recognizes the genocidal quality of Japanese policy towards the Ainu and forges links with a worldwide indigenous peoples' movement.
Okinawa was likewise coercively assimilated into the Meiji state, beginning in the 1870s, in an effort to remove any territorial ambiguity with China. The last Okinawan king, Sho Tai, was forced into exile in Tokyo in 1879, leaving the people deeply divided in their response to Japanese assimilationist policies. Initial efforts to suppress Okinawan cultural and religious practices and simultaneously to impose language standardization and public reverence to the Japanese emperor were only moderately successful. After Japan's victory against China in 1895, however, Okinawans themselves decided to voluntarily assimilate with Japan. Thereafter, Okinawans struggled to be recognized as full Japanese citizens, rather than as a colonized ethnic group. Unlike heavily developed Hokkaido, Okinawa was to remain an economic backwater, useful for exploitation through over-taxation but otherwiseexpendable. In the first decades of the twentieth century, poverty and discrimination drove tens of thousands of Okinawans to emigrate to Hawaii, South America, and the Philippines. Another 32,000 found work in the factories of mainland Japan's cities. At the end of World War II, in the Battle of Okinawa, the deadliest conflict of the Pacific Theater, an estimated 130,00040,000 Okinawan civilians (more than one-fourth of the population) perished at the hands of both American and Japanese soldiers. After the war, the United States occupied Okinawa for twenty years longer than it did mainland Japan. Okinawa hosts three quarters of the United States' military bases in Japan, even though it comprises one percent of the Japanese landmass.
Crimes against Humanity Committed under Colonialism and War
Japan modernized its first colonies, Taiwan (1895945) and Korea (1910945) in order to exploit them for its own imperialist purposes. As the price for maintaining the empire rose, and as local resistance against the colonizers sharpened, Japanese rule became increasingly more oppressive and genocidal, especially in Korea after 1939. The classification of Japanese crimes against the civilian Korean population is complicated by the fact that the Japanese colonizers used existing social divisions in Korea to turn the people against one another. Between forty and fifty percent of the National Military Police, which enforced Japanese colonial policies and punished resistance, were Korean. Japan's colonial policy vested exclusive authority over the military, judiciary, legislature, and civil administration in the Government-General of Korea, which was directly responsible to the Japanese emperor. All political organizations, the media, and the education system were suppressed and replaced by organs of the colonial government, although a livelylbeit heavily censoredorean public sphere did develop in the 1920s and 1930s.
Organized resistance against Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan, Korea, and Manchuria was met by violent crackdowns and claimed thousands of lives. The Korean Independence Movement, which began on March 1, 1919, left between 553 (Japanese official count) and 7,500 (Korean nationalist sources) dead. Japanese forces employed such methods as locking protesters into a church and burning it down. In Tokyo, after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake, more than 6,000 resident Koreans were killed by local authorities and mobs because they were suspected of having set fires. Resistance was fiercest in Korea, and stood in some reciprocal relation to the particular harshness with which the Japanese enforced their assimilation policies. After 1939, when Japan mobilized for total war in Asia and the Pacific, the use of the Korean language was prohibited and all Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names and worship regularly at Shinto shrines.
The colonies' economic exploitation took on criminal if not exactly genocidal dimensions. In the 1910s and 1920s, the Korean economy was restructured in order to meet Japan's rice shortages. This caused huge social dislocations, as large landholders profited from land reallocations and small farmers were forced into tenancy or emigration to Manchuria or Japan. By 1931, 57 percent of Korea's total rice production was exported to Japan. Concurrently, the Korean emigrant population in Manchuria swelled from a few hundred to 700,000, and to 270,000 in Japan. After 1939, all imperial subjects, Japanese and colonized alike, became subject to the National General Mobilization Law. For 1.2 million Koreans, this meant performing forced labor in Japan and, later, forced military service. By the end of the war, Koreans constituted one-third of Japan's industrial labor force, of which 136,000 worked in mines under abominable conditions. Recruitment took place through labor mobilization offices located in local Korean police stations. These were usually staffed by Koreans, and targeted mostly the poor and disadvantaged. After the beginning of war with China in 1937, at least 41,000 Chinese forced laborers were brought to Japan. Many of these were confined to camps run by Japanese business firms. One such company was Kajima Construction, in Hanaoka in northern Honshu, where an abortive uprising in June 1945 resulted in a massacre of hundreds of Chinese.
The Japanese state also organized the sexual exploitation of young women and girls after 1932, in the so-called military comfort women system. This policy resulted in their multiple victimization as women, colonial subjects, Asians, and objects of sexual conquest for Japanese soldiers throughout the protracted and increasingly vicious war. About eighty percent of an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 military comfort women were Koreans, recruited from poverty-stricken rural areas recruited by labor brokers who employed deception, intimidation, violence, and outright kidnapping as procurement methods. Japan's Ministries of Home Affairs, Foreign Affairs, and War were all involved in creating and administering this system by ordering the establishment of hundreds of comfort stations, first in China and later in conquered areas of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. Senior staff officers of each army over-saw the movement of women, expanded their recruitment to local women, including 300 Dutch women in Indonesia, and issued strict hygiene and venereal diseaseontrol laws. The use of these stations by Japanese soldiers, however, was voluntary. Officially designed to prevent large-scale rape of local populations, the comfort stations were themselves places of constant rape, with or without minimal pay, and left tens of thousands of women either dead or physically and mentally scarred for life.
In part, the comfort women system was instituted as a response to the extreme brutality exhibited by Japanese forces on the Chinese mainland. The most atrocious example of this occurred in the weeks after the fall of the Chinese nationalist capital Nanking in December 1937. Between 40,000 and 300,000 Chinese men, women, and children died in the so-called Nanking Massacre. They were raped, mutilated, burned alive, drowned, or otherwise slaughtered by Japanese troops on an indiscriminate killing and looting rampage. The international media reported on the killings at the time, and Matsui Iwane, the general in charge of the Japanese troops, was convicted as a Class A war criminal in Tokyo and hanged in December 1948. Nonetheless, the massacre was not thoroughly investigated, either in court or by historians, until the 1990s. Since then, it has been used as a central tool in the politics of memory both within Japan and between Japan, China, and the Chinese-American community.
In contrast, Japan's secret biological and chemical warfare research program, led by Shiro Ishii of Unit 731, was deliberately covered up both by the Japanese and, later, by the U.S. occupation forces. The Japanese troops burned all of Unit 731's facilities to the ground in the last days of the war. The United States, eager to acquire the Unit's research data for American military use, continued the cover-up by refusing to prosecute the facility's personnel.
General Ishii, who has been compared to the Nazi Doctor Mengele, officially directed the Guandong Army's Anti-Epidemic Water Supply Unit from his facility in Pingfan near the Manchurian city of Harbin, but he also secretly masterminded Japan's efforts to become the world's leader in the production of biological weapons. Under his direction, thousands of Chinese, Korean, and Russian prisoners-of-war, along with local civilians (including women and children) were infected with a wide range of diseases such as plague, typhoid, smallpox, and frostbite, and some were even dissected alive. By the end of the war, at least ten such "death factories" existed from Manchuria to Singapore. Although the use of biological weapons in combat did not become common practice, germ warfare was directed against civilian populations in China's Zhejiang province in 1940, and an estimated 36,000 civilians died from the plague and other diseases in Manchuria in the aftermath of Japan's defeat, after retreating troops released scores of infected animals into the countryside.
At the end of World War II, there was overwhelming evidence of Japanese crimes against humanity committed against Asian populations conquered under the pretense of liberating Asia from Western imperialists. Nevertheless, the Allied war crimes trials paid more heed to the maltreatment of Allied prisoners of war, which had captured the public imagination since the 1942 Bataan Death March in the Philippines. In defiance of war conventions, the Japanese mobilized Asian and Allied prisoners as forced laborers for war-related projectss many as 60,000 alone died building the Burma-Thailand railroadnd often refused to grant them adequate food and shelter. The average percentage of deaths in prisoner of war camps was thus staggeringly high compared to camps in the European theater. By recent calculations, out of about one million captives, well over one-third died. In the 1990s, a number of forced-labor survivors filed lawsuits in Japanese and American courts against Japanese companies such as Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Kajima, and Nippon Steel to demand compensation for their wartime labor. Others, including former comfort women and victims of biological warfare research, filed suits directly against the Japanese government. Between 1977 and 2002, seventy compensation cases were brought to court, many of them still unresolved.
SEE ALSO China; Death March; Ethnocide; Medical Experimentation; Nuclear Weapons; Rape; Tokyo Trial; Women, Violence against
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The period before World War II is the first important period for psychoanalysis in Japan.
Kiyoyasu Marui went to the United States in 1919 to study with Adolf Meyer at Johns Hopkins University. Witnessing the influence of psychoanalysis on American psychiatry, he hoped to introduce psychoanalysis to the Japanese. After returning to Japan, he began teaching at the University of Tohoku in Sendai (in northeastern Japan). Psychoanalysis became the focus of his medical school lectures on psychiatry. In 1933, Marui visited Freud in Vienna and received approval for establishing a Sendai Branch of the IPA.
Heisaku Kosawa, a student of the Tohoku School, left Japan to study at the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute from 1932 to 1933. He received training analysis from Richard Sterba, and individual supervision on psychotherapy from Paul Federn. While in Vienna, furthermore, Kosawa visited Freud at this home at Bergasse 19 and interviewed him directly. He presented Freud with a paper explaining his theory of the Ajase complex, which he contrasted with Freud's Oedipus complex. Unfortunately, Freud does not appear to have evinced great interest in Kosawa's thesis. After returning to Japan in 1933, Heisaku Kosawa opened a private clinic in Tokyo. Here he began practicing psychoanalytic therapy as it was known in Europe and the United States.
With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Japan became an ally of Nazi Germany, which regarded psychoanalysis as a dangerous, Jewish system of thought. Kosawa came under constant surveillance from the special police. Nevertheless, he continued to conduct a private practice throughout the war.
The end of World War II brought an influx of learning and culture from the United States, which greatly influenced all aspects of Japanese society including the field of psychiatry. It created a generation of young psychiatrists who sought to study the model of American dynamic psychiatry. They chose to receive training analysis and individual supervision from Kosawa. This group of psychiatrists who studied under him became the second generation of Japanese psychoanalysts, known as the Kosawa School. Some leading members included Takeo Doi, Masahisa Nishizono, and Keigo Okonogi.
After the death of Kiyoyasu Marui in 1953, Kosawa changed the name of the Sendai Branch to the Japan Branch which is known internationally as the Japan Psychoanalytic Society. Psychiatrists who received training analysis from Kosawa between 1950 and 1960 represent its core members.
In 1969, following the death of Heisaku Kosawa, Michio Yamamura succeeded to the presidency of the Japan Psychoanalytic Society. The period 1960-1970 also witnessed the return of several Japanese psychiatrists from clinical work abroad. Boosted by the participation of these third-generation psychiatrists, psychoanalysis gradually gained importance in Japan, and became a major influence in the field of clinical psychiatry. From the 1950s to the 1960s, Japanese psychoanalysis was greatly influenced by psychoanalysis in the United States, especially ego psychology (Heinz Hartmann, Anna Freud, Paul Federn, Erik Erikson). In terms of clinical practice, it was during the period from 1960 to 1970 that the diagnosis and psychotherapy of borderline cases, as well as classic psychoanalytic therapy, began to attract keen attention.
During the 1980s, Japanese translations appeared for most of the essential works of object relations and Kleinian theorists. From 1980 onwards, a growing number of psychoanalysts from overseas, particularly from the United States, began to visit Japan. Leading American psychoanalysts such as Otto Kernberg and Arnold Cooper conducted the first international seminar in Tokyo, on borderline cases and narcissism. Numerous psychoanalysts from other countries followed, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of seminars and lectures held in Japan. Leading IPA analysts, including former IPA presidents Robert Wallerstein, Serge Lebovici, and Joseph Sandler, came to Japan on various occasions to give lectures and organize seminars. As representative of IPA's Asian Committee, Ramon Ganzarain and Elizabeth Bianchedi, meanwhile, visited Japan numerous times to conduct lectures and supervisions, and Serge Lebovici, Robert Emde, Joy Osofsky, and Peter Fonagy came for the World Association for Infant Mental Health (WAIMH) Regional Meeting Tokyo.
In 1995, the Japan Psychoanalytic Society established new regulations in line with the education and training criteria set forth by the IPA. It also plans to increase the number of training analysts, and to implement training analyses in accordance with international standards, Along with the implementation of these new regulations, the Society has begun making efforts to establish a psychoanalytic institute covering all of Japan.
Japanese psychiatrists' and psychologists' study of psychoanalytic thought generated an encounter between Western and Japanese culture. Indigenous Japanese patterns of thought merged with the imported theory of psychoanalysis, paving the way for such theories as those of amae (Tako Doi), the Ajase complex (Heisaku Kosawa, Keigo Okonogi), and the prohibition of "Don't look" (O. Kitayama). These theories aid in understanding the mentality not only of the Japanese, but also of people from other cultures; they furthermore promise to contribute greatly to psychoanalytical understanding itself. Japanese psychoanalysts strive to continue making significant theoretical contributions to the international community.
Okonogi, Keigo. (1995). A history of psychoanalysis in Japan. In Peter Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international, a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world (Vol. 2). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.