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The Victim as Hero

Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan

James Joseph Orr

Publication Year: 2001

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.<

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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p. v

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pp. vii-viii

Librarians never receive their fair due. Among the many who have assisted in this project, it gives me great pleasure to acknowledge a few who have been particularly helpful: Emiko Moffitt of the East Asian Collection of the Hoover Institution; Naomi Kotake, also at the Hoover; Sekiko McDonald at Yale University’s Sterling Library; Zoya ...

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Chapter 1 Victims, Victimizers, and Mythology

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pp. 1-13

In Japan, every one from successive prime ministers to the Communist Party has repeatedly declared [us] “the only nation ever to have been atom-bombed” (yuiitsu no hibakukoku). Putting aside for the moment the fact that they were forgetting the American soldiers who were exposed in the Nevada tests and the Pacific aboriginals of Bikini and Eniwetok, I feel that this declaration ...

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Chapter 2 Leaders and Victims: Personal War Responsibility During the Occupation

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pp. 14-35

On the Shòwa 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 ...

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Chapter 3 Hiroshima and Yuiitsu no hibakukoku: Atomic Victimhood in the Antinuclear Peace Movement

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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 ...

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Chapter 4 Educating a Peace-Loving People: Narratives of War in Postwar Textbooks

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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 ...

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Chapter 5 “Sentimental Humanism”: The Victim in Novels and Film

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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 ...

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Chapter 6 Compensating Victims: The Politics of Victimhood

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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 ...

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Chapter 7 Beyond the Postwar

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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 ...


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pp. 181-184


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pp. 185-242


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pp. 243-256


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pp. 257-271

E-ISBN-13: 9780824865153
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824823559

Publication Year: 2001

OCLC Number: 700959353
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Victim as Hero

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Subject Headings

  • Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945.
  • Atomic bomb victims -- Japan -- Nagasaki-shi.
  • Atomic bomb -- Japan -- Psychological aspects.
  • Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945.
  • Japan -- Intellectual life -- 1945-.
  • Atomic bomb victims -- Japan -- Hiroshima-shi.
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