The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 37. 2014       

September 15, 2014

New Articles

Several articles in this issue probe the question of state power versus the rights of citizens to question that power.  Morton H. Halperin and Molly Hofsommer of the Open Society Institutes examine Japan's "Specially Designated Secrets Protection Act". They are concerned both with the process that led to its adoption in late 2013 and its eventual form. Drafted in secret, passed hastily and virtually without debate, the law is seen as more than the unfortunate result of an impotent legislature, but a symbol of Japan's growing isolation from the international community. The law is assessed in the light of the Tshwane Principles, which address the  balance between national security and citizens' right to information. They see the Abe administration's reluctance to engage in  international dialogue about these issues as a rejection of the international community itself.

 Jeff Kingston and Asano Ken'ichi  report on the suppression by NHK and much of Japan's mass media of the attempted self-immolation of a Japanese citizen protesting against the Abe administration's Constitutional coup, a new collective self-defense policy that further undermines Article 9. To what extent has the new secrecy act handcuffed the media?

Brian Daizen Victoria translates and introduces an article by Narusawa Muneo on the rare act by Buddhist priest Takenaka Shōgen (1867-1945), who opposed the invasion of China in 1937, proclaiming that "war is a crime."

Victoria probes another wartime case in his stufy ofSōka Gakkai founder Makiguchi Tsunesaburou (1871-1944), who died while imprisoned for his religious beliefs. The religious movement, formed in 1930 as an offshoot of the Nichiren sect, now officially opposes the war, but through exhaustive investigation Victoria comes to question Makiguchi's dedication to peace. He also notes the failure of  Sōka Gakkai as part of the ruling coalition with the LDP to challenge new developments towards collective self-defense.

In the aftermath of urban firebombing, and Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Sahr Conway-Lanz analyzes the question of targeting civilians on the part of the American military during the Korean War. While some historians have claimed that the massive killing of civilians during World War II marked the end of the taboo against it, the paper examines continuing debates within the military over such attacks. Conway-Lanz demonstrates the persistence of the view that intentional civilian death is a crime, arguing that it influenced the later establishment of international laws prohibiting it. The question nevertheless remains whether that body of law has acted as a restraint on US bombing in subsequent wars.

Christopher Gerteis concludes his Visualizing Cultures contribution on the history of political protest in interwar Japan. This is a "topical gallery" which presents a selection of early Shōwa posters and handbills from the collection of the Ohara Institute for Social Research at Hosei University. 
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