Extended periods of internment, incarceration, and the trauma associated with World War II significantly impacted Japanese cultural, economic, political, and social perspectives of life. In addition to geopolitical tensions and strained international relations, the Japanese have formed self-identities that reflect the horrors and trauma experienced during the War. Although Japan had maintained a humane prisoner treatment pre-World War II, its dealings with captives during the War demonstrated a violation of ethical codes, a condition that remains evident to this day. After the War, the country adopted a non-violent, non-militarist perspective as its citizens grappled with dementia, demobilization, and exploitative neo-liberal education policies. This proposal analyzes Japanese perceptions of World War II, underscoring the importance of the War from Japanese cultural, social, and political standpoints.
World War II has been viewed as a period that distorted and redefined Japanese ethical codes in regard to prisoner treatment. Tanaka and Dower record that the renowned China Crisis and the close of the Second World War saw a historically unique phenomenon: the harsh mistreatment of prisoners of War (POWs) by Japanese forces (164). Notably, prisoner policies and procedures were relatively humanitarian before the China Incident. Japanese society did not have a well-developed liberal understanding of fundamental human rights, which had a commensurate impact on how Japanese people generally viewed the rights of others. The “other” was seen as a “sibling” who had responsibilities to the national household from a national, sociological, and organic perspective (Tanaka and Dower 165). Among the most significant developments was the corrupting of the bushido ethical framework in order to submit it to the later developed military philosophy and the empire ideology.
World War II’s impact on racial identity has attracted much attention as it continues to affect Japan’s national growth. Nakamura confronts xenophobia’s violence and ugliness as it became alarmingly obvious all through World War II and persists to this day (184). He examines the collective memories of many generations of Japanese Americans from Hawaii, including the Issei. According to Nakamura, Issei represented the first wave of legal immigrants who were denied citizenship due to their racial background, and the Nikkei’s offspring became citizens of the United States (184). Many years later, these generations have formed a xenophobic view that can be directly connected to the experiences of the first immigrants during World War II.
Japan’s self-perception has undergone a profound change over the 20th century. Kolmas analyzes Japan’s progress, revealing that following World War II, the Japanese government adopted a non-militarist, non-violent character based on the Yoshida doctrine’s foreign policy and the country’s War-prohibitive Constitution (8). This identity remained extraordinarily consistent throughout most of the 20th century. However, Japan’s identity and foreign policy appear to have altered during the last few decades (Nagai 272). Tokyo has carried out a variety of symbolic internal gestures and foreign policy acts that were inconceivable a few years ago, representing a new and more self-assured Japan (Kolmas 12). Politicians in Japan have embraced a new path that portrays pacifism as a burdensome limitation as opposed to a strength of the country’s foreign policy.
Political participation among Japanese Americans is significantly linked to their internment experiences during the War. According to Komisarchik et al., the length of the internment has been found to have an increasing demobilizing effect on Japanese Americans incarcerated or had family members affected during the War (10). Additionally, Komisarchik et al. discovered that camp experiences matter: people who attended camps where there was violence or strikes suffered more severe declines in political involvement (10). The media has been used extensively to explore anxiety among Japanese nationals (Guo et al. 98). Evidently, the Japanese see World War II as the moment that defined them as individuals whose political views were completely disregarded, making it difficult for them to participate in governmental affairs outside their country.
In addition to the social and economic implications of the War on Japanese nationals, research has shown a significant impact on health. In a gerontological study, dementia manifested in 703 people (312 males and 391 women) throughout the course of a 3-year study among 17 412 individuals, out of which 39% were over 75 years old (Tani et al. 3). Participants who had at least three negative childhood experiences were more likely to be diagnosed with dementia than those who did not encounter any negative childhood experiences. Lee et al. add to this discussion by revealing that transgenerational transmission of trauma has continued to limit Japanese nationals’ sociocultural and economic growth (249). Conclusively, older adults who suffered trauma during World War II view it as a horrific experience affecting their physical well-being many decades later.
Students’ and teachers’ perspectives on the neoliberal era and the influence of World War II on international education have attracted attention due to increased globalization. Mizuyama explores how the de-politicization of Japanese education after World War II and the emphasis on personal moral values have produced a child-centered teacher education pedagogy that denies educators opportunities to express their critical opinions (139). The arrival of neo-liberal education changes and deteriorating Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results put a strain on 1980s reforms that supported this methodology (Mizuyama 139). These changes have made teaching less appealing and have made it more difficult to attract and keep qualified teachers. It is evident that teacher development would lead to a conflict between teachers’ moral and political ideals and the predominant neoliberal educational principles.
This proposal will adopt a qualitative research approach, which aligns with the nature of the inquiry. Since the goal is to understand how the Japanese view World War II, the data gathered and its consequent analysis will follow a qualitative pattern. The study will be based on 6 months of ethnographic fieldwork in urban and rural Japan. Fifty study participants will be involved, wherein 23 will be females aged 18–78, and 27 will be males within the same age bracket. The research setting is chosen to include individuals in towns and villages to capture a wide range of experiences. This is crucial since the impacts of the War are felt differently based on prevailing socio-economic factors. The inclusion criteria take into account a significantly large age bracket. This is important to facilitate an evaluation of War impacts on individuals who lived during World War II and those who have learned about it from history books and other peoples’ narrations.
Initial contact with the participants will be made in three ways. First, a random walk in the rural and urban areas will be used to gather 40% of the subjects in the first month of the study. Second, a random visit in the second and third months to three major colleges will be used to gather 30% of the study participants. Third, 30% of the subjects will be gathered through open invitations in print and broadcast media within the first three months. The exclusion criteria will be followed to exclude any individual outside the age range (18-78). In addition, only Japanese nationals will be considered in the study. This means that immigrants and visitors, including those with residence visas, will be excluded. This is important to ensure the credibility of results by gathering data from those directly affected by the War, either as individuals or as children and grandchildren of War victims.
Interviews and questionnaires will be the main modes of data collection. These techniques are preferred due to their ease of use and the ability to note participant reactions during data collection. The questionnaires will be administered manually in the next two months after the respondents have been identified. The questionnaires will be structured to include a minimum of five open-ended questions and a maximum of ten closed questions. This minimizes time spent filling the sheets and allows participants to freely express their opinions through the open-ended questions. Anonymity will be guaranteed since it will give the subjects the confidence to reveal their experiences fearlessly. Interviews will be limited to samples as opposed to the entire study population. In each of the three groups, five individuals will be selected randomly for the interviews. Random selection will minimize bias and add credibility to the study.
Data analysis will be done on the fifth and sixth months following thematic, content, and narrative evaluation techniques. Thematic analysis will facilitate the establishment of dominant themes and patterns in relation to individuals’ perspectives of the War in the 21st century. Content analysis will help to detect major key aspects such as culture, trauma, health, education, and politics. In this research, narrative analysis significantly impacts results since the stories shared by individuals carry important details that may not be captured through thematic and content analysis. The results will be presented through tabulation and a graphical display showing percentages of individuals having particular viewpoints of the War.
Implications of Research
This research has significant value to the existing body of research on post-war human experiences and associated factors. Although research has been done regarding the short and long-term effects of World War II on nations, little focus has been paid to personal views resulting from the War. This research will give insight into cultural values and how they have changed people’s views of themselves and others as a result of World War II. Gathering data from old and young Japanese consolidates information on the generational transmission of stereotypes. In addition, this research will facilitate the documentation of rare stories that can only be captured through personal interviews.
Owing to the multi-dimensional effects of World War II on national and international relations, this research carries implications for policy change. Education is among the issues identified through the literature review as a key influencer of personal views regarding the War. The outcomes of this research will provide insight into practical policies for international education policy development for equity, equality, and non-exploitation among educators. Political participation is essential for government accountability, without which democracy cannot be established. This research will give a clear view of the extent to which the post-war experiences have limited Japanese political involvement. This will contribute to corrective strategies that will restore royalty and nationalism and enhance governmental support. Lastly, although this research will be centered in Japan, its results can be replicated in other regions, enabling relevant parties in those nations to work on better national policies for wholesome community development.
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Kolmas, Michal. National Identity and Japanese Revisionism: Abe Shinzō’s Vision of a Beautiful Japan and Its Limits. Routledge, 2018.
Komisarchik, Mayya et al. “The Political Consequences of Ethnically Targeted Incarceration: Evidence from Japanese-American Internment during WW II“. SSRN Electronic Journal, 2020. Web.
Lee, Jeewon, et al. “Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma: Psychiatric Evaluation of Offspring of Former “Comfort Women,” Survivors of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery during World War II.” Psychiatry Investigation, vol.16, no.3, 2019, pp 249-250, Web.
Mizuyama, Mitsuharu. “Shifting Values in Japanese Teacher Development.” Moral and Political Values in Teacher Education over Time. Routledge, 2022. 139-158.
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Tanaka, Yuki, and John W. Dower. Hidden Horrors: Japanese War Crimes in World War II. Routledge, 2019.
Tani, Yukako et al. “Association between Adverse Childhood Experiences and Dementia in Older Japanese Adults.” JAMA Network Open, vol 3, no. 2, 2020, pp.1-3, Web.