AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 157

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Session 157: Digital Archives and the Study of Japanese Foreign Relations

Organizer and Chair: Kenichiro Hirano, Independent Scholar, Japan

Discussant: Joshua A. Fogel, York University, Canada

Recently, digitalization greatly facilitates historians’ access to historical documents. Most notable is that digital archives like the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records of the National Archives of Japan now make it possible for a historian to carry out cross-archival research on his or her personal computer. This panel aims to take an inventory of new research achievements the digital archives make it possible to produce. Examples are taken from recent studies on the history of Japan’s relations with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region and on the changes of its regional position. It is hoped that an international networking of national digital archives will create far greater chances for cross-archival research. After listening to four presentations in broader perspectives as well as on specific cases in modern history of East Asia, this panel will discuss the possibilities of digital archives and their shortcomings and pitfalls historians must beware.

An analysis of the Japanese army sent to Taiwan in 1874
Robert Eskildsen, International Christian University, Japan

Historians have often argued that the Japanese government dispatched an expedition to Taiwan in 1874 in order to placate samurai who were dissatisfied with the government's decision not to "chastise" Korea in 1873. The explanation is partly true, but it cannot explain many aspects of the nature and organization of the expeditionary force that the Japanese government actually sent to Taiwan. This talk will draw on a variety of government documents and narrative accounts of the expedition in order to show that the expeditionary force sent to Taiwan in 1874 was not primarily a samurai army and that the main purposes of the expedition had little to do with managing samurai discontent. Rather, it was a hybrid army that used force in order to support a particular policy of the Japanese government. Moreover, the analysis will show that the Japanese Navy had a difficult time supporting and supplying the Japanese Army during its six-month long occupation of southern Taiwan, and that the nature of the expeditionary force changed during the course of the occupation. Overall, analysis of the expeditionary force sent to Taiwan suggests that a samurai army was not a reliable tool for projecting Japanese power overseas, and that national and regional strategies of military mobilization were more effective than strategies of mobilization that focused on prefectures or former domains.

The US-Japanese Negotiations in 1941 and Signals Intelligence
Ken Kotani, National Institute for Defense Studies, Japan

From April to November 1941, the Japanese government spent much energy to achieve a rapprochement with the US. Behind the tough diplomatic talks, American/British and Japanese code-breaking teams were secretly eavesdropping each other’s diplomatic messages. As far as Japanese code-breaking is concerned, the Imperial Japanese Army and Navy destroyed most intelligence documents at the end of the World War II, and it has been difficult to research on the topic. However, fragmented signals intelligence documents were recently discovered in the National Institute for Defense Studies Military Archives and Diplomatic Library of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Thanks to the effort of the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, National Archives of Japan, now we can easily access the valuable records through the internet. This paper will focus on how signals intelligence influenced on the foreign policy decision making processes of US and Japan in the following two case studies. The first case was Japanese advance into southern Indo-China in July 1941, which crucially deteriorated the US-Japanese relations. The second case was the final phase of the US-Japanese negotiations in November 1941. It was December 1 that the Japanese code-breakers decoded a US diplomatic message to Tokyo, which suggested a compromise solution by the US (known as modus vivendi). However the Japanese high command had already ordered the Navy combined fleet to make a sortie to Hawaii on 26 November 1941.

Japan’s War Aims during the Pacific War
Kanji Akagi, Keio University, Japan

Strategy is the process by which ends relate to means. However there was confusion in wartime Japan regarding Japan’s war aims. During the war, both “Self-preservation and Self-defense” and the “Establishment of a New Greater East Asian Order,” or “Asian Liberation,” were proffered as Japan’s war aims. Japan’s war leaders could not agree amongst themselves over which should be given priority. “Self-preservation and Self-defense” reflected the necessities of war implementation: Japan should rapidly occupy resource rich areas in the south and establish a “no-lose strategic posture.” Japan also feared isolation and the transformation of the war into a “racial war.” But Foreign Minister Mamoru Shigemitsu argued that “Self-Preservation and Self-defense” was a state of mind for fighting the war and not a war aim. In the Great East Asian Joint Communiqué of November 1943, stated Japan’s war aim as being “Asian Liberation,” which was finally given a clear definition. This was the first time that Japan had designated a universal ideal for use as a political strategy within the grand strategy of the war as a whole. However, it was already much too late for this to create a significant political outcome, because Japan was already losing the military strategic initiative by then. Thus, Japan’s efforts to achieve this war aim were halted. With the deterioration of the war situation, Japan’s war aim reverted to a new kind of “Self-preservation and Self-defense.”

Connecting Histories in Cross-Pacific Regions1850-1880:Archival Historiography on the US-East Asia Relations from Ryukyu (Okinawa) Perspectives
Takeshi Hamashita, Sun Yat-Sen University, Japan

This paper tries to see the history of US-East Asia relations through Ryukyu history and re-interprets the prevailing modern history of Japan and East Asia. It organizes its basic argument by using the historical archives in Japan(JACAR) and other related archives in East Asia and shows inter-regional perspectives on the US-East Asia relations. The argument will start from the arrival in Japan of the United States East India Squadron under the command of Commodore Mathew C. Perry. It is important to note that Perry and his men had visited Ryukyu prior to their arrival at Uraga. Perry had it in mind to occupy the chief ports of Ryukyu, knowing that these islands were under the rule of Satsuma. Many studies on Japanese modern history begin with the assertion ‘Black ships appear in Uraga’, without referring to the regional and international background which led the United States to send the expeditionary forces to East Asia. Diplomatic negotiations of the United States with East Asian countries were different from each other, the case of China in 1844, Ryukyu in 1853, Japan in 1853 and Korea in 1882. But those cases have been studied separately, only because of lack of enough source materials to examine them in a correlated way. One of the important agendas for historical studies on East Asia in late nineteenth century is to connect these diplomatic negotiations to the regional setting to find out the long trend of regional changes and its dynamism.