The Politics of History in Germany and Japan

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Here is a very interesting read on how Japan deals with the past. DIFFERENT BEDS, SAME NIGHTMARE: THE POLITICS OF HISTORY IN GERMANY AND JAPAN contrasts Japan’s and Germany’s pre-war history and the path each took towards reconciliation.

Germany and Japan are typically presented as polar opposites with respect to how they deal with the past. The Federal Republic is usually portrayed as a country that has faced up to the horrors of its history and accepted moral responsibility for them. As a result, it is commonly argued, Germany has managed to achieve reconciliation with its neighbors and paved the path to building a more peaceful and just Europe. Japan, in contrast, is commonly seen as being the exact opposite: as a country that has refused to acknowledge or apologize for the terrible crimes it has committed (Berger).

“In 2008 and 2009, a series of historical issues once again defined the public space of Japanese-South Korean and Japanese-Chinese relations: the revisionist essay of General Toshio Tamogami; Prime Minister Taro Aso’s acknowledgement of the use of slave labor in his family’s wartime mine; new flare-ups in the longstanding territorial disputes over the Senkaku/Diaoyu and Takeshima/Dokdo islets; ministerial visits to the Yasukuni Shrine; and Japanese government approval of another amnesiac history textbook whitewashing Japan’s World War II aggression. As scholars and practitioners have sought to understand the power of history issues in Asia and the possibilities for ending the logjam over reconciliation, in the last decade they have looked increasingly to Germany’s experience with a foreign policy of reconciliation.

About the author:  Associate Professor of International Relations at Boston University, where he specializes in German and Japanese Politics, International Relations and Comparative Government in East Asia, and Political Culture. Professor Berger joined the Department of International Relations in 2001. Previously he had taught for seven years at the Johns Hopkins Department of Political Science in Baltimore. He is the author of Cultures of Antimilitarism: National Security in Germany and Japanand is co-editor of Japan in International Politics: Beyond the Reactive State. His articles and essays have appeared in numerous edited volumes and journals, including International Security, Review of International Studies German Politicsand World Affairs Quarterly. Professor Berger earned his B.A. from Columbia College and Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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