2019: Dark Tourism and the History of ... Japan

Quelle: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 17 | Issue 6 | Number 1 | Mar 15, 2019
Mit freundlicher Erlaubnis von Japan Focus.


Dark Tourism and the History of Imperial and Contemporary Japan

Introduction to 3 Texts
Andrew Gordon

I. Why study “dark tourism”?
A sidebar controversy to the intense debate of 2015 on how Japan’s leaders would mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II sparked my interest in the phenomenon of “dark tourism,” defined in brief as touristic interest in sites associated with death, disaster and atrocity. The practice of dark tourism, with focus mainly on the creation of dark tourist sites and the messages they convey (or fail to convey), is the concern of the three papers to follow.

The main controversy in and around Japan that year was not dark tourism, but rather, the stance the Japanese government — Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, in particular — would take in a public statement expected to be issued on the August 2015 anniversary of Japan’s surrender. Abe’s base in the Diet and beyond, and most notably in the organization known as the Japan Conference (Nippon Kaigi), was well-known for denying both the atrocities in Nanjing and the wartime government’s responsibility for recruiting, transporting and confining Korean and other women in the socalled “comfort stations.1 (https://apjjf.org/#_edn1)In line with this stance, in the run-up to the 70th anniversary, Prime Minister Abe made no secret of his desire to break with the 50th and 60th anniversary statements, notable for relatively forthright apologies for wartime aggression and the colonization of Japan’s neighbors. From late 2014 through the summer of 2015, a fraught context of anticipation and criticism from the South Korean and Chinese governments, as well as from activists and scholars in Asia and the West, put a chill on Japan’s relations with its neighbors.

In the 2015 statement Abe issued on behalf of the government on the anniversary of Japan’s surrender, his pragmatism narrowly outweighed his nationalism. He effectively finessed the apology question. By including the four key words of his predecessors’ statements of 1995 and 2005—“heartfelt apology,” “deep remorse,” “colonial rule” and “aggression”—he limited the ongoing recriminations from abroad. At the same time, his grammar offered a subtle gesture toward his nationalist base. He affirmed the apology of predecessors without apologizing in his own voice. He stressed Japan’s peaceful global posture since 1945, and sought to exempt his successors from further apology: “We must not let our children, grandchildren, and even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.” He concluded that “even so, we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past.”2 (https://apjjf.org/#_edn2)

That same summer, a related controversy surrounded Japan’s petition to UNESCO to recognize a number of shipyards, iron mills, and coal mines as “World Heritage Sites,” notable as the locales for the first non-Western industrial revolution. This suggested Abe’s government was hardly facing history squarely. The South Korean government threatened to veto Japan’s application because it focused only on the Meiji era, with no mention of the brutal treatment of drafted wartime laborers transported against their will from the Asian continent to work in Japan. Eventually, the two sides agreed that coercion was part of the story. For a time, they argued over the precise wording to describe it. Would it be kyōsei rōdō (“forced labor”) or the slightly softer kyōsei sareta rōdō (“labor that was forced”)? In the end, the Japanese government acknowledged that Chinese and Korean labor “was forced” to work at these sites during the war, and the UNESCO committee voted to designate these facilities as World Heritage Sites. ...

Download this Introduction 

See the followoing papers:

Bohao Wu, Memorializing Wartime Emigration from Japan to China: Local Narratives and State Power in Two Countries

Sara Kang, Contested Pilgrimage
: Shikoku Henro and Dark Tourism

Jesús Solís, From “Convict” to “Victim”
: Commemorating Laborers on Hokkaido’s Central Road