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Identity, Culture and Memory in Japanese Foreign Policy

Edited By Michal Kolmaš and Yoichiro Sato

This book interprets the changing nature of Japanese foreign policy through the concepts of identity, culture and memory. It goes beyond rational interpretation of material interests and focus on values and ideas that are inseparable and pervasive in Japanese domestic and foreign policy. A set of chapters written by established Japanese and foreign experts show the nuances of Japanese self-images and their role in defining their understanding of the world. Stemming from historical memories of World War Two, the reconciliation between Japan and other Asian countries, the formation of Japanese self in media discourse to the role of self-perception in defining Japanese contemporary foreign and economic policies, the book offers a holistic insight into Japanese psyche and its role in the political world. It will be of utmost interest not only to the scholars of Japanese foreign policy, but also to a wide public interested in understanding the uniqueness of Japanese state and its people.

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6. Collective (Historical) Memory and National Identity in Contemporary Japan: Contested War Narrative and Myth-Making in Japan’s Longest Day: Jan Sýkora


Myth-making and their deliberate use or misuse for political and ideological interests is not only the matter of the distant past but constitutes an important attribute of modern and contemporary history of Japanese society. Modern myths played an important role in building and consolidating national identity at the dawn of Meiji period, strengthened the fighting spirit during the war years and after the losing war at the time of the occupation, when the Japanese nation lost most of its ideological support, including the myth of the divine emperor; they contributed to the formation of new goals and to the mobilization of the forces, indispensable for their achievement.

Collective (historical) memory plays an important role in the shaping and maintaining of national identity. Both history and collective memory are based on publicly available social facts, but unlike history which represents the remembered past to which we have no longer an organic relation, collective memory represents the active past that forms our identity. Thus, the construction and the reconstruction of national identity is closely related to the tricky problem of what kind of historical facts are selectively “remembered” or “forgotten,” and through which means these facts are incorporated into or deleted from the collective memory.

The unconditional surrender of the country in 1945 has been one the most traumatic historical events which has significantly influenced the national narrative and had an appreciable impact on the national identity in postwar Japan. The decision to surrender has been...

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