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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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7. Through the Eyes of Others: Postwar Reconciliation Narrative in Contemporary Japan: Emilia S. Heo


“Does peace studies contribute to peace?” was the very first essay question I gave to my students in international peace studies class. While grading 200 papers, one captured my eyes. The title was “Your question is wrong!” I paused for a moment and, with a mild irritation, started reading it. The essay bluntly states that I should not have asked whether peace studies contributes to peace. I should have asked how peace studies contributes to peace. I realized I did make the question wrong.

This research is about postwar reconciliation in contemporary Japan, and this, through the eyes of the younger generation. Why youth? Just like any canonical international relations (IR) scholars, I love concept and theory―I wrote my doctoral dissertation on creating a conceptual framework of reconciliation in IR. To analyze state behaviors, I look into foreign policy, power relations, and structural constraint. My paper often argues that joint political leadership or a regional institutional framework plays a pivotal role in rebuilding a broken relation between historical enemies. Nonetheless, university teaching gradually made me discover that it is important to listen to students if we want peace studies to contribute to peace, in other words, to connect research with reality: To what extent does Japanese youth’s understanding about the country’s past affect the way they perceive their home country’s relations with neighboring states today? How do they perceive their own role in promoting peace and reconciliation?

World War II and its aftermath...

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