Project Announcement

First published: July 12, 2015

Last Modified: November 25, 2016

Author: NAKANO Satoshi (Professor of History, Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences)

Developing an International Research and Education Program on Asia-Pacific War History: Comparison and Synthesis

Project Announcement


The following is a project announcement of the Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (A) sponsored by the Japan Society for Promotion of Science (hereafter JSPS) by the project leader, Prof. NAKANO Satoshi of the Hitotsubashi University Graduate School of Social Sciences.


Purpose of research

This project aims to develop an international and multi-disciplinary research and education program on the Asia-Pacific War from the perspectives of comparison and synthesis of the subject as a major incident in the global history of war and violence. The major pillars of the project are (1) holding a series of international research and education seminars under the title of “Asia-Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis”; (2) compilation, translation, and publication of important historical documents relating to the Asia-Pacific War in English for the use of undergraduate/graduate classes and development of sample undergraduate/graduate coursework in English; and (3) recruiting young scholars joining the project and training them. Through these activities, this project attempts to make better known Asia-Pacific War studies in Japan internationally and to prepare a new dimension in Asia-Pacific War studies with the next-generation research scholars.


Definition of the “Asia-Pacific War”: In addition to the Asia-Pacific War 1941-1945 in a narrower sense, this project considers this term more comprehensively as a research and education field, which includes the pre-war period of Japanese and world history and the post-war problems (processes of decolonization, the Cold War, and inquiries into justice, compensation, commemoration, reconciliation, trauma, and understandings of history).


(1) The need for Asia-Pacific War studies in Japan to fortify the comparative viewpoint and communicative competence

Historical studies of the Asia-Pacific War have brought fruitful results through collaborative researches since the 1990s and, besides, a number of empirical researches have been published following the discovery of new materials and their use (for example, Iwanami Lecture Series─Asia-Pacific War, eight volumes, Tokyo: Iwanami, 2005-2006; The Series: Questioning the War Experience, Tokyo: Iwanami, 2010- ). At the same time, required are efforts to overcome their weak points related to each other: the weak impact at the international level and the lack of viewpoint of comparative history.


  1. i) Studies on the Asia-Pacific War have accumulated useful knowledge about the problems caused by repeated war and violence in the modern and contemporary world. Despite their potential, their research results have not been sufficiently shared with foreign researchers or with different fields. This is also the reason why Asia-Pacific War history lacks a comparative viewpoint: comparative study between Japan and Germany in the frame of World War II such as war crimes and the war-crime tribunals of the Japanese Army and German Armed Forces remains to be further examined; and lacking is the perspective of reconsidering the Asia-Pacific War as an issue among the problems of “truth and reconciliation”—the cause and the structure of war, legal justice, trauma of the victims and the assailants, the construction of public memory through museums and memorials, institutionalized reconciliation on historical events or its lack—including other cases of mass violence in the modern and contemporary world (for example, war violence in the Yugoslavia Conflict and genocide in Rwanda). Therefore, it is required today to investigate war and violence in the modern and contemporary world not only focusing on the particularity of each case but also questioning its universality employing a comparative and synthesizing viewpoint, and also to produce an international platform for research and education from a comparative viewpoint.


  1. ii)  Conflict caused by different understandings of history has become a critical issue in international relations in East Asia where, in the age of globalization, the economies of these countries are deeply interdependent and interpersonal exchanges have expanded dramatically on the one hand, but where their nationalisms clash more seriously on the other hand. Japanese universities have advanced their internationalization since a decade accepting students from different countries. In this current of globalization, Asia-Pacific War studies as a research and education field remains to be carefully developed. A campus with multinational students can become a place to recover and establish common ground to share experiences of the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge,” which citizens living in international society need to acquire. This project tries to contribute to our society by publishing a textbook and creating an education program with a syllabus in English as the first foreign language for students of most countries. From the above two aspects, this project intends to internationalize the Asia-Pacific War in both research and education with leading studies of the subject accumulated in Japan. For this purpose, this project firstly emphasizes the comparative viewpoint so as to consider the Asia-Pacific War in the context of problems of modern and contemporary war and violence, and secondly develops learning materials of the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge” for undergraduate/graduate coursework in universities at home and abroad so that students and teachers share the subject beyond their disciplines and their nationalities.


(2) Project background: From case studies to comparative research and the education program

This research project is based on works accumulated through collaborative researches and the existing human network developed especially through preceding projects in which the principal investigator participated as director or co-director, especially “The Truths and Memories of the ‘Battle of Manila’: Area Studies for Peace” (Scientific Research (B) Overseas Academic Research 2007-2010) and “Synthesis and Comparative Studies on Mass Violence in the Asia-Pacific War and the Modern World” (Scientific Research (B) General 2011-2013). Both projects were led by the principal investigator of this project. The first project examined with an interdisciplinary approach and synthetic viewpoint both the facts and memories of the Battle of Manila in February 1941, the largest city battle in the Asia-Pacific War in which the Japanese military committed atrocities and mass mortality of civilians was caused. The latter project analyzed and investigated the viewpoints and the methods of comparative study that would allow us to analyze violence in the modern and contemporary world. In order to promote exchange between Japanese researchers of the Asia-Pacific War and researchers abroad or in other disciplines, the two projects organized workshops in various locations (at Hitotsubashi University several times since December 2012, at Ateneo de Manila University in March 2008, at George Washington University in November 2011, at the University of Hawaii in March 2010, at Hangyang University in November 2011, at the University of Paris III in November, at Nanjing University in March 2012, at the University of Oviedo in February 2013, and at the French Japanese Interdisciplinary Dialogue at Hitotsubashi University in September 2012). The series of workshops helped networking; in addition, the principal investigator of the projects expanded the network during the stay at George Washington University as a Fulbright researcher (September 2013-August 2014). The research stay offered an opportunity to exchange ideas on this project with Dr. Yang Daqing who organized the “Memory and Reconciliation of the Asia-Pacific War Project” and to participate in symposiums and discuss genocide, war-crime tribunals in Germany, and other subjects with other researchers living in USA who are specialists of Japanese history. The principal investigator has also started a class titled “Studies in Contemporary History” in English and Japanese since October 2014 keeping in mind the design of the sample coursework to be developed in this project. Employing the preceding research experiences and the established network, the budget scale of Scientific Research (A) will be required to advance the project to internationalize the Asia-Pacific War and fortify comparative studies. This project concentrates its resources on pursuing its main activities: organizing the seminar series in Japan and abroad and developing learning materials and sample coursework in English. This direct approach will be the most effective and efficient for achieving the purpose of this research and responding to the actual requirements of international society.


(3) Expected results and impacts

International seminars for research and education on the Asia-Pacific War: The seminar series will be organized in Japan and abroad. The principal investigator and co-investigators, and the internal and external research collaborators will report their individual studies and hold discussions under the unifying theme of “understanding the Asia-Pacific War in comparative history.” The researchers are expected to exchange their experiences and ideas regarding pedagogical methods of creating the sample coursework “Asia-Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis” in English for multinational students.


Development of the learning materials and the sample coursework “Asia-Pacific War: History, Comparison, and Synthesis” in English: This project aims to provide common materials and practice models for universities and teachers, to guide its users to construct their classes individually and freely. The principal investigator of this project is responsible for conducting the sample coursework at Hitotsubashi University. Publication of the learning materials and practices of outgoing lectures in professional graduate schools and universities of different disciplines or foreign countries attempt to develop an effective method of sharing the Asia-Pacific War as “common knowledge.”


Innovation of research and education of the Asia-Pacific War: Pursuing the above processes, with the participation of research collaborators publicly recruited, this project tries to make known internationally the researches accumulated in Japan and envisages a new dimension of research and education on the Asia-Pacific War so that they will become a culture that can be shared internationally.


(4) Research innovation (comparison and synthesis) in organic association with development of an education program

The results of the two parts of this project—internationalization of Asia-Pacific War studies through its innovation by developing comparative and synthesizing viewpoints on the one hand, and the construction of common learning materials and teaching methods on the other hand—are expected to enrich each other. The international research and education seminars will be occasions to associate these two parts in an organic way and to make them better known. In this process, this project is also expected to reinforce and enlarge the existing network of researchers interested in mass violence. For this purpose, the collaborative research will be based at the Center for the Study of Peace and Reconciliation at the Graduate School of Social Sciences at Hitotsubashi University founded in 2007.


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