Reexamination Of Japanese “Southern” Experience

from The 1920s To 1950s



Overview of Research in Reexamination of the Japanese “Southern” Experience from the 1920s to 1950s: Reports and Papers

Ishikawa Noriyuki (Associate Professor, Department of Journalism, Nihon University College of Law)

 In discussions of globalization, attention tends to focus on international relations in the current economic field; however, for discussion to reach the core of the matter, it is essential to understand the social changes stemming from the historical context and complex geopolitical influences. In particular, discussion of global society with regard to relations among the countries and regions historically tied to Japan must have a basis in the accumulated academic knowledge in the humanities and social science fields premised on historical understanding. From this perspective, the research presented here is a reexamination of the historical significance of the Japanese “Southern” experience, intending as its final objective to construct an image of history in contribution to global society.
 The research focuses on Southeast Asia, which was referred to as the “South” (or “South Seas”) in pre-war Japan, and particularly on Indonesia, where a Japanese community was formed well before the war and continued to develop in the postwar era. The use of Japan–Indonesia relations as a case study enables the examination of the historical significance of the “back-flow” between so-called overseas territories (here Southeast Asia) and the mainland (Japan). Specifically, the study considers not only the exchange of goods in the form of trade, but also the diverse and multi-layered relations involved in interactions between people. It elucidates the formation process of a diverse Japanese community in this overseas territory, not only on the part of immigrants acting in accordance with the prewar southern expansion policy but also, based on business records, by free immigrants, temporary overseas laborers and their brokers, writers, journalists, second- and third-generation residents, photographers and so on; it also clarifies the role played by community members in the relationship with “mainland” Japan, based on the experiences of people in various roles before, during, and after the war. The periods targeted run from the 1920s (the Taisho era), when full-scale migration to Southeast Asia began, through the 1950s, when the postwar Japanese-Indonesian community was formed, largely centered on Japanese soldiers remaining in Indonesia.
 Research methods include reexamination of the activities of contemporary actors based on new historical sources, with Japan–Indonesia relations as the axis, and further exploration through historical positioning of these activities based on knowledge of policy initiatives in “mainland” Japan and the roles of related institutions such as vocational guidance offices, the South Seas Agency, and the Government-General of Taiwan. The specific research questions addressed by co-researchers and research collaborators are outlined below.
(1) How did the expansion of overseas labor and immigration to Southeast Asia take place in prewar Japan? This point clarifies the formation process of the Japanese community in Southeast Asia and the brokerage business in “mainland” Japan.
(2) What “cultural policies” were implemented by wartime Japan in Southeast Asia? This point clarifies the actual content of so-called “cultural policies” and thoroughly investigates their influence on the local area and on the postwar activities of the Japanese people involved.
(3) What role did communities of Japanese descent play in the relations between postwar Japan and Southeast Asia? This point clarifies the status of the communities formed in Southeast Asia by prewar immigrants and non-returning soldiers, investigating in detail the local positioning of these communities and how they maintained (or failed to maintain) relations with Japan.
 Through these analyses, we hope to gain an understanding of mid- to long-term historical dynamics with “back-flow” as a keyword, elucidating their historical significance and thus contributing to the construction of an image of history suited to the global era.

(本文は、2021年7月16日に当サイトにて公開した「『日本人の「南方」経験の再検討―グローバル化時代の新しい歴史像の構築にむけて― 報告・論文集』研究の概要」の英語版です。)

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