IV-5. “Memories and Discourse in Search of Justice: An Analysis of the Conflict over Acts of the Japanese Military during WW II in Asia” (H26-27 FY2014-2015)

  • Project Leader : Matsuno Akihisa (Osaka University, Osaka School of International Public Policy)
  • Collaborators : Mizuno Kosuke (Kyoto University, Center for Southeast Asian Studies)
  • : Utsumi Aiko (Osaka University of Economics and Law, Centre for Asia Pacific Partnership)
  • : Furusawa Kiyoko (Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, School of Arts and Sciences)
  • : Suzuki Takashi (Freelance Researcher)

Outline of Research

In the research team’s previous project “War memories in Southeast Asia and the rebuilding of relations over post-war reconciliation” (FY2012-2013), we conducted interviews with survivors and witnesses of the “comfort women” system during the Second World War, about the past and their current situation in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and gathered related Japanese materials. Based on these materials, the current research makes an attempt to describe the idea of “justice” that these survivors and their communities came to establish and to clarify how and why that concept of “justice” and the often-heard Japanese discourse, especially the discourse and logic that deny “the issue of confort women”, don’t cohere with each other.


The research analyzes the idea of “justice” embraced by the victims and communities that experienced the Japanese military’s war-time atrocities in a historical and social context in order to grasp what should be understood of the demands of these people in a holistic fashion. The reason to justify this approach comes from our conclusion in the previous research that the “damage” they suffered should be more properly understood as a holistic concept that covers a wide range of experience from violence to the impact at a later stage in their lives. The survivors demand justice not just for what happened during the war, and they want to say that not just to Japanese soldiers. The research also poses a question of whether or not the diametrically opposed discourses, one that demands justice and the other that denies the issue, is essentially impossible.

The significance of the research will (1) establishing facts about cases in Sulawesi, Indonesia, which have not been surveyed so far, and (2) describing the general picture of “consciousness” about damage based on interviews. The research will also make a constructivist analysis to the epistemological world of the discourse of denial as one that does not see this wholeness.

Expected results of the research are as follows. It will contribute to the on-going debate by adding a new case from Sulawesi, Indonesia, in which the Japanese military, a Japanese company and the local community were intertwined. It will also bring a new argument to the on-going debate by clarifying the fact that unless the conflict of perception is not reconciled at a level different from the level of acknowledgement of facts it will be difficult to overcome the gap of conflicting discourses.

A man stands at a former site of “comfort station” and talks about what he saw at that time in South Sulawesi. The “comfort station” was a complex of long houses made of bamboo, guarded by soldiers with a gun in their hands.

A woman explains about a former site of “comfort station” near the barracks for Japanese troops in South Sulawesi. She had to commute to this place from her home almost every day.