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Interpretations of Japan’s involvement in the Pacific War and its war crimes have changed over time, and corresponding changes in social and political contexts both within and outside Japan have influenced these evolving interpretations. Today the people of Japan are far from a consensus over the meaning of the Asia-Pacific War (1931-45), and disputes relating to such topics as the Nanjing Massacre, Japan’s colonial occupation of Korea and Taiwan, and the sexual enslavement of the so-called Comfort Women continue to haunt the national memory. However, the current divisions over the significance of the war did not always exist. To the contrary, in the immediate postwar period the Japanese came to a consensus that the war was unjust and reckless. Many expressed their atonement for the atrocities committed during the war, and a strongly prevalent climate of peace activism replaced the wartime culture of militarism. Since the end of American Occupation in 1952, revisionists have tried to urge the nations citizens to see the war in a positive light. Nevertheless, the influence exerted by these revisionists over the public was relatively marginal until the mid-1990s. A history of disputes over the Asia-Pacific War, including issues regarding Japan’s war crimes, underscores the ever changing public perception of the Asia-Pacific War from the defeat of Japan in 1945 to the present.

Published Citation

“Historiography of the Asia-Pacific War in Japan.” Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence ( (June 2008). (Refereed) – OA