Topics In East Asian History
Wartime Japan and Propaganda, (1931-1952)
Prof. Barak Kushner (Office in Chambers 321E, Office hours TBA)
Description: This course treats the wars between Japan and its neighbors from
1931-1945. During that era Japan extended its empire across several oceans and
continents before the Allies defeated the Japanese military forces. The full extent of
the war, as well as how Japan arrived at the surrender after almost a decade and a half of
military mobilization, will be the core of the course. This course will also analyze the
growth and development of propaganda as a state tool for mobilizing the domestic
population toward national goals. Students will be expected to cover texts dealing
with propaganda plans and programs from WWII and become familiar with how the
Japanese government wished to rally the nation to the call of duty. Students will also
be exposed to theories of propaganda, discussions of psychological warfare from a
variety of standpoints, and ideas concerning how propaganda has become a necessary
tool of the modern state. Aside from concentrating on military and economic
questions students will be asked to explore definitions of Japanese culture and what
factors guided Japanese popular culture during the war. No knowledge of an Asian
language is necessary since all the readings will be in English.
Students in this course will be expected to read and digest a wide variety of
texts. I expect them to come to class prepared to discuss and evaluate the materials,
bringing to class discussion opinions they have gleaned from the readings, and
questions the readings have spurred.
Since we will read most of the following books, it is suggested that you purchase
them in advance. Copies of the other sources will be available on reserve.
John W. Dower, War Without Mercy: Race & Power in the Pacific War.
Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook, Japan at War: An Oral History.
Ienaga Saburo, The Pacific War, 1931-1945.
Steven Levine and James Hsiung, China's Bitter Victory, The War with Japan 1937-45
Joseph Anderson and Donald Richie, The Japanese Film
Brian Victoria, Zen at War
a) Consistent attendance is strongly encouraged. This is an upper-level reading and
discussion class. The success of the class depends on the input and energy of the
b) Tardiness is not tolerated. Students must come to class on time. Being late disrupts
c) Preparedness is required. All students are expected to do the assigned readings and
participate in class discussion.
d) All papers must be turned in at the beginning of class when they are assigned. Late
papers are strongly discouraged. Each day late will be marked down a full letter grade.
**The Honor Code is an integral part of the Davidson experience. You have a
responsibility to uphold that Code and take it seriously. Any cheating or plagiarizing
on your papers or assignments will not be tolerated. It is expected that you will pledge
1) Short student/group presentations on the readings to be done in class.10% (Dates
will be decided upon during the second week of class.)
2) Midterm 20%
3) Three short “thought and research” papers of 6-8 pages. 20% (One paper will focus
on the historiography of the period; one will focus on primary sources available in
English, and one paper will be determined in consultation with the professor.)
4) Class participation 10%
My grading scale is as follows: 93-100 A; 90-92 A-; 87-89 B+; 83-86 B;
80-82 B-; 77-79 C+; 73-76 C; 70-72 C-; 67-69 D+; 60-66 D; below 60 fails the course.
1.Week One (August 26th) Introduction to Showa and Japan
Tues 27: Carol Gluck and Stephen Graubard, editors, Showa The Japan of Hirohito, “The Idea of
Showa, pp. 1-26; “The Useful War,” 49-70; “Diplomacy and the Military in Showa Japan,” 155-176.
Akira Iriye, Across the Pacific, “Sino-American Cooperation against Japan,” pp.169-199; “Toward
Pearl Harbor,” pp. 200-226; “Images of the Pacific War,” pp. 227-249.
Thurs 29: Cook, Japan at War: An Oral History "Introduction to a Lost War" pp. 3-20.
Louise Young, Japan’s Total Empire, “The Making of a Total Empire,” pp. 3-54; and “Conclusion,”
Selected pages to be discussed, Jacques Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men's Attitudes.
2. Week Two (September 2nd) Opening Volleys of the War, Ideas of Propaganda
*A short packet of readings on theories of propaganda will be made available to each student.
Tues 3: Steven Levine and James Hsiung, China's Bitter Victory, The War with Japan 1937-45,
Introduction & Ch. 1-4, 6-7.
Thurs 5: Ienaga, “Why was the war not prevented,” pp. 3-54.
Discussions of propaganda and persuasion. Read Sheldon Garon, Molding Japanese Minds, pp.
3. Week Three (September 9th) The Denouement of the War
I will provide each student with handouts from my personal collection of 1931-1939 wartime
Tues 10: Peter Duus, The Rise of Modern Japan, pp. 206-237; Ienaga, “The Conduct of the
War,” pp. 55-128
Thu 12: Yuji Ichioka, “The Meaning of Loyalty: The Case of Kazumaro Buddy Uno,”
Amerasia Journal, vol. 23, issue 3, pp. 45-71; Dower, pp. 3-76. Compare the Uno case with Frank Fujita,
Foo A Japanese American Prisoner of the Rising Sun, selected chapters.
4. Week Four (September 16th) The Roads to Pearl Harbor
Tues 17:Akira Iriye, Origins of the Second World War in the Pacific, Ch. 3-6; Selected pages
and documents from James Morley, editor, The Final Confrontation, Japan’s Negotiations with the
Thurs 19: Ernest Allen, Jr., “Waiting for Tojo The Pro-Japan Vigil of Black Missourians,
1932-1943, “ Gateway Heritage 16, Fall 1995, pp. 38-55.
FILM: Frank Capra’s "Know Your Enemy: Japan"
First Paper Due
5. Week Five (September 23rd) Japan’s Empire
Tues 24: Peter Duus and Mark Peattie, editors, The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945,
selected chapters; Ienaga, pp. 129-180.
Thurs 26: Cook, "Toward a New Order," pp. 47-63; “The Emperor’s Warriors,” pp. 121-144.
Mariko Asano Tamanoi, Under the Shadow of Nationalism, selected chapters on gender, rural
identity and patriotism.
6. Week Six: (September 30th) The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere
Tues Oct. 1: Cook, "Greater East Asia," 95-120; Dower, pp. 203-292.
Thurs Oct. 3: Theodore Friend, The Blue Eyed Enemy, selected chapters on Japanese
propaganda in Southeast Asia. Joyce Lebra, Japanese Trained Armies in Southeast Asia, selected
7. Week Seven: (October 7th) War, Film and Mobilization
Tues Oct 8: Mark Nornes and Fukushima Yukio, The Japan/America Film Wars, “War and
Cinema in Japan,” pp. 7-58; “Warring Images: Stereotype and American Representations of the Japanese,
1941-1990,” pp. 95-118.
Joseph Anderson and Donald Richie, The Japanese Film, “chapters on 1931-1949,” pp. 90-180.
Thurs Oct 10: Susan D. Moeller, “Pictures of the Enemy: Fifty Years of Images of Japan in
the American Press, 1941-1992,” Journal of American Culture, vol. 19, issue 1, pp. 29-42.
Cook, “Wielding Pen and Camera,” pp. 203-220.
8. Week Eight: (October 16-18th) The Home Front
No classes October 14-15, Fall break
Thurs Oct 17: Gregory Kasza, The State and the Mass Media in Japan 1918-1945, selected
chapters. Cook, “Homeland," 171-202; "Childhood," "Art & Entertainment" 231-258.
Gail Bernstein, ed. Recreating Japanese Women, 1600-1945. (selected chapters dealing with
women and the war.)
Film: I will show clips that I have edited together of wartime newsreels, dramas and comedies.
9.Week Nine: (October 21st) Attempts to Examine Wartime Atrocities and Wartime
Tues Oct 22: Paul Fussel, Wartime, Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War,
“Typecasting, pp. 115-128; “The real war will never get in the books,” pp. 267-298.
George Hicks, The Comfort Women, pp. 11-26, 107-151, 220-276.
Tanaka, Toshiyuki, Hidden horrors : Japanese war crimes in World War II, selected pages.
Thurs Oct 24: Josh Fogel, The Nanjing Massacre, “Aggression, Victimization and Chinese
Historiography of the Nanjing Massacre,” pp. 11-69; “A Battle over History: The Nanjing Massacre in
Japan,” pp. 70-132.
See also Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, “The Nanking 100 Man Killing Contest Debate: War Guilt
amid Fabricated Illusions, 1971-1975,” The Journal of Japanese Studies, vol. 26, Issue 2.
10. Week Ten: (October 28th) Aspects of War and Culture
Tues Oct 29: Skim and be familiar with Brian Victoria, Zen at War, “Part II Japanese
Militarism and Buddhism,” pp. 57-146.
E. Taylor Atkins, “The War on Jazz, or Jazz Goes to War: Toward a New Cultural Order in
Wartime Japan” Positions, 1998, vol 2. (article)
Thurs Oct 31: Desser, David, “From Opium War to Pacific War Japanese Propaganda Films
of WWII” Film History, January 1995.(article)
Cook, "Lost Battles," 259-336; "The War Comes Home to Okinawa," "In the Enemy’s Hands"
Second Paper Due
11. Week Eleven: (November 4th) Battling against the Inevitable
Tues Nov. 5: Oka Shohei, Fires on the Plain, a short novel about the experience of a Japanese
soldier in the Philippines.
Thurs Nov. 7: Ivan Morris, The Nobility of Failure, Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan,”
The Kamikaze Fighter s,” pp. 276-334.
Film: The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On. Or Dr. Kanzo.
12. Week Twelve (November 11th) Atomic Bombs and the Surrender
Tues Nov. 12: Cook, "A Terrible New Weapon" 382-400.
Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atom Bomb, “Tongues of Fire, and partway into the
Epilogue,” pp. 679-770. Compare this view with Gar Alperovitz, The Decision to Use the Bomb and the
Architecture of an American Myth, selected pages.
Thurs Nov. 14: Ienaga, pp.229-240
Richard Minear, editor and translator, Hiroshima Three Witnesses, “Introduction,” pp. 3-18;
“City of Corpses by Ota Yoko,” pp. 115-267.
13. Week Thirteen (November 18th) Judging the War
Tues Nov. 19: John Dower, Embracing Defeat, p.168-195; p.277-289.
Victor Minear. Victor's Justice.
Thurs Nov. 21: Robert Whiting. Tokyo Underworld: The Fast Times and Hard Life of an
American, Gangster in Japan, selected pages. Compare with Dower’s cleaner version of occupation
14.Week Fourteen (November 25,26) The Occupation and Accountability
Thanksgiving break November 27-29
Tues Nov. 26: Herbert Bix. Hirohito: pages on “Tokyo Trials,” p.581-618; “Salvaging Imperial
Mystique,“ p.619-646. Cook, "Reflections," "Endings" 441-479.
Philip West, Steven Levine, editors, America’s Wars in Asia, A Cultural Approach to History and
Memory, John Dower’s Essay on “The Bombed, Hiroshimas and Nagasakis in Japanese Memory,” pp.
15. Week Fifteen (December 2nd) Memory and the Aftermath
Tues Dec. 3: Frank Gibney, editor, Senso The Japanese Remember the Pacific War, selected pages
to be decided upon by the class.
Sheldon Harris, Factories of Death, Japanese Biological Warfare, 1932-1945, and the American
Cover-up, “Investigations,” pp. 173-189; “Scientists and the cover-up,” pp. 190-204; “The military and
the cover-up,” pp. 205-223.
Thurs Dec. 5: Compare Harris’ findings with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for
Scholars web page that deals with Cold War politics and Chinese propaganda. See
cwihp.si.edu/Default.htm, then click on “Dossier No. 1, Deceiving the Deceivers: Moscow, Beijing,
Pyongyang and the Allegations of Bacteriological Weapons Use in Korea.”
Oe Kenzaburo’s short story dealing with race and the war, “The Catch,” pp. 15-64, in The Shadow of
Third Paper Due