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<panel> East Asian Images of Japan
Recent disputes between Japan and her regional neighbours have been met with resentful incomprehension by many Japanese - contributing to the election in December 2012 of perhaps the most nationalist Diet since 1945. These developments highlight the persistent gulf between the images most Japanese harbour of their country, and the ways it (and they) are perceived and portrayed by their neighbours. This panel stems from a project that aims to help bridge this gulf and promote a more informed debate about on Japan's relationships with other East Asian societies.
Over the past three years, an international network of scholars based in East Asia, Europe and North America has been looking at the portrayal of Japan in a range of media - school texts, TV, cinema, museums and the internet - in societies including China, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. A major international symposium in Fukuoka this September 6-7 will showcase this research. This panel presentation introduces a small sample of work by several of the scholars involved.
Naoko Shimazu first offers an overview of the work of the broader network, discussing the various ways in which Japan is portrayed as an 'Other' in societies throughout East Asia. In the course of outlining the various images of Japan that prevail in different societies, she will discuss why these particular images have emerged, and how they relate to domestic debates over national and local identities.
Paul Morris and Christine Han discuss the cases of Hong Kong and Singapore respectively. While the histories of these societies are in many respects comparable (predominantly ethnic Chinese, former British colonies, occupied by Japan during the Second World War), the kinds of images of Japan that have emerged in the postwar period, and the ways in which these have been produced or manipulated by key elites, reflect important differences in the political and social dynamics that have shaped their recent histories.
Edward Vickers then compares the portrayal of Japan in major national historical museums of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan, focusing particularly on two museums opened or re-opened in 2011: the National Museum of China (Beijing), and the National Museum of Taiwan History (Tainan). He argues that the images of Japan visible in these two flagship institutions reflect both fundamental differences in historical experience vis-a-vis Japan, and the stark divergence in official discourse on national identity within Taiwan and China over recent decades. They also reflect the different ways in which the role of museums has evolved on either side of the Taiwan Strait over recent years - a phenomenon closely related to broader political and social change (or the lack of it).