Buried History - The "Inconvenient" Remnants of War with Justin Aukema


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In today's episode, we sit down with Justin Aukema, Ph.D. candidate from Sophia University, to discuss Japan's modern history. Not the kind of history that we know of, but a different kind of history; a history that is buried underneath the bustling tourist sites of the island nation.

As the tide of the Pacific War turned, the Japanese government began to construct a series of underground tunnels to shelter its military operations (and even the Imperial Family, spoiler!) from American air raid. As peace arrived, these tunnels were left to decay slowly underneath the quickly rebuilt streets across the country. As the Hiroshima Genbaku Dome became the national memorial of the war, these underground passages quickly became forgotten. However, the modern state of this discourse is different. For Justin, studying these war sites (sensõ iseki) is one way to shed light on the past. By looking at the state of these remnants and the public attitudes toward their preservation, he hopes to unveil a different narrative that is marginalized from the discourse of Japanese post-war history.

In today’s episode, we will find out more about this exciting project.

Some topics we discussed are:

  1. The motivation behind Justin's academic pursuit in Japanese History. (1:50)
  2. The challenges of teaching Japanese history at a Japanese university. (6:42)
  3. Justin's research on war sites and his blog. (11:05)
  4. The curious story of the Hiyoshidai tunnel underneath Keio University (13:35)
  5. Justin's Ph.D. dissertation on 3 lesser-known WWII sites within Japan. (17:02)
    1. The Hiyoshidai Tunnel, Yokohama.
    2. The 32nd Army headquarters underneath Shuri Castle, Okinawa.
    3. The Imperial Headquarter in Matsushiro, Nagano.
  6. How the post-war history of these war sites reflects the Japanese public attitudes toward the Pacific War. (21:43)
  7. How the Pacific War is narrated by the Japanese government using war sites, and how did these 3 war sites became "inconvenient" in the Japanese narrative. (27:14)

For more information on his work, check out Justin's blog: http://www.historymemoryjapan.com.

Justin's article for The Japan Times: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2013/11/25/issues/wwii-tunnels-beneath-keio-campus-under-threat/.

Bento Bureau Podcast is a podcast about Japan from an international perspective, focusing on various topics about Japanese society through our interviews with experts, authors, activists, or just normal individuals who have stories to share about Japan.

13 episodes available. A new episode about every 42 days averaging 55 mins duration .