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The Geography of Injustice: East Asia's Battle Between Memory and History

This book  argues that the war crimes tribunals in East Asia formed and cemented national divides that persist into the present day. War crimes tribunals allow for the history of the defeated to be heard. In contemporary East Asia a fierce battle between memory and history has consolidated political camps across this debate. The Tokyo Trial courtroom, as well as the thousands of other war crimes tribunals opened in about fifty venues across Asia, were legal stages where prosecution and defense curated facts and evidence to craft their story about World War Two. These narratives and counter narratives form the basis of postwar memory concerning Japan's imperial aims across the region. The archival record and the interpretation of court testimony together shape a competing set of histories for public consumption. There is compelling evidence that despite the passage of seven decades since the end of the war, East Asia is more divided than united by history.

The Geography of Injustice: East Asia's Battle Between Memory and History

The Real Manchurian Candidates: Chinese war criminals in the postwar, prisoners of history

The Manchurian Candidate myth that Americans could be psychologically manipulated and turned into secret agents of a foreign power emerged in the early Cold War. The belief combined fears that Soviet/Chinese mind manipulators were so adept that they could transform honorable American soldiers into turncoats. We need to unravel the PRC's take on the processes of "thought reform" to understand why it kept returning to a policy designed to "re-educate" prisoners of war, often doubly labeled as war criminals. These policies not only reveal how the CCP aimed to render justice beyond the conclusion of its war with Japan but also demonstrate how this practice then grew into a later catalyst for unification plans in PRC-ROC relations during the 1970s.

「ヨーロッパから見た東アジア歴史問題の起源」、浅野豊美編集『和解学の試み』、明石書店, 2021, p. 259-285.

A Japanese translated book chapter concerning "The origins of the history problem in East Asia as seen from Europe."

「ヨーロッパから見た東アジア歴史問題の起源」、浅野豊美編集『和解学の試み』、明石書店, 2021, p. 259-285.

Asia Pacific War Crimes Trials Television Documentary Series (亚太战争审判)

This was a series of 8 episodes covering the history of the trials of Japanese war crimes atrocities. I was the host and lead narrator for the three episodes that covered China. 

Asia Pacific War Crimes Trials Television Documentary Series (亚太战争审判)

“Anchors of History: The Long Shadow of Imperial Japanese Propaganda”

This chapter is part of the Fanning the Flames volume which takes a comprehensive look at how Japan deployed popular arts for propaganda that created an imperialist fervor. Kushner joined a host of scholarly essays and utilized rich illustrations from the collections of the Hoover Institution Library & Archives, including woodblock prints, photos, posters, and the rarely examined street paper plays called kamishibai, to analyze how Japan mobilized its imperial populations. 

“Anchors of History: The Long Shadow of Imperial Japanese Propaganda”

Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trials Television Documentary Series

Host and narrator for three of the eight episodies from a documentary series on postwar war crimes trials of the Japanese, produced by the Shanghai Media Group. These were broadcast in Chinese and English on Chinese television, first in September 2020. Now available to view online or on DVD.

Slurp! A Social and Culinary History of Ramen - Japan’s Favorite Noodle Soup

In Japan there is only one word for noodle soup and that is “ramen.” Other noodles exist and used to be more popular but they lost ground in the 20th century and never dominated the international market like ramen. Udon, soba, and sômen are all fine noodle dishes with devoted followers but none have had the power to launch international industries, attract hundreds of millions of international customers, or have dozens of comic books, songs and movies devoted to them. The long evolution of ramen helps us enter the even longer and fascinating history of cuisine in Japan, charting how food and politics combined as a force within Sino-Japan relations. Cuisine in East Asia plays a significant political role, at times also philosophical, economic, and social. The main point is that ramen is a symbol of the relationship between the two major forces in East Asia – what started as a Chinese food product ended up almost 1,000 years later as the emblem of modern Japanese cuisine. How did that happen and what does it signify?

The Thought War-- Japanese Imperial Propaganda

The postwar perception of Japanese wartime propaganda was that it was a failure, falling short of reaching its major goal of unifying the battlefront with the home front. The Thought War, reveals actually how a shooting war of enormous magnitude, ferocity, and breadth gained the participation of a civilian population that eagerly embraced its aims and supported its proponents.

In the Ruins of the Japanese Empire: Imperial Violence, State Destruction, and the Reordering of Modern East Asia

In the Ruins of the Japanese Empire concludes that early East Asian Cold War history needs to be studied within the framework of post-imperial history. Japan's surrender did not mean that the Japanese and former imperial subjects would immediately disavow imperial ideology. The end of the Japanese empire unleashed unprecedented destruction and violence on the periphery. Lives were destroyed; names of cities altered; collaborationist regimes—which for over a decade dominated vast populations—melted into the air as policeman, bureaucrats, soldiers, and technocrats offered their services as nationalists, revolutionaries or communists. Power did not simply change hands swiftly and smoothly. In the chaos of the new order, legal anarchy, revenge, ethnic displacement, and nationalist resentments stalked the postcolonial lands of northeast Asia, intensifying bloody civil wars in societies radicalized by total war, militarization, and mass mobilization.

Overcoming Empire in Post-Imperial East Asia: Repatriation, Redress and Rebuilding

When Emperor Hirohito announced defeat in a radio broadcast on 15th August 1945, Japan was not merely a nation; it was a colossal empire stretching from the tip of Alaska to the fringes of Australia grown out of a colonial ideology that continued to pervade East Asian society for years after the end of the Second World War. In Overcoming Empire in Post-Imperial East Asia: Repatriation, Redress and Rebuilding, Barak Kushner and Sherzod Muminov bring together an international team of leading scholars to explore the post-imperial history of the region.


From international aid to postwar cinema to chemical warfare, these essays all focus on the aftermath of Japan's aggressive warfare and the new international strategies which Japan, China, Taiwan, North and South Korea utilised following the end of the war and the collapse of Japan's empire. The result is a nuanced analysis of the transformation of postwar national identities, colonial politics, and the reordering of society in East Asia. With its innovative comparative and transnational perspective, this book is essential reading for scholars of modern East Asian history, the cold war, and the history of decolonisation.

The Dismantling of Japan's Empire in East Asia: Deimperialization, Postwar Legitimation and Imperial Afterlife

The end of Japan’s empire appeared to happen very suddenly, and cleanly – but, as this book shows, it was in fact very messy, with a long period of establishing or re-establishing the postwar order. Moreover, as we argue empires have afterlives, which, in the case of Japan’s empire, are not much studied. This book considers the details of the immediate postwar, including repatriation of Japanese personnel, the redrawing of boundaries, issues to do with prisoners of war and war criminals, new arrangements for democratic political institutions, for media and for the regulation of trade. It also investigates the continuing impact of empire: on the countries ruled or occupied by Japan, where as a result of Japanese management and administration, both formal and informal, patterns of behavior and attitudes were newly adjusted.

Examining Japan's Lost Decades

This book examines five features of Japan’s ‘Lost Decades’: the speed of the economic decline in Japan compared to Japan’s earlier global prowess; a rapidly declining population; considerable political instability and failed reform attempts; shifting balances of power in the region and changing relations with Asian neighbouring nations; and the lingering legacy of World War Two. Addressing the question of why the decades were lost, this book offers 15 new perspectives ranging from economics to ideology and beyond. Investigating problems such as the risk-averse behaviour of Japan’s bureaucracy and the absence of strong political leadership, the authors analyse how the delay of ‘loss-cutting policies’ led to the 1997 financial crisis and a state of political gridlock where policymakers could not decide on firm strategies that would benefit national interests.

Media, Propaganda and Politics in 20th-Century Japan (with a foreword by Funabashi Yoichi)

This book is an abridged translation of the Asahi newspaper edited volume on media and history, orginally titled in Japanese: 新聞と「昭和」: 朝日新聞「検証・昭和報道.


Book chapter in Huang Zijin's co'edited, two volume series:  〈法律與帝國—對日關係中「正義」的掙扎(1944-1947)〉, 黃自進, 潘光哲編輯 《中日戰爭和東亞變局』》下冊,Taipei: Taiwan, 稻鄉出版社, 2018, p. 331-364.

“Japan’s war of words with the world: WWII propaganda in the international arena”

in Sven Saaler and Christopher W.A. Szpilman, eds., Routledge Handbook of Modern Japanese History, London: Routledge, 2018, p. 251-263,

“The question of complicity: Japan’s early postures toward war crimes and war responsibility in the aftermath of the Second World War”

in Kerstin von Lingen, ed., Debating Collaboration and Complicity in War Crimes Trials in Asia, 1945-1956, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, p. 151-176.

“Heroes, victims, and the quest for peace: war monuments and the contradictions of Japan’s post-imperial commemoration”

Book chapter in Dominik Geppert and Frank Mueller, eds., Sites of Imperial Memory: Commemorating colonial rule in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2015, p. 70-91.

“Chinese War Crimes Trials of Japanese, 1945-1956: a Historical Summary”

Book chapter in Morten Bergsmo, Cheah Wui Ling, Yi Ping, eds., The Historical Origins of International Criminal Law, volume 2, Brussels: Torkel Opsahl Academic Publisher, 2014, p. 243-265.

“Empire’s Little Helpers: Juvenile Delinquents and the State in East Asia, 1880-1945”

“Empire’s Little Helpers: Juvenile Delinquents and the State in East Asia, 1880-1945,” in Heather Ellis, ed., Juvenile Delinquency and the Limits of Western Influence, 1850-2000, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014, p. 145-170.

“Unwarranted attention: the image of Japan in twentieth century Chinese humour”

This is a book chapter from a volume on the history and ideas behind humour in modern China. In the book by Jessica Davis and Jocelyn Chey, eds., Humour in Chinese Life and Culture: Resistance and Control in Modern Times, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press 2013, p. 47-80.

“Ghosts of the Japanese Imperial Army: The ‘White Group’ (Baituan) and Early Post-war Sino-Japanese Relations”

Academic article analyzing Japan's postwar imperial assistance to the Chinese Nationalists. Chiang Kaishek invited former Japanese Imperial General Okamura Yasuji to head a group of Japanese military offices back to Taiwan to secretly train them to retake the Chinese mainland after the Communist victory in 1949.

“Sweetness and Empire: Sugar Consumption in Imperial Japan”

This work analyzes how new products altered the concept of "sweetness" as embodied in items processed with sugar, as an element in "modern" food. I argue that, although sugar was consumed as a luxury item in early-modern Japan, in the early decades of the twentieth century, and especially during the war years, the consumption of sweets became inseparable from the idea of Japanese modernity, linked to the act of consumption within the sphere of Japanese empire.

Dreams of Empire

The catalogue was created for the Caskey Lees, Arts of Pacific Asia Show in San Francisco in February 2011. There were 150 pieces on display, all drawn from the MHJ collection. For the 40 page, color catalogue I wrote the main essay, "The Drive to Mobilize Wartime Society," which illuminates the historical, political and social context in which these extraordinary textiles were produced.

“Going for the Gold - Health and Sports in Japan’s Quest for Modernity”

This is a chapter in William Tsutsui and Michael Baskett, eds., The East Asian Olympiads, 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea, and China, Folkestone: Global Oriental, 2011.

“The Hitler costume fiasco shows Japan has lost touch with its past”

Article in the 'Comment Is Free' of the Guardian Newspaper

“Treacherous Allies: The Cold War in East Asia and American Postwar Anxiety”

The postwar US federal government spent a decade, initiated two federal treason trials, and dispensed over one million dollars in legal pursuit of John Provoo for his crimes in the Philippines as a POW and as a propaganda agent for the Japanese. In a strange perversion of justice the US attorney even invited to the federal court Provoo’s former captors – Japanese propagandists, military officials and POW guards – to establish his guilt. Why was the US government so keen to pursue and charge a lone second world war POW with treason? What dread did Provoo strike in the hearts of US officials? This article examines how Provoo embodied wartime and postwar American panic concerning East Asia, just as the situation in the region dramatically spiraled out of American control.

“Imperial Cuisines in Taisho Foodways,” in Eric Rath and Stephanie Assmann, eds., Japanese Foodways, Past and Present.

In this chapter I argue that Japanese foodways grew out of both a dialogue within Japan’s colonial empire and a discourse bent on separating the concept of national food away from and in distinction to China. For post-Meiji Restoration (1868) Japan, we cannot understand “Japanese cuisine” in a geographical and historical vacuum as a product that grew up in isolation. Indeed, one of the major ideological shifts in identity during the Taisho era (1912-26) was the incorporation and consumption of Chinese food and its influence on Japanese cuisine and diet, even as the very concept of Japanese cuisine was forming.

“Pawns of Empire: Postwar Taiwan, Japan and the Dilemma of War Crimes”

Examining the plight of the Taiwanese, who were pawns in the larger conflict of World War Two, helps us to understand the complicated process of the breakdown of the Japanese empire. The postwar legal adjudication of BC class Japanese war crimes in East Asia is a key element in unwinding the historical complexity of postwar power shifts, the formation of a Taiwanese identity, and its connection to Japan’s postwar foreign relations goals. This paper considers three
inter-related issues – analyzing how Japanese rule was restructured in the postwar former colonies, dissecting the prosecution of lower-level Japanese war crimes, and resolving the conundrum of collaboration within the former empire. These problems are tied intimately together due to the transformation of postwar identity and colonial politics.

Some new thoughts about humor and the state of affairs in Sino-Japan relations

Is that really funny? – humor and identity in Japan and China

Online article about the history of ramen and the politics of food in Japan and China.

Get the quick and dirty lowdown on the history of ramen and impress your friends and colleagues with your savvy and deep appreciation of food history in East Asia.

“'Noodle-ology': the politics of cuisine”

A very brief article detailing that what we often think is national cuisine originates from unlikely sources. Learn how Chinese interaction with pre-war Japan helped change national taste and influence the postwar. (Produced in the University of Cambridge Research Horizons journal, Summer 2008, p. 15).

“Nationality and Nostalgia: The Manipulation of Memory in Japan, Taiwan, and China since 1990”

How history influences politics and culture in Taiwan, Japan and China

“Planes, Trains and Games: Selling Japan’s War in Asia”

During Japan’s war to establish dominance in Asia, Japanese soldiers did not expect to return home alive, and few considered it even possible that Japan’s war would end quickly. In light of the demographic determinants that many believed would aid Japan’s military power on the Chinese mainland, and later against the Allies, Japan’s youth culture played a dominant role.

The purpose of this research is to center on the quasi unofficial, not the schools and educational content directly managed by the government, but that which existed outside the school, outside the daily purview and grasp of the government. In this regard, kamishibai, paper plays, fit the bill perfectly. Certainly kamishibai were censored, but the multiplicity of companies that produced the plays and the incorporation of traditional stories like Ōgon batto remained a potent force.

Co-authored with Sato Masaharu, “Digesting Postwar Japanese Media: American Propaganda in Occupied Japan,” Diplomatic History, January 2005, p. 27-48.

This article looks at the role American journalism played in "democratizing" Japan and the unique position of Reader's Digest.

“Gojira as Japan’s First Postwar Media Event,” in the book, In Godzilla’s Footsteps: Japanese Pop Culture Icons on the Global Stage

See my chapter in Bill Tsutsui's edited volume on Godzilla. Everything you thought you wanted to know about Godzilla and then some.

“'Negro Propaganda Operations': Japan's short-wave radio information broadcasts for World War II Black Americans”

Co-authored with Japanese scholar Sato Masaharu, this research is the only treatment using Japanese and American archives that examines the programs Japan initiated to attract Black-Americans toward Japan's side. Ultimately, the propaganda failed, but the lengths to which Japan stretched demonstrates a deep understanding of the racial divides that affected the United States during the 1930s and 1940s.

“Cannibalizing Japanese Media - The Case of Issei Sagawa”

This is the first article in English concerning the Sagawa case and its treatment in the Japanese media.