Accounting for silence: Inheritance, debt, and the moral economy of legal redress in China and Japan

by Yukiko Koga

Read Article

By Yukiko KogaFull Article: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/amet.12035/abstract

Legal efforts seeking official apology and compensation for Japanese colonial violence have, since the 1990s, become a prime site of Chinese and Japanese attempts to come to terms with the past. This ethnography explores what it means to legally account for Japanese imperialism decades after the original violence ended with Japan’s defeat in World War II. Examination of recent compensation lawsuits filed by Chinese war victims against the Japanese government and corporations shows how legal interventions publicly reveal artificially separated, yet deeply intertwined moral and monetary economies that present postwar compensation as a question of the generational transfer of unaccounted-for pasts and accompanying debts. I elucidate how accounts and accounting address overdue responsibility for postwar generations and, against the background of generational shift and the changing balance of economic power between China and Japan, show how the crux of this issue has shifted from apology to inheritance and accountability.

Chinese plaintiffs marched in 2004 in front of the Japanese Diet building with Japanese lawyers and citizen supporters immediately preceding a court hearing of the so-called poison gas case (doku-gasu saiban
filed by Chinese civilian victims of recent exposure to mustard gas abandoned by the retreating Japanese Army in 1945. The case is part of a series of compensation lawsuits filed by Chinese war victims since the 1990s, which seek official apology and compensation from the Japanese government, corporations, or both for deaths and injuries stemming from Japanese imperialism in China. These lawsuits have become a prime site for attempts to come to terms with Japanese imperialism, and court sessions draw a significant number of Japanese citizen supporters, who organize marches and fill courtroom seats. Photo by Yukiko Koga, April 26, 2004.)
Chinese plaintiffs marched in 2004 in front of the Japanese Diet building with Japanese lawyers and citizen supporters immediately preceding a court hearing of the so-called poison gas case (doku-gasu saiban) filed by Chinese civilian victims of recent exposure to mustard gas abandoned by the retreating Japanese Army in 1945. The case is part of a series of compensation lawsuits filed by Chinese war victims since the 1990s, which seek official apology and compensation from the Japanese government, corporations, or both for deaths and injuries stemming from Japanese imperialism in China. These lawsuits have become a prime site for attempts to come to terms with Japanese imperialism, and court sessions draw a significant number of Japanese citizen supporters, who organize marches and fill courtroom seats. Photo by Yukiko Koga, April 26, 2004.

Chinese plaintiffs marched in 2004 in front of the Japanese Diet building with Japanese lawyers and citizen supporters immediately preceding a court hearing of the so-called poison gas case (doku-gasu saiban) filed by Chinese civilian victims of recent exposure to mustard gas abandoned by the retreating Japanese Army in 1945. The case is part of a series of compensation lawsuits filed by Chinese war victims since the 1990s, which seek official apology and compensation from the Japanese government, corporations, or both for deaths and injuries stemming from Japanese imperialism in China. These lawsuits have become a prime site for attempts to come to terms with Japanese imperialism, and court sessions draw a significant number of Japanese citizen supporters, who organize marches and fill courtroom seats. Photo: Yukiko Koga, April 26, 2004.