« [SSJ: 11126] FCCJ Book Break September 16. 6:15 pm. Haruki Wada, author of "The Korean War: An International History - Updated Edition" | Main | [SSJ: 11128] September 09, 19:00 JST: Economic Policy Responses to the Covid-19 Crisis in the Euro Area and Japan »

August 19, 2020

[SSJ: 11127] Japan History Group, ISS, University of Tokyo, 8 September 2020 [Online]

From: Naofumi Nakamura <naofumin@iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp>
Date: 2020/08/16

The next meeting of the Japan History Group (JHG) at the Institute of Social Science (ISS), University of Tokyo, will be held on Tuesday, 8 September 2020, at 6:00 PM on the Zoom Meeting.
If you want to join it, please contact me as soon as possible. Email address is as follow;


The URL will be emailed to the applicant in late August.

Presenter: Prof. Franck Michelin, Teikyo University

Title: The War of Asia and the Pacific as History of International Relations: Reconsidering the Invasion and Occupation of French Indochina by Japan

Discussant: Prof. Atsushi Moriyama, University of Shizuoka


The invasion and occupation of French Indochina in 1940-1941 seem to be a well known historical event, but one can say that it has not received the attention it deserves so far. More than a mere bilateral relations issue, we think it was rather a crucial multilateral issue. To understand its impact, it is first necessary to broaden its chronological frame to one year and a half, from June 1940 till December 1941. Furthermore, rather than limiting its survey to bilateral relations -- Japan and France, or Japan and the USA --, it is more interesting to enlarge the special scope by incorporating into the analysis countries like the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, the USSR, China, Thailand, and colonial Vietnam. One can understand the complexity of this question by enlarging the chronological frame and the number of players involved.

We conducted this long-term research by gathering and analyzing archive documents for Japan, France, and the USA, as well as a large number of books and research papers, and by making comparisons between them. Through this method, we could reconsider the question of the policy of Japan towards French Indochina as an international relations question and get closer to an understanding of the process that led to the Pacific War. However, there was one very common pitfall to avoid: considering the attack on Pearl Harbor as the principal axis, as the unavoidable issue of the international relations in East Asia and the Pacific. By starting the survey with the invasion of Northern French Indochina, it was possible to avoid the teleological approach that makes Pearl Harbor, not one mere possible consequence, but a necessary result.

Our research method has been consisting of analyzing the documents in a strict chronological order, without giving more importance to Pearl Harbor, nor the Japan-US relations. By doing that, we could broaden our view and, then, fully understand that the origin of crisis between Tokyo and Washington was not to find during the summer of 1941 with the occupation of Southern Indochina by Japan, but from June 1940 with the process that led to the Japanese invasion of the Northern part of the French colony Furthermore, the Japanese archives show us quite clearly that the occupation by Japan was for the Japanese civilian and military authorities on of the two legs of a new foreign policy and strategy, the other leg is the alliance with Germany.

We published the results of this research by publishing a book in France in 2019. Its main goal is to get over two common interpretations of the origins of the Pacific War. The first consists in making a direct link between the Shino-Japanese War and the Pacific War. The second consists in considering that the latter was a consequence of a series of misunderstandings starting from the summer of 1941. Conversely, we have tried to demonstrate that this crisis began with the decision of Japan to expand Southwards in invading the Northern part of French Indochina, that the crisis deepened step by step during one year and a half, and ultimately led to the Pacific War outbreak.

※This presentation will be made in Japanese.

Dr. Naofumi NAKAMURA
Professor of Business History
Institute of Social Science,
The University of Tokyo

Approved by ssjmod at 10:00 AM