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The other demographic time bomb: Japan's last generation of witnesses to war and its fading message

19.09.2007 | 18:30

Andrew Conning, The University of Tokyo, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

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At a time of general anxiety over the aging of Japanese society, a second, inverse demographic drama is unfolding: the proportion of Japanese old enough to remember their nation at war – and thus most committed to seeing it stay at peace – is rapidly declining. Though the results of the July 2007 Upper House elections suggest a lack of immediate popular interest in Prime Minister Abe's agenda to revise the Constitution (including its "peace clause," Article 9), long-term trends indicate that the active resistance to the rewriting of Article 9 has fallen near or below critical mass. The generation most committed to the "peace and democracy" idealism of the postwar era is being replaced by one for whom the idea of a patriotic and assertive Japan may have an appealing freshness or an exotic fascination.

Taking a broad, cultural perspective, I will discuss how Japan's remaining witnesses to war render the tragic sacrifices of the war years into a morally meaningful message, and how interpretations of war and patriotism reveal fault lines in the political consciousness of various generations living together in Japanese society today.


Andrew Conning is a Research Fellow at the Department of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Koordination: Barbara Holthus; Gabriele Vogt; Maren Godzik; Ralph Lützeler

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