Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2023 3:50 PM - Tuesday, March 28, 2023 5:20 PM


  • Robert Cribb (Australian National University)
  • Sandra Wilson (Murdoch University)


The legacies of war continue to resonate in Japan as it reckons with its actions in the Second World War and continues to struggle with historical reconciliation, especially with its Asian neighbors. The scholars in this panel will discuss how we can assess the nature of Japanese war crimes in a global and comparative perspective.

Japanese military personnel committed many war crimes in the course of the Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945) and after Pearl Harbor (1941–1945). Some crimes resulted from the initiative of individuals, some were conducted by groups, still others were ordered by Japanese commanders. Many observers have assumed that Japanese war crimes were of a different—more atrocious—order than those of any of Japan’s contemporaries, except perhaps Nazi Germany. The perception of Japanese exceptionalism has underpinned a search for sinister elements in Japanese history and culture that might explain its apparent exceptionalism. In view of our growing knowledge of atrocities committed in the colonial wars and civil wars that drenched the middle decades of the 20th century in blood, does the perception of Japanese exceptionalism still hold up?

The panel will review the record of Japanese atrocity, identifying what has been invented or exaggerated, what is distressingly similar to the actions of other belligerents in the decades 1930–1960, and what remains as exceptional or unique. The speakers will suggest that we can best account for Japanese war crimes by looking at the extraordinary historical circumstances of the Second World War.

Webinar Access

Registration required for meeting access:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, March 28, 2023 15:50-17:20


This event is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS).

Note: All ICAS events are held in English, open to the public, and admission is free unless otherwise noted.


Robert Cribb

Australian National University

Robert Cribb is Emeritus Professor of Asian History at Australian National University. His research focusses on national identity, mass violence, historical geography and environmental politics, especially in Indonesia. He is author (with Sandra Wilson, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz) of Japanese War Criminals: the Politics of Justice After the Second World War (2017) and editor, with Christina Twomey and Sandra Wilson, of Detention Camps in Asia: the Conditions of Confinement in Modern Asian History (2022).

Sandra Wilson

Murdoch University

Sandra Wilson is Professor of History at Murdoch University and is a historian of modern Japan. She is author of The Manchurian Crisis and Japanese Society, 1931-33 (2002) and, with Robert Cribb, Beatrice Trefalt and Dean Aszkielowicz, of Japanese War Criminals: the Politics of Justice After the Second World War (2017). She is editor of Nation and Nationalism in Japan (2002), and, with Robert Cribb and Christina Twomey, of Detention Camps in Asia: the Conditions of Confinement in Modern Asian History (2022).

More In This Section