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Film and soldier: Japanese war movies in the 1950s

Wilson, S. (2013) Film and soldier: Japanese war movies in the 1950s. Journal of Contemporary History, 48 (3). pp. 537-555.

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In 1950s Japan, films about the Second World War, especially the conflict in the Pacific, were very popular. Though some of them concentrated on misery and suffering, others were surprisingly positive in their portrayal of Japanese soldiers. The 1950s have the reputation of a pacifist decade in Japan, when people were only too glad to forget the war as they turned instead to the future. This orthodox view is undermined, however, by the undeniable fact that a great many people wanted to see cinematic dramatizations of the war. The movies they watched left room for pride, dignity, the recognition of Japanese military power and even nostalgia for the war years. They were an important means by which people explored the meanings of the recent conflict. In particular, they explained and dramatized what had happened; presented examples of heroic soldiers and sailors; and contributed to the reintegration of ordinary soldiers who had been convicted as war criminals back into Japanese society. In doing so they played a vital role in reclaiming and validating the actions of military men, and in promoting the idea that there had been positive aspects of the war experience, despite the suffering the conflict had undoubtedly brought.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Publisher: SAGE
Copyright: 2013 The Author
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