A group of new and old friends gathered to hear our Monash colleague speak about her ongoing research on the Tokyo trials on 6 June 2018 . It was great to see Jim Breen back in the Centre, and we welcomed Alison Tokita back from her time in Japan.
Show Trial? The International Military Tribunal for the Far East and Occupation Japan
Associate Professor Beatrice Trefalt, LLCL, Monash University
The 2016 historical drama mini-series Tokyo Trial (a Japan/Dutch/Canadian co-production) portrayed for Japanese (and international audiences) the flawed nature of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East: interweaving documentary footage withdramatised sequences, it portrays the struggles for a consistent judgement amongst the various international Justices, highlights the political pressures on them by their respective governments, and focuses especially on Dutch Justice Röling and Indian Justice Pal’s struggles with ideas of justice within an inherently politicised trial. Such ideas are not new in Japan, and neither have they remained unchanged or unchallenged over time. This paper traces how the Tribunal and its outcomes were presented to the Japanese population over time, particularly focusing on how evidence about the trials became available to the public at various times. The focus is on the symbolic rather than legal dimensions of the trial for Japanese audiences: the Tokyo Trial provided the first polarised interpretations of the immediate past and of the role of wartime leaders, a polarisation which continues to divide Japanese society today. Its outcomes were also compared those of other war crimes trials, adding an element of class and social hierarchy to the debates about war guilt.