Organized Panel Session
In 2006 the Japanese Disabled Veterans Association (Nihon shōi gunjin kai), a private group established in mid-1952 with a membership consisting of disabled ex-servicemen of the Second World War, opened new headquarters in the Kudanshita neighborhood of Tokyo. More than a mere office facility, the Shōkeikan or “Inheritance Hall” functions as a museum-archive that narrates, presents, and preserves the experiences of former servicemen from the moment they were wounded in battle and into their postwar lives as men with acquired disabilities. Although the Japanese Disabled Veterans Association voluntarily dissolved in 2013 due to its declining membership, Japan’s Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Labour (Kōsei rōdō shō) acquired the Shōkeikan and continues to operate it as a publically-funded cultural institution. This paper examines how disabled veterans in Japan became agents of historical memory by taking control of their own life stories and transforming themselves into “displayable” Imperial Japanese Army and Imperial Japanese Navy servicemen. It assesses the organizational establishment of the Shōkeikan, as well as the development of its guiding principles, and evaluates the conjoined “adversity narratives” that structure the artifact-laded presentation of disabled veterans’ wartime and postwar experiences. My research argues that disabled veterans and the Shōkeikan have effectively fashioned wounded imperial servicemen into sympathetic rather than reviled figures within contemporary Japanese views of World War II.