On Wednesday, April 28, the Center for Japanese Studies hosted a streaming seminar, “The War Crimes Documentation Initiative (WCDI) at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa,” which ran from noon-1:30 p.m. as part of its Spring 2021 Seminar Series.

Cosponsored by UHM’s Library and Dept. of History, the webinar featured as its panelists the scholarly team behind UHM WCDI: Dept. of History Professor Yuma Totani and UHM Library staff including geospatial librarian Ted Kwok; GIS coordinator Mahany Lindquist; and humanities librarian David Gustavsen.

The diverse researchers summarized their 2019-founded project which “seeks to experiment, develop, and make available to a broad audience innovative digital resources that help promote the teaching and research of World War II-era war crimes committed by the Japanese in the Asia-Pacific region (1931-1945)” according to its website where those who have missed the online event (which was not videorecorded) can learn more of the project (manoa.hawaii.edu/wcdi/about).

They explained that terrible war crimes of the fascist German and Japanese governments before and during World War II have been substantially reviewed since the 1998 Nazi War Crimes Disclosure Act and the parallel 2000 Japanese Imperial Government Disclosure Act.

These acts gave permission for the U.S. government’s Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group to declassify for the general public 8 million pages of documents from military and national-security organizations such as the OSS, CIA, FBI and Army Intelligence.

The millennial release of World War II war-crime records let scholars (such as these UHM researchers) and community members, as well as analysts belonging to this Interagency Working Group itself, peruse this information which has been freshly available from 1999-2016, allowing the IWG to author reports on the topic and curious parties to evaluate the data.

“Diary of a Japanese Army Medical Doctor, 1937,” the introductory article by Daqing Yang and cover art from a photograph of that diary, in “Researching Japanese War Crimes: Introductory Essays” by the Interagency Working Group. (Image from that book’s cover)

An interesting (if emotionally or spiritually difficult) activity history buffs or advocates of human rights might try out, is to go through the introductory essays on “Researching Japanese War Crimes Records,” put together by archivists of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for the IWG in 2006, here: archives.gov/files/iwg/japanese-war-crimes/introductory-essays.pdf.

The engrossing cover of this essay collection, a photo of a Japanese-language diary from the era, is accompanied by the powerful, short opening essay by Daqing Yang, “Diary of a Japanese Army Medical Doctor, 1937,” in which scholar Yang concludes from reading this wartime MD’s journal, that the Rape of Nanking was not an exceptional moment in history. That rather, the types of inhumane brutalities that Japanese soldiers had wreaked upon Chinese civilians during the infamous event were fairly common during the Pacific war as a whole, if the contents of this diary (and other data from these war-crime reports) are to be believed.

The modern digital era, moreover, brings scholars and activists in pursuit of justice, such as members of the UHM WCDI team, powerful new big-data tools to understand how the systematic cruelty of a government and some of its citizens can impact vulnerable populations undergoing wartime occupation.

As an example, the WCDI team is using the data sets to deploy geographic information systems and graph analyses to document visually, across time and space, the connections between “Japanese military operations, government and military power structures and the patterns of war crimes.”

The goal of such digital analyses is to make available to students and scholars worldwide “digital tools that empower users to discover, analyze and assess the Japanese conduct of war and military occupation, and find answers to a number of questions on accountability that remain unresolved to this day,” explains the site’s self-description.

Currently, the project’s principal source is records from more than 2,240 war-crimes trials that the Allied Powers carried out against the Japanese between 1945-1952, at 51 separate locations in the former theaters of war in Asia and the Pacific (see manoa.hawaii.edu/wcdi/trial-records).

These trial records come from the 11 nations which had once been at war with Japan. The trials occurred after the war, with these nations becoming part of the Allied war-crimes program in the Asia-Pacific region, then their representatives taking these official records of the 1946-ʻ48 International Military Tribunal for the Far East in Tokyo (aka the Tokyo Trial) back home to these countries after the trial concluded. The WCDI project team attempts to track down this data from Australia, Canada, France, Great Britain, India, the Netherlands, New Zealand, The Philippines, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union and the U.S., in archival sites and various digitization initiatives worldwide. Then WCDI displays the findings using GIS and data-mapping, sharing these results through mini projects such as “The Forgotten Soldiers: Prisoners of the Japanese during World War II in Asia and the Pacific,” “Justice in Asia and the Pacific Region, 1945-1942” and “Documenting Japanese War Crimes at Tokyo: The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946-1948” (manoa.hawaii.edu/wcdi/projects).

The project was funded for the 2020-2021 academic year by the Japanese Studies Endowment Award for Special Projects of the UHM Center for Japanese Studies; UHM library provided digital infrastructure.

Student assistants involved in the research were Peter Bushell, an MA student in the UHM History Dept. who specializes in modern Japan; Lauren Hauck, JD, who is also an MA student in U.S. history; Lori Misaka, MFA, who is a Masters student in Library and Information Science; and John Winnicki, a BA student in computer science and mathematics.

Students interested in contributing to this research as such assistants can check out the WCDI website at manoa.hawaii.edu/wcdi/about. When it has the funding, WCDI would like to hire “qualified students at any level of study in history, law, computer science and other relevant fields and disciplines, to have them analyze records of historical war-crimes trials, create datasets and develop digital resources using geographic information systems, graph analysis, or other technologies,” according to the site.

Though conducting this type of research might feel stressful, depressing or even traumatic to scholars and community people who choose to take up the work, it is important to understand how the governments and populations of different nations can treat other peoples, so as not to repeat the most terrible moments in human history.


Rather than hold its massively popular, seasonal lantern-floating ceremony in Ala Moana Beach Park, typically one of the best-attended obon events of the early summer, Buddhist temple Shinnyo-En will present an “immersive” art exhibit of a large-scale lantern that organizers hope might serve as a “space for reflection” in this stressful COVID-19 era. Socially distanced and facemasked visitors can make appointments to view and participate in the installation.

Designed by Hide Tsutsui, the interactive cultural exhibit, “Many Rivers, One Ocean: 2021 Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii,” will be held from Friday, May 21, through Saturday, June 5, from 5-9 p.m. at Shinnyo-En Hawaii Buddhist Temple on 2348 S. Beretania St., Honolulu. For reservations to visit and participate, register from May 1 at shinnyo-lantern-floating-hawaii.checkfront.com/reserve/?date=20210521&item_id=2.

The lantern will display a silhouette of a kukui tree (a symbol of light, hope and renewal), as well as a four-panel mural painted by artist Boz Schurr along with Kamehameha Schools students. Participants will be able to write down physically, then hang, prayers and messages onto trees within the art installation. During this time of reflection, people may also use the space as an unguided “walking meditation” area.

Three other events help to replace the normally crowded beachside get-together.

First, those who can’t visit the temple in person may send in personal remembrances online from April 12 onward to lanternfloatinghawaii.com/remembrances. Tributes received between April 12 and June 4 may be included as part of the art installation.

The temple’s planned lantern art exhibit (Image from Davis Pitner, Hawaii News Now)

Second, on Monday, May 31, Memorial Day, the temple will host a 30-min. TV/streaming program entitled “Share Your Light – A Shinnyo Lantern Floating Hawaii Special,” to air on Hawaii News Now/KGMB starting at 6:30 p.m. It will also be streamed online on social media platforms (for example, see instagram.com/shinnyolanternfloatinghawaii or facebook.com/shinnyolanternfloatinghawaii, or check out @shinnyolanternfloatinghawaii.com).

Third, the temple will offer three sessions of guided meditation during a single afternoon of Saturday, June 5, at 2 p.m., 4 p.m., and 6 p.m. The 30-minute sessions will be led by a qualified guide and is open to anyone interested, regardless of past meditation experience.

If you would like to take part, please make a reservation using the following link (spots will be open soon). Reservations can be made here, but sessions will be closed once capacity is reached: shinnyo-lantern-floating-hawaii.checkfront.com/reserve/?date=20210605&item_id=3. The temple will be limiting the number of guests to ensure a safe experience. Please note that parking is also limited.

Find your center in this quiet, creative space, as you start a peaceful summer.


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