Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

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durb
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Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by durb » 07 Apr 2015 15:02

The Japanese use of word "incident" strikes me as a diminutive term for a war. For example "China Incident" - the sarcastic Soviet interpretation of the Japanese interpretation of word "Incident" made some sense in April 1938 when reflected to the reality in China: "according to the declarations of Japanese authorities there is not now a war in China…and that what is happening in China qualifies only as an incident, more or less accidental and having nothing in common with a state of war…”?

Thus we have accidental Mukden Incident of 1931, accidental China Incident 1937 - 1945 and accidental Nomonhan Incident 1939 all referring to de facto wars in which thousands of men were killed in combat.

Is the word "Incident" just a translation of some Japanese word referring to undeclared war - meaning a de facto war although not declared de jure? Why was the word "war" a taboo - in Nomonhan case it made sense since the escalation of hostilities was more or less something that both governements in Tokyo and Moscow did not want. But was the long war in China just an "incident" - at what point it was recognized as a real war in Japan?

How did Japanese public think of the "China Incident" when hundreds of thousands sons, husbands and brothers of Japanese families were committed to a long war in China? I guess that by 1938 all already knew that it was a real war and not just some bypassing "incident" which could be dealt in short time. This must have been recognized also by politicians, military leaders and diplomats who used the term "China Incident" to describe something that was a serious and long war.

To me it appears that no other nation has used the word "Incident" as systematically to describe conflict situations as Japanese. Are there some linguistic or cultural explanations for that?

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Akira Takizawa
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by Akira Takizawa » 07 Apr 2015 17:13

The war in China was called War in Japan. 大東亜戦争(Great East Asia War) included the China Incident.

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durb
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by durb » 07 Apr 2015 17:30

Yes, but to my knowledge Great East Asia War began "officially" in December 1941 when the war in China became part of it. The war in China between July 1937 - Dec. 1941 was thus just a "China Incident" despite all the sacrifices which it had demanded up to then.

I do not know if this is true, but I have read that the "China Incident" was widely recognized as a war by Japanese public and by 1939/1940 it was not a popular war although official propaganda claimed it to be so (those critical on war being cautiously quiet in those years). Perhaps partially because the official claims of swift and easy victory in short lived "incident" were clearly exaggerated due to the fact that the war in China demanded year by year more conscripts and continuous sacrifices felt by many families. By any means it can not be considered as an accidental or limited incident.

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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by OpanaPointer » 07 Apr 2015 18:11

It was an "Incident" because US Neutrality laws required us to stop doing any business with countries at war. The Chinese didn't declare war on Japan until Dec. 7th, 1941, after they heard about Pearl Harbor, Khota Baru, and the Japanese declaration of war on US/UK/Netherlands.
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cstunts
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by cstunts » 07 Apr 2015 19:52

Hello,

There is probably both too much being made of this and not enough...

In Japan I think Dai Toa Senso [Great East Asia War] designates the war beginning in China in 1937, and not in 1941 at Pearl Harbor. However, some of these designation are pretty fluid and have morphed over the decades...and, of course, there are opposing schools of thought among Japanese (educators as well as military historians) about the terms as well.

The Japanese term for 'incident' is jiken--which has a very commonplace connotation also, really.

But one should understand that the Japanese leaders also took a jaundiced view of the war in China...including Tenno Heika, Hirohito, who remarked that he had been assured it would be ended in a matter of months but had instead dragged on for years, etc. However, I have never seen a serious scholar refer to the war in China as "accidental" or "limited"...What the military themselves called it is another matter, but when America confronted Japan with demands to end the fighting there, Tojo rejected these out of hand based upon the amount of Japanese blood spilled already and the incalculable resources thrown into that morass. There was much more to it than that, but he understood what would resonate most effectively in public...and within the more hawkish cabals of his own forces.

Finally, bear in mind that various assassinations & coup attempts of the Thirties were also termed "jiken"---The infamous Feb. 26, 1936 event is called nii-niiroku-jiken, or the "2-26 Incident" --

HTH

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Akira Takizawa
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by Akira Takizawa » 08 Apr 2015 01:44

durb wrote:Yes, but to my knowledge Great East Asia War began "officially" in December 1941 when the war in China became part of it. The war in China between July 1937 - Dec. 1941 was thus just a "China Incident" despite all the sacrifices which it had demanded up to then.
Great East Asia War included the China Incident. China Incident was officially defined war by the Japanese Government.

China Incident was first called incident, because it was thought that it would end soon as well as other incidents in China. However, it enlarged and continued long. But, it was still called incident, because both sides did not declare the war. It is a technical problem on the international law and it was thought war before it officially became war. National Mobilization Law is an evidence that it was being thought war in Japan.

Taki
Last edited by Akira Takizawa on 08 Apr 2015 04:37, edited 1 time in total.

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Akira Takizawa
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by Akira Takizawa » 08 Apr 2015 02:49

cstunts wrote: The Japanese term for 'incident' is jiken--which has a very commonplace connotation also, really.

Finally, bear in mind that various assassinations & coup attempts of the Thirties were also termed "jiken"---The infamous Feb. 26, 1936 event is called nii-niiroku-jiken, or the "2-26 Incident" --
China Incident is not Jiken, but Jihen. Jihen has a meaning of the armed clash without declaring the war in Japanese.

Taki

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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by cstunts » 08 Apr 2015 03:03

Thank-you again, Taki-san for this clarification...I do appreciate it.

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hisashi
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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by hisashi » 08 Apr 2015 11:59

In a decree on wartime paiment to military men dated as 25 May 1928, Japanese government already used the word Shina Jihen (JACAR A01200581500). This decree followed the decision of reinforcement to Shandong, Third Shandong Expedition (May 1928). Today Shina Jihen refers to Nikka Jihen(1937-), but in this context Shina Jihen was used as a general word for 'recent military crash in China'.

Jihen was an old, and also common word than commonly imaged. In 1889, in the revised decree on kempei (JACAR A03020037700), the latter half of article 1 reads

On [kempeis'] mission specially needed in case of wartime or jihen shall be ruled elsewhere.

In first version in 1881 (JACAR C07072976000), the corresponding part reads

On [kempeis'] way of service in case of war, invasion from abroad or emergent strife shall be ruled elsewhere.

So Jihen in this context seemed to mean civil war, coups or destabilization. As already pointed out, Japan (and China) intendly used this word to avoid export ban to states at war.

Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901) was called as Hokushin(=North China) Jihen. In 1912 when Republic of China was established, a decree ruled on additional payment for military men serving in perilous area, stating the situations as Shinkoku Jihen (military dispute in China, JACAR A01200081400).

I should add Tianjing Incident, 1856 in China, was called as Jihen(事変).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tianjing_Incident

According to a researcher in the institute of defense, Shoji Junichiro, when Japanese government called the war as Daitoa Senso, 'From now on Daitoa Senso shall include Shina Jihen'. So Shoji concluded officially 'Shina Jihen' referred to the war 1937-1941 in China theater.

http://www.nids.go.jp/publication/kiyo/ ... 13-3_3.pdf

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Re: Incident as a special Japanese term for a war?

Post by OpanaPointer » 09 Apr 2015 11:37

How much of the use of the "incident" was the result of the local military starting the war without permission from Tokyo, if any?
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