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In this Japanese name, the family name is Watanabe.

Watanabe Shōichi (渡部 昇一 Watanabe Shōichi ?); b. 15 September 1930, the oldest son of a prosperous merchant, in Shizuoka, Yamagata Prefecture is an English scholar and one of Japan’s foremost cultural critics. A graduate of Sophia University, where he obtained his Master’s degree, he completed his doctorate at University of Münster in 1958. Two volumes of autobiography on his years in Germany narrate his varied experiences during this period[1]. Returning to his alma mater, he became successively lecturer, assistant professor and full professor, until his retirement. He is now emeritus professor at the same university. A passionate book-collector, he is chairman of the Japan Bibliophile Society. His personal collection of books on English philology (see Bibliography) is perhaps his most important contribution to the field of English philology in Japan, containing many rare items.


Political position in historical controversies

A conservative opinionist, he is well-known for his dismissal of the Nanking Massacre as an historical phantasm, attributing the known killings to the standard revenge of regular soldiers in war against guerrilla combatants whom they have captured.[2]. As he later clarified, in his view, the concept of massacre in war should properly be reserved for atrocities against a civilian population, where the numbers roughly exceed the range of 40-50 victims, as opposed to the wholesale killing of irregular insurgents. [3]. Generally Watanabe's perspective closely echoes the line taken by Japanese generals before the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in the Tokyo War Crimes Trial of 1948.

Again, with regard to the famous textbook controversy, which followed on Saburo Ienaga’s suit against the Japanese Education Ministry, Watanabe was almost alone in controverting the general consensus of editorialists writing for the Japanese mainstream press (Mainichi Shinbun, Asahi Shinbun), and upholding the Ministry’s prerogative to intervene directly in the content of textbooks used in Japanese primary and secondary schools.[4]

In Watanabe's view, the decisive 'incident' leading to Japan's full-scale war on the Chinese mainland, namely the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, is to be read as an underhand Chinese Communist Party plot against Japan, and the versions of history taught in pre-war Japanese school textbooks are more reliable than those available today to students.[5].

His intense productivity is often challenged as being in part the result of extensive ransacking and plagiarism of foreign books on the subjects he writes about. Hata Ikuhiko for one has documented how Watanabe's book on the German General Staff [6] is characterized by wholesale borrowings from a German sourcebook. [7]

Watanabe remains a controversial figure, but predominantly on the Japanese scene. He is little known abroad, even in his own academic area of specialization. A Christian, he can still disconcert foreigners by assuring them that Japan's 'racial purity' was to be cherished[8].


  • (1)Hata Ikuhiko(秦郁彦), Nankyō jiken――「gyakusatsu」no kōzō, Chūō Kōronsha, Tokyo 1986
  • (2) Shōwa-shi no nazo o ou, 2 vols.Bungei Shunjū, Tokyo 1993,1999)
  • Roy Andrew Miller, The Japanese Language in Contemporary Japan:Some sociolinguistic observationsAEI-Hoover Policy Studies,22, 1977 pp.9ff.
  • Peter Nicholas Dale, The Myth of Japanese Uniqueness, Croom Helm, Oxford and London 1986 pp.63-64,82-88


  • Nihonshi kara mita nihonjin,Sangyō Nōritsu Tanki Daigaku Shuppan,1973
  • Nihongo no kokoro, Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho, Tokyo 1974
  • Chiteki seikatsu no hōhō, Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho, Tokyo 1976
  • Kokugo no ideorogī, Chūō Kōronsha, Tokyo 1977
  • Seigi no jidai, Bungei Shunjū, Tokyo 1977
  • 「Nihonrashisa」no kōzō, Kōdansha Gakujutsu Bunko, 1977
  • Zoku-Nihonshi kara mita nihonjin, Sangyō Nōritsu Tanki Daigaku Shuppan,1977
  • Bunka no jidai, Bungei Shunjū, Tokyo 1978
  • Zoku-Chiteki seikatsu no hōhō, Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho, Tokyo 1979
  • Nihon, soshite nihonjin, Shōdensha NON book, Tokyo, 1980
  • Doitsu ryūgakki, Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho, Tokyo 1980, 2 vols.
  • The Peasant Soul of Japan, Palgrave Macmillan, London 1989
  • Bibliotheca Philologica Watanabeiensis: The Catalogue of Philological Books in the Library of Professor Shoichi Watanabe. Yushodo, Tokyo 2001,


  1. ^ Watanabe Shōichi,Doitsu ryūgakki, Kōdansha Gendai Shinsho, Tokyo 1980, 2 vols.
  2. ^ Watanabe Shōichi, Nihonshi kara mita nihonjin – Shōwa hen
  3. ^ Watanabe Shōichi, Shokun!, No.2, Feb.2001
  4. ^ Watanabe Shōichi,Banken uso ni hoeru
  5. ^ Watanabe Shōichi, Nenpyō de yomu. Nihon no kin-gendaishi
  6. ^ Watanabe Shōichi, Doitsu Sanbō Honbu - Sono eikō to shūsen, Kuresuto Sensho, Tokyo 1997.
  7. ^ Hata Ikuhiko, Shōwa-shi no nazo o ou, vol.2, Bungei Shunjū, Tokyo 1999
  8. ^ Ian Buruma, 'What Keeps the Japanese Going?', in New York Times Book Review, Vol.35, No.4, March 17, 1988

See also



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