Akira Fujiwara (藤原 彰 Fujiwara Akira?, 2 July 1922 – 26 February 2003) was a Japanese historian. His academic speciality was modern Japanese history and he was a professor emeritus at Hitotsubashi University. In 1980 he became a member of the Science Council of Japan and was a former chairman of the Historical Science Society of Japan.
He was born in Tokyo and after graduating from Rokuchu Tokyo Prefectural School, now Shinjuku Tokyo Metropolitan High School, in March 1940, he was part of the 55th graduating class at the Imperial Japanese Army Academy in July 1941 and the following December was deployed to North China as a trainee officer with the rank of Second Lieutenant attached to the 27th Division’s 3rd China Garrison Infantry Regiment. In March 1943 he was promoted to First Lieutenant and in April was put in charge of a company. In 1944 his division moved to a new front and participated in Operation Ichi-Go, after which he was promoted to captain. In March 1945 in the final stages of World War II he was ordered to transfer to mainland Japan and in June was appointed as commander of a battalion within the 524th Infantry Regiment of the 216th Division in preparation for the expected invasion of Japan. He survived the war and in November was sent into the reserves.
In May 1946 Fujiwara enrolled in history courses at the department of humanities at Tokyo Imperial University, now the University of Tokyo and graduated in March 1949. From 1954 to 1968 he worked as a part-time lecturer in the department of humanities and sciences at Chiba University. Then in 1967 he started a new job at Hitotsubashi University and in November accepted the position of associate professor in the department of sociology. In December 1969 he became a full professor and, in 1970, the head of his department. He left Hitotsubashi University in 1986 due to compulsory retirement but the same year got a part-time job as a lecturer in Rikkyo University’s department of humanities. Between 1989 and 1993 he was a professor at Kagawa Education Institute of Nutrition.
In the beginning he specialized in the medieval history of Japan but on the advice of Sho Ishimoda he switched to modern history and broke new ground in the history of the Showa period. He engaged in research on the modern history of Japan focusing on military and political history due to his experience as a professional soldier and his reflections on that. He was influenced academically by Kiyoshi Inoue.
Fujiwara’s name became widely known in 1955 when his book Shōwa Shi that he co-authored with fellow historians Shigeki Tooyama and Seiichi Imai became a bestseller. The writer Katsuichiro Kamei famously criticized the fundamental Marxist outlook of the book which divided Japanese society into a war-mongering ruling class and heroic anti-war resisters while ignoring the wavering majority who did not fit neatly into either. This dispute wound up involving many intellectuals including writers and historians and out of it the book Shōwa Shi Ronsō ("Controversies of Showa History") was developed.
Fujiwara was a prolific researcher of the Nanking Massacre and took the standpoint that the scale of the massacre reached 200,000 victims. Tokushi Kasahara has deemed that his research made a detailed re-examination of the atrocity applying methods and theories of historical research against his own experience in the army fighting on the battlefield, and analyzing it in the context of Japan’s military history, making special reference to the historical idiosyncrasies of the Japanese army and the latent contempt and discriminatory attitudes of the Japanese people towards China which reinforced them.
Poison gas photograph scandal
On 31 October 1984 the morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun published over more than half of its front page a close-up black-and-white photograph of smoke like a wildfire or burning field billowing thickly with the headline of “Definitive photographic proof of poison gas use by the Japanese Imperial Army discovered”. Fujiwara Akira had deemed the photo to be of poison gas and he was introduced as “a historian and former army officer who is putting forward proof-positive research of chemical warfare in the Sino-Japanese War”. However, it was soon after questioned in a news report by the Sankei Shimbun whether it might be just a smoke screen, and later the same photograph was checked by volume 9 of the series Ketteiban Showa Shi ("Showa History: The Definitive Guide") published by Mainichi Shimbun in May 1984, and it was determined that there was nothing like poison gas in it. However, Asahi Shimbun was unapologetic and Fujiwara likewise did not once over the course of his life apologize or issue a correction.
Concerning the Korean War
The established theory on the Korean War is that the North Koreans advanced across the 38th parallel and the American army, though taken by surprise, managed to rally. However, in Shōwa Shi Fujiwara and his co-authors wrote, “On the 23rd American Air Force fighter units stationed in Japan massed at Kitakyushu. Then on the 25th the South Korean army began to advance across the 38th parallel on the pretext that North Korea had made an incursion.” Fujiwara argued that South Korea was the aggressor and his writing strongly suggested that the US army was making preparations for the war. What’s more, though it was made clear in the memoirs of Nikita Krushchev that the Korean War was an invasion by the North, Fujiwara held firm to his assertion that the Korean War started with South Korea’s “pre-emptive attack” up through the 1970s.
Motohiko Izawa has slammed a number of modern historians like Fujiwara for putting ideology ahead of truth in their belief that the North Korean side was just and that American imperialism and the South Koreans were the villains.
- 『餓死した英霊たち』（青木書店、2001年）ISBN 4250201155
- （南京事件調査研究会）『南京大虐殺否定論13のウソ』（柏書房、 1999年）（著者は井上久士、小野賢二、笠原十九司、藤原彰、吉田裕、本多勝一、渡辺春巳）
As an editor
As a co-editor
- （今井清一）『十五年戦争史（全4巻）』（青木書店、 1988年-1989年）
- （今井清一・宇野俊一・粟屋憲太郎）『日本近代史の虚像と実像（全4巻）』（大月書店、 1989年-1990年）