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Jeff Kingston, in his Jan. 21 review of the book “Asian Labor in the Wartime Japanese Empire,” states that “Knowledge among Japanese about wartime forced labor is sketchy and thus it might come as some surprise that there are five chapters on Indonesia.” Apart from whether knowledge among Japanese about the history of military and colonial adventures that took place over 60 years ago is any sketchier than similar knowledge among nationals of other countries with such histories, I would think a knowledgeable person would have more reason to be surprised by the slant of a book with 12 of 17 chapters on Japan in Southeast Asia.

Or maybe not. The book is published by Singapore University Press (among others). Its editor, Paul H. Kratoksa, is a senior lecturer in history at the National University of Singapore and has been the publishing director of its press. He is also the editor or author of no less than eight other academic tomes dedicated to the critical expose and illumination of Japan’s activities in Southeast Asia.

Critics with a sketchy awareness of the kind of historical knowledge that in fact circulates in Japan might be surprised to learn that the selection of books, in Japanese, on Japan’s military and colonial adventures in Asia, in any sizable bookstore in Japan, is better balanced than the offerings of overseas university presses.

william wetherall

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