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The number of Japanese interested in history has been increasing in recent years. At the same time, there has been a perennial debate over the "historical perceptions" of Japan vis-a-vis neighboring countries. Yet, before a meaningful dialogue for a common understanding of history can be pursued, it is our belief that work to establish historical facts is needed. This entails ascertaining what materials exist and sharing those that are found. It is only on such a premise that a dialogue on the interpretation of historical evidence can be effectively advanced.
From this sort of point of view, in August 1994, then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama decided to commemorate the following year as the 50th anniversary of the Second World War’s end with a "peace and friendship exchange program." The program included Murayama’s instructions to examine the establishment of a “Japan Center for Asian Historical Records.” In the following years a broad and in-depth study on how to form the center made progress. A Japanese Cabinet decision on November 30, 1999, entitled "On promoting the project for maintenance of Asian historical records," set the course for JACAR's eventual establishment as an institution "with a mission of making materials kept by the Government on the history of relations between Japan and neighboring Asian countries and other countries more accessible to the Japanese public and to the people of the countries concerned, as well as of promoting mutual understanding between those countries and Japan." Apropos of this, it was decided that the center would be founded as an organization of the National Archives of Japan.
The Asian historical records offered by our center refer to important historical documents pertaining to Japan’s contemporary relations with neighboring countries. Presently, our center is digitizing and releasing to the public documents of Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the National Institute for Defense Studies, as well as the National Archives of Japan. The documents are made public in original form as maintained by their respective governmental agencies and offered with absolutely no content editing. Moreover, the three governmental agencies feeding into the center’s digital database can be searched online simultaneously, which is convenient for users.
Nearly a decade has passed since the center’s establishment and approximately twenty-million-nine-hundred-thousand documents can be browsed at no cost anytime, anywhere, and by anyone. It is fortunate that the center has received a positive reputation for its making access to historical records more convenient. Access has steadily increased in Japan and abroad from individuals engaged in historical education and research as well as those people interested in history. Though we are proud to be a world leading digital archive, we are aware that there are still shortcomings due to time, personnel, structural, and technical constraints. From the initial years, characters difficult to decipher remain to be input and mistakes in reading were overlooked. We continue to grapple everyday to correct those errors.
We hope users understand that the center is making every effort to grow as the first of its kind. We would greatly appreciate your cooperation in notifying us of errors or omissions that you come across, as this information will help us work to improve.
Director-General of Japan Center for Asian Historical Records