Games and Play

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War has long featured in children’s games and play. See Sabine Frühstück, “The War on Games”.

Playing war has taken on a more sensitive position in postwar Japan, but there are various forms of play:

Computer Games

Whether flight simulators, military strategy games, or shoot-em-ups in military scenarios, World War II has spawned many computer games, including on Japanese consoles Sony PlayStation and Nintendo. A browser game that has gathered considerable attention in recent years is Kantai Collection, a fantasy game in which players collect Imperial Japanese Navy ships. See Chapter 20 by Kyungjae Jang in War as Entertainment and Contents Tourism in Japan).


Cosplayers can choose World War II figures either because they are in a favourite anime, or because they have a particular interested in the ideologies or aesthetics of the time. See Aleksandra Jaworowicz-Zimny, “Subcultures of war” (PhD thesis, chapter 6).

Plastic Models

Japan has large plastic model and hobby industries, including the major manufacturer Tamiya.

Playing with History

The “what if” genre – namely novels, manga, games and other works asking what would have happened if history had gone in a different direction – is a major genre in Japan. It often rests on fantasies of a Japanese superweapon, or scenarios in which Japan wins the war. It can be just harmless escapism, but it can also seem like nationalist reveries of what might have been if the Japanese Empire had been a bit more lucky … especially at the Battle of Midway … Companies like Jitsugyo no Nihonsha publish dozens of such titles.

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