Hosoya Chihiro: Lauded historian of Anglo-Japanese relations

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The Independent Online

Professor Chihiro Hosoya was one of Japan's most important historians of the postwar period. Specialising in international relations and diplomatic history, he was prolific in his publications in both Japanese and English. In his writing he clarified many sensitive issues concerning 20th-century Japan, especially in the interwar and postwar periods. He was energetic in travelling abroad and communicating with foreign scholars, making a huge contribution to international understanding.

Hosoya was born in Tokyo in 1920 and graduated from the Law Faculty of Tokyo University in 1945. Most of his teaching career was spent at Hitotsubashi University. In the 1980s he became Professor and Director of the Centre of Japan-US relations at the newly created International University of Japan in Niigata, where he later served as Vice-President. One colleague says of Hosoya's enthusiasm for this new concept in Japanese education: "His was the dominating presence in the entire venture as the years of planning reached fruition and an international graduate school in the remotest snow country of rural Niigata finally opened its doors. Hosoya relished the teaching, coped with the inevitable bureaucratic headaches and continued to attract both Japanese and international students and a galaxy of visiting scholars from overseas."

Hosoya began as a specialist in the Siberian Intervention of 1917 and the relations between Japan and Russia in the difficult era following the Bolshevik Revolution. He then turned to American-Japanese relations and after a sabbatical at Columbia University organised a number of conferences which focused on the deteriorating relations between the two countries in the 1930s.

Hosoya realised that the deterioration in American-Japanese relations could not be explained without studying Japan's situation in the triangle of the US, UK and the Soviet Union; increasingly he perceived the origin of the Asia-Pacific war in terms of economic rivalry between Britain and Japan. He was one of the key figures in organising a significant conference at the Imperial War Museum, London in 1979, where he gave the keynote address. He argued that "there was no conflict, either in principle or in programme, between the US and Japan; and in matters of actual interests (in China, for example) there was no major conflict. The real conflict of interests was between Britain and Japan."

He also played a part in publishing papers which appeared in English as Anglo-Japanese Alienation, 1919-52 (1982). He lectured at the London School of Economics in 1981 and 1982; researching the conclusion of the peace treaty with Japan in 1950-51, he undertook research in the British archives at Kew.

In 1995 the Japanese government set up its Peace, Friendship and Exchange programme in order to re-examine the history of the end of the Asia-Pacific War. Japan's relations with Britain comprised part of the project and Hosoya was prominent in planning a broad range of studies on that topic. They were eventually published, under the general joint editorship of Hosoya and Ian Nish, as The History of Anglo-Japanese Relations, 1600-2000 in 10 volumes, five in English and five in Japanese.

Hosoya won many honours. He was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, second class, in 1991 and became a member of the Japan Academy in 1991 and President of the Japanese Association for International Affairs. In 1995 he was elected as a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. Hosoya was noted for his painstaking and comprehensive research. One of the endearing things about him was his continued interest in the Diplomatic Record Office of Japan, which he visited regularly long after his retirement. He was widely respected for his broad-minded, liberal approach to international issues and his academic leadership.

While he was a commanding figure, he was generous not only in sharing his knowledge but also in assisting visiting foreign scholars and students in Japan. He was relaxed and cordial and yet, behind the bonhomie there was an ever-sharp mind, taking his craft as a historian with the utmost seriousness.

Hosoya Chihiro, historian and university administrator: born Tokyo 1 April 1920; married Yuriko (two sons); died Takasaki 21 September 2011.