Someone mentioned to me today that a lot of Japanese government documents that relate to Asian history are available online through a web page managed by the Japan Center for Asian Historical Records, or JACAR.

To view the documents, you need to download a DjVu plug-in, but there is a link to do so on the JACAR homepage.

I searched in English with terms like “Vietnam” and “Annam” and I came across some information on the Paracel Islands (Quần Đảo Hoàng Sa), which are listed on this page by the Chinese name of Xisha Qundao.

What caught my attention was a heading which read, “Xisha Qundao is territories and possessions of the Kingdom of Annam.”

I then did a search for “Xisha Qundao” and got several results. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Japanese is weak. The information is also written in a kind of documentary style which is a little different from ordinary Japanese. So I’m not quite sure what these documents are talking about.

It appears, however, that some documents date from the late 1930s and some from after WW II. After the war started, it looks like the Japanese attempted to figure out who the Paracel Islands belonged to, and these documents appear to contain information from the French perspective claiming that in the nineteenth century, before the French took over, the islands belonged to the Kingdom of Annam.

I know that people are searching the world for “evidence” about stuff like this. I don’t know if anyone has looked in the Japanese archives yet, but if they haven’t, then this post is to let them know that there is something there on this topic.