Section 2. Documents on Foreign Policy Issues


The Foreign Ministry has saved no efforts for the classification, compilation and preservation of documents on diplomatic records since it was established in 1971, the Ministry opened the Diplomatic Record Office in Azabudai, Minato Ward, Tokyo, with a view to diffusing knowledge on Japanese Foreign Policy and to providing the general public with access to diplomatic documents and records.

The Diplomatic Record Office possesses about 48,000 volumes of diplomatic documents covering the years until the end of World War II, 2,104 volumes of "Tushinzenran" and "Zoku-tushinzenran" which recorded negotiations between the Tokugawa Shogunate government and foreign countries, about 600 treaty texts and about 1,100 credentials and autographed letters as well as 170 reels of microfilms that recorded events in the postwar period.

The Diplomatic Record Office offers these documents and records for public perusal and also answers inquiries from outside. In fiscal 1986, some 2,200 visitors came to see the documents, and the number of inquiries on diplomatic and other historical facts was approximately 500.

Visitors to the exhibit room of the office can scrutinize various precious historical records, including credentials, autographed letters, treaty texts, letters exchanged and photographs from the last days of the Tokugawa era to the Peace Conference at San Francisco.

The Foreign Ministry, since 1936, has been publishing "Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy" (edited and published by the Diplomatic Record Office), a classification and compilation of important diplomatic records since 1868, the first year of the Meiji era. The coverage of the Meiji era was published in 1963. The "Report on the 1935 London Naval Conference" and the "The Fifteenth Year of Taisho (Volume II-2)" were published in fiscal 1986 to complete the series on the Taisho era, and the Ministry is now editing the records for the Showa era. The "Documents on Japanese Foreign Policy" series now numbers 164 volumes, including special volumes such as Russo-Japanese War, Washington Conference, Manchurian Incident, Revision of the Unequal Treaties and Emigration Issues.

After the war, in response to the increasing public call for the disclosure of diplomatic records, the Foreign Ministry has been making public since 1976 those records in principle that are 30 years old or older, screening item-by-item. These records are available for public perusal in microfilms in the Diplomatic Record Office since 1976. However, some materials are withheld from making public if the disclosure of them would be prejudicial to the vital national interests or detrimental to private persons.

The disclosure of diplomatic records is a voluntary undertaking by the Foreign Ministry. The latest and eighth disclosure was done on March 25, 1985, which made main diplomatic documents up until 1953 available to the public. The Ministry is currently making assiduous preparations for the next disclosure.



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