井の中の蛙

10/14/2004

Temporary Suspension of “The Country is Burning”

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:28 am

A comic series tracking the life of a bureaucrat in early Showa Japan has been suspended because of its September 16th and 22nd editions that contained descriptions of Japanese soldiers massacring civilians in Nanjing, China. The comic, which is by Hiroshi Motomiya (本宮ひろ志) is called “The Country is Burning” (国が燃える) and is published in the “Weekly Young Jump” magazine (「週刊ヤングジャンプ」). The Japan Times reports that 37 members of local assemblies protested because “the massacre was presented as if it really happened.” However, both that article and mention of this in an Asahi article seem to indicate that the comic was suspended because of a problematic photograph. The magazine is looking into the use of “inappropriate materials” (「不適切な資料を引用していた」). You can track this in the Japanese media via Google’s news service.

Many Japanese, even those who are not enthralled by the delusions of a few revisionist historians who reject the existence of a massacre outright, wonder why the Nanjing massacre issue is still so full of energy and emotion, especially among the Chinese. I think part of the answer is that, as Joshua Fogel has said in a historiographical work on the massacre, “Of all [the] massive, man-made atrocities, only in the case of the Nanjing Massacre has a whole school – actually, several – developed that completely denies or significantly downplays it.” (p. 4) The local assembly members above are a good example, as are the authors in a recent Bungei Shunjū article I have written about. Fortunately, there are historians in Japan and elsewhere who are making it more and more difficult to play these games, thanks in part to the oral testimonies of former soliders. I wrote about and translated a few quotes from one such recent work on 102 former soldiers in Nanjing which is available in Japanese and I recently saw it in Chinese translation at a bookstore in Beijing.

10/7/2004

A Parliamentarian’s Weapon of Choice

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:43 am

I am afraid that most of my postings for the foreseeable future will be snippets from the basic readings on modern Japanese history that are taking up much of my time in this first year of my PhD. Today I’m reading an old classic by Peter Duus, Party Rivalry and Political Change in Taishô Japan. In his description of the rise of party discipline in the 1920s Duus dispels any impression that the Diet had become a place for civil exchanges:

By the 1920′s fights and physical violence became a normal part of Diet debates…The nameplates of the Diet members, originally movable, were nailed to the desks, because they made handy and exceedingly damaging implements of offense. (18)

10/5/2004

Japanese Pride and Influence

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:33 am

If you’ve studied Japan for even a few years, it becomes clear that Japanese are very sensitive about Nobel prizes. They haven’t won a lot of them, it seems, and it bothers them; many of “their” winners were actually working outside of Japan, which also bothers them.

I don’t know if it will help or hurt Japan’s self-image, but a Japanese was recently honored by the Ig Nobel prize committee (honoring those who have “done things that first make people LAUGH, then make them THINK.”) with the 2004 Ig Nobel PEACE award: “Daisuke Inoue of Hyogo, Japan, for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other.”

By the way, Japan won an Ig Nobel in Chemistry in 2003, for a metallurgical study of a bronze statue that does not attract pigeons and in 1999 for a spray which, when applied to men’s underwear, illuminates signs of infidelity. Japan won another Peace citation in 2002 for the invention of the Bow-Lingual dog bark translator. In 1997, Japanese shared a biology prize for gum-chewer brainwave studies, and were sole winners of the Economics prize for the invention of the Tamagotchi virtual pet. The list goes on; in fact, I think Japan might be one of the most frequently cited non-anglophone countries, though I’m not actually going to tally it up to find out.

Yes, it’s intended as satire (though Mr. Inoue did attend the ceremony this year, and you’d be surprised how many honorees do) but it points out two interesting things. First, honors and prizes are only rough measures of anything. Second, Japan’s effect on the world is not only noteworthy, but has been noted.

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