New Museum to Focus on Sexual Slavery

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 9:17 pm

The Japan Times reports that there is to be a new museum, opening next month, which will focus on wartime sexual slavery. The museum is called “The Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace” (Anyone have links to Japanese news reports on this?) and will display materials and videos related to the issue in time for the 60th anniversary of the end of the war.

This comes on the heels of the latest embarrassing contribution to the controversy by 中山成彬 (Nakayama, Nariaki). He is the current Minister of Education and famous for a number of disturbing statements and his support for the removal of discussion of the issue in Japanese textbooks. In his most recent speech on the issue to make news, he spent some nine minutes reading out an email he received from a female Japanese graduate student studying in Canada. It seems that he wanted to emphasize that she agrees that the word now commonly used for comfort women, or 従軍慰安婦 didn’t exist at the time. Even the minister is not stupid enough to deny that there were comfort women at all, but to claim that this term didn’t exist is perhaps somehow supposed to support his crusade against teaching about sexual slavery during the war. You can find articles on this in the Japanese media online: Asahi, Yomiuri, Sankei.

Notice the different emphases in each article reporting on this. Asahi includes, and is the only one of the three newspapers to include this somewhat disturbing quote from the email:


The student apparently wants the comfort women, and thus presumably also the sexual slaves (意に反して売春させられた) among them, to take pride in their work providing “comfort” for the unsettled hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield. Yomiuri notes her denial that the term now common existed at the time and adds this quote:


I am not entirely clear on how exactly having some other name for massive institutionalized prostitution which included sexual slavery will somehow create a less evil image. True to form, Sankei dwells on this issue a little more, including the aforementioned quote and adding a few more, including:


Here Sankei is adding her thoughts on the reaction of China and Korea, playing the history card to serve their own national interests, and criticizing Japanese politicians who refuse to be defiant. Providing some additional context, Sankei adds that Nakayama said in June that he was glad that comfort women had been removed from the textbooks since the word didn’t exist at the time. While I’m not sure what terms were or were not used during the war, note the connection being made between a squabble about the term – and discussion in textbooks of the important issue to which this term refers (according to various reports, the issue has made a mass disappearance from many if not all the major textbooks that are coming out this year).

Sex, Lies, and Okinawa

Filed under: — tak @ 10:03 am

For anyone interested in Okinawa and the history of journalism in Japan, David Jacobson over at Japan Media Review has recently reported on a new lawsuit by a journalist who 30 years ago was slammed for uncovering a “secret pact” between the U.S. and Japan.

Disgraced Journalist Seeks to Revisit 30-year-old Scandal
More than 30 years later, a Japanese court is reconsidering an epoch-making media scandal that raised the question of whether unethical conduct by a reporter in obtaining the news should outweigh the significance of the facts he uncovered, no matter how earthshaking they might be.

The first oral hearing took place Tuesday in a suit brought by disgraced Mainichi Shimbun political reporter Takichi Nishiyama. Nishiyama, now 73, sued the government in April, claiming that it had destroyed his reputation. He seeks a government apology and 33 million yen (roughly $300,000) in damages.

The case concerns Nishiyama’s reporting on the negotiations between the United States and Japan over the reversion of the southernmost islands in the Japanese archipelago, Okinawa, to Japanese sovereignty (For a detailed chronology, see Wikipedia’s entry). Nishiyama uncovered documents in 1971 that revealed that Japan had secretly made a pact with the U.S. to absorb $4 million of the cost of returning Okinawa – which had been a U.S. protectorate since World War II – to Japan.

However, it was later learned that Nishiyama had obtained the documents through an affair with a married Foreign Ministry secretary. Both the secretary and Nishiyama were arrested, she for revealing state secrets and he for abetting her efforts. Each was convicted, though he appealed his case as far as the Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction.


Summer Reading Notes: Turnbull

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 3:57 am

After our discussion of the 1590s wars, I did pick up Stephen Turnbull’s Samurai Invasion: Japan’s Korean War, 1592-1598. The book is a great read, and there’s some fantastic detail in it. Like so much military history, there’s a sense in which it’s a story in search of a thesis, but the detailed research, sources and strong (and pretty balanced) background make it worth the time. I was particularly struck by the way in which the Chinese-Japanese negotiations between the major phases of the war excluded Korean representatives, foreshadowing the 19-20c “New Imperialism.” In both the earlier and later instances, Korea was not really a passive subject or empty space, but it’s remarkable how consistently it is treated as such. I was pleased to know that most of what I’ve been teaching about the wars was correct (Talmud says that an error in teaching [Torah, of course] is tantamount to an intentional sin), and next time I go over this in class I have a whole wealth of new material to work with. One of my long-term aims, as I think I’ve mentioned before, is developing a curriculum of balanced and integrated Korea-Japan history, and this is an excellent and accessible example of pretty good work in that vein. Yeah, I’ve got some concerns, and people who know the period better than I might have others, but I think this’ll stand up for a while.

I picked up another of Turnbull’s books, because it was in the library catalog and because I get asked about this all the time: Ninja: the True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult. I have my doubts, which were not assuaged by the first page [italicized comments are mine, of course]:

For the purpose of definition I shall take the view that the study of ninja is the legitimate study of all aspects of unconventional Japanese warfare [this may be a legitimate object of study, but you have to demonstrate the equivalence of ninja to “unconventional,” as defined by normative and often ahistorical samurai texts, warfare before you assume it], from intelligence gathering to assassination, and from guerrilla warfare to night raiding, and in view of the large number of words used for the practitioners of such operations [which might be a clue to the need for a less overarching analysis], I shall use the term ‘ninja’ except where the context is inappropriate [as defined by the author himself].

Naturally, the rest of the book might relieve me of my skepticism, but the blatantly self-serving nature of these definitions is quite off-putting.

Part of what Turnbull is doing, and this is something I’ve seen others attempt, is trying to explain the factual origins of a myth at the same time that he is debunking [aspects of] it. This is a tough act: the two strains of argument really do strain at each other, and maintaining a credible balance and tension between the two requires that the sources for both be very strong (and be handled evenly and rigorously). That’s rarely the case, though the quality of Samurai Invasion gives me some glimmer of hope. Just a glimmer, though.

I’ve got to get through this soon, because I really want to get back to reading Young [whose concept of "Total Empire" dovetails quite nicely with my research on Japanese government involvement and monitoring of emigration] and Botsman [which came back from Library Reserves yesterday].


Akihito as the Sovereign of Japan?

Filed under: — tak @ 10:19 pm

Asahi Shinbun reports that the LDP has accepted plans to push for changing the name “Self-Defense Force”(「自衛隊」) to “Self-Defense Military” (「自衛軍」). This is a bit alarming and I am sure that, if not already, there will be harsh criticism from Japan’s neighbors in the coming days.

But what made me shiver in reading this news was not so much Japan inching toward militarization, which had already been happening for a while now, but rather an effort by the LDP to (re)instate the emperor as the “sovereign” of the Japanese state. According to this Asahi article in Japanese, the commision almost approved a proposal to transform him into a mere symbolic figure to someone who would actually represent Japan in diplomatic settings.


When I read this, I could not believe my eyes. Is this really happening? What year is this?????


The word that I translated as “sovereign” here is genshu (元首). (Wikipedia translates it as either “head of state” or “sovereign”). It is a word that comes from the pre-war constitution, The Great Japanese Imperial Constitution, which was promulgated in 1889 and revised during the Allied occupation (1945-51). [The image shows the first page of the original constitution, taken from here.]

In the old pre-war constitution, the fourth article stipulates that the emperor is the genshu of Japan. This comes right after an article that declares the emperor to be divine.

So it has really come to this? Can someone wake me up from this nightmare? Are they soon going to start hailing Akihito as, indeed, a god?


Post-Anpo Apostasy

Filed under: — tak @ 11:32 pm

During my search for a short article on Anpo (the anti U.S.-Japan Security Treaty movement in 1960), Konrad mentioned that he would be interested in hearing about leftist intellectuals who recanted their radical politics after the defeat of the movement.

I was looking at a chapter in Yoshikuni Igarashi’s Bodies of Memory titled “From the Anti-Security Treaty Movement to the Tokyo Olympics: Transforming the Body, the Metropolis, and Memory,” as a possible article to use in class.

This article mentions Shimizu Ikutaro, whom Igarashi describes as “an intellectual who was deeply committed to the anti-treaty movement.” He was a loud voice in the movement for sure, and Igarashi explores the issues of memory and the body in Shimizu’s discussion of Zengakuren (the radical wing of the student movement) and the physical nature of their tactics during Anpo.

Shimizu is, I believe, known as an anpo intellectual who recanted. Here, on a website run by Professor Okubo Takaji of Waseda University, are some essays about Shimizu, in Japanese.

And here is what Harry Harootunian, in “Beyond Containment: The Postwar Genealogy of Fascism and TOSAKA Jun’s Prewar Critique of Liberalism” (printed online here), has to say about Shimizu and why he repudiated the left after Anpo:

SHIMIZU condemned [prewar leftist] intellectuals who later recalled their experience of conversion as testimonials of bad faith, since neither were their commitments as strong as they wished later witnesses to believe nor were the speculative modes of the Japanese people illuminated by conversion so intensely antimodern. Here, SHIMIZU was apparently speaking the from personal experience of his own conversion. His late writings, “Doubting the Postwar” and “Auguste COMTE” (published in the 1970s) rejected the category of the “postwar,” which he equated with all of those efforts to repeat the Enlightenment that common sense had already “denied.” What SHIMIZU meant by common sense might have conceivably revealed only an instance of his own bad faith and how he had successfully changed with the seasons. Yet, he explained that intellectuals in Japan were exceedingly short on common sense, that is, a knowledge common to a wide number of people [...]

Here Harootunian draws our attention to the way Shimizu sees Enlightenment thought as fomenting a kind of political activism that is antithetical to the people. But focusing on the undifferentiated — what Harootunian calls a “classless” — image of “the people” led to Shimizu’s denunciation of Marxism and the Japanese left:

Intellectuals are blinded from the common sense of the masses and are not able to approach them. But he, SHIMIZU declared, had escaped this blindness, this Enlightenment contagion that had plunged Japan into darkness, because he had been able to manage an identity with the masses. When the conception of common sense was linked to his idea of presentism (the curse of shared values, political and public cultures, all those interpretative strategies confidently based upon a putative average), he had merely found a way to justify the way things are by appealing to a fixed fund of experience/knowledge which seemingly had remained the same since the beginning of the race.

Here Harootunian depicts Shimizu as an intellectual lured by “presentism,” a kind of culturalist chauvinism that develops when a refusal of Western thinking (in this case Enlightenment) is projected to imagine “the people” as a “race” untouched by the evil ways of industrial capitalism. At least that is what Harootunian here is arguing.

I have never read Shimizu so I don’t know what to make of this passage, but I’m not 100% convinced of the argument that presentist thought is more likely to lead to an essentialist and transhistorical position. But in contrast to Tosaka Jun, I guess it sort of makes sense why Shimizu recanted.

Are there others who recanted after Anpo? Now I’m curious too.

Oe and Millenarian Movements

Filed under: — tak @ 7:56 am

I have spent the last few days working on a syllabus for a course titled “Anthropology of Social Movements,” and I figure I could use some help from our regular visitors of the Well.

One section of the class will be devoted to a reading of Oe Kenzaburo‘s The Silent Cry (Mannen gannen futtoboru). This book will be read in conjunction with E.P. Thompson‘s essay “The Moral Economy of the English Crowd in the Eighteen Century”(Past and Present 50:76-136).

Here’s where I need help. I am looking for one or two short pieces that might help fill out the historical background to the novel. Basically I am looking for a piece on Anpo and another on Tokugawa period peasant insurrections (ikki and uchikowashi). The pieces have to be in English, and I’d rather have them make sweeping unprovable claims about the historical significance of these events rather than have them stuffed with historical details.

If there is something out there that discusses Anpo and ikki in one broad stroke, that would be most ideal. But Anglophone scholars have only begun to explore that sort of post-Anpo New Left sensibility, perhaps most famously articulated by Yoshimoto Takaaki. Or maybe works do exist, and I’m sure they do in research on literature, so it would be great if someone could refer works here.

The entire course is designed as a long argument against analyses of social movements by economistic Marxism (or in the case of Japan, koza-ha Marxists) and modernization theory. The Silent Cry section will help students understand the “human consciousness” aspects of social movements and will come right after a section on millenarian movements around the world such as the cargo cults of Melanesia and the Ghost Dance movement of North America.


Dewey In Japan

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 7:40 pm

Naoko Saito takes John Dewey’s visits to Japan as a starting place for questions about “Education for Global Understanding” [registration required; I do like the way TCR seems to be branching more towards Higher Ed and international education lately, but it might just be a summer blip] and finds challenging material.

In his visit to Japan, from February 9 until April 28, 1919, Dewey was confronted with a severe challenge to his hope of attaining mutual understanding and universal democracy beyond national and cultural boundaries. Japan at that time was between two world wars and had undergone a democratization movement called Taisho Democracy – a movement that was soon to give way to looming nationalism and militarism. Dewey saw a flickering hope for liberalism in Japan, but he left the country in disappointment. He tried to approach Japan through his principle of mutual national understanding. During the short period of his stay, he struggled to penetrate below the surface of the culture. As a philosopher who was thrown into an abyss that existed between two cultures, Dewey acknowledged that “Japan is a unique country, one whose aims and methods are baffling to any foreigner.” He communicated with Japanese liberal intellectuals, gave a lecture at the University of Tokyo, and was exposed to the left-wing democratic movements among college youth. But he learned that “such higher criticism is confined to the confidence of the classroom” (JL, p. 174). Dewey realized that the “popular mind,” to which he wished to communicate his idea of democracy as a personal way of living, was dominated by “nationalistic sentiment.” He observed that “the growth of democratic ideas” and “the growth of liberalism” were hampered by the inculcation of “the emperor cult” (LJ, pp. 170–173). Especially in contrast to China, where “[e]very articulate conscious influence [was] liberal,” Dewey noticed the obstacles to “the development of an enlightened liberal public opinion in Japan” – “the conspiracy of silence,” patriotism, and the institutional religion that prevented “critical thought and free discussion.” Dewey was troubled by the authoritarian, nationalistic ethics indoctrinated in primary education (LJ, pp. 167–168). He could not find democracy in Japanese people’s way of living.

Furthermore, Dewey was confused by an inconsistency involved in Japanese modernization – a combination of the “feudal” and “barbarian” ethos of the warrior with the worship of western industrialization (LJ, pp. 160–161). As he put it, “There is some quality in the Japanese inscrutable to a foreigner which makes them at once the most rigid and the most pliable people on earth, the most self-satisfied and the most eager to learn” (LJ, p. 168). In the country’s “opportunism,” Dewey found it “difficult in the present condition of Japan to construct even in imagination a coherent and unswerving working policy for a truly liberal political party” (POJ, p. 259).

This experience of Dewey leaves us with a philosophical question: what happens if one’s democratic faith is not totally accepted in a different culture? [footnotes removed]

Actually, that last sentence should be, based on her description of Dewey’s responses, “what happens if one’s democratic faith is entirely rejected in a different culture?” A bit later, Saito notes that “In the series of lectures that Dewey gave at the University of Tokyo, the number of participants decreased from around a thousand to less than forty towards the end.” And, of course, there’s little evidence of Dewey’s influence in Japan’s educational or political systems to date. Clearly his visit failed to transform Japan, unrealistic as that standard of judgement might be. Clearly Japan as a society is not fully accepting of differences and others (are any societies?) and has a civil discourse which is more limited than many of us would consider ideal, or even healthy.

I’m mostly struck by the tension between the idea of Taisho Democracy, which was indeed in full swing when Dewey dropped in, and what Dewey observed as rigidity, obscurantism, chauvinism and authoritarianism. Given what we know of the course of history, Dewey’s observations ring true, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he didn’t miss something important. The 1920s were a heyday of internationalism in Japan, not just in the sense of the Shidehara Diplomacy but also in terms of translated literature and scholarship, travel overseas, international visitors to Japan, and the penetration of commodity culture carrying both domestic and international products and modes. Dewey should have seen some of that potential; instead he (and his followers in the present) deny that the eclectic and dynamic 1920s were more than epiphenomal. There’s a consistency to this narrative that I find troubling, possible evidence of a cultural determinism which is untenable, historically.

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