井の中の蛙

11/23/2010

Teachers and National Ideologies

Filed under: — sayaka @ 2:05 am

I have been collecting and reading various materials that could potentially reveal how people lived in rural villages between the 1910s and 1940s. Village teachers were particularly eager to write down their thoughts and experiences. Since most of them did not get enough pay to survive, being a teacher (especially in the late 1920s onwards) required a lot of commitment and self-sacrifice on their part. In their writings, good information is often covered by the thick coat of ideological arguments on nationalism, agrarianism (農本主義), which the Home Ministry encouraged to develop as a part of social moral suasion (社会教化), and/or respect for the military that became more and more ostensible during the 1930s. In fact, it is impossible for me to tell whether they truly embraced these ideologies, but their writings are passionate enough to appear that they meant it.

Now I face a difficult question of how to interpret these teachers. How would I depict them if I was making a movie? Were they ideological machines to create an ideal nation? Were they the first ones to be “brain-washed” before brain-washing other populations? As soon as I put the question this way, I am urged to say “no, things must have been more complex than that.” No matter how blindly nationalistic they sounded,  I also see that this was out of their struggle to find a way to give their students control over their own lives. In most of the cases, they found the methods that the central government advocated the most effective way. One youth school teacher in Oita Prefecture, for example, argued in 1939 that becoming a hardworking and advanced farmer was the only way to survive in the increasing susceptibility of agricultural business to external factors:

農業は外界の事情に支配されることが多い。経済界の動き、自然的事情特に天候の如何によっては半年の労苦を一朝にして水泡に帰せしめることが有り勝ちだ。今日の農業は安全確実な職業とは言えなくなった。…かかる時代においては篤農家、老農、精農の手合いが次第に輝きを増してくるように感じられる。世間が押し並べて風害虫害病害にしてやられる中に一人老農は以前と農作を謳うものだ。物価は下落し農村は不況の裏に沈淪し鋏状価格差の声頻々たる中に平然として余裕ある生活をなし禍を転じて福となす者は篤農の士である。86 (下郡平治『専任教員農村青年学校の経営』東京・第一出版協会 1939、86)

I came across his writing right after reading another book which introduces a teacher in the Meiji/Taisho period who was extremely dedicated to teaching the standard pronunciation of the Japanese language to children in Akita. The skill in the standardized Japanese, or the lack thereof, tremendously affected how young people experienced their national lives like the conscription and higher education, and still means a lot to the people from this region today. It is a typical and blatant nationalizing project from historians’ point of view, yet he was also providing control over life to their students in an important way.

Going over these thoughts, I just realize how similar the problem of interpretations is between these teachers and intellectuals in the colonies. Just like in the cases of colonial intellectuals, however, I also wonder if it is irresponsible for me to leave them outside of my own judgment, pointing out that they were in difficult positions. This must be a ‘being a historian 101′ question, but I still cannot find a comfortable solution to it.

11/17/2010

Announcements and Remembrances

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:11 am

While the discussions on the Asia lists have been a bit wooden for a while, other H-Net communities are lively and thriving, and the book reviews are a fantastic resource. Moreover, I know some of the current leadership of H-Net, and I have great confidence that they’ll take it in interesting directions with new technology and new paradigms. That said, though the leadership, editors, reviewers and participants are all volunteers, they still need money for technical support, infrastructure and other expenses, and we can’t rely on state institutions of higher learning for this sort of thing. Donate!

The 2010 Cliopatria Awards for History Blogging nominations are open through November, so there’s still two weeks to riffle through your archives and pick your best work, and your friends’ best work, and the best stuff off your RSS reader. The categories are, as in the past, Best Individual Blog, Best New Blog, Best Group Blog (which we won back in ’05), Best Series of Posts, Best Single Post, and Best Writer (which Alan Baumler won in ’06). I’m judging Best New and Group Blog, so we can’t win that again this year; otherwise, the field for Asianists is wide open! Nominate!

The 2011 ASPAC Conference will be a joint event with the WCAAS Conference, to be held at Pomona College, June 17-19, 2011. In a remarkable feat of organization, the Conference website is already live and accepting paper proposals, though the deadline isn’t until mid-March. The theme is “Asia Rising and the Rise of Asian America” but proposals on all topics in Asian studies are welcome. Submit! (and let me know if you’ll be there; we’ve never had a blogger meet-up at ASPAC before!)

Finally, a sad note: Harold Bolitho, one of my advisors and mentors at Harvard, has passed away. I had heard, through another of my advisors, that he’d retired due to health issues – a bit hard to believe for those of us who sometimes confuse volume with vigor. He was a substantial scholar, who didn’t write a lot by some standards, but who always had something interesting to say, and a depth of understanding that I will always envy.1 One of the graduate papers I was proudest of, in some ways, was one that I wrote for him, on the Nagasaki visits of Rai San’yo and Shiba Kokan; I was a little surprised to discover a year later that he’d published an article on a similar theme.2 I was pleased, because clearly I had picked a topic that really did have merit – a matter of immense anxiety for a first-year grad student – but I was also somewhat taken aback at how much more depth and substance Bolitho brought to a subject I felt, in my absurd youth, that I had covered pretty well. I’m very sorry to hear that he’s passed on, because he was a great teacher for a young, nerdy, not-yet-historian.

  1. I didn’t realize until now that he’d written a survey text on Meiji Japan, something that I’ve always felt was lacking in the English language literature. It’s a short text, though, and now rather old. []
  2. H. Bolitho , Travelers’ Tales: Three Eighteenth-Century Travel Journals. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 50 (1990), pp. 485–504 []

11/10/2010

License to Hunt Japanese

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:11 pm

John Dower’s book War Without Mercy does a great job at talking about, and showing images of the many ways that race played a role in the propaganda and deep racially coded hatred the United States and Japan had for each other. Any good history of Japan or US-Japan relations that covers the war can now hardly avoid the topic.

The wonderful online exhibit Dr. Suess Went to War also has a wonderful catalog of the kinds of images found depicting the enemy, including a whole section on Japan.

Many of the propaganda images dehumanize the enemy by portraying them as some kind of animal, monster, or insects. They go well beyond the kind of racial caricatures of the enemy that depict certain racial stereotypes in terms of exaggerated features. The latter can be found not only in propaganda images but was used even in official documents. To take one example of this I recently came across, the cover for 1945 Field Order 31 of the US 8th Army, which contained instructions for the early occupation of the Japanese islands, shows the 8th Army, represented by a large arrow, attacking the protruding ass of a Japanese soldier, depicted with standard slanted eyes and enlarged teeth.1

fieldorder.jpg

As Dower and many others have pointed out, the more dehumanizing portrayals of the enemy create an environment in which the soldier feels that the enemy race is itself a kind of disease or vermin that needs to be exterminated. Though examples abound, I recently came across a particularly elaborate example of this that I had never seen before and which I thought I would share: A “License to Hunt Japanese” issued to an American who did not fight in the Pacific War but would later serve as a US advisor in occupation Japan. The image and accompanying text simultaneously captures a number of the features found in the more disturbing propaganda images.

licenseweb copy.jpg

Full size version of the image can be seen here.2

The license, clearly designed to be a work of humor, is stamped by a fictional “Department of Jap Extermination” in the “Alaska Sanitation Commmission,” which is said to have as its motto, “Exterm the worm.” Imitating a hunting license, it declares an “open season” on the Japanese, with “no limit.”

Japanese are not the only ones mentioned or depicted in this mock hunting license. The body of the license, which refers to the Japanese as “genus bastardi” and “black-livered Japanese,” announces that “Germans taken incidental to the hunt will be counted two for one in claiming bounty. Italians will not be counted.”

UPDATE: I received an email which pointed out that the image of the soldier in the first image is a most likely a caricature of Hirohito.

  1. Robert Eichelberger Papers Box 62. Microfilm version: Japan and America, c1930-1955: the Pacific War and the occupation of Japan. Series 1 Reel 31 []
  2. I have blurred out the names on the license and I’d rather not publish the origins of the document here. Contact me if you want more information on how to find the original document. []

11/9/2010

Shipping Designators for Japanese Cities

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 10:13 pm

There are two creative processes that I find particular mysterious. Coming up with the names for musical bands…and shipping designators.

Here for example, is a short list of some of the shipping designators for Japan during the US occupation:1

Yokohama = EVIL
Tokyo = BULL
Osaka = CLUB
Nagasaki = HARD
Kobe = HACK
Sasebo = CARL
Shimonoseki = KIDS
Gunzan = OWLS

Anyone have ideas on how they come up with these names?2

UPDATE: Here is the longer list from the original document:

Shipping Designators Japan

  1. A shipping designator is a short address. Defined as follows by militaryterms.net shipping designator — A code word assigned to a particular overseas base, port, or area for specific use as an address on shipments to the overseas location concerned. The code word is usually four letters and may be followed by a number to indicate a particular addressee.” []
  2. These are taken from Robert Eichelberger Papers. Series 1 Part 1 Reel 18 Box 49 Administrative Orders 1945-6 (4 vols). Headquarters Eight Army 25 Sept 1945 (Administrative Order 17 to accompany Field Order 32) 8. []

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