井の中の蛙

12/13/2008

Conference: 日中ジャーナリズム研究サミット

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 1:51 pm

The 20世紀メディア研究所, which produces the wonderful journal Intelligence and helps manage the amazing online database index of the Prange archive of early postwar Japanese media that is an absolute must for anyone studying Japan during the occupation period, is helping organizing a conference at Waseda University in Tokyo on topics related to Sino-Japanese media issues.

The first day of the conference, December 21st, will be of interest to many historians, as it will focus on media in the foreign concessions (of China). Here is the schedule:

講演会 13:00~17:30
司会進行:川崎賢子(文芸評論家)

歓迎の辞 佐藤正志(早稲田大学政治学研究科長・教授)

講演① 山本武利(早稲田大学教授)
 /日本の謀略新聞――『大陸新報』と『東亜新報』

講演② 黄 瑚(復旦大学教授)
 /上海「孤島」期(1937.11-1941.12)租界当局のメディア政策について

講演③ 黄 旦(復旦大学教授)
 /租界が中国新聞業に及ぼす影響について

特別講演 黄 昇民(中国伝媒大学広告学院長・教授)
 /歴史資料を用いたメディア研究の可能性について

Location: 早稲田大学早稲田キャンパス3号館二階第一会議室

Other sessions of the conference look at a number of issues related to media and sports, especially the Olympics. You can find the full schedule for the conference here.

12/1/2008

December 2008 History Carnival

Roman female sarcophagus muses right side The History Carnival

“In retrospect, historians are usually right.”Der Spiegel interviewer (11-11-08).

This has been a lively month for history blogging, for some obvious reasons — the election, the economic turmoil — and despite the mid-semester doldrums that often strike this time of year. I will, because I can’t leave well enough alone, be decorating this carnival with images from my collection.1

Hot Topics

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  1. collected shamelessly for educational purposes from museums (the Nelson-Atkins in Kansas City), parks (Fort Scott, Kansas) and private collections (Waikoloa Hilton, Hawai’i). Fair use applies: if you find any of this useful, feel free to use it as appropriate, giving credit where credit is due. []

11/12/2008

Another Disappointment

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:34 pm

I always get a little nervous when a world history textbook cites details about Japanese history which I’ve never heard of before. I’m still mostly enjoying teaching with Felipe Fernandez-Armesto’s The World: A Global History, but I’m also still having some trouble with the Asian material.1 Imagine my surprise when I turned to the chapter on “Global Politics in the Twentieth Century” and it opened with this anecdote:

In the Manchuria of the 1920s and 1930s, the brothels in the city of Harbin were not merely, or even primarily, places of vice, but resembled clubs, where the regular clients became friends and met each other. The Russian journalist Aleksandr Pernikoff frequented Tayama’s, which was Japanese owned and flew the Japanese flag. At the time, Manchuria was part of the sovereign territory of China, but Tayama’s displayed signs of the gradually increasing level of Japanese infiltration. The Chinese government—run by the nationalist, republican party known as the Guomindang (gwoh-meen-dohng)— rightly suspected Japan of plotting to seize Manchuria, detach it from China, and turn it into part of the Japanese Empire.

Ron Loftus has an essay at his website which supports the brothel/secret agent contentions.2 I’m not terribly familiar with the literature on the secret societies and espionage, I admit, but my impression has been that the secret societies were a sideshow, more a symptom of the expansive nationalism of the early 20th century than a driving force.3 The text continues:
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  1. I’m also not entirely happy with the “one topic over the whole world for a century” structure in the 20th century. It worked OK in the earlier segments, but the 19th century was a gallop and the 20th is pedal-to-the-metal. Yikes. []
  2. The authorship of the essay is actually a bit unclear, and there is a bibliography, but no citations. The sources listed range from the fairly authoritative (Yuki Tanaka) to the very unfamiliar but with somewhat lurid titles. []
  3. In fairness, as a social historian, I’m naturally deeply suspicious of conspiracy theories, and prefer to look at long-term structural causes. []

5/14/2008

Archival Incidents, or What is it with Pictures?

Sean Malloy has withdrawn the pictures once touted as “newly discovered” photographs of Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing. Over the last few days, after the pictures were reported by HNN, the Huffington Post, and Wired, among others, members of the Japanese studies community took a closer look and began to doubt. I saw it unfold at H-Japan: questions about the clothing worn by the people standing in the photos, injuries that didn’t match the atomic bombing, topography issues. Most of all, there were similarities to other known pictures from the Kanto Earthquake of 1923 and the anti-Korean/anti-leftist massacres which followed: the injuries, topography and clothing are more consistent with that disaster/atrocity. How the pictures acquired the Hiroshima story is still a mystery though, as one commenter pointed out, there’s a three day gap between the bombing and the first known pictures which we’d dearly love to fill.

By a curious coincidence, I (and a lot of other innocent scholars of Asia, I warrant) got an email from an ironically named Japanese group1 whose sole purpose is to deny the realities of Japanese WWII atrocities, and one of their highlight publications is an attempt to debunk as many Nanjing Massacre photographs as possible. Daqing Yang, one of the premier scholars on the Nanjing Massacre has written

Even photographic evidence, as many of them have come to realize, can be fraught with danger if its origins cannot be ascertained. When a conservative Japanese daily newspaper made a news story out of a wartime photograph used with the wrong caption in Kasahara’s book, he offered a swift public apology for his negligence and replaced the photograph.94 One of Kasahara’s historian colleagues has included a cautionary note about the use of photographic evidence in a college textbook on historical sources, using the Rape of Nanjing as an example.95

A few days back, peacay wrote me to get clarification on a satirical map found in the ‘Block Prints of the Chinese Revolution’ collection at Princeton. The problem with it, what was confusing peacay, is that the map seemed to be too broad and didn’t say much about the 1911 Revolution. The archival commentary wasn’t helpful, being a general statement about the whole collection. So, I got a good look at it and reported back that it was actually a Japanese-drawn (that much peacay already knew, which is why I got the call) WWI satire, dated late 1914, and the sum total of Chinese commentary was to depict China as a Mandarin pig, anxiously looking at a rain gauge. (peacay has a nice detail shot of it) The rest of the collection seems to actually be from Shanghai and relate to the 1911 revolution (at least, I assume Alan would have said something!). I don’t know that Princeton is going to withdraw the out-of-place image — they’ve already got a disclaimer on the collection saying that they don’t endorse any of the sentiments contained therein — but I expect that their in-house cataloging is more detailed and accurate. I hope so, but that’s no protection for researchers who aren’t in New Jersey.

This is going to come up more and more: as archives and collections become more public, the likelihood of discovering errors (or worse, propogating them in our research) is going to increase. As others have noted, I’m sure, historians are rarely trained specifically in the critical use of visual evidence, photographic or artistic. I’ve seen some grossly overinterpreted and casually thoughtless uses of visual materials.2 Nor are many archivists, though we rely heavily on their record-keeping and expertise. But it’s getting harder and harder to excuse this kind of carelessness, while our training is not at all keeping up with the materials we’re expected to use.

  1. I’ll tell you if you really want, but I don’t want to give them any more publicity than they deserve []
  2. I used a world history textbook once which both: a. presented a photograph of modern African folk dancers in a chapter on pre-1500 African history, the only instance in which a modern photo was used as evidence in a pre-modern context; b. and claimed that the solemn expressions on native Americans in a mid-19c picture were evidence of their social and cultural plight instead of the long exposures of contemporary technology []

4/21/2008

How do you say “Fast of the First Born” in Japanese?

I was thinking about whether to even attempt a contribution to the latest symposium on the role of historical animosities — and their appeasement — in present political tensions when a holiday happened: Passover, the Jewish celebration of the Exodus from Egypt. On the first evening, we celebrate the Seder — literally “order” — a process of remembrance and celebration. But there are elements of sadness: in the midst of telling the story, we spill wine from our cups in honor of the plague-suffering of the Egyptians. Before the Seder even begins, first-born Jews refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise, in remembrance of the first-born Egyptians slain in the final plague. It’s an odd practice, historically, nearly unprecedented: a deliberate rehumanization of “the enemy” enshrined at the heart of what is, arguably, the most centrally Jewish celebration of the ritual year.

I’m not entirely sure that it helps, since there never was an historical reconiciliation between the ancient Israelites and the Pharonic Egyptians.1 But I think it is an important “Zeroth” condition to add to Valérie Rosoux’s Four Conditions:
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  1. Then there’s the question of the historicity of the biblical narrative…. []

2/5/2008

“Early Modern” Periodization

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 9:28 pm

I participated in a symposium on February 1st hosted by the USC-Huntington Early Modern Institute, on the topic of early modern periodization in East Asia. It was an exciting event with mostly big-name speakers (I was drafted in as a replacement!) including Kenneth Pomeranz, R. Bin Wong, John Wills Jr., Samuel Yamashita, John Duncan, and Jahyun Kim Haboush. The audience was substantial, prompting the organizers to move us to a much bigger conference room. I counted more than 60 people, implying a great deal of interest in the topic.

It seemed clear from the start that some presenters assumed that “early modern” referred to something real in the histories of Qing, Choson, and Tokugawa Japan, while others saw the term as at most a useful interpretive and comparative tool. The discussion devolved (predictably? unfortunately? amusingly?) into a debate about comparative history. Some participants suggested that using the period “early modern” compromises our ability to study East Asian histories on their own terms, forcing research and analysis into categories invented in certain parts of Western Europe. Others unpacked “early modern” in specific historical and cultural contexts. Still others argued that periodization schemes like “early modern” presented historians of East Asia with the opportunity to engage with historians of Euro-America, to highlight the scanty evidence marshaled in the narrative of the rise of Western modernity, and to move Asia to its rightful place in world history: the center. In my paper on the material heritage of Tokugawa Ieyasu, I made the argument that museums are where much popular education about the early modern takes place, essentially unacknowledged (and, unfortunately, unexamined) by historians of “early modern” East Asia.

In the final discussion of the day, as debate swirled back and forth on this issue, one fact became clear, perhaps winning the argument on the side of the “early modern” doubters better than any grand attempt at persuasion could have done: in the huge crowd of graduate students, scholars, and a few visitors from the general public, only one historian of Europe or America was present, and she was essentially required to be in attendance because of her role in founding and naming the USC-Huntington Early Modern Institute. The hackneyed phrase from the movie “Field of Dreams” comes to mind, except in reverse: even if you build it, they won’t come. In other words, even if a bunch of famous historians of East Asia hold a symposium on a term invented in European history to discuss its broad relevance; even if that event is hosted by an organization dominated by historians of Euro-America; and even if it is held at one of the biggest universities in southern California where lots of historians congregate; they (meaning historians of Euro-America, the group that the comparativists want to engage) won’t come. Of course I care about how badly East Asia is represented in the media, in public education, in much popular culture, and in the writing of many (not all, of course) prominent historians of Europe and America. But if the attendance at this symposium is any indication, adopting this comparative terminology, which often is not a particularly good fit for the diverse regions of the world, is not the answer.

1/17/2008

Fortune Cookie History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 1:46 am

A grad student from Kanagawa University may have cracked the great riddle of Asian cuisine: the origin of the Fortune Cookie! As the NY Times reports, the original fortune cookies may have been produced by Kyoto-area confectioners in the late 1800s.1 The practice — and the distinctive iron grills used to make the sembei crackers, which are part of the historical puzzle — spread to Japanese-owned Chop Suey houses in San Francisco.2 From there, Chinese-owned restaurants began to offer them, and Chinese-owned bakeries supplied them.

Then came WWII, which changed everything.

Ms. Nakamachi is still unsure how exactly fortune cookies made the jump to Chinese restaurants. But during the 1920s and 1930s, many Japanese immigrants in California owned chop suey restaurants, which served Americanized Chinese cuisine. The Umeya bakery distributed fortune cookies to well over 100 such restaurants in southern and central California.

Early on, Chinese-owned restaurants discovered the cookies, too. Ms. Nakamachi speculates that Chinese-owned manufacturers began to take over fortune cookie production during World War II, when Japanese bakeries all over the West Coast closed as Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to internment camps.

Mr. Wong pointed out: “The Japanese may have invented the fortune cookie. But the Chinese people really explored the potential of the fortune cookie. It’s Chinese-American culture. It only happens here, not in China.”

The war also served to popularize the fortune cookie

they were encountered by military personnel on the way back from the Pacific Theater. When these veterans returned home, they would ask their local Chinese restaurants why they didn’t serve fortune cookies as the San Francisco restaurants did.

The cookies rapidly spread across the country. By the late 1950s, an estimated 250 million fortune cookies were being produced each year by dozens of small Chinese bakeries and fortune cookie companies. One of the larger outfits was Lotus Fortune in San Francisco, whose founder, Edward Louie, invented an automatic fortune cookie machine. By 1960, fortune cookies had become such a mainstay of American culture that they were used in two presidential campaigns: Adlai Stevenson’s and Stuart Symington’s.

It’s such an American tale. It’s all there: entrepreneurship, food, racism, migration, war, marketing, invention, industrialization and orientalism.3 I can’t wait to tell my students.

(Crossposted, of course)

  1. I’m immediately reminded of the rickshaw, which everyone associates with China but which was actually invented as the jinrikisha in Japan at the opening of the Meiji era. There is evidence in the Times article going back to the early 1800s, though. []
  2. Japanese in North America were much more likely to be from Kansai than Japanese in Hawai’i []
  3. Also the obsession with national origins, Japanese-Chinese competition, the value of open archives, the historiography of food culture and the power of media to shape a historical finding. []

1/6/2008

Eighth Route Army POW Policy

Filed under: — guest @ 10:37 pm

Frog in a Well welcomes a guest posting from Sayaka Chatani, who is a PhD student in the History Department of Columbia University. Her research interests are in the transnational history of early to mid-twentieth century East Asia, mainly focusing on the colonization and decolonization of Korea and Taiwan.

For those who missed the August 2007 issue of Sekai, a journal widely read by (mainly left-leaning) Japanese intellectuals, I would like to introduce an article by Marukawa Tetsushi in the volume, who I think shows an interesting way of addressing multiple postwar contexts through a single historical issue.

The main part of the August 2007 issue of Sekai is dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, with the subtitle of “how we face the memory of the Sino-Japanese War.” A number of historians devoted articles on issues related to the war. Unlike conventional debates on the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, none of them discusses “who started firing first.” It starts with a series of interviews with Chinese people who survived the experience of forced labor under the Japanese occupation; scholars discuss the decision-making of the navy to carpet-bomb Chinese cities after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident; and it also includes comments by activists on the future of Japan’s war responsibility. Among these articles is Marukawa Tetsushi’s discussion on the 八路軍 (the Communist Eighth Route Army during the resistance war against Japan).

Marukawa’s short article, 「改造」と「認罪」−その起源と展開, focuses on the policy of the Eighth Route Army toward Japanese POWs and war criminals, which constituted an integral part of the Chinese Communists’ strategy towards international society during and immediately after WWII. Marukawa argues that the Eighth Route Army, not being recognized as a legitimate actor or army by foreign powers, had no incentive to abide with the Hague Convention on the treatment of the POWs. Nevertheless, the Eighth Route Army adopted a very lenient policy towards the Japanese POWs as a tactic of psychological warfare. Marukawa introduces “the Yan-an (延安) Report,” which American intelligence compiled to learn from the Chinese Communist strategy in fighting Japanese forces. According to this report, the Communists treated the Japanese POWs with medical care, provided them with education and released them as they desired in order to provide a contrast with the indoctrination of the Japanese military. This lenient POW policy was so effective that, the report argues, many Japanese soldiers deserted and defected during the war. Marukawa identifies the nature of the politics of Chinese Communism in this policy of converting enemies into friends, reminding the reader of Mao Zedong’s comment, “Who is our enemy? Who is our friend? This is the most important problem to our revolution.”

Marukawa continues by discussing how Japanese society remembered – or did not remember – the Eighth Route Army POW policy since the war ended. He argues that the Cold War situation distorted the image of the Eighth Route Army. The setting of Tamura Taijirō’s famous novel, “春婦伝 (A Story of a Prostitute)” (1946), was changed under pressure when it was made into a movie, “暁の脱走” (the main character was played by Yamaguchi Yoshiko) in 1950. In the original novel, a Japanese soldier was captured by the Eighth Route Army and released, but the Eighth Route Army was replaced with the Nationalist (KMT) Army in the movie owing to the GHQ censorship. This was a result of the American fear of “brain-washing,” which had just become an established concept during the Korean War, Marukawa argues.

At the same time, Communist China was wholeheartedly promoting the 整風 (zhengfeng) movement to ideologically convert former KMT supporters. It was in this context that the continuous 思想改造 (thought conversion) and the 認罪 (admitting guilt) movement of Japanese POWs and war criminals was posited. In other words, Marukawa recognizes two contexts – the consolidation of the Communist victory of the Civil War, and the continuation of the Eighth Route Army tactic of psychological warfare as operating at the same time as the 戦犯管理 (management of war criminals) policy. It was also a means for the Chinese to engage with international society. Stalin transported about 1000 Japanese POWs to China in the 1950s so that China could demonstrate its ability to adequately manage them to international society. Marukawa argues (somewhat ambiguously) that, dissatisfied with the result of San Francisco Treaty, Communist China further intensified the 認罪 (admitting guilt) program towards the Japanese POWs/war criminals.

Marukawa’s article concludes by reflecting on the stunning leniency seen in the rules of the Shenyang war crime tribunal, as well as the fact that many Japanese soldiers felt responsible and guilty of the crimes that they were only indirectly related to. A round-talk with some Japanese survivors who had experienced Eighth Route Army POW policy and became anti-war activists follows his article in the same volume.

Marukawa Tetsushi, “Kaizō to Ninzai, Sono Kigen to Tenkai,” in Sekai, Iwanami Shoten, August 2007, no.768, pp. 243-252

9/9/2007

Reminder to self: Complicating History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:31 am

This is an old-fashioned web-log post: links that I don’t want to lose in the ether or the depths of my Eudora folders. Both are from Japan Focus, and both have to do with complicating our view of Japanese history.

The first is a conceptual and migratory complication, which I’m always in favor of, by Chris Burgess: “Multicultural Japan? Discourse and the ‘Myth’ of Homogeneity”. Burgess does a bit of deconstruction on both Nihonjinron and its attackers, problematizing both homogeneity and diversity. Then he talks about migration, but goes beyond the usual platitudes by addressing actual numbers and even coherent international comparisons! I’m not entirely convinced — limiting the migration discussion to in-migration always makes me a little wary — but that’s why I want to go back and read it again another time.

The second is Aaron William Moore’s “Essential Ingredients of Truth: Soldiers’ Diaries in the Asia Pacific War”, which includes not only a substantial discussion of WWII diaries, but also a contextual discussion of the tradition of diary-keeping in modern Japan, especially the military, a discussion of the publication of military diaries in Japan, and then concludes with a discussion of wartime military diaries from other countries, so as to put the Japanese diaries in the fullest possible context.

Go, read, and come back and discuss, perhaps? Perhaps not.

Update: Nobuko Adachi — editor of the recently reviewed collection of Diaspora studies in which I had a chapter1 — graces this week’s Japan Focus with “Racial Journeys: Justice and Japanese-Peruvians in Peru, the United States, and Japan”, which tells the story of the WWII era deportation to the US and interment of Japanese-Peruvians, and the slow realization by the governments involved that a grave injustice was done. She then goes on to discuss the dekasegi and other return migration (including that most famous Japanese-Peruvian, Alberto Fujimori) and the crisis created by Japan’s economic slowdown. Interesting stuff.

  1. In spite of the very positive review, the book’s rank at Amazon is just on the cusp of the top million…. []

8/24/2007

Useful, Inconvenient History

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 4:43 pm

President Bush cited John Dower regarding the potential for post-war democratization. Bush was using Dower’s Embracing Defeat to ridicule those who believe the occupation of Iraq is failing to achieve a stable or democratic result by citing those who incorrectly believed that creating a liberal democratic state in Japan after WWII was impossible. This is a fairly transparent invocation of the “Galileo Gambit,” pointing out that people have, unsurprisingly, sometimes been wrong about things they felt strongly about and that the people who were right have sometimes been in the minority.

It’s interesting to see the example of Japan coming up again, as it was very commonly cited in the run-up to the Iraq war. John Dower himself, as the article points out, wrote several articles demolishing the idea that Japan was a good analogy to Iraq in this regard.1 Dower has also argued that Iraq is like Manchuria (with the US in the role of Japan) and more likely to be a quagmire than a shining example of modernity.2 The Bush Administration immediately disavowed any endorsement of Dower’s views outside of the citation made by the President, and this kind of historical cherry picking and selective ignorance is all too typical of politicians in general.

It bolsters my complaint from yesterday, though: a better understanding of Asian history generally, and of US involvement in it, would be all to the good, but so often Asia is just a foil, out of context and interesting only insofar as it affects us.

  1. November 2002 and March 2003 []
  2. I’ve also made the Manchuria analogy, and it still stands up pretty well, I’m afraid. []

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