井の中の蛙

11/16/2009

The Bow

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:21 pm

President Barack Obama shakes hands and bows with Emperor AkihitoVia my old friend Scott Eric Kaufman I learned that President Obama’s visit to Japan was drawing criticism from the American right (I also learned that President Eisenhower bowed in public to a number of heads of state) due to Obama’s bowed greeting to Emperor Akihito.

Most of the commentary (this is an excellent roundup) hinges on whether it’s inappropriate for an American Head of State to bow to another Head of State. This is, of course, why Kaufman was noting Eisenhower’s bows, none of which were, apparently, mutual; other commenters have noted Clinton’s bow fifteen years earlier, and Nixon’s bow/handshake greeting with Emperor Hirohito. Some of the criticism is nuanced enough to note that mutual bows are appropriate greetings in Japan, but suggests that Obama’s bow was inappropriately deep and therefore servile and inappropriate.

Part of the problem in discussing this is the assumption that there is a stable protocol: Japan’s modern Imperial institution is younger than the American Republic, and interactions with other heads of state have always been somewhat improvisational. Before the Meiji Restoration, the Emperor didn’t meet heads of state. For centuries, the Emperor basically met nobody who wasn’t a member of the court aristocracy or high officials of the shogunal state: there was no public protocol except for a vague tradition that required the Emperor be above the gaze of anyone, not to be looked down upon. That tradition was revived in the Imperial era, but it wasn’t much guidance in dealing with modern crowds, photography, diplomatic visits. Even Meiji’s coronation ceremony was an innovation, purged of Chinese elements and enhanced with Shinto rituals. (See Keene, ch. 18) The first head of state to visit was Hawaiian King Kalakaua, but he was actually preceeded by a visit from former President U.S. Grant who greeted the Emperor with handshakes. Every time an aristocrat or diplomat met the Emperor, protocol had to be negotiated in advance, and it shifted over time: when and how much to bow, whether handshakes would be permitted, whether foreign women could enter the Emperor’s presence with their diplomat husbands, etc. But this wasn’t yet the great age of state visits: that doesn’t come until the 20th century, and the rise of air travel.

Before the next America presidential visit with a Japanese emperor, though, WWII intervened: the Japanese Emperor was demoted from sacred and inviolable to the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people. More importantly, perhaps, Japan became a neo-colonial extension of American power for a time (when that time ends is a matter of debate, of course) so that Presidential courtesies like Nixon’s bow were harmless to American power. By the time of Clinton’s gesture, though, Japan’s economic power was a threat to American dominance (well, with the 90s recession, not really, but pundits had spent a good portion of the ’80s talking up the Japanese threat, and the impression stuck), and the Imperial transition of 1989 took away the American sense that the Emperor was someone who had been defeated and disarmed. Even Clinton’s gesture towards a bow was too much for some, apparently: the very concept of monarchy raised spectres of pre-Revolutionary attitudes, though bowing is not necessarily a subservient act when done between equals (or by a superior) in the Japanese tradition.

Obama’s bow is a very formal one — formality and hierarchy are two different things — and in the context of a handshake. It doesn’t change the nature of the US-Japan relationship as much as the election of Japan’s new non-LDP PM, as much as the rising nationalistic culture, as much as the ongoing shifts in the economic relationship between two of the largest — and most obviously struggling — economies in the world.

7/29/2009

Imperial Visits and Attitudes

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 12:57 am

I just learned of the Japanese Emperor and Empress’ visit to Hawai’i [via]. It’s not the first time that a member of the Japanese Imperial family has visited the islands, though you would hardly know it from the gushing “historic” reports of the media. Though this is the first visit by Akihito as Emperor, Akihito has visited the islands before, as have other members of Japan’s now-symbolic dynasty. In addition to the Advertiser’s photo gallery, there are some excellent shots on Flickr by “731photo” and “onecardshort”, as well as one picture from the US Pacific Command.1

The continuing connection between the Hawai’i Japanese immigrant community and Japan was a matter of strategic concern from the beginning: The Kingdom of Hawai’i wanted to use Japan as a counterweight against US power; the Republic of Hawai’i used the threat of Japan — which was actively concerned about the treatment of Japanese in Hawai’i — to support the annexation of the islands by the US; in the Territorial era, disputes about immigration and about labor organization often involved the Japanese consulate.2 Yamaguchi Prefecture immigration memorial -FullCentennial And it’s also true that the Japanese government considered Japanese emigrants to be an extension of the nation3 , and tried, in a fairly blunt fashion, to influence foreign opinion through the overseas communities. By the 1910s and 20s, discussion in the media and halls of power of the Hawaiian Japanese community as a potential “fifth column” was pretty common, and that view was also common on the mainland. It took an immigration ban, a war, Japan’s crushing defeat and entry into the US security system, and the “blood sacrifice” of Nikkei serving with distinction in the US military to overcome those fears, and transform the Japanese immigrant community and their descendants into simply “ethnic” Americans. So, a little over twenty years past the end of WWII, fifteen past the end of the US occupation, the centennial of Japanese immigration into Hawai’i could be celebrated with public monuments, publications and events.

This history is why I was so disturbed to read about PRC policy which sees overseas Chinese as intelligence and lobbying agents. There’s a reasonable argument to be made — as Ichioka does — that Japanese government policy towards emigrants gave support to anti-immigrant attitudes in the US and elsewhere. It’s true that other governments treat emigres as resources to some extent, and urge their citizens overseas to represent the nation well, but the level of coordination, and open encouragement distinguishes pre-war Japanese policy and current PRC policy from the rest of the pack. I don’t think we’re on the verge of a “Yellow Peril” panic in the US at this point, but there’s no question that this has lead to serious negative consequences for individuals, and could lead to wider problems in the future.

x-posted.

  1. That it’s a better shot of the Admiral than of the Emperor is, I suppose, not surprising. []
  2. See Gary Okihiro, John Stephan, also Morris-Suzuki []
  3. see also []

7/16/2009

ASPAC Blogging: Japan’s Political Present and Future

Fauna of Soka - Squirrel standingMy copanelists on Saturday were political scientists, and it was a good update for me on what what’s going on with Japan in the last ten years or so. “Normalization” is the name of the game: Japan’s political spectrum and international relations are starting to look a lot less like Yoshida’s vision and a lot more like a pretty normal regional power.
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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. []

8/30/2007

Hawaiian Kanji

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 5:48 am

No, I’m not going to show you some cartoon of a spam musubi or a “remove your shoes” sign. This is, apparently, serious stuff: Educators working with the Hawaiian language revitalization and immersion movements have begun to use Kanji — and Japanese language generally — as a teaching tool for the Hawaiian language.

In spite of the fact that this press release came from my own institution, I actually know nothing about this. It’s wild stuff, but it has some very interesting pedagogical and cultural and linguistic foundations. There is a PDF from ‘Aha Pūnana Leo (‘APL) which has a great deal of detail and examples, including the one mentioned in the press release.

The core of the program is that both Hawaiian and Japanese are, phonetically speaking, syllabic languages, and that there are a lot of Japanese in Hawai’i, including relatives and ancestors of students in the Hawaiian program. The teachers who designed the program, aside from instilling respect, understanding and aloha in their students, wanted to use the ideographic characters to emphasize the syllabic nature of Hawaiian, as opposed to the alphabetic system of Roman letters. After assigning basic characters to each of the forty-five syllables of the Hawaiian language, they went on to teach the students more kanji by meaning, as well as conventional Japanese language instruction.1

I have to admit, it seems like a terribly roundabout way of handling the languages.

There’s an interesting historical side note to this, though. As I wrote in my dissertation2:

Hawaiian King Kalakaua visited Japan in 1881 and made three proposals which, although they were rejected, endeared the Hawaiian monarch to the Japanese authorities. The offer to revise their treaty to eliminate extra-territoriality was rejected so as not to interfere with similar negotiations with the Great Powers. An impulsive offer by King Kalakaua for a marriage alliance between his niece and an Imperial Prince (ages six and fifteen years, respectively) was turned down after a show of due consideration. Finally, a “Union and Federation of Asian Nations and Sovereigns” which would have given Japan a platform to demonstrate leadership and build prestige in the Pacific was rejected as endangering the generally good relationship between Japan and the United States, which had particularly strong interests in Hawai’i.

Hawai’i and Japan might have had a much closer relationship, and there might have been even more Japanese influence on the islands than there already is. There is also considerably more influence the other way than most people realize. There is an extensive Hula halau (school/team) network in Japan, whose members regularly visit Hawai’i to study with local teachers and immerse themselves in the culture.3 The Japanese government has even promoted the Hawaiian shirt (in its Okinawan form, officially) as a cool answer to the problem of work attire, and there are still lots and lots of Japanese who come to Hawai’i for honeymoons and vacations who could do some good for the economy and ecology of both countries by stocking up.

Sheer geography and the history of Japanese migration to Hawai’i has created an interesting — and definitely under-studied — relationship. One that could be shaped anew by a really creative reimagining of language pedagogy. Or it could be a complete dead end.

  1. as the press release points out, one of the criticisms of the Hawaiian immersion program is that it seems somewhat limited, in terms of economic potential after graduation. Japanese, of course, is the road to riches. At least that’s what it says in the big print. []
  2. p. 20. The citation is to Hilary Conroy’s The Japanese Frontier in Hawai’i, pp. 50-52 []
  3. one of the best Hula dancers and Hawaiian singers I’ve seen recently was a Japanese woman who teaches Hula in Japan []

4/24/2006

The Return of Uwano Ishinosuke

Filed under: — Nick Kapur @ 12:00 pm

 Japanese World War II military stragglers are still showing up on the newswires six decades after the end of the conflict. This past week, Japan has been captivated by the return of Uwano Ishinosuke, 83, a former soldier in the Japanese Army who was stranded on Sakhalin Island when the Russians took over, and has been living for the past 50 years in the Ukraine with his Ukranian wife and family. Speaking only Ukranian and travelling on a Ukranian passport, Uwano visited the graves of his parents and some relatives in Iwate prefecture before returning to the Ukraine.

 Having last been sighted in 1958, Uwano’s family had had him officially declared as “war dead” and removed from the household register in 2000. Uwano’s existence came to light last year after he asked friends in Ukraine to help him contact the Japanese government and was eventually put into contact with the Japanese consulate in Kiev, which arranged his return visit. The Japanese government estimates that there may be as many as 400 Japanese military stragglers still living in the former Soviet Union, although the whereabouts are known for only 40 of them.

 In other straggler news, last year reports of former Japanese soldiers living near a remote village in the Philippines caused the Japanese government to sent an official search party, but the soldiers were not found.

 For those interested in learning more about Japanese Imperial Army stragglers, there is a pretty decent book on the topic by Beatrice Trefalt: Japanese Army Stragglers and Memories of the War in Japan, 1950-1975. Unfortunately it is published by RoutledgeCurzon and is therefore prohibitively expensive, so a university library may be the best place to get it.

3/23/2006

はじめまして

皆さん、はじめまして。斉川貴嗣(Saikawa Takashi)と申します。

ずいぶん前にローソンさんからこのブログへお誘いいただいていたのですが、ここ1、2ヶ月忙しくしておりましたので書き込みが遅れました。これからは積極的に参加していきたいと思いますので、どうぞよろしくお願いいたします。

まずは簡単な自己紹介。現在、早稲田大学大学院政治学研究科の学生(博士課程)です。専門は国際関係論なのですが、理論研究ではなく歴史研究を行なっています。具体的には、両大戦間期に活動を展開した知的協力国際委員会(International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation)を研究対象としています。この委員会は、1922年に国際連盟の一機関として設立され、当時の世界的な知識人が数多く参加しました。教育交流、文化交流など現在で言えば国際交流を実践した機関で、その理念や活動は今のユネスコに継承されています。私としては、この委員会に非西洋諸国の知識人や政府がどのように関わったのかということに興味があり、特に当時の日本と中国の関与を調べています。日本では新渡戸稲造、田中館愛橘、姉崎正治、中国では呉稚暉、林語堂などの知識人が関わっていて、これら人々の思想研究も行なうつもりです。先月から今月にかけて4週間ほど、ジュネーブの国際連盟アーカイブスに研究調査に行ってきました。結構面白い史料が見つかりましたので、早いうちに何らかのかたちで成果を示すことができればと考えています。

というわけで、私は決して日本史のプロパーではないのですが、皆さんからいろいろ勉強させていただいて、また私が皆さんのお役に立つことがあれば幸いです。

2/7/2006

Colonialogy

I think we need a new word for the study of colonialism, imperialism and the post-colonial discourses, pro and con. Pro? Who’s in favor of it? Well, this is what makes it interesting, these days: there are a lot of former colonial powers out there whose citizens and leaders, in their heart of hearts, still believe that they accomplished something that was ultimately positive, who still believe that their developmental initiatives and their anti-communist (or anti-capitalist) positions were justified by subsequent developments. This is usually — explicitly or implicitly — intended to mitigate or cancel out any discussions of political repression, economic exploitation, military atrocities or strategic abandonment. Sometimes it’s just good historical sense, but then it usually comes with very careful caveats about not canceling out the other stuff.

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9/24/2005

Iriye: Two Postwars: 1905 and 1945

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:49 pm

Professor Akira Iriye gave a talk at the Reischauer Institute yesterday which, like most Japan Forum events, was open to the public. Iriye has been attending various conferences in this year of dual anniversaries for the end of the Russo-Japanese war and World War II and has been collecting impressions and insights that he shared with the audience yesterday. He divided his comments by looking at the two postwars from the perspective of the individual, its impact on the region, and broadly in terms of 20th century history.

On the individual level he focused on the experience of Asakawa, Kan’ichi (1873-1948), who like Iriye, was a professor in the United States, and spent over 50 years in the United States. Apparently, as of this year, Iriye will have been in the country longer than Asakawa. Iriye contrasted the experience of Asakawa, who found himself frequently in an awkward position of having to balance and moderate between often extreme opinions on the Japanese and US side, with his own life in the United States, which he says shared none of these difficulties.

In what was perhaps the most interested aspect of the talk Iriye discussed his own diary, which he started August 19, 1945, only days after the end of the war. At the time, he notes, he was apparently moderately nationalistic and felt awful about Japan’s defeat (his entries until the 26th, however, were dominated by discussion of how he managed to obtain food for that day). He posed an open question to the audience about how one makes a transition from such nationalistic views to a more internationalist perspective. He made such a change himself, describing himself now as anti-nationalist and internationalist, and suggests that in his particular case it was the cosmopolitan atmosphere at American universities and the American education system which is to credit for this change. He says that however critical he may be of the United States now, this has not changed.

Later in his talk, when he made some comments on the implications for the broader 20th century Iriye made some bold predictions about the future, as he has made in previous talks and writings. If 1905 represents the true entry of Japan onto the world stage as a world power and empire, and 1945 represents the shift from a world dominated by empires to one dominated by the nation-state, Iriye sees the current trends towards an age of regional institutional forces, and especially, non-state “transnational” actors. He is strong about this claim, and believes it is “foolish” to believe that the nation-state can continue to be the primary force in the coming century. He is especially hopeful about developments towards a regional community in Asia.

Finally, Iriye noted that Japanese opinion about the two wars has always been divided, and generally fall into two camps: those who celebrate the Russo-Japanese war and lament the defeat in 1945, and those who hold the reverse position. Iriye places himself firmly in the latter camp, believing that the 1905 was “disastrous” because it led to Japanese hegemony in Korea and China. In this respect, he seems critical of approaches that view, in his words, the conflict as a “war of civilizations.” As for 1945, Iriye argues that Japan’s defeat had the effect of forcing Japan to relate to the world in terms of economics, culture, etc. thus positioning it well to face the challenges of the future.

9/21/2005

Hitler Watch: Koizumi

Is Koizuimi Junichiro another Hitler? One former LDP’er thinks so, and Chinese academician Feng Zhaokui agrees [via]:

Feng’s Fear History
They both occurred after a country, defeated on the battlefield, took steps to wipe away national humiliation and rise again Hitler was elected, sort of, fourteen years after the end of WWI, in part on the strength of embittered veterans; Koizumi was re-elected sixty years after the end of WWII, after nearly ever veteran of that war has passed on
In both situations, a country shamed in military defeat felt persecuted, giving rise to politics of emotions, especially with regard to neighboring countries; I don’t have any idea what this means with regard to Japan, except that people still bring up WWII on a pretty regular basis, which is embarrasing. I guess that must be it.
In both situations, this “public pathos” was tapped to become an essential element in the political contest for votes, in the suppression of rational politics, and in the push toward a hawkish road; When was the last time you saw an election in which an appeal to “rational politics” succeeded? Seriously, though, Japan’s desire to rationalize its relations with its neighbors (in other words, to dominate them economically, instead of feeling guilty) was an element in this election, though far from a central one.
In both situations, a banner of reform was flown and the “ultra-appeal” of a party head was used to encourage voters to elect them; that party leader was a crafty, masterful actor during the electoral process; By that standard, there ought to be a lot more Hitlers running around
Both situations used the dissolution of parliament to give the ruling party an overwhelming majority of seats; This one made me laugh out loud: parliamentary systems always have to dissolve to have elections, even scheduled ones. When you have an election, often somebody wins. And the LDP has had bigger majorities than it does now
They both want to revise the constitution to give their leadership and their successors more power, and to normalize the military by resurrect the nation’s army. Japan’s military doesn’t need “resurrect”ion: it’s already one of the most powerful on the planet, in technical terms, and one of the best-funded. Hitler’s power came through emergency decrees and something a bit more drastic than constitutional “revision.” Koizumi is, so far, sticking to the usual amendment process, and is well aware of the likelihood of failure in the referendum approval stage. Plenty of countries have endured stronger executives than Japan’s current Prime Ministers without going fascist.

He missed the part about the Great Depression and the recent stagnation…. [crossposted]

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