From Hirohito to Chiang Kai-shek

Filed under: — sayaka @ 10:15 am

Earlier this month, I met a descendent of the Taiwanese aboriginal group, Sysiyat tribe (賽夏族), and his wife. The Sysiyat is a relatively small tribe living in Wufengxiang (五峰鄉) and Nanzhuang (南庄) in the mountainous inner-land of Hsinchu (Xinzhu, 新竹) Province. I called him because I am studying the local history of Beipu (北埔) right now, and stories about the Sysiyat people in neighboring Wufengxiang seemed important to me.

His name is Zhao Zhenggui (趙正貴). His grandfather, Taro Yomaw, was the chief-general of the tribe in the area during the first half of the Japanese colonial rule, and he cooperated with the Japanese in many policing operations to suppress other rebellious aboriginal populations. Taro Yomaw’s third son and Mr. Zhao Zhenggui’s father, Ybai-taro, attended the Japanese elementary school in the Zhudong (竹東)city, went to the elite Teacher’s College (師範大学), and  became a police officer and teacher for the aboriginal villages. Ybai-taro continued his career as a teacher after the KMT took over the island, and after he retired in the 1970s, he started writing memoirs, histories, and fictional stories in Japanese. (Mr. Zhao’s interview about these writings in Chinese)

Taro Yomaw in his youth:

Taro Yomaw and Ybai-taro

(both photos provided by Mr. Zhao Zhenggui)

From what I can tell, his memoirs and histories are based on what he heard from his own father and older generations, Japanese publications he later read by himself, and his own experiences as a police officer. Sometimes they are mixed together, but one eye-catching feature is that his writings show a perfectly smooth transfer of legitimacy from Japanese colonizers, especially Emperor Hirohito, to the KMT and Chiang Kai-shek.

Instead of giving my lousy interpretations, I will just show some quotes from his “高砂族の古今” (Old and New of Takasago Zoku)

(Showa Emperor named all the aborigines in Taiwan “Takasago zoku” after the Sysiyat who had arrived in the high beach in Hsinchu)

This is historically not accurate because the Japanese were already calling them 高砂族 in the 16th century.

(When I went to the Japanese elementary school, Japanese children called me “mountain people” but never called me “banjin (barbarians)”. [Chinese] settler children called us “banjin” so I naturally felt closer to Japanese children.)

In the statistics of elementary school attendance, there were no Chinese-Taiwanese children who attended 小学校 before the 1920s, but there were always a couple of aboriginal kids studying with the Japanese children in the cities of Hsinchu.

(Because my younger brother who died in the battle is also enshrined in the Yasukuni Shrine, I am thinking of visiting Tokyo some day and praying for his soul. [The aboriginal people] were regarded as Taiwan’s mountain monkeys and barbarians, but after only 10 years of guidance by our old friends, we surprised people around the world by fighting bravely in the South [Southeast Asia]. After the war, we were separated from Japanese people, but we did not hold grudge against them but sent them home safe with tears. I thank the Japanese, who educated the aborigine who used to like head-chopping and transformed us into true human beings. After becoming Chinese, we built upon the basis of old-day education and received orders of the new government. We have been making amazing progress the past 30 years, and enjoying a stable life. We returned to the mother nation, and based on Sun Yat-Sen’s Three Principles of the People and President Chiang’s will, we became even truer human-beings. I think it is thanks to Japan and China.)

This I found very interesting because of his heartfelt acceptance of both regimes. Praising the Japanese occupation wasn’t a popular thing to do in the 1970s under the KMT rule, but the issue was not either-or for him. If you are too upset or too happy reading his praise of the Japanese rule, don’t forget to read the next one.

(Upon the end of WWII, the leaders of Britain, the US, and the USSR in particular, insisted that they would divide Japan into three and abolish the emperor system. But President Chiang suppressed their assertion by saying “Japan should remain the same but the occupied territories can be returned. We must not abolish the emperor.” I hear the Japanese people cried and thanked President Chiang. He will be remembered as the God of Re-Creation of the nation in the Japanese history. After the war, the number of the world’s greatest people increased by 20 and became 30. President Chiang became the “world’s greatest person” for the first time in the history of ROC. Many people in the world came to see him in Taiwan because he was a living great man.)

I don’t have to discuss the accuracy issue of this passage. I was stunned by his affirmation of the authority of Chiang Kai-shek by claiming that Japanese people worship him.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in his writings but it obviously requires a careful reading. I don’t know exactly how I am going to use this as a source but I hope at least someone enjoys this entry.


佐々木啓 – 戦時期日本における国民徴用援護事業の展開過程

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 5:35 pm

I just saw the table of contents for the December issue of 『歴史学研究』 and noticed that Frog in a Well contributor Sasaki Kei (see his postings here) has published an essay on his research on wartime labor conscription in Japan.

I am away from libraries where I can read the article at the moment but here is the English abstract available online:

The Development of Labor Conscription Support Projects in Japan during the Asian Pacific War: A Study of National Integration

This paper examines an aspect of national integration in Japan during the Asian-Pacific War through an analysis of the development of labor conscription support projects. Prior research on wartime Japanese society has mainly focused on cultural and welfare movements, or local communities. However, few of them have paid attention to the labor conscription system, which is very important to understand Japan’s total war system.

Firstly, this article establishes that national support projects for the conscripted people and their families were developed in various ways and on a wide scale from the middle of 1943. Though prior research has emphasized the irrationality of the system of labor conscription, we demonstrate that it actually based on an elaborate mechanism.

Secondly, we examine the realities of labor conscription support projects in Osaka Prefecture, where social workers (homen iin) appointed to the Conscripts Consultation Committee (Ochoshi sodan iin) mainly engaged in the projects, and explore the various aspects of interaction between the support projects with the populace. The “effects” of support projects did not necessarily coincide with what the state intended, and the projects served as a medium for the people to achieve their demands.


Japanese History Workshop, Part II

Filed under: — Morgan Pitelka @ 12:13 am

I recently returned from a week in Sydney, Australia, and am happy to report that it has incredible Southeast Asian food and fresh seafood, amazing parks, and the most beautiful coastline I have seen. Visit or emigrate to Sydney if you ever have the chance, seriously.


I had one day free before the conference began, and spent it exploring the Circular Quay area, the Botanical Gardens, and the Domain park area, as well as taking a tour ferry around the harbor. The flora reminded me of the range of plants you would find in southern California, while the fauna are unique: unusual squawking birds, flying squirrels nesting in trees, and terribly fit joggers everywhere.

The University of Sydney, or “Sydney Uni” in local parlance, hosted the workshop. The architecture of the campus, located in the hip and bohemian area of Newtown, is quite beautiful, reminiscent of British universities.


The workshop brought together senior historians of Japan and their graduate students from around Australia for three days, each of which began with a long lecture followed by a panel of papers. The scholarship on display was extremely impressive. As is true in the U.S., much of the work was in twentieth century history. Charles Schencking, for example, did his Ph.D. at Cambridge and is now, after the publication of his book Making Waves: Politics, Propaganda, and the Emergence of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1868-1922, settled at the University of Melbourne and training a number of graduate students. He and they are now working on various aspects of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. Elise Tipton of the University of Sydney, one of the organizers of the workshop, is researching department stores of the 1930s. She has already published a study of the police in interwar Japan, (The Japanese Police State), the edited anthology Society and the State in Interwar Japan, and the textbook Modern Japan: A Social and Political History. Sandra Wilson of Murdoch University, who has previously published The Manchurian Crisis and Japanese Society, 1931-33 and Nation and Nationalism in Japan is working on a monumental study of Japanese nationalism and presented a fascinating paper on Japan as represented and performed at the Tokyo Olympics of 1964 and Expo ’70 in Osaka. She appears to train many, many graduate students, several of whom gave papers at the workshop. Judith Snodgrass of the University of Western Sydney also continues her work on nationalism and religion in modern Japan, as first seen in her book Presenting Japanese Buddhism to the West: Orientalism, Occidentalism, and the Columbian Exposition. Tessa Morris-Suzuku of Australian National University (perhaps the most widely known Australian historian of Japan) presented a paper on colonial Karafuto, one of many topics she is currently researching.

Premodern history was on display and clearly thriving as well, seen in papers by Olivier Ansart (Ogyu Sorai) and Matthew Stavros (medieval Kyoto), the primary organizer, both of the University of Sydney; Rebecca Corbett (early modern women and tea), one of their graduate students; Takeshi Moriyama (late-Tokugawa rural learning), a graduate student from Murdoch University; and Timothy Amos (the status of Danzaemon in Edo), of the National University of Singapore.

Although the purpose of the workshop was to bring Australian historians of Japan into contact with each other and with foreign historians, it was clear to me that their work is among the best in the field of English-language studies of Japanese history. Their undergraduate programs are clearly thriving as well, with enrollment in Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian languages easily outpacing all European languages. As an American college professor always working to recruit students into Japanese studies, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this a vision of the future, or simply a reflection of Australia’s relative proximity to Asia and growing economic and cultural ties with the region?



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


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。



Symposium Commemorating the Completion of the Occupation Period Magazine Article Database

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 11:40 am

The Prange Archive online magazine article database for the occupation period was an absolutely essential tool for me in my most recent research project. If you are in Tokyo in April, you might want to attend some of these great looking talks, which includes a speech discussing the database by the project’s founder, 山本武利, and one panel with 鶴見俊輔 as commentator:

■占領期雑誌記事情報データベース完成記念 講演会・シンポジウム■





 コメンテーター 鶴見俊輔




思想なき追憶はどこへ行くのか 「大和ミュージアム」の感想

Filed under: — sasaki @ 1:22 am


 この度「井の中の蛙」に参加させていただくことになりました佐々木啓(Kei SASAKI)と申します。
 日本の埼玉県(Saitama Prefecture)というところに住んでおります。





 2月末に広島県に徴用関係の資料調査のため出かけてきたのですが、そのついでに同県呉市にある大和ミュージアム(Yamato Museum)を観てきたので、その簡単な紹介と感想を述べたいと思います。

 大和ミュージアムとは、別名「呉市海事歴史科学館」(The Kure Maritime Museum)といって、近代日本において代表的な軍港として栄えた呉市の運営する博物館です(2005年4月に開館)。この博物館は、呉の歴史や科学技術について展示、紹介するのが基本なのですが、目玉の展示物は、なんといってもアジア・太平洋戦争中世界最大の戦艦と呼ばれた「大和」の模型です(全長23メートルぐらい、実物の10分の1の大きさ)。 







 大和ミュージアムは「我が国の歴史と平和の大切さを認識していただく」ことをその趣旨として掲げております(同ホームページ)。たしかに展示から「戦争の悲惨さ」は分かりますので、転じて「平和の大切さ」を知ることもできるかもしれません。しかし、そうした戦争が起こるに至った経緯や仕組み、考え方の誤り、「大和」の乗組員を死に至らしめた国家や社会、人々のあり方を問わないまま獲得される「平和の大切さ」というのは、一体どれほどの意味があるのでしょうか? 「平和」を大切にしたいのであれば、どのようにして「平和」が脅かされ、戦争に至ったのか、その経験をこそしっかりとつかむべきだと思うのですが。











Poem of Toyotomi Hideyoshi

Filed under: — Thomas Ekholm @ 3:39 am

Last time I was in Japan I went through a lot of bookshelves looking for relevant litterature for my research. At the library of Gifu university they have a lot of books that belongs to old universities and such and these books are not a part of the library computer system. Thus, one has to look through the books in person, which I really like. There are many books which are older and most has not been touched by anyone during the last 20 years or so. Among these books there is a book called ”戦国時代和歌集” published 1943 (First two kanji in older style but my computer cant write them). In this book, as the title so says, there are a lot of poems from the sengoku era with authors such as Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi to name a few.

Amongst the poems there was one which Toyotomi Hideyoshi has written in 1592,
(not sure were the last to sentences really cut though)

From the context of the intended invasion of China- which stopped in Korea and therefore has been labeled “war in korea”- this poem shows his ambitions.


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).



Filed under: — Kim Youngsoo @ 11:53 am

We recently covered the book、『シベリア出兵の史的研究』(細谷千博、岩波現代文庫、2005) in my class. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend the first class, so I’ll make some comments on the latter half of this book. The book tries to address what it calls the “doubled diplomatic posture” (二重外交) of Japan’s politicians. In this case the writer is mainly discussing Japan’s military expedition to Siberia. The most interesting and controversial part of this book, I think, is found in chapter 6. It’s discusses a debate between Hara Kei and Ito Miyoji. It describes how Ito Miyoji persuaded and prevailed against Hara Kei. The debate proceeds mostly through passages taken from the 外交調査会. As you may know, Hara Kei was strongly opposed to the シベリア出兵(Siberian expedition). It was a big concern at the time of how to persuade him not to object to Ito’s plan.
There’re several narrations and explanations of it, I’ll give you some sentences that I couldn’t understand easily. In a scene during which Ito and Hara adjusted their opinions (p.196-197), Ito gave an amendment of his asnwer to Hara.
Hara wanted Ito to erase these two sentences as was to be anticipated , but Ito instead presented Hara with a slightly different one.
「 チェツク軍支援ノ為浦塩以外ニ出動シ且ツ形勢ノ発展ニ伴ヒ増援スルノ必要アルヘキヲ予想シ欣然応諾スルト共ニ宣言書案ニ関スル米国政府ノ所見ヲ尊重スルノ意ヲ表明ス。」
Hara agreed to this revision, and Ito thus won the tug of war. I don’t quite understand how these two sentences are substantially different. As you already know and may have experienced yourselves in Japan, 言い回し is common in ordinary life and even in diplomatic text and speaking. You can also see many 言い回し in this textbook. One of my goals is to better understand this kind of 言い回し found in diplomatic or other scenes throughout Japanese history, especially from the end of the Edo through to our present day.


Karate and Modernity: A Call for Comments

Filed under: — craig @ 1:25 pm

This posting is the introduction to a work in progress, sans footnotes, references, and italics. Like me, its akward and verbose, for which I apologize. I’m posting it because it has come to my attention that I am not the only historian working on the modernization of karate, I have recently heard from Ethan Savage of the University of Oregon. It is important for the two of us to coordinate a bit to make sure that we don’t step on each other’s research, and it is an opportunity to share our insights and hopefully help each other. And, of course, I welcome the responses of all froginawell readers.

Black belts on white uniforms, vigorous punches and high kicks identify karate worldwide. In karate practice sessions, the synchronized performance of esoteric maneuvers by groups of practitioners arrayed in rows before their instructor form the core. Although many karate styles emphasize competition over the so-called effete “dancing” of “traditional” styles that “begin and end with kata,” all karate practitioners decry the sportification (suspōtsuka) of karate. The synchronized performance of callisthenic maneuvers and some form of competitive sparring coexist in both jissen “real combat” and traditionalist styles. Practitioners subscribe to the generic philosophical regimen of the Japanese martial arts in which strict discipline and rigorous, persistent practice lead to individual spiritual development. Karate is a Japanese budō, (martial Way) which means that it symbolizes a unique and immutable ethno-national, virile spirituality that simultaneously instills and expresses invincibility, health, and morality. All also agree that karate is an ancient art. Beyond this, authors of karate history describe its origins as “murky” and “unclear;” they state that karate developed on Okinawa as a combination of primordial native arts and Chinese imports, typically describing an organic coalescence about five hundred years ago. The lack of further details, they say, results from karates covert, outlaw status. After the 1609 invasion of Okinawa by the samurai of Satsuma, their fear of karate had driven it underground, off the record, and under the historian’s radar. Banned from using the katana, Okinawans had polished their art in secret, bare-handed, had transmitted it at night and only among their intimate acquaintances. With modernity, much changed. For one, names. Old karate, that of the misty past, had been just te, hand. Then came the Chinese influence, a conjugation that birthed tō-de, Tang hand. Only when Okinawa was brought into the fold of modern Japan in the 1900s did the moniker take on its true form: karate, the empty hand.

And yet, in the 1921 Ryūkyū Kenpō: Karate, the first fully published karate text, little of this appears: karate is not a dō, lacks mythology, and is frank about recent Chinese influences. Reaching further back, to the unpublished writings of Itosu Anko, karate lacks even a name, makes no claims on the spirit, and mentions history not at all. Beyond that, the writing is in Chinese. Strangest of all, and most easily overlooked, is that through the 1920s there was only really one name: karate, the Chinese hand.

What are historians to make of this? Shall we dig through the historical record to discover the origins of these various traits? Plucking belts and uniforms from the history of judō, synchronized movement from the colonial period obsession with military drill, the division of new, jissen styles from their “traditional” parents—deriving their sport-orientation by the subtracting traditionalism of the latter? Shall we pursue the trail of karate until it vanishes in the mists—the inscrutable because unrecorded history of a vaunted tradition? Shall we satisfy our unsated curiosity with conjecture about the date, the exact origin, the means of transmission of Chinese martial arts? What about the possible secret meaning of every ancient mention of hands? And, at the end, do we recombine our findings into the tapestry of karate—a patchwork of once discrete elements that merge when viewed from afar? Alternately, does the historian perform some alchemy—combining one part judō, one part military drill, three parts secrecy, and four parts China—adjusting ingredients and portions, timings and temperatures to arrive at the correct recipe for modern karate?

These are viable methods for valuable goals, but I will take a different approach, proceeding from a different conclusion. (For to identify the components of modern karate is to start from the conclusion—to look at the final product, whole, inert, prone on the examination table; to dissect the adult in search of the infant it conceals.) I will start with the conclusion that karate was born old, asking not: how did karate foretell itself? but: when did karate authors begin to question their origins? From what vantage point did they look back and decide, a little spontaneously and even a little arbitrarily, that what their ancestors practiced was karate, or tō-te, or just plain te? In other words, perhaps they made such fine distinctions between these terms, not because such distinctions had always been made, but because those terms told the story of who they wanted to be.

I will not ask: how traditional is karate? but will instead investigate the means and meanings of that word. Labeling karate a tradition relieves it of the obligations of a rigorous historicity; or rather, it establishes a distinct set of historicized expectations. This relationship between tradition and history is problematic: by definition, every tradition needs a history to anchor it in the bedrock of origins; and yet to the extent that history is the description of change across time, especially in the upheaval of modernity, it undermines the validity of traditions by questioning immaculate transmission. Martial artists claim both this kind of unblemished pedigree and acknowledge (tout, even) changes that are sometimes quite radical. To accomplish this, martial arts historians judge changes by whether they preserve an original “spirit” encapsulated in the word dō. This spirit eludes definition: it is both immutable and under constant threat; it is both a weapon with which to attack the heretical, and an impervious protective amulet; it animates the tradition, makes it possible, but cannot be demonstrated. For karate, it is both the reason to practice and the least of afterthoughts. To understand how karate’s modernizers navigated the difficult terrain of historicism we must ask: how did they discursively generate this elusive spirit? where did they find it in practice? how did the make it both necessary and unobtainable?

Similarly, I will not ask: is karate a sport? Instead I ask: why do karate practitioners concern themselves with the question, and when did they begin doing so? All sports have histories, and maintain to varying degrees the traditional aesthetic: baseball has a tradition closely linked, but not limited, to American national identity, as cricket does for England. Even other of the Japanese martial arts, like judo, may be described in this way. But the same is true, to a lesser degree, of all sports—if sprinting had no tradition, why would anyone still recollect the accomplishments of Jesse Owens, whose speed is surpassed? For most practices, history and tradition peacefully coincide, if only because one dominates the other. But karate is somewhat unique in that the authors of its history pit tradition against sport, and visa versa. They state that theirs is “more” than a sport, even while competition forms an integral part of its practice. Why this discrepancy? What of sport is to be feared? To combine questions of tradition/sport: Why do its historians balance karate simultaneously on the descending slope of tradition and the up-escalator of modern sport?

I am not concerned with the questions: what of the Chinese origins of karate? what can we learn by putting their modern forms side by side? how do we measure their similarity and what would it tell us? do we identify and subtract Chinese affinities, and call the remainder purely Okinawan? In other words, do we attempt to derive the race of karate? I will contemplate the uses of a Chinese history for karate, its advantages and disadvantages: what did karate historians gain from careful manipulation of the place of China, and Okinawa or Japan, for that matter, within their liturgies of karate history? I will not add my voice to those debating when tō-te became Okinawan, and when karate became Japanese. Or make my own speculations about combinations, routes, and transmissions. I want to know: why must the unwritten history of karate be made to speak? And why must it remain selectively mute, able to say only specific things, and those with no specificity? But most of all: why does karate need a history at all?

The Multiplication of Karates

Although Japan’s annexation of Okinawa is most often described as “internal colonization” when it is mentioned at all, to those involved it was nothing so trite. After Japan officially annexed the Okinawan island group in 1874, widespread and severe derision of Okinawan culture as “backwards” and “uncivilized” replaced the official, and even then, limited, appeals to racial brotherhood and tacit sovereignty that had legitimized annexation. This discourse located Okinawa in a degenerate past and Japan in an enlightened future, and posited that only by reckoning with Japanese modernity could the country’s newest citizens hope for an improved future and the cessation of browbeating. For the next three decades Japanese administrators and segments of the Okinawan intelligentsia urged the “reform” of the Okinawan character through the purgation, right down to un-Japanese sneezes, of cultural elements that diverged from what were described as the homogenous norms of the “main islands.” Some responded by fleeing to China. But for the majority who remained, China gradually changed into the ultimate symbol of a revolting and fetid past. By the turn of the century, as assimilation (dōka) projects began to bear fruit, discursive treatment of Okinawa changed again: this time to emphasize the essentially Japanese identity of Okinawans, to claim that Okinawans had “always already” been good Japanese.

It was around this time that archeologists discovered that the Japanese race was a mixture of several distinct “native” peoples. Among these groups were ancestors of the Ainu, Koreans, Mongolians, and a lesser group that had long ago relocated to the Ryukyu Islands. This “proved” that, whether they realized it or not, Okinawans (and every native of East Asia) had always already been Japanese. But there had also been a fifth group named—paradoxically—the “original Japanese”. Okinawans, it turned out, had always already been Japanese, and they had also always already been second-class Japanese. Corroborated by linguistic and literary evidence, this convinced most that Okinawans comprised a prodigal “branch house” of the Japanese race and that the Japanese were the “parents” of all East Asia. Perhaps it should be unsurprising that after thirty years of an “assimilation” that saw the eradication both reminders of Okinawa’s affinities with China and many practices, like hand-tattooing, that were distinctly Okinawan, cultural affinities with Japan suddenly seemed uncannily numerous. Discovering this veritable theme park of breathing history, leading folk scholars concluded that Okinawa “preserved” intact Japan’s natal form. Ethnographers discovered that surviving Okinawan music and speech were ancient “subsets” of their Japanese counterparts, unchanged remnants on an island that time forgot. Japanese generally accepted this construction, flattered by their two-fold superiority as the providers of ancient Okinawan culture and of the template for Okinawan modernity. As Okinawa transitioned from the geographic exterior, “gaichi”, to the internal rural, “inaka”, Japanese began to discriminate against Okinawans as their primitive cousins rather than as primitive foreigners; “modernized” Okinawans came to regard “holdouts” as so many anchors holding them down, embarrassing them before their new friends; and the same scholars and activists who discovered the Japanese pedigree of Okinawa extolled their fellows to better themselves for the sake of their prefecture and their nation. The groups extolled Okinawans be proud of their identity—insofar is to be Okinawan was to be Japanese—and at the same time to become more like the “home island” Japanese—insofar as to be Okinawan was to be not Japanese enough.

Under this “always already Japanese” formulation, Ryukuan cultural elements remained viable only insofar as they could be brought up to speed with their erstwhile Japanese counterparts; the “subset” hiatus ended as soon as it was declared. Karate practices were no exception. Moreover, for karate in specific and Okinawa in general, modernization and Japanization were mutually defining terms. As they sought to promote their art to Japanese, Okinawans quickly realized that the in addition to the many parallels between Chinese and Okinawan martial practices that constituted a potentially fatal liability, there was also the matter of the non-modernity of karate. To restate, not only did Okinawan martial practices possess passé references, it also lacked required accoutrements. Modernization, for one, required that karate recount is history; modern things, especially traditions, do not materialize from the ether, they emerge from the cocoons of their pasts. Every modern entity can and must describe its history, explain and justify itself with a narrative that begins, transgresses a middle, and ends in a re-beginning called modernity. Karate could not move in the present without accounting for its whereabouts and activities in the past, and it could enjoy no fraternity with modern, Japanese traditions without first presenting a pedigree that linked it to narrative of the divine origin of all Japanese martial arts. Yet karate had no history, only a disparate smattering of legends that told no intelligible story. Karate historians had much to explain: Was karate born of the teachings of Daruma in China, the font all Japanese martial arts? (An easy one! They get harder.) Not just, when did Chinese martial arts begin to influence Okinawan arts? but more importantly, when and under what circumstances had this influence ceased? What, exactly, excused Okinawan martial arts for lacking what had become the paragon of the Japanese martial spirit after the end of the Tokugawa era, the katana? When so many Okinawan practices were being eliminated, why should karate survive? And most difficult of all, why did karate carry as its moniker the character for Tang China, the ancient name of Japan’s newly sworn enemy?

But the historical imperative was not a simple descriptive one, for it included certain strategic silences. They needed to know the details of their mystical origins, but they also needed to be at a loss to make a full accounting of the middle of karate history. Make no mistake: karate history soon had a middle, but it was indistinct—an outline with many precise gaps, a carefully composed picture of fog—because along with the questions that required answers were ones that could not be asked at all: Why could no 1920s karate practitioner trace a lineage more than two generations without arriving in China? Did Okinawan martial practices that had not come from China exist? What did karate texts tell, and in what language did they tell it? The answers to these questions needed to remain buried, or at least open secrets, in order for karate to achieve legitimacy, because any explanation would inescapably have been a story of betrayal.

There was also much to learn, for modern martial arts excelled at presenting themselves, and karate did not. Public demonstrations, books presenting instructive pictures and verbal descriptions of movements were necessary skills for the modern martial artist. Karate practitioners did not automatically know how to move in a modern way—to match words to movements and movements to words. They did not know how to express the ideology of karate movement for the spectator, the reader, and the viewer of photographs. And once it had been presented in books and on stages, karate had to match this representation in practice. Karate had to be rendered presentable to masses and rendered performable by masses. It is not that the modern period was the first to see movement rendered on paper or performed for an audience, but that in the modern period it became imperative that movements be justified in terms of their presentations more often than for their effects. That is to say, effects were judged on form rather than on result: not, did it work? but, did it take the proper form? not, how did it feel? but, is it a faithful mimicry? not, was it timed so as to produce the proper result? but, did it maintain an exact simultaneity? not, did it meet the circumstances? but, was it an exacting repetition? This is because in modern movement efficacy results from proper form, naturalness flows from faithful repetition, and proper timing from simultaneity.

The conditions placed on karate were therefore doubly contradictory: karate needed a modernization that declared its traditionality, and it needed to found this ancientness on a history that effaced much of its past. Yet this double bind also held a double opportunity—the imperative to construct a history for karate history almost from scratch meant that whatever displeased its authors could be dismissed as aberration and disavowed. The strategy they adopted was to multiply karate, not just in the present, but across time: in telling the story of karate’s beginning, middle, and end they created three karates. Faults could be sloughed off into one of the karates that existed only in the past tense: it was too late to deny connection to China, but amputation and cauterization was still possible. Conversely, the three karates could be united by continuities consisting of whatever pleased their creators: they could depict their predecessors as always secretly engaged in a Japanese identity by casting the troublesome name of karate as a subtle subterfuge with a second, secret, and entirely Japanese meaning; they could lay the blame for many of karate’s shortcomings on Japan itself: “Satsuma forced us to act un-Japanese.” This process of writing karate history spanned many drafts; it was written and then immediately rewritten; meanings were fixed and then radically rearranged; in terms of the above questions, they changed their answers and revised their strategies of refraining. Indeed, it would be more accurate to say that the project has never been completed—because once undertaken, narration its can never stop: not only must new events be recorded, but so must a new past. In executing this, karate authors borrowed heavily from the narratives of native Japanese arts, from the archeologists and ethnographers of long-secret Japaneseness, and the gurus of racial physicality. Karate proponents responded to the imperative of a traditionalizing modernity by creating new historical narratives in a process that simultaneously identified karate predecessors, gingerly detached them from contemporary karate, and sorted them into a chronology that transformed Ryukyu from the destination of Chinese martial practices into karate’s, and Okinawa’s, point of disembarkation in the direction of Japan.

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