井の中の蛙

3/2/2006

The Case of Taiwa Shinron

Filed under: — K. M. Lawson @ 7:00 am

In addition to preparing for my oral exams, the most significant project I have been working on recently involves research on the early US occupation period in Japan and especially the postwar fate of Japan’s pan-Asianism. The sources I have looked at so far are almost exclusively early occupation period magazines and journals, all of which were under censorship by SCAP authorities. Despite the obstacles that a system of censorship poses for a research project like this, I found what I believe to be some interesting discoveries.

1) Wartime language, symbols, and stock phrases almost completely disappear in the early postwar publications of Japan, including those calling for political, economic, and spiritual union with Asia.

2) A significant number of intellectuals who supported Japanese imperialism and pushed for pan-Asian unity during the war, both from the “left” and the “right” join together with many old-fashioned “liberal” internationalists whose voices largely drop out during wartime to support a brief but significant movement supporting world federalism. In other words, a broader transnational idealism persists into the early postwar period and is at its strongest up until the outbreak of the Korean war.

The second of these two is where I think I have something important and original to say and I will try to make time to post more about my research in this area here at some future point. The first of these, however, you might call my, “Duh!” thesis. It seems fairly obvious that in the aftermath of war, with the wartime regime fallen into almost universal disrepute, with US propaganda and occupation censorship in full swing, and with the left at its most powerful in decades, wartime language and symbols are not going to be in vogue. By making use of the wonderful Prange collection of occupation period magazines, complete with US censorship documents and the actual censors comments and markings on the original submissions, I can confirm that whether due to self-censorship or some other reason – there are few articles which even try to submit something using any of the familiar wartime expressions.

However, there is at least one very interesting exception to this that I came across which, after much feedback, I have decided to drop completely from my writing on this topic. This is the case of an obscure Ibaraki prefecture publication that goes by the name of Taiwa Shinron (大和新論)and it is interesting to me because, while it is quite representative of the kind of early postwar global-oriented “transnational idealism” I have found to be so strong at the time, it continued to use the now discredited idiom of Japan’s wartime empire.
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