井の中の蛙

5/12/2011

Collecting Local Materials in Okinawa

Filed under: — sayaka @ 9:09 am

It seems there is increasing attention to Okinawan history recently. Okinawa is such an obviously interesting place for its own rich cultures, languages, customs, and complicated historical relationships with Yamato Japan and surrounding countries. The complexity should not overwhelm comparative historians, however, because there are a couple of advantages in studying the Okinawan history even only for a short period of time.

First of all, there is a tight community of Okinawan studies scholars who are very approachable, and many materials are available even from Tokyo. The library of Hosei University’s Institute for Okinawan Studies is a great place to find basic materials, and probably to get to know people.

Second of all, Okinawa’s prefectural and municipal governments have been devoting a lot of resources to organizing local sources. Almost everything they collect and publish are available at the Okinawa Prefectural Library in Naha. If you are doing postwar histories, the Okinawa Prefectural Archives is the place to go to. I spent most of my time in the Prefectural Library. Generally speaking, there are not many documents left from the prewar period because of the magnitude of the Battle of Okinawa as well as the occupation by the US forces afterwards. For many issues and years, the only sources are newspapers (琉球新報, 沖縄タイムス, 大阪朝日付録九州沖縄版, 沖縄新報, 沖縄毎日新聞 etc) preserved mainly in Tokyo or Kyushu and the old people who lived through that period. I realize that the Okinawan officials are indeed desperate to collect everything left when I saw this:

沖縄県文化振興会『植物標本より得られた近代沖縄の新聞』 2007
They collected about 300 pages of newspapers that were used as wrappers of botanical samples between the 1910s and 1930s in Kyoto University.

To those who want to know the backgrounds of the major newspapers ( in Okinawa, Ota Masahide (大田昌秀)’s “Okinawa no minshu ishiki” (『沖縄の民衆意識』1995) is a must read although the focus is the Meiji period.

Many municipal governments, like in Miyagi but often even more eagerly, have a city history section which regularly publishes new studies. I contacted Nago city history section. Their city history is one of the most thorough ones, and like other cities in Okinawa, they indexed and re-published newspaper articles and organized all the available statics related to Nago in three volumes. The republished version of newspaper articles is much easier to read than the original bad printing, of course. Nago city also distributed an index list of “newspaper articles related to education in Nago before 1945,” which came in extremely handy for my research. Besides that, I don’t know if this is really doable for other cities, but they publish contacts of senior citizens of the city — in case you are looking for the elderly to interview, I guess…

The staff at the Nago history section is also very helpful in introducing local historians to me from the local Meio University (名桜大学) and in responding to my additional request for a copy of a couple of newspaper articles that I could not find in the Prefectural Library.

You could also visit the national Ryukyu University, whose library is one of the oldest in Okinawa. I found a few issues of 沖縄教育 that were missing from the reprinted version and random village youth periodicals there. But overall their collection is not as thorough as the Prefectural Library, and it is less conveniently located. If you suddenly need to refer to English publications, Ryukyu University is the place to go to.

Shimoina in Nagano Prefecture is probably the most popular site of research because of its rich local sources, but it seems there is an equivalent of Shimoina in Okinawa — Ogimi (大宜味)village in Kunigami (the Northern one third of Okinawa). To be precise, rather than a lot of materials left, there are more historians who write about this village from early on. Besides their very well-written 大宜味村誌, Fukuchi Hiroaki (福地曠昭) has written a number of works based on many oral interviews and his own experiences of growing up in the village in the 1930s and 40s. Ogimi, in a way, is a peculiar case because the youth created a “soviet” in the village in 1931. 山城善光 was one of the leaders in this movement, and he wrote a memoir “Yambaru no hi” (『山原の火』1976)as well. When I visited Ogimi village last summer, they just created a new village history office. Kin (金武)village is also gaining more and more attention because that village produced a large number of immigrants.

I do not need to convince others about the importance of Okinawan studies. Neither do I need to persuade Okinawan people to engage in local histories. I was totally impressed by their continuous efforts, and I hope they will get attention and admiration that they deserve.

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…. []

9/18/2007

Worth Noting

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 2:43 pm

John Dower kicks off the American Historical Association’s Perspectives newsletter’s new “Masters at the Movies” series with a review and commentary of the two Eastwood Iwo Jima movies. It is, as you’d expect from John Dower, well sourced, psychologically sensitive, clear-headed and even-handed. Nothing very new there, but a good survey of the end-of-war issues and narratives. End-of-war issues remain sensitive in Japan1. For a completely different perspective, Richard Frank’s review of Maddox’s Hiroshima book claims, as so many conservative commentators have before, that it settles the “revisionism” questions once and for all. We’ll see.

Non Sequitur: In other news, this week’s Japan Focus is all about current immigration issues in Japan, so I’ll have to read it and see if anyone’s got an historical perspective worth noting.

  1. then there’s the cabinet minister resignation, etc. []

1/4/2007

AHA Blogging Day One: Between Naps

Filed under: — Jonathan Dresner @ 11:20 pm

They call it a “red eye flight” for a reason. I really hope that none of the panelists at “Unstable Bodies, Unsettled Movements: Sport, Performance and Nation in Japan” took my nodding off personally: I really did want to hear what they had to say. (If anyone went to the Historians in Public roundtable and wants to share, I’d be grateful, by the way: that was my second choice.)

Aside from hearing the panelists, I got to meet not one, but two of my fellow Frog-bloggers: Dennis Frost, who was on the panel, and Michael Wert, who was in the audience with me. Tomorrow I get to hang out with Cliopatriots (being emeritoid, myself) and find out who won the Clios for last year! I love it.
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7/15/2005

Sex, Lies, and Okinawa

Filed under: — tak @ 10:03 am

For anyone interested in Okinawa and the history of journalism in Japan, David Jacobson over at Japan Media Review has recently reported on a new lawsuit by a journalist who 30 years ago was slammed for uncovering a “secret pact” between the U.S. and Japan.

Disgraced Journalist Seeks to Revisit 30-year-old Scandal
More than 30 years later, a Japanese court is reconsidering an epoch-making media scandal that raised the question of whether unethical conduct by a reporter in obtaining the news should outweigh the significance of the facts he uncovered, no matter how earthshaking they might be.

The first oral hearing took place Tuesday in a suit brought by disgraced Mainichi Shimbun political reporter Takichi Nishiyama. Nishiyama, now 73, sued the government in April, claiming that it had destroyed his reputation. He seeks a government apology and 33 million yen (roughly $300,000) in damages.

The case concerns Nishiyama’s reporting on the negotiations between the United States and Japan over the reversion of the southernmost islands in the Japanese archipelago, Okinawa, to Japanese sovereignty (For a detailed chronology, see Wikipedia’s entry). Nishiyama uncovered documents in 1971 that revealed that Japan had secretly made a pact with the U.S. to absorb $4 million of the cost of returning Okinawa – which had been a U.S. protectorate since World War II – to Japan.

However, it was later learned that Nishiyama had obtained the documents through an affair with a married Foreign Ministry secretary. Both the secretary and Nishiyama were arrested, she for revealing state secrets and he for abetting her efforts. Each was convicted, though he appealed his case as far as the Supreme Court, which upheld his conviction.

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