Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ramifications of WWII: Recommended Reading & Resources On U.S.-Japan Relations

To mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII today, we've compiled a shortlist of books, articles, films and historical documents that help contextualize the relationship between the U.S. and Japan before, during and after the war. While by no means exhaustive, this selection illustrates the complexities and ramifications of the war, from the imperialist maneuverings that led to the Pacific War to what is now considered the cornerstone alliance in the region towards stability and prosperity by the U.S. Department of State. Additional topics covered include life in the Japanese internment camps, the American Occupation of Japan, the aftermath of the atomic bombings, and the Japanese Constitution and the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty. Those marked with an asterisk (*) are recommended by Japan Society's Education Program as resources for educators when teaching war-related topics, U.S.-Japan relations during and after WWII, and the atomic bombings.

6 Must-Reads

Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II, John Dower
Awarded the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, this seminal history details Japan in the immediate aftermath of WWII and how the American occupation affected Japanese society from politics to the arts and popular culture. Ian Buruma, reviewing the book for the New York Review of Books, called it a "superb history.... Dower brilliantly captures the louche​, squalid, but extraordinary dynamic mood of the postwar years." Dower followed the book up with the equally profound collection of essays Ways of Forgetting, Ways of Remembering: Japan in the Modern World, which served as the basis for Japan Society's Stories from the War programming series this year. In an interview with NPR, Dower said, "as time passes, we do see things differently. We do ask different questions, and they're very important. And I think by not asking those questions, it affects our present-day response to current crises." Read an excerpt here.

Hiroshima*, John Hersey
In 1946, a year after the atomic bombs had been dropped on Japan, The New Yorker dedicated an entire issue to first-hand accounts from six Hiroshima survivors, written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author John Hersey. Considered a landmark in journalistic achievement, it was one of the first in-depth mainstream accounts of the aftermath of the bombing. The article was banned in Japan by occupation authorities until 1949.

Japan and Imperialism, 1853-1945*, James L. Huffman
Published by the Association for Asian Studies in 2010, Huffman's "lively narrative" looks at Japan’s responses to Western imperialism and colonialism, and its efforts towards imperial expansion.

When the Emperor was Divine, Julie Otsuka
This acclaimed novel of historical fiction follows the experience of a Japanese-American family sent to an internment camp during WWII. Widely considered a modern classic, the book is now on required reading lists in schools across the U.S. Read an excerpt of the chapter "Evacuation Order No. 19".

The Constitution of Japan
Promulgated on November 3, 1946, Japan's postwar constitution came into effect on May 3, 1947. Read a fascinating history of the constitution's draft process, and for comparison, read the The Constitution of the Empire of Japan, in place from 1890 to 1947.

The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan
First signed in 1952 and amended on January 1960, this treaty outlines the U.S.-Japan security alliance, which is considered "an anchor of the U.S. security role in Asia". Upon the 50th anniversary, George R. Packard penned "The United States-Japan Security Treaty at 50", examining how to update the treaty to better serve the best interests of both countries in modern times.

Further Books, Movies and Resources

“The Allied Occupation of Japan”*, Peter Frost
Essay that focuses on U.S. policy and shaping of postwar Japan, featured on Japan Society's About Japan teachers' resource website.

American Experience: Victory in the Pacific*, dir. Austin Hoyt, 1995
A PBS documentary examining the end of WWII from the perspectives of both the Japanese and the Americans.

Barefoot Gen, Keiji Nakazawa
This classic ten volume manga series illustrates the author's first-hand experiences during the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath. Despite a call for a ban in recent years, the book has been used in classrooms to help teach WWII history.

Black Rain*, Masuji Ibuse
A tale of a young woman caught in the fallout after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. lbuse based his highly acclaimed fictional story on real-life diaries and interviews with victims. According to The Japan Times, "the documentary style allows Ibuse to reveal Japanese customs and culture in an affirmation of normalcy in abnormal situation."

The Bomb, Howard Zinn
Historian Howard Zinn reflects on how a visit to a Hiroshima house of rest for bombing victims changed the way he viewed the end of WWII, having served as a bombardier in the European theater.

The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Ruth Benedict
Originally an internal working paper distributed amongst the American armed forces, this controversial classic is considered by many required reading to understand how Americans viewed Japanese during WWII. For a deeper understanding of the time period, read C. Douglas Lummis's essay "Ruth Benedict's Obituary for Japanese Culture".

Chronology of U.S.-Japan Relations
A bulleted timeline of U.S.-Japan relations from the American Embassy in Japan.

The Clash: U.S.-Japanese Relations Throughout History, Walter LaFeber
Winner of the Bankcroft Prize, LaFeber's book purports to tell the "entire story behind the disagreements, tensions, and skirmishes" between the U.S. and Japan since Japan opened to the West.

Come See the Paradise*, dir. Alan Parker, 1990
A drama of life before and during WWII and lives affected by the internment of Japanese-Americans.

Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum*
A search engine for digital resources on WWII.

Farewell to Manzanar*, Jeanne Houston and James D. Houston
The true story of a family's struggles in a Japanese internment camp.

Grave of the Fireflies*, dir. Takahata Isao, 1988
Studio Ghibli's deeply affecting, acclaimed animated film about a young boy and his little sister's struggle to survive in Japan during WWII.

Hibakusha Stories*
This nonprofit organization connects hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings, with high school, youth groups and the general public around the world. The site contains video testimonies from Setsuko Thurlow, Yasuaki Yamashita and many more.

"Hiroshima: History, City, Event"*, Scott O'Bryan
An extensive essay from the Japan Society Education Program's About Japan teacher's resource website.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum*

Japan at War: An Oral History*, Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook
The New York Times Book Review called it a "powerful, hideous and remarkably candid recollections by Japanese veterans [that] confirm the worst allegations of American wartime propaganda.”

“Japan’s Debate on Constitutional Reinterpretation: Paving the Way for Collective Self-Defense”, Hitoshi Tanaka
JCIE paper from February 2014 about developments in Japan’s national security policy, including establishment of a National Security Council based on the U.S. model, the announcement of the first National Security Strategy a month later, and re-interpretation of the constitution.

Japanese Internment Broadside*
Among Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History exhaustive resources for the improvement of history education (over 60,000 unique documents) are many primary sources from WWII including these images from the internment of Japanese. Registration required.

Letters from the End of the World: A Firsthand Account of the Bombing of Hiroshima*, Toyofumi Ogura
One of the first first-hand accounts of the bombing of Hiroshima, this compelling love story unfolds through letters from the author to his wife, after their family's future is altered in an instant.

The Life of Isamu Noguchi: Journey without Borders, Masayo Duus
The first full-length biography of legendary American sculptor and designer Isamu Noguchi, who struggled with his Japanese-American heritage and famously volunteered himself for the internment camps. Offers great insight into the time period during and after WWII. A new biography Listening to Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi, was released this year by Pultizer Prize-nominated author Hayden Herrera to wide acclaim.

“Miscalculations in Deterrent Policy: Japanese-U.S. Relations, 1938-1941”, Chihiro Hosoya
Looks at events leading up to WWII, and examines miscalculations by the American government as to how Japan would react to economic sanctions.

Nagasaki: Life After Nuclear War, Susan Southard
Published this year for the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing, Southard spent more than a decade researching and interviewing survivors to tell the often neglected story of the second nuclear cataclysm of WWII.

Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum*

National Archive's Japanese-American Records related to WWII*

New Perspectives on U.S.-Japan Relations, ed. Gerald L. Curtis
Essays by top Japanese and American political scientists that address the major issues of U.S.-Japan relations circa 2000.

No-No Boy, John Okada
A novel about the "no-no boys", Japanese-American youths who refused to swear loyalty to the United States and enlist in its army.

The Only Woman in the Room, Beate Gordon
Beate Sirota Gordon's memoir about the role she played in drafting Japan’s postwar constitution. Gordon, who passed away in 2013, was a former Japan Society program director.

Pacific Cosmopolitans: A Cultural History of U.S.-Japan Relations, Michael R. Auslin
Auslin, who wrote Japan Society's centennial book, shares the history of U.S.-Japan relations from initial cultural encounters of the early 1800s to the crucial decades since World War II.

Summer Flowers, Tamiki Hara
Written following atomic bombing of Hiroshima, survivor Tamiki Hara recounts the horrors of what he witnessed during the aftermath. Included in the anthology The Crazy Iris and Other Stories from the Atomic Aftermath, compiled by Kenzaburo Oe.

Tokyo Rose / An American Patriot: A Dual Biography, Frederick P. Close
A story about a Japanese-American woman trapped in Tokyo during World War II and forced to broadcast on Japanese radio. Read a précis of the book.

Wings of Defeat*, dir. Risa Morimoto and Linda Hoagland, 2007
A groundbreaking feature-length documentary about surviving kamikaze pilots. Japan Society presented the New York premiere screening in 2008.

−Japan Society Staff

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Cats Purr-vade Japan's History and Culture

The cats of Japan's "Cat Island" await your visit. Via.

From protectors of ancient religious relics to demon cats haunting night travelers to the YouTube and media celebrities of today, cats have an unparalleled place in Japan's history and culture.

First introduced to Japan around 500 A.D., cats instantly proved their worth as guardians of Buddhist temple manuscripts. Mice and other rodents were particularly fond of the parchment used in most documents of the time, so cats were regularly considered both protectors of the home and of valuable books. Cats were often housed in private pagodas in Japan andwere considered so valuable that by the 10th century CE, only the nobility could afford to own them.

As familiarity with cats grew, they became known for more than just their positive attributes--infamous for stealing food and destroying people’s possessions. But in 1602, the number of domestic cats sharply declined after the Japanese government ordered all cats to be released so that they could catch the rats destroying the silkworm industry.

Today cats are everywhere, especially in popular Japanese culture. There’s Kirara from Inuyasha, Maru of YouTube fame, futuristic robot feline Doraemon (named the 2020 Tokyo Olympics ambassador), Luna from Sailor Moon, The Catbus from My Neighbor Totoro, Meowth from Pokemon, travel mascot Nyalan, and Station Master Tama, who not only welcomes tens of thousands of tourists to the Kishi train station in Wakayama, Japan, but reportedly has boosted the local economy by millions of dollars.

Japan’s love of cats extends beyond the realm of fiction and media. At Japanese cat cafes, cat lovers can spend time petting and playing with their favorite animals, all while enjoying a cup of coffee. Owing to strict apartment regulations in Japanese cities, which don't often allow residents to own cats, the cafes have taken off in Japan, where there were nearly 150 as of 2012. The phenomenon has quickly gone global, with London and New York City opening their first cafes in 2014, Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium and Meow Parlour respectively.

Another major cat attraction is Aoshima’s “Cat Island”, one of approximately eleven cat islands in Japan. There, cats outnumber humans six-to-one, as the island is home to just 15 people, mainly elderly fishermen and their wives. The cats get a pretty good deal, free to roam about as they please, with the village nurse there to feed them every day.

Utagawa Kunisada's 1861 illustration for the kabuki play The Spirit of the Cat Stone. Courtesy of the Hiraki Foundation.

Before they took over the internet and peppered the headlines of mainstream news outlets around the world, Japanese cats had a darker more storied life in the country's mythology and folklore.  

In their review of Japan Society's hit exhibition Life of Cats: Selections from the Hiraki Ukiyo-e Collection closing today, The Guardian wrote,  "The paradox between cats’ cute outward appearance and inward capacity for wickedness (or at least sofa destruction) is crucial to their place in Japanese folklore."

The demon cat bakeneko transforms into whatever it wishes, including humans. Tales of lovers and courtesans transforming into cats when they thought no one was watching were popular back in the Edo period (1603-1868), and they are often depicted in art of the era dancing about with a towel or napkin on their heads. According to Hyakumonogatari:
Bakeneko has been rendered in English in a variety of ways. Monster cat. Ghost cat. But the most accurate translation would be “Changing Cat”... for the bakeneko, there is a general scholastic consciences that the legends began with fish. 
Cats are not indigenous to Japan, and the little “hand-fed tigers” were imported in later years and served as house pets and rat-catchers. Most of Japan at the time lived on a diet of vegetables and grains, with very little supplementary meat or protein. Cats were fed leftovers. However, cats are carnivorous. They don’t do well on a diet of vegetables and grains, and when they are hungry they will take their protein where they can get it. And many households had a ready supply, even if they didn’t know it. 
Oil lamps as the time often used rendered fish oil as fuel. To a protein-starved cat this was exactly what they needed, and they would stand on their hind legs to reach up to the lamp to lick out the fish oil. Frightened pet owners looking at the lamplight-cast shadows would see their tiny cat suddenly elongate and stand on two legs as if transforming into a human. Thus was established the connection between bakeneko and shadows.
There’s also the nekomata, a vicious cat that enjoys stalking and attacking humans. During the Kamakura period (1185–1333), tales of nekomata spoke of massive beasts that lurked in the mountains, waiting for unsuspecting travelers – their next meal – to approach. By the Edo period, nekomata were believed to evolve from house cats that had lived for a very long time, fleeing to the mountains when their time came. Once the creature’s tail had split in two, the transformation was complete. 

The nekomata figure prominently in the popular kabuki play The Spirit of the Cat Stone dramatized by Tsuruya Nanboku in the late 19th century, and inspried by a real location. The cat-shaped rock at the Okazaki station (in today’s Shizuoka Prefecture) along the Tōkaidō Road was believed to carry the vengeful spirit of a wrongly killed woman, and would take the form of the nekomata, emerging from an aged cat who grows the tell-tale split-end tail. The nekomata first appears as an old innkeeper greeting travelers who stop to rest in Okazaki, but at night her true nature is revealed as she licks oil from a lantern and her silhouette shows a cat shape, which commands several bakeneko that dance around the intended victims.

On the more fortuitous side of Japanese folklore, is the Maneki Neko, the squat, often smiling cat which often adorns Japanese shops and Asian stores in general. The bright eyed, beckoning statue is said to bring good luck. With a wave of its left paw, it is said to attract customers, while a waving right paw invites good fortune or at least cash. Catster points out a couple of origin stories in their article "5 Interesting Facts About Fortune Cats (Maneki Neko)"
There are a couple of popular legends about the origins of the Lucky Cat. The first tells of a wealthy man who took shelter from a rainstorm under a tree next to a temple. He noticed a cat that seemed to be beckoning to him, so he followed it inside the temple. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck the tree he had been standing under. Because the cat had saved his life, the man was so grateful, he became a benefactor of the temple and brought it much prosperity. When he passed away, a statue of the cat was made in is honor. 
Another common legend is a really peculiar one. A geisha had a pet cat that she adored. One day, it was tugging at her kimono and the owner of the brothel thought the cat was possessed, so he sliced off its head with a sword. (Yeah, gruesome! No cats were harmed in the writing of this article.) The flying cat head landed on a snake about to strike and the fangs killed the snake and saved the woman. The geisha was so distraught by the loss of her cat that one of her customers made a statue of the cat to cheer her up.
When looking at the cats of ancient and modern Japan, along with the prevailing images and stories of the times, it’s incredible to see how cats have evolved over the ages and maintain their place as one of Japan's favorite animals. For animals not native to Japan, they’ve certainly left their mark throughout its history and culture.

--Mark Gallucci, Japan Society Staff

The Nyan Avengers. From left to right: Station Master Tama, Luna, Maru and Doraemon.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Christianity In Japan & A Noh Theater Prayer For Peace

Scenes from Holy Mother in Nagasaki
A woman in a white mask emerges on stage and slowly glides down a narrow path. Clad in a vibrant blue veil and robes of blue and shimmering gold, she stops and turns. Beneath the pulse of drums and intermittent shrieks of flutes characteristic of the music of ancient Japan, the fluid hum of Gregorian chant gives the scene an otherworldly feeling—eerie, incongruous, mesmerizing.

Slowly, the woman begins to kneel, then rises, extending her hand. She walks center stage, quickening her pace as she approaches the audience. Finally, she shields her face with her arm and begins to slowly dance about the stage, alternating slow and fast gliding that ends in a dramatic flip of her long sleeve above her head. With a giant cross looming behind her, a revelation is at hand: The Holy Mother has arrived.

So ends Holy Mother in Nagasaki, a noh play of the classical tradition written in 2005. Part of Japan Society’s new and traditional noh presentation commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, the story unfolds at the famous Urakami Cathedral, as a priest tells a traveler the tale of Nagasaki’s suffering following the dropping of the second atomic bomb in Japan. The majestic cathedral rose as a beacon of hope and religious freedom in the late 19th century after years of Christian persecution in Japan, and then was completely destroyed in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.

The priest recounts hardships the survivors faced, and the resolve they had to rebuild the cathedral. He also shares the story of a woman who appeared the evening of the bombing to console the victims. No one knew who the woman was, but many believed she might be the Holy Mother returned.

In addition to being true to noh theater traditions that go back over 600 years, the tale is deeply rooted in the history of Christianity in Japan. (Nagasaki was the first port open to foreigners, so it has an unusual history of foreign influx compared to other locations in Japan. For example, at the height of Christianity’s spread to Japan, so many churches were built in Nagasaki that it became known as “Little Rome”.)

The Urakami Cathedral before and after the bombing. Via.

Christianity was introduced to Japan in 1549 by Francis Xavier of Navarre (modern-day Spain)†, who would later become the patron saint of missionaries, baptizing an estimated 30,000 people over his lifetime.

Furthering the spread of Christianity, Sumitada Omura became the first of Japan’s daimyo (feudal lords) to convert. He ceded Nagasaki and Mogi to the Society of Jesus in 1580, which began to worry then-shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who began his crusade against Christianity in 1587 when he demanded that all foreign missionaries leave the country.

Tensions came to a head in 1597, when Toyotomi ordered the execution of 26 Christians on a hill in Nagasaki by crucifixion. From there, sanctions against Christianity only grew stricter, as in 1614, Christianity was banned by Tokugawa Ieyasu, Toyotomi’s successor.

Japanese Christians were forced to practice in secret while pretending to be Buddhist, a practice that would continue for nearly 250 years until the Meiji government officially lifted the ban in 1873.

The most shocking part of the ordeal, however, came eight years earlier, when a group of these so-called “Hidden Christians” visited Oura Cathedral, newly built by a French missionary and reserved only for foreigners, in order to proclaim their faith. Father Bernard Petitjean, the priest at the cathedral, was extremely excited to discover that there in fact existed towns and villages full of Christians in Nagasaki, encouraging the Hidden Christians to practice their faith openly.

But Christianity was still illegal, which meant that 3,400 of these newly found Christians were arrested, some tortured, and 36 put to death. The Hidden Christians would have to remain that way for a few more years.

When it was finally safe to do so, approximately 30,000 Hidden Christians finally emerged, their faith having survived nearly two and a half centuries in secrecy. In a letter to Japan’s bishops written in March, Pope Francis said, “If our missionary efforts are to bear fruit, the example of the 'hidden Christians' has much to teach us.”

But even after their religious freedom had been won, the struggle of the Hidden Christians was not over. Due to years of persecution, many of them had been and were still living in poverty. Despite this, they decided to build churches, reducing the cost as much as possible by using lime they had made by burning shells, and drawing patterns on window glasses instead of using stained glass. Due in large part to their efforts, today there are more than 130 churches in Nagasaki Prefecture, more than anywhere else in Japan.

A Noh Theater Prayer for Healing and Peace

When programming the performing arts portion of Japan Society's Stories from the War series commemorating the end of WWII, Artistic Director Yoko Shioya felt that one of the most important “stories” Japan can share with the world is the aftermath of the atomic bombings.

In the program notes, Shioya writes that Holy Mother in Nagasaki "not only speaks about this sorrowful story, but also conveys the strong belief in the resilient spirit of humanity."

The play was written by the late Dr. Tomio Tada, an internationally renowned scientist (in the 1970s he discovered the suppressor T cells that subdue immune response) and respected author. Of several noh plays, he wrote two about the atomic bombings: Holy Mother in Nagasaki, and Genbaku-ki (Atomic Bomb Mourning) about Hiroshima.

"In the program notes from the Nagasaki premiere Tada explained that while the latter was written as a requiem, the former was written as a paean for revitalization, and he intentionally decided on these two different themes based on his observations of both of the A-bomb-ravaged cities," writes Shioya.

In an interview after performances of Holy Mother in Nagasaki began at Japan Society, Shioya posited that perhaps it was the element of Christianity that gave the play its inherent message of hope. Religious themes of classic noh are typically derived from Buddhism, which sees the soul go through an eternal cycle of rebirth, whereas Christianity sees the spirit set free in an eternal afterlife.

Shioya also feels that the centuries-old stylized noh might be one of the best art forms that addresses eternal challenges for human beings. Shimizu Kanji, lead actor in Holy Mother in Nagasaki and a designated Intangible Cultural Asset by the Japanese government, explains further in his portion of the program notes:
In many stories of noh drama, a ghost appears and recounts the story of his life—what events occurred, how he died, who mourns for him and where he is buried. I think these elements must be important for human beings. This consideration led me to realize that there are countless outrageous ways in which people lose their lives—by the blast of a single bomb or in a massive battle, through an earthquake, a tsunami or a hurricane.
Shimizu recounts the first performance of and how it affected him :
The new noh piece, Holy Mother in Nagasaki, premiered at the Urakami Cathedral in Nagasaki City on November 23, 2005. It was held on the site of the cathedral that was destroyed by the atomic bomb, and on the exact 60th anniversary of the first mass and memorial service held after the bombing. I knew that nothing would be able to reenact that tragic day realistically, yet I wore a noh mask and costume in the role of the spirit of an A-bomb victim and walked slowly down the long aisle toward the altar to read my lines, which narrated "that day." While I was performing, I felt the Gregorian chant sung by the choir run through my body. Since then, we have performed this piece in many cities, and we have now arrived at the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.
Shimizu says he is humbled to present the noh performance to an American audience, especially during the once-every-five years Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons international assembly at the United Nations, and his hope is that the performance helps those who have lost their lives in such catastrophes to rest peacefully and restores those catastrophically damaged sites back to life. But he notes, "world peace has not yet arrived and the souls of the hibakusha [atomic bomb survivors] remain unhealed."

Telling stories is one of the most powerful forms of communications, and it is well documented that sharing personal stories can have health benefits and help psychological healing. It can also help transmit a message through generations.

In Holy Mother in Nagasaki, the traveler listens to the priest's story and finally says, “I have resolved to mourn the victims and pray for world peace.” Once can only assume audiences will do the same.

--Mark Gallucci, Lara Mones, Shannon Jowett
†The portions of this article detailing the history of Christianity in Japan were informed by "Churches and Christian Sites in Nagasaki", published by the Nagasaki Prefectural Government.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Lessons From Another World: Three Timeless Folktales From Japan

Life's a mukashi banashi! Illustration by Benjamin Warren.

Whether it’s a turtle ride to an underwater palace, bamboo-born princesses, or a thumb-sized samurai besting beasts, Japanese folklore conjures worlds unlike any other where truly anything is possible.

In his fourth volume of Japanese Fairy TalesProfessor Keisuke Nishimoto of Showa Woman's College of Tokyo writes, "[these tales] are more than just entertaining; they also address some of life's enduring themes: how to live a good, kind life; how to achieve happiness; and the price to be paid for cruelty, greediness, and cowardice."

Today Japan Society marked Kodomo no hi, Japan's annual festival to celebrate children's happiness and wellbeing with its first-ever Folklore Family Day, transforming three floors of its landmark building into immersive worlds of Japan's most enchanting and enriching mukashi banashi (folktales).

“We want to share the mystery of stories from a different culture,” Jeffrey Miller, director of Japan Society's Education and Family Program told The New York Times, adding that children would see that “the humanity in these stories is common to all cultures.”

Japan Society brought to life several folktales, including stories familiar throughout the world such Momotaro (Peach Boy) and Kintaro (Golden Boy). Other featured stories just as beloved and time-honored in Japan, but perhaps less well known outside the country were Urashima Taro, Kaguya-hime (Bamboo Princess) and Issun-bōshi (One-Inch Boy).

Fathoming A Treasure More Valuable Than Time

One day the son of a modest fisherman, Urashima Taro (1) comes across a group of mischievous boys taunting and torturing a tortoise. Thinking quickly, Urashima offers to buy it from them, then releases it back to the sea as soon as they have gone. The following day while out fishing on his boat, Urashima is greeted by the tortoise, who expresses its gratitude with a trip to the Dragon King’s Palace at the bottom of the sea. Once they arrive, the tortoise transforms into a beautiful princess and asks Urashima to marry her, which he accepts.

A few short days later, Urashima begins to miss his family, whom he had nearly forgotten during the adventure, and asks the princess to let him go see them. She obliges, giving him a precious keepsake: a box which he must promise never to open. He agrees, returning to the surface, where he finds that more than 300 years have passed. Realizing that he’s outlived all of his friends and family, he opens the box in his grief, releasing a small cloud of smoke. He starts to feel weak, with his hair turning grey and his face wrinkling up, as the box had contained his old age.

(Searching for the many meanings hidden in this tale, it's important to understand the rich history of Japan's fishing culture. Up until just one hundred years ago, one out of every twenty Japanese were fishermen.)

Lunacy In Not Letting Go

Discovered in a bamboo stalk by a childless elderly couple, Kaguya-hime, the Bamboo Princess (2) wishes for nothing more than to spend the rest of her time on Earth with her parents. She grows up to be one of the most beloved women in the land, but with no desire to marry, she sends every suitor off to complete impossibly difficult tasks before they can win her hand in marriage. Several men set out on their journeys, with some attempting to deceive the princess, and others simply realizing the futility of their efforts. None complete their tasks (and not all of them make it back alive).

Though the princess manages to avoid marriage, she realizes she won't be able to stay with her parents forever. She tells them she must go back to the moon, her true home. Her parents are devastated, and eventually word reaches the Emperor, who sends his troops to prevent the princess from returning to the moon, to no avail.

Kaguya-hime puts on a special robe that erases her memories as she walks to the carriage sent to take her to the moon. Before she leaves, she hands the Emperor’s servant a letter and a portion of the elixir of eternal life that she herself has imbibed. Upon reading the letter, which proclaims the Princess’s desire to marry the Emperor if only it were possible, the Emperor, still in love with her, orders his servant to climb the highest mountain in all of Japan, then burn the potion and the letter at its peak, so that the smoke carries his sorrows to the heavens. That mountain eventually became known as Mt. Fuji, and on days when smoke rises up from the mountain, it is believed the letter and potion continues to burn its message for the princess.

(Another story deeply intertwined with meaning, especially when you consider the history of marriage in Japan.)

Big Benefits For The Steadfast Brave

Another elderly couple have been praying at a local shrine every day for a child, when Issun-bōshi, or One-Inch Boy (3) arrives. No bigger than a man’s thumb, he is nevertheless determined to become a samurai. When he comes of age, he asks his parents for a needle to use as a sword, a straw for a sheath, a rice bowl for a boat, and a chopstick for an oar, and sets off for adventure. Riding his bowl down the river and fending off a hungry fish with his chopstick-oar, he eventually makes it to the city and starts working for a wealthy man, whose daughter he quickly befriends. One day, while the two are playing outside, they are approached by a group of ogres who intend to kidnap the girl, who was actually a princess.

One-Inch Boy resists and one of the ogres swallows him whole. He responds by poking the ogre’s stomach full of holes with his sword. In incredible pain, the ogre spits out One-Inch-Boy and flees, dropping his magic mallet in the process. The princess picks it up, chants, “Grow, One-Inch Boy, grow!” Soon enough, One-Inch Boy quickly outgrows his name, rivaling the princess in height. The story ends with him marrying the princess and becoming a samurai as he had always dreamed.

Enduring Lessons From The Monstrous Mystery

In their delightful (and deceptive) simplicity, folktales, fables and myth are ancient tools to help us cope with life's difficult twists and turns. On the surface, Urashima Taro shows us there are rewards for doing right; but dive deeper into the story and we find that the act of doing right is its own reward: peril awaits those who are distracted by meaningless treasure. Kaguya-hime teaches the importance of loving and appreciating your family, and the difficulty and inevitability of having to let go (imagine a grief so profound it causes Mt. Fuji to bellow!) Sharing many similarities with Tom Thumb from English folklore, Issun-bōshi stresses the importance of inner strength and self-sufficiency, regardless of how immense the challenges one may face.

"The great ideas of courage, duty, beauty, desire, cause, man and animals are themes throughout western literature and many also appear in Japanese children's stories," notes Miller.

According to maverick mythologist Joseph Campbell, there are four purposes to myth (4): to inspire awe of the "monstrous mystery" of existence; to present the inner and outer cosmos in a way that simultaneously dazzles and describes the universe; to advance a society (or community or family) through a shared understanding of right and wrong; and to "carry the individual through the stages of his life, from birth through maturity through senility to death… in accords with the social order of his group, the cosmos as understood by his group, and the monstrous mystery."

Through its Folklore Family Day, Miller says, "Japan Society's Education and Family programs share the great wealth that comes from considering tales that cause children and adults to be in awe and wonder. The imagination of a child is not a small thing and we desire to share stories that excite."

Miller points to a quote from Anthony Esolen's Ten Ways to Destroy Your Child’s Imagination: "Fairy tales and folk tales are for children and childlike people, not because they are little and inconsequential, but because they are as enormous as life itself.”

--Stories adapted by Mark Gallucci

1. Adapted from "The Story of Urashima Taro, the Fisher Lad", Japanese Fairy Tales, Yei Theodora Ozaki.

2. Adapted from "The Moon Princess", as told by Tetsuo Kawamoto, translated by Clarence Calkins. (Read the full pdf.)

3. "One Inch Boy", Old Stories from Japan, Masahiro Kudo. (Read another version here.)

4. Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation, Joseph Campbell.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Mystery Of Merii of Hama And The Birth Of 'Yokohama Rosa'

Merii of Hama on the streets of Yokohama. Circa 1990.

"What? What’s my name? I’ve long forgotten my real name. But people call me all sorts of names. Like Merii of Hama, Mary, ‘Merican Li’l or Rosa. But Rosa is my favorite of all." – Yokohama Rosa

Nearly 15 years ago, Japan’s legendary TV/film/stage actress Michiko Godai encountered Merii-san on the streets of Yokohama (Japan’s second largest city just outside of Tokyo), roaming around with her oversized rolling suitcase and face painted as white as fresh snow. On first sight, Godai wanted to learn more about the mysterious woman. Who was she? Where did she come from? What was her story?

Godai began her investigation by searching for the makeup store where Merii-san bought her white face paint. She learned that Merii-san once fancied expensive American brand makeup products, but with her dwindling savings, the shop owner introduced her to a 500 yen stage paint which ended up becoming her signature look, together with thick kabuki-like eyeliner.

Godai then found the dry cleaner that laundered Meri-san’s frilly white dresses and would kindly allow her to change in the store before returning to the streets, the hair salon that styled her hair until their clients requested that she no longer be allowed in, and the café that held a rose cup just for her use so as not to alienate the other customers.

Godai, together with the late playwright Giho Sugiyama, strung these stories carefully together like beads on a chain, and the powerful one-woman play Yokohama Rosa was born. 

“Through Rosa, I want to depict Japan’s postwar history and convey it (to future generations),” Godai told the Asahi Shimbun about why she created the play. Since its premiere in April 1996 at the Mitsukoshi Theatre in Tokyo, the piece has been presented 110 times to more than 51,000 people. Beginning in 2003, the piece has been performed each August in Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse in commemoration of the end of WWII.

Having its U.S. premiere this weekend as part of Japan Society's Stories from the War series marking the 70th anniversary of the war's end, Godai said, “A war produces tragedies regardless of whether a country wins or loses it... I want Americans to see 'Yokohama Rosa' as a message to pray for peace.”

Michiko Godai portrays Merii over the decades. Photos by © Hideo Mori.

Details of Merii-san’s early life are vague and inconclusive, as she never let down her guard to tell anyone her true story. Merii-san’s Japanese Wikipedia page states that:
She was born in 1921 in Okayama Prefecture to a farming family. The oldest daughter of eight, she was married just briefly. After the war she worked at a local food joint that catered to foreign soldiers. It was there where she met and fell in love with a U.S. Army Official who whisked her off to Tokyo before getting drafted into the Korean War, never to return. Abandoned and forlorn, she turned towards Yokosuka (home of the Yokosuka naval base) in Yokohama, where she began her life as a pan-pan [the word in occupied Japan for prostitute*]. Some records say this was the early 60s, others the mid-50s. She began garnering real attention in the 80s, then disappeared in the mid-90s. She was said to have died in a nursing home near her hometown in 2005 at the age of 84. Numerous songs, manga, films and even a novel and poem exist, inspired by her story.
In 1995, Michiko Godai visited the GM Building where former pan-pan Merii-san (then in her seventies) dwelled and “worked” as a so-called Elevator Girl, escorting people up and down to the floors they wished to go. The tips that she made were now her only source of income. Godai explained to Merii-san that she would like to do a one-woman play about her life and according to Godai she smiled and said, “Is that so?”

Godai’s Yokohama Rosa is a fictionalized account inspired by the woman who came to be known as Merii-san. The 100 minute play traces the life of a woman known as Yokohama Rosa from the time she arrives in Yokohama, through her journey into prostitution, to her love-affair with a foreign soldier and her fears and insecurities about time moving on and her own aging.

The play depicts an innocent life completely tossed and turned by war (in this play not only is WWII considered, but also the wars in Korea and Vietnam) and is performed with live musicians and a panoramic display of striking images from the times. Part post-war history lesson, part testament to the perseverance of the human spirit, Merri-san's story, and the story of all women she represents, lives on through Michiko Godai's heartrending performance in this poignant production.

--Lara Mones

Merii of Hama on the streets of Yokohama. Circa 1990.

*Pan-pan (pronounced pahn-pahn, unknown origin) n. 1. The word for street walker or prostitute used in Japan at the end of WWII. (Kojien); 2. Prostitutes who catered to the Occupied Troops. At the end of WWII, the terms pan-pan girl and pan-suke emerged to describe the prostitutes who appeared on the streets and who specifically worked for the GI troops in Occupied Japan. While the origins of the word are uncertain, some believe it to have come from the English word “pom-pom” meaning sex, while others, the American pronunciation of the Indonesian word for woman “Perem-paun” (pronounced purom pan). Still others believe that it came from the onomatopoeia “pen-pen” describing the shamisen (aka geishas). Whatever its origin, the word that the GIs used became “pan-pan” when it eventually reached the years of the Japanese. (Zokugo); 3. Today, the word or sound “pan-pan” is a commonly used adjective meaning full or to be stretched tight. Via.


Shiroi Kao no Densetsu wo Motomete: Yokohama kara Yokohama Rosa he no Deshin, Michiko Godai

Yokohama Rosa, Giho Sugiyama and Michiko Godai

Yokohama Merii (film), Takayuki Nakamura

Kojien Dictionary and

Monday, April 20, 2015

Learning Japanese: Enhance Classes With A Listening and Reading Routine

Learning Japanese? Go for 'total immersion' even if not in Japan. Via.

Of all the ways to start studying Japanese, many find taking classes to be one of the most effective. But making the most of class means more than studying. Of course, memorizing vocabulary, reviewing class materials, and participating in lessons are vital, but there are other things you can do to be prepared. It starts with developing a routine that exposes you to Japanese beyond class and textbooks.

Unless you’re living in Japan, you probably won't experience Japanese involuntarily, so you have to seek it out for yourself. This means making Japanese a part of your daily life, such as watching Japanese television shows on sites like Crunchyroll. From hit dramas such as I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper to classic anime such as Bakemonogatari, Crunchyroll gives access to videos more than a week old for free, or you can pay a monthly fee to access videos as soon as they are released, as well as HD video and streaming to almost any device.

As for reading, NHK offers a variety of simplified news articles in Japanese, and you can also buy manga from sites such as YesAsia or in person at stores such as Kinokuniya. There are lists upon lists of recommended manga for beginners out there, but perhaps the most compelling recommendation comes from Khatzumoto of All Japanese All The Time: “Don’t read according to your level, read according to your interest.”

Having Skype conversations with native Japanese speakers is one of the best ways to utilize your Japanese. If you make mistakes, you can simply ask your friend where you went wrong, all while helping them work on their English. Lang-8 is a great place to make friends for tlanguage exchange.

Discussing the Japanese language classroom experience, Tomoyo Kamimura, head of Japan Society’s Language Center tells students “if you can arrange a language exchange with a Japanese student—I have paired up several people here—it works very well. You spend one or one and a half hours speaking only Japanese, then one hour speaking English. You have to get exposure to real Japanese, not just what’s on a screen or in a book.”

Podcasts can be a great way to expose yourself to Japanese even while doing something else. Japan's esteemed news outlet Nikkei offers hours of Japanese podcast programs available online for free. TBS Radio also offers tons of content, and for news on the latest technology and trends, Hotcast is a great choice. In addition to podcasts, there is a decent amount of free audiobooks available for download, some with transcripts in Japanese, and others with translations.

Listening is great practice without having to “do” anything (besides focus, of course). This is especially useful for commuters and anyone who doesn’t have the time to sit in front of their computer watching J-dramas for an hour at a time. And you can still listen to things you enjoy – music, news, sports, reviews of books, video games or movies – only now, you’re getting accustomed to the language you’re learning at the same time.

It’s all a matter of input preceding output – input being reading and listening, and output being writing and speaking. These are the main components of a language, and it’s important as a beginner to prioritize them depending on how you’re primarily using Japanese. Many Japanese learners choose to focus on speaking and listening in order to have conversations in Japanese, while focusing less on writing and reading kanji.

To help with both, it’s a good idea to add every single word you’re interested in that you hear or read to your Anki decks, so that you can review them until you’ve got them memorized. Once you’ve done that, you can try them out in class or when talking to friends to make sure you’re using them correctly. Even just five to ten words a day can make a big difference in improving your vocabulary.

Whatever you choose to focus on, keeping a steady schedule is important. Anki reviews pile up if ignored for a day, so keeping your review count at a relatively low level and adding each day is a good way to stay on top of them. As a general rule, expect to be reviewing for at least an hour if you have more than a hundred reviews due for the day. This is easily managed by setting review limits in the program itself, and it’s also important to note that there are both iPhone and Android apps available, which can help you finish those reviews even when you are not home.

With a daily routine, learning a language becomes much less daunting and much more doable. Even a typical routine, such as listening to an interesting podcast on the train, watching your favorite show at home, and reviewing words you’ve learned before you go to sleep or first thing in the morning will help your Japanese improve outside of class, so you can spend more of your class time learning instead of trying to catch up.

–Mark Gallucci

Gallucci is a Communications intern at Japan Society. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University at Albany and completed a study-abroad program in Kansai Gaidai University, Japan. He has worked as an English-Japanese tutor and is currently enrolled at Japan Society’s Language Center.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Frozen In Time: The Cinematic Legacy Of Japan's 'Eternal Virgin'

Setsuko Hara's iconic career spanned only three decades.

For more than three decades, she dazzled audiences as the ideal Japanese woman. Boys fell in love with her, women wanted to be like her, and everyone respected her incredible talent. Then, in the blink of an eye, her career was over. Japan’s Eternal Virgin, Setsuko Hara, had retired, never again to be seen by the public eye.

Born Masae Aida, Hara began her journey to stardom in 1935, with her big break coming in 1937, when she starred in The New Earth, a German-Japanese collaboration that cemented her role as “the go-to actress” for young female characters.

The film features Hara as an innocent girl who, upon being rejected by her fiancé in favor of a German woman, attempts to jump into a volcano in order to end her suffering. Eventually, her father convinces the fiancé, who had fallen in love with Germany and its culture, to embrace Japanese culture once more and proceed with the wedding. The film, intended to strengthen the alliance between Nazi Germany and Japan while introducing Japan and its culture to the rest of Europe, was a commercial success in Japan, and was well reviewed in Germany, mainly because the government ordered critics to praise it.

The New Earth was one of the rarely screened WWII propaganda films featured in Japan Society’s ongoing series The Most Beautiful: The War Films of Shirley Yamaguchi & Setsuko Hara, which shows how the actresses' roles reflected a nation during a time of upheaval and change. Continuing through Saturday with iconic postwar films, the series also juxtaposes the actresses' lives. Yamaguchi was often in the public spotlight (Artforum wrote that "the entire twentieth-century history of the Pacific Rim is reflected" in her life). In stark contrast, Hara was about as fond of interviews as Greta Garbo.

Two Hara films remain to be shown in the series, both of which would eventually define her legacy.

In Akira Kurosawa’s No Regrets for Our Youth (1946), screening April 3, Hara finds herself trapped in the middle of a love triangle. Her suitors are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, with one being a liberal-minded man and the other a militant radical. Her decision brings her great sadness, and serves to reinforce the idea of democracy as a positive change, with women’s rights and anti-militarism being points of emphasis. 

Screening April 4 is Yasujiro Ozu’s Late Spring (1949), the first in a series of films often referred to as the “Noriko Trilogy”, comprised of Late Spring, Early Summer (1951), and Tokyo Story (1953). All three films featured Setsuko Hara as a character named Noriko, showing her gradual progression from a daughter who fears marriage into an eventual widow, and the conflict between the demands of society and the desires of the individual.

Aiko Masubuchi, Japan Society Film Program Officer, notes that throughout Hara’s entire career, it was as if she were two separate entities – the onscreen Hara, and the private Hara, known to only her close friends. Even now, we can only guess as to what she was like in private. Her onscreen persona was was often representative of an idea, an existence that changed to suit the prevailing ideas of the time, from militarism to democracy. On the silver screen, she was the sweet sisterly figure supporting the future pilots of the Japanese air force, the perfect daughter, and a devoted wife.

Where the cinematic persona of Setsuko Hara was usually a stoic, serious woman, Masae Aida was surprising her fellow actors with her love of beer and her sense of humor, playfully kicking actor Ryo Ikebe for teasing her.

Hara’s collaboration with Ozu would go on for 12 years, lasting until 1961. When Ozu died of cancer two years later, Hara, then 43, announced soon afterward her retirement in a shocking press conference, where she admitted that she enjoyed neither her job nor any of the work she had done. She was merely providing for her family, and now that that was done, she could finally retire and be herself again – not Setsuko Hara, but Masae Aida. 

After her retirement, she retreated to Kamakura, in Kanagawa Prefecture, where she still lives to this day. She has consistently refused all media requests for interviews and photographs, and has not been seen by the public eye since her final press conference, save for a few paparazzi photos taken without her consent. Having never married, she exists to the public as the “Eternal Virgin”, a name given to her at the peak of her career.

And it is at that peak where her image will forever remain, frozen in time.

--Mark Gallucci
Images (from left to right): Setuko Hara stars in The New Earth, 1937; Toward a Decisive Battle in the Sky, 1943 © Courtesy of Toho Co., Ltd.; Late Spring, 1949 © Shochiku Co., Ltd.; No Regrets for Our Youth, 1946 © Courtesy Toho Co., Ltd.; and Tokyo Story, 1953 © Shochiku Co., Ltd.. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rebuilding From The Rubble: Three Japanese Architects Construct Amidst Destruction

Tadao Ando's Benesse House Oval on the island of Naoshima. Via.

After years of toxic emissions from refineries built during Japan’s era of modernization, Naoshima, an island in Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, had become a barren wasteland – a dumping ground for industrial waste. So when philanthropist Soichiro Fukutake approached Pritzker-winning architect Tadao Ando in 1988 to join him in his vision to revitalize the land, Ando’s initial response was, unsurprisingly, “No, that’s impossible.”

Fukutake had purchased the south side of the island two years earlier, aiming to use art as a catalyst for the island’s economic growth. He eventually managed to convince Ando to get on board, and in 1992, work began on Ando’s new building: the Bennesse House, a hotel and museum that provides guests with perhaps the most up-close-and-personal experience with art in the world.

Now, Naoshima has been transformed into a massive art project, and has become a major tourist attraction for art fanatics all over the world, due in no small part to Ando’s work on the many attractions situated on the island. It has since grown to include artists like Shinro Otake, the man responsible for creating a museum where you can bathe in an art environment - even the bath itself was designed by Otake.

Ando introduced his eighth work on Naoshima two years ago: the Ando Museum, a 100-year-old traditional wooden house with an interior that demonstrates his signature style, mixing past and present in a wood-and-concrete building.

But when it comes to rebuilding, the scope of Ando’s work extends far beyond Naoshima. In 1995, the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Kobe, killing 6,434 people and destroying countless expressways, buildings, and homes in the process. Many of these buildings held cultural significance, and had just barely survived the bombings of World War II.

In response to this massive loss, Ando proposed an art museum and a waterfront plaza in Kobe that could serve as a shelter for refugees. Few could claim to be more qualified than Ando for the job, as he had designed 35 buildings in the Kobe area, and none of them suffered so much as a crack.

Today, the museum is a big tourist attraction in Kobe, which has since recovered from the disaster, and Ando continues to design buildings, his most recent project being the Visitor, Exhibition and Conference Center at the Clark Art Institute in Massachussetts.

Ando is the third of seven Japanese architects to win the Pritzker Prize (second only to America), the highest honor an architect can receive, since the award’s inception in 1979. Last year’s recipient, Shigeru Ban, is the most recent of the seven award winners.

Shigeru Ban's temporary churches serve as community centers as well as places of worship for disaster ravaged towns. Via. 

Ban, like Ando, is known for his work in helping regions rebuild – he was also in Kobe building shelters for victims of the earthquake, but of a different kind. Ban believes that shelters should be not only reliable, but cheap, easy to disassemble, and portable. Following this philosophy, he developed the “Paper Log House”, a shelter composed of donated beer crates loaded with sandbags and paper tubes. Additionally, he designed “Paper Church”, a community center in Kobe also built with paper tubes. It now stands in Taiwan, having been disassembled and later reconstructed there in 2008.

In an announcement on the official Pritzker Prize website, Ban said that his Japanese upbringing helps account for his wish to waste no materials, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s an environmentalist.

“When I started working this way, almost thirty years ago, nobody was talking about the environment. But this way of working came naturally to me. I was always interested in low cost, local, reusable materials,” he said.

And in a New Yorker profile, he went on to say, “I do not know the meaning of ‘Green Architect.’ I have no interest in ‘Green,’ ‘Eco,’ and ‘Environmentally Friendly.’ I just hate wasting things.”

Toyo Ito's "Home-for-All" project in the tsunami-struck city of Rikuzentakata. Via.

Toyo Ito, another like-minded Japanese architect who won the Pritzker Prize , said of Ban, “Many architects in the world today are competing only for the beauty of the architectural form. Ban-san’s attempt is a counter-punch against these architects, and I think he represents a new model of a ‘socially responsible’ architect.”

Ito himself could be called socially responsible – in his book Toyo Ito – Force of Nature, he discusses his work on “Home for All”, a project to build small homes made of wood in communities affected by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami where everyone can gather and communicate with each other. He writes:
In the modern period, architecture has been rated highest for its originality. As a result, the most primal themes—why a building is made and for whom—have been forgotten. A disaster zone, where everything is lost offers the opportunity for us to take a fresh look, from the ground up, at what architecture really is. ‘Home-for-All’ may consist of small buildings, but it calls to the fore the vital question of what form architecture should take in the modern era—even calling into question the most primal themes, the very meaning of architecture.
In an interview with Domus, he talks about his motivation for the project:
After the big earthquake in Japan we had to make a lot of sacrifices, many victims came out of that and so we went back to zero, we went back to the idea of architecture as a place to make people gather, a place that everybody can use. This is what we have done, restarting the city once again as it has happened so many times in our history. It is a way to make architecture that can be applicable all over the world, thinking architecture as a social tool, as a way of creating spaces to make people stay together.
Perhaps it is this sense of social responsibility and deeper thinking as to what architecture is really about and who it is for that has separated these award-winning Japanese architects from the rest of the pack.

While the three may have vastly different styles and approaches to their work, their works will not only be remembered for their ingenuity, but their impact on the communities they were created to support.

--Mark Gallucci

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Recovery's Long Road: Fukushima Four Years After The Great East Japan Earthquake

Seeds of Hope: Fukushima rice recently passed radiation tests for the first time since the disasters. Image via the Fukushima Organic Agriculture Network/JERF.

The 4th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami has arrived, and the effects of the widespread destruction at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant are still being felt today.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the company that owns the now-defunct plant, is still trying to persuade local governments to allow the restart of some of its other reactors, which would significantly improve its financial situation, as it still owes more than ¥5 trillion in damages, in addition to the cost of decommissioning the plants affected by the disaster.

To make matters worse, Tepco president Naomi Hirose announced a month ago that it would not be able to meet its self-imposed deadline to decontaminate water tainted by radioactivity by the end of March, which was then followed by the news that it had found a new source of radiation leakage into the sea.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the public is largely opposed to the restart of the reactors. Back in 2010, Japan had plans to make nuclear power at least 50 percent of its total energy by 2030, but a year ago, according to an Asahi poll, 59 percent of Japanese respondents opposed the restart of nuclear power plants, making it highly unlikely that we’ll be seeing an increase in Japanese nuclear power plant activity anytime soon.

Even now, around 120,000 Fukushima residents remain evacuees, and a government survey of 16,600 households in fiscal 2014 found that 48 percent of these evacuees aren’t planning on coming back. Concerns about radiation and slow reconstruction efforts are keeping them away, and the temporary housing situation isn’t giving them much confidence either.

Another problem that towns in the Tohoku region face is population decline. A majority of the evacuees who do decide to return are senior citizens, and according to surveys, only 3 percent of those in their 30s and 40s plan to go back to the towns they were forced to leave behind in the wake of the disaster.

More than 89,000 of the evacuees live in temporary housing units that were only built to last two years, and plans to create more permanent accommodations are not on track to be completed until fiscal 2017.

But construction is progressing, as more and more projects are reaching completion, such as the Joban Expressway, a highway that opened on March 1 that passes through the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima, close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Progress is also being made in agriculture, and the food in Fukushima has come a long way since the disaster. While commercial farming is now prohibited in areas that were deemed highly contaminated, a few months ago, rice from Fukushima passed radiation tests for the first time since the tsunami, and South Korea, who had banned imports from Fukushima, is now conducting visits to the power plant in consideration of reopening trade agreements with the region.

Fukushima is even trying to host Olympic baseball in 2020, should it be voted back into the Olympic lineup.

“We are still in the process of recovery from the disaster, and it would be a dream to have world-class athletes play here,” said Fukushima city official Hiroaki Kuwajima, according to Agence France-Presse.
Recovery efforts still have a long way to go, with many problems ahead, but the state of the Tohoku region is steadily improving. While things may never be the same in Fukushima, many of the people affected by the disaster are on a long, but promising, road to recovery.

--Mark Gallucci

Monday, January 26, 2015

The Story of Tokyo Rose

 A multitude of Tokyo Roses in Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour. (c) Naoshi Hatori 

Commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Japan Society launches its Stories from the War programming series this week with Miwa Yanagi's Zero Hour, a theatrical retelling of the legend of Tokyo Rose. Hayley Valk, a recent intern for Japan Society's Performing Arts Program, reports from Frederick P. Close's seminal book on the subject, Tokyo Rose / An American Patriot: A Dual Biography (Scarecrow, 2010).

Born on the Fourth of July

An immigrant to Los Angeles from Yamanashi Prefecture, Jun Toguri was overjoyed when his daughter Iva was born on Independence Day, 1916. Iva was American through and through – she loved baseball, had no taste for Japanese music but loved Big Band, and her extroverted personality won her many Caucasian friends but clashed with her father’s conservative Japanese style. Her childhood was spent in various cities in Southern California, as her father moved through the import-export business and eventually came to own grocery stores. Iva graduated with a degree in zoology from UCLA, but without many career prospects due to her gender and Japanese heritage.

In June 1941, Iva’s aunt fell ill in Tokyo. Since Iva’s mother Fumi also suffered from failing health, Iva decided to pay a visit in her place and travel to Japan for the first time. She boarded a ship with her friend Chiyeko Ito, not knowing that she wouldn’t return to the U.S. for another seven years.

An American in Tokyo

Six months after arriving in Tokyo, Iva heard the shocking news: Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. She struggled to book passage on a ship leaving the country but, without the appropriate passport or funds, was stranded. The police regularly came knocking at her door to harass Iva and convince her to renounce her U.S. citizenship, but she refused again and again. Though she lived with her aunt for a time, this unyielding support of the enemy made Iva’s relatives and neighbors uncomfortable and in time resentful, and she ultimately decided to move into a boarding house found with the help of her Japanese language school. Meanwhile, her family back home had been interned.

Realizing that she would have to make her own way in Japan for some time to come, Iva continued learning Japanese, improving on the very little knowledge she possessed before arriving in Japan. She found several small jobs in these years, transcribing English for Domei News Agency, teaching piano to children from wealthy families, and doing office work for the Danish Minister. As Japan struggled in a time of severe rationing, Iva actively traded on the black market and smuggled goods to POWs, saving Allied lives. Finally, she began part-time work as a typist at Radio Tokyo.

Zero Hour

Early in Japan’s propaganda effort, three English-speaking POWs with broadcasting experience were brought to Radio Tokyo to develop programming. Charles Cousens, Ted Ince, and Norman Reyes were forced by the Japanese government to oversee an hour-long radio show called Zero Hour, containing music, skits, censored news, and POW messages. They searched for a female broadcaster to introduce the jazz music segments and deliver short scripted announcements, and came across typist Iva Toguri; fluent in English and with a raspy, unalluring voice, she was exactly what the program needed. Facing government threats, she was given little choice but to accept the position.

As the primary of multiple women broadcasting for Zero Hour, Iva became established under the identity “Orphan Ann.” She could sympathize with the stranded GIs as she greeted them, “my fellow orphans in the Pacific.” Though these comments ostensibly served the Japanese government’s objective of weakening the Allied forces’ morale, the POWs carefully scripted the show to subvert the negativity in favor of cleverly-worded encouragement. The preserved records of Iva’s Zero Hour broadcasts reveal that, in fact, she did little more than entertain GI listeners and announce the upcoming music selections.

Will the Real Tokyo Rose Please Stand Up?

Meanwhile, from very early in the war talk was flying about a radio personality known only as “Tokyo Rose.” According to GIs in the Pacific, Tokyo Rose was famous for demoralizing comments, rumors of unfaithful girlfriends back home, and leaking military secrets. She was described as a seductress with an English accent. Impossible to pin on any one broadcaster, the name was attributed in rumors to other broadcasters such as Radio Manilla’s Myrtle Lipton or even to Amelia Earhart. The popularity of the Tokyo Rose legend became so widespread that she was even common vocabulary back in the U.S., encouraged by movies, cartoons, and articles.

To this day, no records exist of any broadcaster introducing herself as “Tokyo Rose” on the air. Furthermore, no one woman’s voice or broadcast contents perfectly match all the myriad qualities and statements attributed to her. With the information available at this point, it is safe to say that no single Tokyo Rose ever existed. Rather, she existed as an amalgamation of various broadcasters born to fill a void in the GIs lives left by homesickness, hopelessness, and sexual frustration. A figment of collective imagination, she became all too real when successively propagated by GIs and the media.

Suspect Treason

Given these facts, the next mystery is why Iva Toguri ever claimed to be the “one and original ‘Tokyo Rose’” in the confusion that followed the war. Possibly out of a desire for the money to return home or the promise of fame, or perhaps just out of ignorance, Iva quickly dug herself into a hole she couldn’t escape from. After being promised $2,000 for the first interview as “Tokyo Rose,” Iva agreed to give many more, and signed her name over and over as “Iva Toguri/Tokyo Rose," which would cause her trouble for years to come.

On October 17, 1945, Iva entered Sugamo Prison under suspicion of treason against the U.S. Facing entirely false and fabricated accusations, Iva was treated far worse by her home government than by even the Japanese military government during the war. She was alternately confirmed as a U.S. citizen and therefore capable of treason, and denied the benefits of U.S. citizenship under the false accusation that she had renounced it in favor of the Portuguese citizenship she acquired after marrying Phil d’Aquino in her Radio Tokyo years. After a year in jail full of painful investigations, a lack of substantial evidence led the CIC and FBI to drop the case, and Iva walked out of Sugamo on October 25, 1946.

In response to civilian outrage towards Iva’s release spurred by Walter Winchell’s U.S. radio show, the Truman administration sought to save face and not appear too easy on traitors. The FBI reopened the case with an open call for witnesses. The witness testimonies were censored to make the strongest case against Iva, and she was returned to Sugamo and slated to return to the U.S. for further investigation. Because her case would be under the jurisdiction of the location she first set foot on U.S. soil, her destination was set for San Francisco, where she would be likely to encounter the greatest opposition. In 1948, after seven years abroad, Iva was reunited with her father in her home country.

Iva Toguri's Sugamo mugshot. Via

The United States v. Iva Toguri

Thanks to Jun, Iva was grateful to finally have legal representation from Wayne Collins, yet was still forced to spend almost two years in jail before and during the trial without having been convicted. She was charged with eight overt acts of treason, so vague they proved no anti-U.S. crimes in and of themselves. In desperate prosecution, Thomas DeWolfe and the U.S. government went so far as to bribe and coach witnesses, spend exorbitantly to secure testimonies, sabotage the defense, destroy records, and exclude all minorities from the jury.

The deceitful actions of the U.S. government only worked to confirm the verdict of a trial that was doomed at the core. The question was never, “Did Iva Toguri commit treason?” but instead, “Is Iva Toguri truly Tokyo Rose?”, Tokyo Rose automatically assumed a guilty identity. The eight overt acts of treason were ambiguously worded and lacked concrete evidence on either side. The judge eliminated the possibility of duress and, left merely with speculations of Iva’s intention, the jury found her guilty of one overt act: “speaking into the microphone concerning the loss of ships.” After 12 weeks, 800,000 words of testimony, and $500,000 prosecution (if not five or ten times more), Iva Toguri was sentenced on October 6, 1949 to a $10,000 fine and 10 years in prison.

“Pardon me, Iva”

Iva stayed busy during her next six years in Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women. She learned and worked in coding, medicine, and dentistry, and spent free time reading and making bags and other crafts to sell. She was well-liked for her poise and generosity, and developed strong relationships with her inmates and guards.

During her time in prison, Collins attempted to appeal the court’s decision and applied to President Eisenhower for a pardon, to no avail. The day before Iva was to be released from prison, she was informed that she would be deported and forcibly expatriated for treason. On January 28, 1956 Iva left Alderson, but, rather than join her family in Chicago, had to stay in California for two and half years before the effort to deport her was dropped.

Iva returned to Chicago and lived quietly until 1973, when unexpectedly a Boston pediatrician named Dr. Clifford Uyeda read a dissertation about her trial and resolved to achieve a pardon. He spearheaded an action committee with the support of the Japanese American Citizens League, scholars, and politicians. Journalists took up the subject anew, finally acquiring truthful statements from the witnesses that had been coerced by the prosecution. GIs and the state of California even supported the effort. Finally, on January 19, 1977, Iva Toguri was overjoyed to receive word that Gerald Ford, on the final day of his presidency, had pardoned her for the charges pressed thirty years earlier.


Iva lived the rest of her life in Chicago, grateful to have finally secured her U.S. citizenship. She managed her father’s business until her final years, and spent time visiting friends across the U.S. and supporting the arts. Though memories of the war influenced the rest of her years, Iva was never bitter about what had passed. She died of a stroke at home on September 26, 2006, at age 90. Still, the legends of Orphan Ann and Tokyo Rose live on.

--Hayley Valk

Hayley Valk is a junior at Barnard College majoring in East Asian Cultures with a focus on Japan. She has also worked as Stage Manager/Producer for numerous student theater productions at Columbia University. Hayley interned at Japan Society in the Performing Arts Department from Fall 2013 through Summer 2014. She is currently studying abroad in Kyoto, Japan under the KCJS: Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies program housed at Doshisha University and recently volunteered for the Kyoto Experiment International Performing Arts Festival.