Daily Archives: 10 November 2004

Prewar Japanese Fantasies of Invading Hawai‘i

Japanese scenarios of a Hawaii invasion were generally episodes within books about imaginary wars with the United States. Such scenarios surfaced in 1913 and appeared from time to time until 1941. Japanese fantasies about a Pacific War, like analogous works appearing in the United States, grew out of deepening tensions and distrust between the two countries after 1905. Offended by anti-Japanese prejudice in California, frustrated by American obstacles to peaceful expansion in the Pacific, writers conjured up consoling victories in the realm of fantasy.

The earliest scenarios, written by authors innocent of technical knowledge about naval warfare, have a whimsical quality. Among these is Nichi-Bei kaisen yume monogatari [Fantasy on the outbreak of a Japanese-American war], which appeared in 1913 under the editorship of the National Military Affairs Association (to all appearances a private group). The book opens with the destruction of the American fleet by a Japanese squadron between Luzon and Taiwan. Japanese forces then take the Philippines and occupy Hawaii (the author noted that Hawaii presented fewer obstacles than did the Philippines). Hawaii’s fall prompts the Kaiser, Tsar, and president of France to mediate a peace settlement. The United States cedes Hawaii to Japan, and the islands are incorporated “forever” into the Empire. This book conveys two perceptions that thereafter crop up regularly in Japanese literature about Hawaii: Hawaii is a natural part of Japan, and Americans are not terribly disturbed about losing the Islands.

In 1914 Yoshikatsu Oto brought out a similar fantasy entitled Nichi-Bei moshi kaisen seba [If Japan and America fight] with a preface by a retired admiral, Seijiro Kawashima. Oto echoed the theme of Hawaii belonging to Japan, adding that this was so because doho [‘compatriots’ of Japanese ethnicity, regardless of citizenship] had developed the local economy. He even suggested that doho already held de facto political power in the Islands. Like the author of the earlier fantasy, Oto assured readers that Hawaii could be captured more easily than could the Philippines. About forty thousand troops, he estimated, should be able to land on Oahu’s north shore and deal with the fifteen thousand American defenders. The book then proceeds to describe a successful Japanese assault, followed by formal acquisition in the peace treaty.

A more extravagant scenario unfolded in Nichi-Bei senso yume monogatari [Japanese-America war fantasy] (1921) by Kojiro Sato, a retired army general. Sato portrayed the destruction of the U.S. Pacific Fleet after it has been lured to Midway, an uncanny forerunner of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto’s ill-fated plan twenty-one years later. Japan then seizes Hawaii and from its mid-Pacific base strikes San Francisco. Building air bases in California, Imperial forces launch bombing missions across the Rocky Mountains into the Midwest. Allies materialize from among American minorities. Ten million blacks revolt, led by Marcus Garvey.* Jews and German-Americans also rise up against the Anglo-Saxons. Eager to rectify past injustices, Mexico invades Texas. Sato brought his tale to a climax with a grand finale in New York at 9:00 A.M. Sunday morning (“when people are still asleep”). Japanese commandos blow up the Brooklyn Bridge and–using dirigibles–land on the Woolworth Building. Washington sues for peace, and Lothrop Stoddard** joins the surrender negotiations.


* Marcus Garvey (1887-1940). Jamaica-born black nationalist who lived in New York from 1916 until his deportation to Jamaica in 1927.

** Lothrop Stoddard (1883-1950). Author of a notorious racist tract, The Rising Tide of Color Against White World Supremacy (1920).

SOURCE: Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan’s Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor, by John J. Stephan (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1984), pp. 59-60

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Collaboration Potential in Hawai‘i: Universal

Collaboration is a pejorative word. Often misused, it is inappropriate for those Japanese-Americans whose circumstances and inclinations led them to serve Japan during World War II. On the other hand in Hawaii, potential collaboration was by no means confined to Japanese-Americans. Any resident of the Islands in 1942, regardless of ethnicity, probably speculated on what life would be like in the event of a successful Japanese invasion. Any rational mind considering that contingency would most likely conclude that a degree of collaboration would be hard to avoid. Unlike the Philippines, Hawaii was physically too small for anyone to avoid contact with occupation authorities. A guerrilla movement would have been virtually suicidal. There is little evidence that either the military or civilians were prepared to fight to the last man should Hawaii have been assaulted. On the contrary, many probably shared the views of a State Department special agent who in a report written several weeks before 7 December 1941 acknowledged: “If the Japanese fleet arrived, doubtless great numbers of them [Hawaii Japanese] would then forget their American loyalties and shout a ‘Banzai’ from the shore. Under those circumstances, if this reporter were there he is not sure that he might not do it also to save his own skin, if not his face.”

These words were not written by a coward. Dying to the last man, woman, and child (gyokusai as the Japanese called it in those desperate defenses of Saipan, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa) was neither a tenet of American military doctrine nor consonant with American historical experience, the Alamo notwithstanding….

Consequently, if the choice were to collaborate or face suicidal odds, there is little doubt but that Hawaii’s residents would have opted, in the British phrase, to “carry on” with as much dignity as possible. The scale and degree of collaboration would probably have depended upon many obvious and subtle factors, among them individual character, the content and style of occupation policies, the conduct of occupation authorities and garrison troops, and the local assessment of Japan’s prospects for winning the war or at least for repelling an American counterattack.

SOURCE: Hawaii Under the Rising Sun: Japan’s Plans for Conquest After Pearl Harbor, by John J. Stephan (U. Hawai‘i Press, 1984), pp. 8-9

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