Monthly Archives: September 2005

Lilley Brothers in Pyongyang, 1930s

When my brothers [Frank and Jack Lilley] arrived in Pyongyang [in 1934 and 1935], they found it larger than Tsingtao, with several six- and eight-story buildings and many taxis and streetcars, but it was a gritty, gray city under the heel of Japanese occupation. In Tsingtao we were still somewhat unaware of Japan’s intentions in China, but Frank kept us clued in from his vantage point in Korea, which Japan had annexed in 1910 and which was closer to the center of Japanese military activity in northeast Asia. Frank sensed impending war from his reading of the local papers and his observations of the Japanese military in Korea, and he conveyed his thoughts to us in Tsingtao every week in his letters.

Indeed, at school he and the other students were often very close to demonstrations of Japanese military might. Across the river from PYFS [Pyeng Yang Foreign School], the Japanese had their major military airfield in Korea. Several times a week during classes, Japanese dive-bombers executed dry runs over the school, aiming for the school’s athletic fields as the target for their imaginary payloads. Then, at night, searchlights would light up the sky over Pyongyang for night runs, and students would run to black out their windows.

In downtown Pyongyang, Japan’s oppressive colonial policy was even more evident. When Frank and his friends would wander into town on a free day, they would see harassment of Koreans by the Japanese in the city’s markets. Since Japan’s annexation of Korea, many Korean farmers had chosen to protest the loss of their country by wearing white clothes, the traditional color of mourning in Korea. This practice of silent protest infuriated the Japanese authorities. Periodically, Japanese policemen on horses carrying buckets of red paint would make runs through the produce markets in Pyongyang. Armed with long paintbrushes that they wielded like lances, the Japanese policemen would smear paint on any Koreans wearing white clothes. [Does this paragraph ring true?–J.]

By the time Frank got to Pyongyang, the Japanese were turning their tactics of intimidation on the local community of Western missionaries. In January 1935, Japanese authorities called down two American missionaries, Samuel Moffet, the pioneer Western missionary in Korea, and Dr. Douglas McCune, head of Union Christian College. The Japanese demanded that the missionaries follow Japanese custom and force the Korean students at their schools to pay homage to the Japanese emperor at the city’s Shinto shrine. The missionaries refused. The Japanese threatened to close the Christian schools in retaliation.

SOURCE: China Hands: Nine Decades of Adventure, Espionage, and Diplomacy in Asia, by James Lilley with Jeffrey Lilley (Public Affairs, 2004), pp. 17-18

UPDATE: The bit about white clothes being a protest doesn’t sound right to Kotaji, either (see comments). He concludes, “Anyway, the point is that I’ve never heard of wearing white clothes as a form of protest, but it might just be that the Japanese found Koreans wearing their traditional clothing offensive.” I suspect this might illustrate a weakness of Lilley’s book: garbled memories not carefully cross-checked against external sources. Perhaps it even illustrates the frequently criticized CIA habit of trusting secret informants while mistrusting open sources, publicly available information.


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Gushy New Pol Wins Jackpot, Catches Flak

Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party won so many Diet seats in the recent election that they had to exhaust their proportional representation lists in the Kanto area. A gushy, 26-year-old political novice was one of the lucky beneficiaries. And now he’s catching a lot of flak from his new colleagues for gawking publicly at all his new perks. Mainichi Shimbun has more.

According to Shukan Bunshun (9/29), the former brokerage worker’s entrance into politics was inspired by, in his own words, “a yearning like girls have to become idol singers.”

Bunshun says that Sugimura was surfing the Net at work one day a few months back and noticed that the LDP was advertising for candidates to run in upcoming elections.

“Oh wow. Oh boy. They’re looking for candidates. Oh wow, wow, wow. Jeepers,” Sugimura recalls his reaction for Shukan Bunshun.

Sugimura promptly whipped out an essay in about half an hour, faxed off an application form and received an endorsement certificate from the ruling party, which he proudly boasted would become a family heirloom for centuries.

When Sugimura was listed in 35th position on the LDP’s proportional representation ticket for the Minami Kanto block, nobody dreamed he’d actually get into office. Sugimura told reporters his campaign consisted of a single speech and he had no campaign office or posters. But the LDP won the election in a landslide, carrying 26 of those listed above him to single-seat victories, which raised Sugimura further and further up the LDP ticket and gave him the seat that sparked such excitement for both him and reporters.

But, all good things must come to an end. Though Sugimura can be comforted in the knowledge that, until the next election at least, he’s going to be showered with a whole truckload of creature comforts, LDP honchos are furious at his over-enthusiastic reaction to becoming a member of the government. LDP Secretary General Tsutomu Takebe has issued a strict order to Sugimura to “shut up.”

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Hirohito: Obsessed with His Past?

Hirohito’s European and American visits [in 1971 and 1975, respectively], together with his various press interviews, helped the Japanese people to reengage with the long-buried question of his war responsibility. But for Hirohito the foreign tours and the interviews had no such effect. For him, the event that triggered a confrontation with the past was more personal. Certain reminiscences on the war by his brother, Prince Takamatsu, had appeared in the February 1975 issue of the popular journal Bungei shunjû. Hirohito seems not to have learned about the article until January 1976. Interviewed on the war by journalist Kase Hideaki, Prince Takamatsu implied that he had been a dove and Hirohito a reckless hawk. He told of the incident on November 30, 1941, when he had spoken to his brother for five minutes, warning him that the navy high command could feel confident only if the war lasted no longer than two years. Takamatsu also recalled warning his brother to end the war right after the Battle of Midway. And he told how, in June 1944, he had shocked a meeting of staff officers at Navy General Headquarters by telling them that “Since the absolute defense perimeter has already been destroyed … our goal should be to focus on the best way to lose the war.” Finally, Takamatsu revealed that he and Prince Konoe had considered asking the emperor to abdicate prior to surrender.

Learning of these disclosures, Hirohito grew very upset. He felt his brother had gone too far. What could he do to save his reputation as emperor? For the first time since he dictated his “Monologue” and, with Inada Shûichi and Kinoshito Michio, made the first “Record of the Emperor’s Conversations” (Haichôroku), Hirohito returned to the task of setting the historical record straight. The project to record the events of his reign and define the place that he would occupy in history focused on his role during the years of war and occupation. It quickly turned into a consuming interest that haunted him for the rest of his life. By nature the least self-reflective of men, Hirohito became obsessed with his past.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 677-678

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Attitudes toward Okinawa in Japan, 1945-1947

On September 20, 1947, Hirohito conveyed to MacArthur’s political adviser, William J. Sebald, his position on the future of Okinawa. Acting through Terasaki, his interpreter and frequent liaison with high GHQ officials, the emperor requested that, in view of the worsening confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States, the American military occupation of Okinawa and other islands in the Ryukyu chain continue for ninety-nine years. Hirohito knew MacArthur’s latest views on the status of Okinawa when he made this offer. [MacArthur had been quoted as saying, “The Ryukyus are our natural frontier” and “the Okinawans are not Japanese.”] The emperor’s thinking on Okinawa was also fully in tune with the colonial mentality of Japan’s mainstream conservative political elites, who, like the national in general, had never undergone decolonization. Back in December 1945, the Eighty-ninth Imperial Diet had abolished the voting rights of the people of Okinawa along with those of the former Japanese colonies of Taiwan and Korea. Thus, when the Ninetieth Imperial Diet had met in 1946 to accept the new “peace” constitution, not a single representative of Okinawa was present.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 626-627

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All the Benefits and None of the Screams

I haven’t lately been checking as many non-Asia blogs as I used to before spending the past two months in Japan, but now that I have to get back to my workplace, I’ve started to broaden my horizens a bit more. Today I checked in with a favorite history blog, Rhine River, where I found a post that really struck me, as a person of rural white Southern heritage (with a daughter in college in Connecticut). Connecticut’s leading newspaper has been running an enlightening series that still resonates today. Kudos to the Hartford Courant. Mark Twain would be proud.

Here’s a bit of what Nathanael quotes.

Connecticut became an economic powerhouse in the 18th century, far out of proportion to its tiny size, because we grew and shipped food to help feed millions of slaves, in the West Indies.

The rivers and streams of Connecticut in the 19th century were crowded with more than a hundred textile mills that relied on cotton grown by hundreds of thousands of slaves, in the South.

Up to the edge of the 20th century, two towns on the Connecticut River were a national center for ivory production, milling hundreds of thousands of tons of elephant tusks procured through the enslavement or death of more than a million people, in Africa.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Hartford’s most famous abolitionist, said this was slavery the way Northerners like it:

All of the benefits and none of the screams.

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A Visit to Japan’s "Little Brazil"

Recently, we set out from Ashikaga for 大泉 Ōizumi, Japan’s “Little Brazil” in neighboring Gunma Prefecture’s fanhandle to our southwest. At 太田 Ōta (‘Widefield’), we transferred to a 2-car, 2-stop, infrequent shuttle train running back toward the southeast to Higashi Koizumi (‘East Littlespring’). There we had to transfer to yet another 2-car, 2-stop, infrequent shuttle train running back southwest to the end of the track at Nishi Koizumi (‘West Littlespring’). The fare adjustment official at Ōta described Nishi Koizumi as the most bustling (にぎやか) of the three Littlesprings (East, Middle, and West) that make up Bigspring.

Well, wherever the bustle was, we didn’t see it. The tracks ended where the single platform ended at Nishi Koizumi. We walked straight south from the train station, crossed over a highway busy enough to warrant a pedestrian overpass, past a small fountain (maybe the ‘littlespring’ itself) that marked the beginning of a very long and pleasant walkway and bikepath (the Izumi 緑道 ‘Greenway’) shaded by a great variety of trees and bushes, most of them labeled, so that I repeatedly stopped to punch the katakana names into my little electronic dictionary to find the English equivalents.

To our right ran the kilometer-long fence punctuated by gated driveways enclosing a quiet but huge Sanyo electronics factory. To our left ran sleepy Hanamizuki-dori ‘Dogwood Avenue’, which hosted occasional trucks and vans making deliveries. Hardly anyone but a few stressed-out middle managers was making use of the jogging path. Across the road were a variety of smaller enterprises: a few stores, a few restaurants, and a preschool teacher-training school followed by Santa Clara (聖クララ) preschool.

The name of the school and the distant sounds of Portuguese rather than Japanese coming from its parking lot were among the few signs of the town’s large Brazilian population. Other clues were: a cardboard sign next the train ticket vending machine at the station that listed all the destinations in a Portuguese-friendly transcription; a small shop near the station that sold goods imported from Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia; and the Primavera Restaurant, which we noted for our return. It was nearing lunchtime.

Primavera was an interesting oasis, like a midwestern truck stop in many ways. The kitchen help spoke mostly Japanese, the customers spoke mostly Portuguese, and the menus and wait help were bilingual in Japanese and Portuguese. The music was mostly Country & Western in style, but with the lyrics in Portuguese. The featured buffet (バイキング [Viking] = smorgasbord) was discounted from ¥1600 to ¥1000 because it had run out of most of the grilled meats–and also the feijoada, I discovered after I ordered it. My wife went for just the salad bar portion. At the register, I asked the European-looking owner (in Japanese) how long he had been in Japan. He said 2 years this time, but 5 years in all. (Nikkei Brazilians can easily get work visas for 3-year stints.) His soft-spoken Japanese was even more limited than mine. He estimated the local population was at least 10% Brazilian, maybe 15%.

On our way back to the station, we stopped in at the small import shop, whose owner greeted all his customers with “Tudo bem?”–followed by “Konnichi wa!” if they looked Japanese. He looked to be Nikkei, and his Japanese was very fluent. He said he had been in Japan 7 years in all. He said the local population was 15% Latin American, with 10% from Brazil alone.

When we got back to the sleepy station, we found that we had a 45-minute wait until the next train, so we east headed down the line of shops beside the main highway (National Route 354), finding nothing at all. When we stopped to ask, we were directed to the Mos Burger, with its American southwestern decor, and sipped our tall ice coffees until it was time for the zigzag sequence of short train hops back home.

There are no doubt many North American equivalents of Nishi Koizumi, but it reminded me of the hidden charm and factory-sequestered bustle of an Austin, Minnesota–the Hormel company town that hosts the Spam Museum–especially if Austin had a little larger Hispanic population.

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Bonner F. Fellers, Hirohito’s Guardian General

Brigadier General Fellers had joined MacArthur’s Southwest Pacific Command in Australia in late 1943, after having worked for a year in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), predecessor of the CIA. Immediately on landing in Japan (in the same plane that carried MacArthur), Fellers went to work to protect Hirohito from the role he had played during and at the end of the war. Fellers’s overriding goals were to confirm the effectiveness of his own wartime propaganda program, and, at the same time, to shield Hirohito from standing trial.

Fellers conducted private interrogations of about forty Japanese war leaders, including many who would later be charged as the most important Class A war criminals. His interrogations were carried out mainly in visits to Sugamo Prison in Tokyo over a five-month period–September 22, 1945, to March 6, 1946–through two interpreters. Fellers’s activities placed all the major war criminal suspects on alert as to GHQ’s specific concerns, and allowed them to coordinate their stories so that the emperor would be spared from indictment. Thus, at the same time the prosecuting attorneys were developing evidence to be used in trying these people, Fellers was inadvertently helping them. Soon the prosecuting attorneys found the war leaders all saying virtually the same thing. The emperor had acted heroically and single-handedly to end the war. This theme (unknown to them) coincided with Fellers’s goal of demonstrating the effectiveness of his own propaganda campaign against Japan….

MacArthur’s truly extraordinary measures to save Hirohito from trial as a war criminal had a lasting and profoundly distorting impact on Japanese understanding of the lost war.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 582-583, 585


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Bix on Judge Radhabinod Pal

The Indian appointee to the [Tokyo war crimes] court was sixty-year-old Radhabinod Pal of the High Court of Calcutta. Pal had been a supporter of the pro-Axis Indian nationalist, Chandra Bose, and a longtime Japanophile. Unlike most Indian elites, who condemned both British and Japanese imperialism and never embraced the ideology of the Greater East Asia Coprosperity Sphere, Pal was an outright apologist for Japanese imperialism. Arriving in Tokyo in May, he accepted his appointment under the charter in bad faith, not believing in the right of the Allies to try Japan, let alone judicially sanction it any way. Determined to see the tribunal fail from the outset, Pal intended to write a separate dissenting opinion no matter what the other judges ruled. Not surprisingly he refused to sign a “joint affirmation to administer justice fairly.”

Thereafter, according to the estimate of defense lawyer Owen Cunningham, Pal absented himself for 109 of 466 “judge days,” or more than twice the number of the next highest absentee, the president of the tribunal, Sir William Webb himself (53 “judge days”). Whenever Pal appeared in court, he unfailingly bowed to the defendants, whom he regarded as men who had initiated the liberation of Asia. Pal, the most politically independent of the judges, refused to let Allied political concerns and purposes, let alone the charter, influence his judgment in any way. He would produce the tribunal’s most emotionally charged, political judgment. Many who repudiate the Tokyo trial while clinging to the wartime propaganda view of the “War of Greater East Asia,” believed that the main cause of Asian suffering was Western white men–that is, Pal’s “victors.” They would cite Pal’s arguments approvingly. So too would others who saw the war primarily in terms of the “white” exploitation of Asia.

SOURCE: Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan, by Herbert P. Bix (HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 595-596


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Japan’s Television Wasteland

I was going to post something about the wasteland that is Japanese network television, but Jeff at Conbinibento has captured it much better than I could.

For the most part, Japanese network television is pretty darn unremarkable. If one were to flip through the channels at any time of day, one would likely find:

  • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless “talents” who are completely and utterly devoid of any actual talent whatsoever
  • A cooking program
  • A cooking program featuring a roomful of mindless talents who watch food being cooked and then sample it and loudly and repeatedly exclaim “OISHII!!!
  • Some kind of quiz show
  • A quiz show featuring a roomful of mindless talents demonstrating just how mindless they truly are
  • A sappy documentary about someone somewhere in the world who faces some sort of adversity (e.g., is looking for a job, is living in a brutal war zone, was born without legs, a combination thereof, etc.) and who Tries His/Her Best® to overcome the hardships of their situation
  • A variety show featuring a roomful of mindless talents watching a sappy documentary and providing their horribly forced reactions to the hardships (tears) and the overcoming of the hardships (more tears) for the sake of the television viewers at home who have to be instructed how to react since they have neither souls nor a capacity for empathy

via Japundit

I just have one tiny correction: Males are more likely to exclaim “UMAI!” instead of “OISHII!!!”

And one minor addition: NHK’s lecture channel (Ch. 2 in my area), where a professorial talking head addresses his (sometimes her) dry monologue at the camera hour after snoring hour.

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The "Big Bang" of Modern Keigo Ideology

Ask Japanese speakers on the street today if they know what keigo is, and the answer will be a resounding yes. A hundred years ago, the response is more likely to have been no, or at the very least, “What?” The word “keigo” was invented by Meiji scholars to describe something that presumably already existed but had never been named. Along with that naming came keigo ideology. In some sense keigo is a modern construct that serves an important ideological function. Its contemporary identity is a product of historical processes that begin in what I call the “Big Bang” of keigo ideology: kokugo seisaku ‘language policy’, which began with the Kokugo Chôsa Iinkai of 1902.

If keigo ideology did not exist before Meiji, how did it come to exist today? What was the cloud of raw materials out of which it formed? What stages has it passed through? How is its contemporary shape different from the primordial mass from which it emanated? And how did it happen that the primordial mass has passed from a timeless state of perfection to a state of decline?

If one presses modern Japanese speakers to talk a little more about keigo, they will probably indicate that it is an important component of what it means to function as an adult in society, that they wish they could use it more skillfully, or that they wish the younger generation could use it more skillfully–that keigo today is midarete iru ‘in a state of disarray’. They will talk about keigo in terms of the social fabric within which it functions. Their views are echoed and elaborated in a self-help, “how-to” genre. Keigo how-to takes its place alongside other kinds of Japanese how-to, and makes use of the same images, the same constructs, and the same view of the Japanese cultural landscape as do other kinds of how-to in Japan.

SOURCE: Keigo in Modern Japan: Polite Language from Meiji to the Present, by Patricia J. Wetzel (U. Hawai‘i Press, 2004), pp. 1-2

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