Daily Archives: 12 March 2006

Japanese in Southeast Asia before WW2

Japanese goods were at the heart of the consumer boom in Malaya in the later 1930s. The closure of American markets in the Depression led Japanese manufacturers to focus their attention on the emerging markets to the south. In 1941, Japanese investments in British Malaya totalled 85 million yen. Japanese firms attempted to corner the market in goods from matchboxes to condensed milk; they imported over half of Malaya’s everyday goods The people of Singapore marvelled at the new technology in a ‘Japanese Commercial Museum’. Children in Malaya grew up with toys from the ‘ten-cent’ stalls on Middle Road in Singapore and elsewhere; the small army of Asian clerks depended on Japanese stores such as Echigoya for the cheap white shirts and ties they were required to wear in European offices. The Japanese were responsible for what was perhaps the most revolutionary innovation within the rural economy of Southeast Asia at this time: the bicycles with which country people could get their own goods to market. In the Blitzkrieg in Malaya in 1941, this technology would be used to devastating effect by General Yamashita’s shock troops in a highly mobile form of warfare.

The Japanese had been a prominent feature of the urban landscape of Southeast Asia for many decades. Japanese ships routinely visited the ports; Japanese sailors drank in the bars and cafés, many of which catered especially to their needs. In the early period of Japanese southward enterprise, some of the earliest economic pioneers were the karayuki-san, the Japanese prostitutes. The rationale for this was, in the words of one pimp: ‘Put a whorehouse anywhere in the wilds of the South Pacific and pretty soon you’ve got a general store to go there with it.’ In the face of the 1915 boycott of Japanese businesses by the Chinese in Southeast Asia, it was largely the karayuki-san that kept Japanese commerce afloat.

SOURCE: Forgotten Armies: Britain’s Asian Empire & the War with Japan, by Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper (Penguin, 2004), pp. 5-6

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Rapa Nui Settled Later Than Thought?

New archaeological findings from Rapa Nui suggest the island may have been settled later and denuded faster than previously thought.

HONOLULU – Recent archaeological study and analysis conducted by University of Hawai‘i at Manoa anthropology professor Terry Hunt suggests that the colonization of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) took place not between 400 and 800 A.D. as previously assumed by scientists, but at least 400 to 800 years later, closer to 1200 A.D.

The finding, which challenges current beliefs about the island’s prehistoric chronology and the dramatic environmental changes that occurred on the island, is detailed in an article by Hunt and co-author Carl Lipo of California State University, Long Beach, and scheduled for publication in the journal Science. It is previewed and available online now in Science Express.

As part of a UH archaeological field school on Rapa Nui, Hunt and a team of field researchers have been excavating archaeological deposits at Anakena, Rapa Nui’s only sand dune and the landing and settlement site of the island’s first inhabitants. Archaeological materials found here with superb preservation include artifacts, charcoal, faunal remains, and the distinctive tubular root molds of the giant Jubaea palm, now extinct….

A later settlement raises some interesting implications for Rapa Nui.

“Human impacts to the environment, such as deforestation, began almost immediately, at least within a century,” explains Hunt. “This means that there was no period where people lived in some ideal harmony with their environment; there was no early period of ecological sustainability. Instead, people arrived and their population grew rapidly, even as forest resources declined. The short chronology calls much of the traditional story into question.”

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The Best and the Worst of the Immigrant Mentality

[My mother] and my father brought a curious blend of Jewish-European and African-American distrust and paranoia into our house. On his end, my father, Andrew McBride, a Baptist minister, had his doubts about the world accepting his mixed family. He always made sure his kids never got into trouble, was concerned about money, and trusted the providence of the Holy Father to do the rest. After he died and Mommy remarried, my stepfather, Hunter Jordan, seemed to pick up where my father left off, insistent on education and church. On her end, Mommy had no model for raising us other than the experience of her own Orthodox Jewish family, which despite the seeming flaws—an unbending nature, a stridency, a focus on money, a deep distrust of all outsiders, not to mention her father’s tyranny—represented the best and the worst of the immigrant mentality: hard work, no nonsense, quest for excellence, distrust of authority figures, and a deep belief in God and education. My parents were nonmaterialistic. They believed that money without knowledge was worthless, that education tempered with religion was the way to climb out of poverty in America, and over the years they were proven right.

SOURCE: The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride (Riverhead Books, 1996), pp. 28-29

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Pamuk on the Assassination of Writers

Ka took some consolation in imagining that his poems might be translated into German and published in Akzent magazine, but it was still perfectly clear to him that should this article in the [eastern Anatolian] Border City Gazette prove to be the death of him, the published translations would mean nothing….

The many writers killed in recent years by Islamist bullets paraded before his eyes: first the old preacher-turned-atheist who had tried to point out “inconsistencies” in the Koran (they’d shot him from behind, in the head); behind him came the righteous columnist whose love of positivism had led him to refer in a number of columns to girls wearing head scarves as “cockroaches” (they’d strafed him and his chauffer one morning as he drove to work); then there was the investigative journalist who had tenaciously sought to uncover the links between the Turkish Islamist movement and Iran (when he turned on the ignition, he and his car went sailing into the sky). Even as he recalled these victims with tender sorrow, he knew they’d been naïve. As a rule the Istanbul press, like the Western press, had little interest in these fervent columnists and even less in journalists apt to get shot in the head for similar reasons on a backstreet of some remote Anatolian city. But Ka reserved his bile for a society that so easily forgot its writers and poets: For this reason he thought the smartest thing to do was retreat into a corner and try to find some happiness.

SOURCE: Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, 2004), pp. 296-297

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Pamuk on Two Kinds of Communists

There are two kinds of Communists: the arrogant ones, who enter the fray hoping to make men out of the people and bring progress to the nation; and the innocent ones, who get involved because they believe in equality and justice. The arrogant ones are obsessed with power; they presume to think for everyone; only bad can come of them. But the innocents? They feel so guilty about the suffering of the poor, and are so keen to share it, that they make their lives miserable on purpose.

SOURCE: Snow, by Orhan Pamuk (Vintage, 2004), p. 115

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