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History, Culture, and Community in Interwar Japan
In the decades between the two World Wars, Japan made a dramatic entry into the modern age, expanding its capital industries and urbanizing so quickly as to rival many long-standing Western industrial societies. How the Japanese made sense of the sudden transformation and the subsequent rise of mass culture is the focus of Harry Harootunian's fascinating inquiry into the problems of modernity. Here he examines the work of a generation of Japanese intellectuals who, like their European counterparts, saw modernity as a spectacle of ceaseless change that uprooted the dominant historical culture from its fixed values and substituted a culture based on fantasy and desire. Harootunian not only explains why the Japanese valued philosophical understandings of these events, often over sociological or empirical explanations, but also locates Japan's experience of modernity within a larger global process marked by both modernism and fascism.
What caught the attention of Japanese thinkers was how the production of desire actually threatened historical culture. These intellectuals sought to "overcome" the materialism and consumerism associated with the West, particularly the United States. They proposed versions of a modernity rooted in cultural authenticity and aimed at infusing meaning into everyday life, whether through art, memory, or community. Harootunian traces these ideas in the works of Yanagita Kunio, Tosaka Jun, Gonda Yasunosuke, and Kon Wajiro, among others, and relates their arguments to those of such European writers as George Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and Georges Bataille.
Harootunian shows that Japanese and European intellectuals shared many of the same concerns, and also stresses that neither Japan's involvement with fascism nor its late entry into the capitalist, industrial scene should cause historians to view its experience of modernity as an oddity. The author argues that strains of fascism ran throughout most every country in Europe and in many ways resulted from modernizing trends in general. This book, written by a leading scholar of modern Japan, amounts to a major reinterpretation of the nature of Japan's modernity.
Why Japanese Defeat Was Not Inevitable
In this outstanding, immensely useful, and much-needed study, Michael Myers makes a significant contribution to widening our horizon by challenging the blinding assumption that Japan's defeat was inevitable. Of critical value is his analysis of Japanese army and naval strategy, underscoring the difficulty of infusing U.S. military might into the existing balance of forces in 1942-43, as American industry moved toward maximum capacity production and the war in Europe diverted valuable men and materials away from the Pacific.
Artistic Collaboration and the Ukiyo-e Market
This compelling account of collaboration in the genre of ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) offers a new approach to understanding the production and reception of print culture in early modern Japan. It provides a corrective to the perception that the ukiyo-e tradition was the product of the creative talents of individual artists, revealing instead the many identities that made and disseminated printed work. Julie Nelson Davis demonstrates by way of examples from the later eighteenth century that this popular genre was the result of an exchange among publishers, designers, writers, carvers, printers, patrons, buyers, and readers. By recasting these works as examples of a network of commercial and artistic cooperation, she offers a nuanced view of the complexity of this tradition and expands our understanding of the dynamic processes of production, reception, and intention in floating world print culture.
Four case studies give evidence of what constituted modes of collaboration among artistic producers in the period. In each case Davis explores a different configuration of collaboration: that between a teacher and a student, two painters and their publishers, a designer and a publisher, and a writer and an illustrator. Each investigates a mode of partnership through a single work: a specially commissioned print, a lavishly illustrated album, a printed handscroll, and an inexpensive illustrated novel. These case studies explore the diversity of printed things in the period ranging from expensive works made for a select circle of connoisseurs to those meant to be sold at a modest price to a large audience. They take up familiar subjects from the floating world—connoisseurship, beauty, sex, and humor—and explore multiple dimensions of inquiry vital to that dynamic culture: the status of art, the evaluation of beauty, the representation of sexuality, and the tension between mind and body.
Where earlier studies of woodblock prints have tended to focus on the individual artist, Partners in Print takes the subject a major step forward to a richer picture of the creative process. Placing these works in their period context not only reveals an aesthetic network responsive to and shaped by the desires of consumers in a specific place and time, but also contributes to a larger discussion about the role of art and the place of the material text in the early modern world.
Motherhood, Childhood and Social Reform in Early Twentieth Century Japan
Contemporary Japanese women are often presented as devoted full-time wives and mothers. At the extreme, they are stereotyped as "education mothers" (kyoiku mama), completely dedicated to the academic success of their children. Children of working mothers are pitied; day-care users, both children and mothers, are faintly disparaged for their inadequate home lives; hired babysitters are virtually unknown. Yet historical evidence reveals a strikingly different picture of Japanese motherhood and childcare at the beginning of the twentieth century. In contrast to today, child tending by non-maternal caregivers was widely accepted at all levels of Japanese society. Day-care centers flourished, and there was virtually no expectation of exclusive maternal care of children, even infants. The patterns of the formation of modern Japanese attitudes toward motherhood, childhood, child-rearing, and home life become visible as this study traces the early twentieth-century rise of Japanese day-care centers, institutions established by middle-class philanthropists and reformers to provide for the physical well-being and mental and moral development of urban lower-class preschool children. Day-care gained broad support in turn-of-the-century Japan for several reasons. For one, day-care did not clash with widely accepted norms of child care. A second factor was the perception of public and private policymakers that day-care held the promise of social and national progress through economic and moral betterment of the urban lower classes. Finally, day-care offered working mothers the opportunity to earn a better livelihood with fewer worries about their children. In spite of emerging notions that total devotion to child-rearing was a woman's highest calling, Japanese nationalism, a signal force in the genesis of the modern Japanese state, economy, and middle-class culture, fed a deep wellspring of support for day-care and fostered significant reshaping of motherhood, childhood, home life, and view of the urban lower classes. Passages to Modernity is an important and original contribution to our understanding of the institutional and ideological reach of the early twentieth-century state and the contested emergence of a striking new discourse about woman as domestic caregiver and homemaker.
Pedagogy of Democracy re-interprets the U.S. occupation of Japan from 1945 to 1952 as a problematic instance of Cold War feminist mobilization rather than a successful democratization of Japanese women as previously argued. By combining three fields of research—occupation, Cold War, and postcolonial feminist studies—and examining occupation records and other archival sources, Koikari argues that postwar gender reform was one of the Cold War containment strategies that undermined rather than promoted women’s political and economic rights.
Political Space and Open Secrets in Tokugawa Japan
Performing the Great Peace offers a cultural approach to understanding the politics of the Tokugawa period, at the same time deconstructing some of the assumptions of modern national historiographies. Deploying the political terms uchi (inside), omote (ritual interface), and naisho (informal negotiation)—all commonly used in the Tokugawa period—Luke Roberts explores how daimyo and the Tokugawa government understood political relations and managed politics in terms of spatial autonomy, ritual submission, and informal negotiation. Roberts suggests as well that a layered hierarchy of omote and uchi relations strongly influenced politics down to the village and household level, a method that clarifies many seeming anomalies in the Tokugawa order. He analyzes in one chapter how the identities of daimyo and domains differed according to whether they were facing the Tokugawa or speaking to members of the domain and daimyo household: For example, a large domain might be identified as a“country” by insiders and as a “private territory” in external discourse. In another chapter he investigates the common occurrence of daimyo who remained formally alive to the government months or even years after they had died in order that inheritance issues could be managed peacefully within their households. The operation of the court system in boundary disputes is analyzed as are the “illegal” enshrinements of daimyo inside domains that were sometimes used to construct forms of domain-state Shinto. Performing the Great Peace’s convincing analyses and insightful conceptual framework will benefit historians of not only the Tokugawa and Meiji periods, but Japan in general and others seeking innovative approaches to premodern history.
Reform Bureaucrats and the Japanese Wartime State
Japan's invasion of Manchuria in September of 1931 initiated a new phase of brutal occupation and warfare in Asia and the Pacific. It forwarded the project of remaking the Japanese state along technocratic and fascistic lines and creating a self-sufficient Asian bloc centered on Japan and its puppet state of Manchukuo. In Planning for Empire, Janis Mimura traces the origins and evolution of this new order and the ideas and policies of its chief architects, the reform bureaucrats. The reform bureaucrats pursued a radical, authoritarian vision of modern Japan in which public and private spheres were fused, ownership and control of capital were separated, and society was ruled by technocrats.
Mimura shifts our attention away from reactionary young officers to state planners-reform bureaucrats, total war officers, new zaibatsu leaders, economists, political scientists, engineers, and labor party leaders. She shows how empire building and war mobilization raised the stature and influence of these middle-class professionals by calling forth new government planning agencies, research bureaus, and think tanks to draft Five Year industrial plans, rationalize industry, mobilize the masses, streamline the bureaucracy, and manage big business. Deftly examining the political battles and compromises of Japanese technocrats in their bid for political power and Asian hegemony, Planning for Empire offers a new perspective on Japanese fascism by revealing its modern roots in the close interaction of technology and right-wing ideology.
Barbara Jefferson, a young American teaching in Tokyo in the 1960s, is set on a life-changing quest when her Japanese surrogate mother, Michi, dies, leaving her a tansu of homemade plum wines wrapped in rice paper. Within the papers Barbara discovers writings in Japanese calligraphy that comprise a startling personal narrative. With the help of her translator, Seiji Okada, Barbara begins to unravel the mysteries of Michi's life, a story that begins in the early twentieth century and continues through World War II and its aftermath.
As Barbara and Seiji translate the plum wine papers they form an intimate bond, with Michi a ghostly third in what becomes an increasingly uneasy triangle. Barbara is deeply affected by the revelation that Michi and Seiji are hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and even harder for her to understand are the devastating psychological effects wrought by war. Plum Wine examines human relationships, cultural differences, and the irreparable consequences of war in a story that is both original and timeless.
Western scholars have tended to read Heian literature through the prism of female experience, stressing the imbalance of power in courtship and looking for evidence that women hoped to move beyond the constraints of marriage politics. Paul Schalow’s original and challenging work inherits these concerns about the transcendence of love and carries them into a new realm of inquiry—the suffering of noblemen and the literary record of their hopes for transcendence through friendship. He traces this recurring theme, which he labels "courtly male friendship," in five important literary works ranging from the tenth-century Tale of Ise to the early eleventh-century Tale of Genji. Whether authored by men or women, the depictions of male friendship addressed in this work convey the differing perspectives of male and female authors profoundly shaped by their gender roles in the court aristocracy. Schalow’s analysis clarifies in particular how Heian literature articulates the nobleman’s wish to be known and appreciated fully by another man.
Scholars often use the term "structural corruption" when discussing modern Japan's political system--a system that forces politicians to exchange favors with businessmen in return for funds to finance their political careers. Scholars argue that the origins of corruption can be found in the "iron triangles" formed by politicians, bureaucrats, and businessmen during the postwar era or during the Pacific War years. In this examination of malfeasance in Japanese public office, Richard Mitchell systematically surveys political bribery in Japan's historical and cultural contexts from antiquity to the early 1900s. Mitchell's narrative serially considers scandals involving courtiers in the ancient imperial government, corruption among the shogun's samurai officials, and political bribery among bureaucrats and party politicians in the mid-nineteenth century. Mitchell concludes that bribery was as ubiquitous in premodern Japan as it has been in recent times. Focusing on the period since 1868, Mitchell discusses in fascinating detail changes in political bribery in the wake of suffrage expansion, estimates of the enormous amount of campaign money needed to win a Diet seat in both the prewar and postwar periods, and the low conviction rate of suspected takers of bribes. Here is a highly readable and reliable survey of an important yet largely neglected topic in English-language studies of Japanese political history.