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ESSAY Sushi South Teaching Southern Culture inJapan by Anne Goodwyn Jones Nothing less than an occupation ofthe country will be necessary; not necessarily a very long one, but one long enough to make thefact ofourvictory andtheirdefeatincontestable. . . . This then should be theprogramme: Defeat, Occupation, Demilitarisation, Opportunity. —John Morris, Tokyo University, 194) ? 1996 I was hired for one year to teach southern literature at a Japanese prefectural (state) university near Tokyo. I was puzzled at first by this Japanese interest in American southern literature, but by the time I left for Chiba I thought I had prepared myself to understand. American military occupation for a decade after a physically devastating total military defeat; a constitution written by, enforced by, and serving the interests of the armies of the occupation; a wrenching shift from traditional cultural, social, and economic patterns to join and prosper in western modernity—all I read supported my sense diat die Japanese would be drawn to the writings ofa certain class ofwhite southerners. I expected from the 20 Japanese a bent for the nostalgia of plantation fiction or, later, the Agrarians; for the determination ofScarlett JJ,k,eAtlanta, but O'Hara and for Faulkner's explosive articulations of cui-/ » turai confrontation during and after, long after, the Civil*/' War. After all, that tradition, for many, still is what is Japan's old Cities meant by "southern literature." This was what I thought, 7 7 u ,.,,T . T were burned and southern literature would mean to Japanese, inJapan. As a "lumper" (someone who searches for sameness), flattened. I found the numbers and details ofthe historical parallels astonishing. Not only wereJapan and die U.S. Soudi each defeated in war for the first time ever in the Civil War and Second World War; not only were they both defeated by Yankees: the defeat in both cases came at devastating physical cost. Margaret Mitchell's mother took her, as a child, to see die chimneys sticking up from what was left ofthe ashes of the houses Sherman destroyed. She called them "silent sentinels" for the failed South. Only the Holocaust could begin to compare with the devastation of nuclear war—I knew this. But until I arrived in Japan to see for myself, I had diought only (only?) Hiroshima and Nagasaki suffered ruin. How wrong I was: every city inJapan, with die exceptions ofKyoto, Nara, and Kamakura, had been leveled by conventional American bombing. The testimony to that destruction lies in the ugliness of modern urban Japan. Like Adanta, but so much more recendy ,Japan's old cities were burned and flattened; and the money for rebuilding was nil. The stories ofordinarypeople's experiences ofwar and poverty that I had inherited from a privileged white southern family and an American popular culture —burying the silver, living in slave quarters, eating weeds, drinking parched corn coffee, wearing feedsacks or draperies—were more than matched by die stories I read and heard about in Japan, of people whose lives burned up, of hunger that bent and shortened a generation's bones. Then the Occupation. The experience of John Boles's postwar "colonial South" surely resonated widi diat ofpostwarJapan—the colonizer colonized. Or so thought die lumper. Both—die Soudi in its effort to expand slavery,Japan in its effort to expand the empire—had sought to extend the boundaries of their power. Both ended widi dieir own boundaries collapsed, the South no longer a nation, Japan controlled by occupying Americans. Both endured military occupation , giving up all rights to their own military. Both watched as their systems of law were revised and enforced by die Yankees. Bodi saw their institutions—education , government, property ownership—reshaped and reformed by the occupying forces. Commodore Perry's "black ships" had reopenedJapan to the West nearly a century before the American occupation, and the Soudi had after all been a separate nation only a few years. Both countries dius confronted a colonizing culture not entirely alien. Yet in both cases itwas a culture whose goalwas Sushi South 2 1 to shape the loser into the victor's image by whatever means necessary ofimposition and eradication. Industry was to supplant agriculture in both nations, democracy to supplant traditional hierarchy...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 20-30
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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