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Reviewed by:
  • Contradictory Impulses: Canada and Japan in the Twentieth Century
  • Bill Sewell
Greg Donaghy and Patricia E. Roy, editors. Contradictory Impulses: Canada and Japan in the Twentieth Century. UBC Press. 2008. 288. $85.00, $35.95

The product of two conferences held in 2004, this volume explores aspects of the Japanese-Canadian relationship over the long twentieth century. Four address the pre-war and wartime eras, six the postwar, and four straddle that divide. The general evolution from missionary and military to commerce and culture perhaps illustrates the shifting nature of Canada-Japan relations, but also present is a concern for individuals caught up in their times, a social history of this relationship. This said, the volume leans more towards the Canadian experience - or the experience in Canada - and could more usefully incorporate the Japanese.

Topics vary but address the more salient aspects of this relationship. Hamish Ion and Richard Leclerc consider missionary activities, separately exploring evangelical and educational endeavours, though Ion adds lobbying efforts in Canada on behalf of Japanese. Gregory Johnson and Galen Roger Perras demonstrate that after an early war scare the Canadian military came to realize that Canada was more likely to be drawn into a war through other combatants. Bill Rawling addresses eventual wartime operations, including domestic security. John Meehan examines state views, sketching the evolution from hopeful optimism to guarded skepticism apparent among Canadian politicians and press. Greg Robinson looks at the emergence of a Japanese community in Montreal in the context of pre-war immigration agreements. Patricia Roy's focus is temporally narrower, addressing immigration legislation in the immediate postwar era and the views of Japanese Canadians. [End Page 300]

Turning to more recent history, Carin Holroyd studies the growing postwar Japanese investment in Canada, noting that, unlike Americans, Canadians did not seem particularly bothered by it. John Kirton assesses diplomatic concerns, cleaving to the view that relations are becoming more significant and of the type shared by Canada and Japan with the United States. Marie Josée Therrien echoes this perception, for in assessing the buildings that housed the official Canadian presence in Japan she shows that while those of the 1930s reflected Eurocentric facades, Canada's new embassy is a hybrid, reflecting mutual understanding.

Two chapters examine Canadians less willing to follow an ally's lead. While John Price explores the scholar-diplomat Herbert Norman's disagreements with American Occupation authorities, Greg Donaghy evaluates Trudeau's efforts to promote closer ties with Japan, seeking to wean both Japan and Canada away from the United States somewhat. In both cases the structural impediments loomed large, yet in testing them the cases become instructive.

Although Japanese experiences are apparent in the work discussed above, they tend to be secondary or are blurred by becoming Japanese-Canadian perspectives. The two chapters focusing more on Japanese subjectivities are perhaps similar, albeit for different reasons. David Sulz's study of a boatload of illegal Japanese immigrants to Canada in 1906 poignantly traces their arrival and eventual acceptance on the eve of the hardening of relations between Japan and Canada, though from a vantage point within Canada. Masako Iino's short history of the Japanese Association for Canadian Studies shows how this academic organization, founded in 1977 with Canadian support, brings aspects of the Canadian experience to the attention of Japanese.

As with any conference volume, the essays are uneven in length and scope, though the volume is useful. Its significance lies in two areas. One, as noted by the editors, is within the personal perspectives, representing as they do exercises in 'soft power.' This highlights the nature of Canada's influence upon Japan - and, indirectly, other states - though how this influence played out in Japan could be more developed. At the same time, the reality that Canada-Japan relations developed alongside relations with the United Kingdom and the United States underlies most of the essays, a tension that provides the inspiration for the book's title. The second lies in bringing to light a neglected topic. Despite various linkages, previous scholarship on the Canada-Japan relationship has been fragmentary, the effect of which, as the editors note, 'reinforc[es] the tendency of foreign policy scholars...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 300-301
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-15
Open Access
No
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