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  • 記憶 Kioku, 思い出 Omoide/Memory
  • Mariko Asano Tamanoi (bio)

“Wanted: Your memories of (what happened on) August 5” (hachigatsu itsuka no kioku motomu). Some time in early September of 2004, while walking near the train station in suburban Tokyo, I caught this phrase, written on a poster pasted to a glass window of a small police box (kōban). Apparently, a mother and her daughter were gruesomely murdered on August 5, yet the suspect had not been apprehended: hence, the reason that local police officers were still in search of witnesses who could provide their kioku—memories—to them. Imagine that a witness responds to this poster and visits the police station to be interviewed. His or her narratives will appear most probably fragmentary. Nevertheless, the one who hears this witness, a police officer, and eventually a prosecutor or a lawyer, will record his or her memories in quite a different language from the one that the witness used—definitive and causal statements that have claim for truth. Kioku, then, are more likely the fragments of the witness’s memory in this case, the reason why the term generates such combined words as kioku yōryō (the amount of kioku to keep), kioku sōchi (the device for keeping kioku), or kioku jutsu (mnemonics).

Kioku, however, represents only one term that suggests “memory.” Another is omoide, which usually presents a seamless narrative of the person who remembers in an open-ended manner. Omoide belongs to this person even though he or she can share it with his or her audience. Yet, both kioku-suru (a verb form of kioku) and omoidasu (a verb form of omoide) signify “to remember.” English too has terms other than “remembering” that mean more or less the same, such as “recollecting,” “recalling,” “reminiscing,” “memorizing,” “memorializing,” “reminding,” or “retrieving.” Andrew Lass thus argues the following, relying on the distinction made between “recollection” (Erinnerung) and “remembrance” (Gedächtnis) by Hegel. [End Page 87]

Recollection is a personalized act that involves the presence of the past. Yet the recollected may be “placed in memory” only as a meaningless string of names, faceless and available to all to call upon and repeat as fact, like a poem that we “know by heart” but which need not mean anything at all in order that it may be remembered. In the act of committing violence upon recollection, memory rescues the thought from the self.1

Lass, however, writes between English and German, the language that has also many words for “remembering” and “memory,” while I write between English, Japanese, and German (via Hegel and Lass). Furthermore, the meanings of Erinnerung and Gedächtnis seem to have been still debated among the philosophers of Hegel.2 I will later return to the above quote, but note, very briefly here, that one cannot make clear distinctions between Erinnerung and Gedächtnis, between recollection and remembrance, or between omoide and kioku. Rather, the meanings of and the relationship between the two seem to shift depending on the specific spatio-temporal context in which one recalls or remembers.

That said, the purpose of this essay is to think kioku, omoide, and the relationship between them while discussing the memory of the Japanese, who tried to remember “the sexual violence committed by Japan’s enemies on Japanese women” in the aftermath of Japan’s defeat in Northeast China (Manchuria). Since Japan created the puppet-state of Manchukuo in 1932 and the Soviet Union invaded shortly before Japan’s capitulation, “Japan’s enemies” were the local people of Manchukuo, mostly Han Chinese and the Korean, and the Soviet (Russian) soldiers. Nonetheless, “the enemy” whom the Japanese remembered in the postwar era is only one group—the Russian men. Thus, describing the sexual violence committed against Japanese women by Russian soldiers in the Soviet occupied areas—Northeast China included—Wakatsuki Yoshio writes:

What word can possibly describe the violence committed by the Soviet soldiers on Japanese women? I can only think of the word “hideous” (susamajii). The victim could be a girl of twelve or thirteen years old or an old lady of almost seventy years old. These soldiers did not choose the sites where they raped them, in public...


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