restricted access Revolution in the Archives of Memory: The Founding of the National Diet Library in Occupied Japan
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At the welcome dinner held in Tokyo in December 1948 for the distinguished visitors from the U.S. Library Mission, Hani Gorô, recently elected Diet member and chair of a newly established National Diet Library Steering Committee, raised his glass in greeting: “To guarantee that our National Diet Library will serve as the foundation for the establishment of democracy in Japan,” he vowed, “I only ask that I be allowed to have my bones buried beneath its foundation stones.”1 Charles H. Brown, head librarian at the University of Illinois and president of the National Library Association , responded in kind: “Mr. Hani, allow me to say just this: Please make room for me, because I also wish to lay my body beneath the cornerstone of the National Diet Library.”2 While these pledges may have been purely metaphorical , they convey the shared passion of representatives of former enemy countries for the project at hand. But metaphors aside, the truth may be that someone ’s bones are, in fact, buried beneath the cornerstone of the original National Diet Library (NDL). They would belong to another passionate founder of the NDL, Nakai Masakazu, the library’s arst deputy director and guiding light during its inaugural four years. At least this is what Hani suggests in the closing lines of a profoundly moving eulogy to Nakai in 1952. It is not unheard of in Japan to bury a portion of a person’s remains at a sacred site, and perhaps even to expect that the spirit of the deceased will linger a while to watch over the living. Producing Memory in Post-Defeat Japan Just three years before his appointment to the National Diet Library, Nakai had greeted Japan’s defeat in the Paciac war as the head of a small town library in eastern Hiroshima prefecture; that unremarkable site would soon become the general headquarters for a local culture movement with radical democratic aspirations. Within a year of the defeat, the movement had succeeded in bringing together intellectuals, farmers, and laborers, both men and women, in multiple locations throughout eastern Hiroshima prefecture, in an unprecedented social experiment to understand their histories and restructure their consciousness along with their social existence. In the summer of 1946, as part of this movement, Nakai helped to organize a people’s university with classes held in at least twenty towns and villages across the prefecture. Nakai used the English term escalator system to describe the logistics in a still war-torn Japan that enabled over forty lecturers (drawn both from the local Workers Culture Association and from the major metropolitan universities ), accompanied by local youth, to tramp from village to village, their rucksacks alled with rice; their lectures and seminars dealt with anything from Marxism and rural economic crisis to mass culture and avant-garde art. In the summer of 1947, Hani Gorô took advantage of an invitation to lecture at this Khaki daigaku (summerterm university) to persuade his colleague to come to Tokyo and serve as the arst director of a new National Diet Library. Nakai accepted Hani’s request and spent 382 ⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮ Revolution in the Archives of Memory The Founding of the National Diet Library in Occupied Japan Leslie Pincus ⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯ the four years that remained to him before an untimely death in a struggle to build a mass-democratic, cultural institution. The connection between the Hiroshima Culture Movement and the new Diet Library is most obviously suggested by the trajectory of a single individual whose work linked these as well as other enterprises: during the volatile decades of Japan’s mid-twentieth century , Nakai’s diverse aptitudes and passions took him from academic philosophy to experimental almmaking, from Popular Front activism to political imprisonment, and from local organizing to a new cultural bureaucracy. But here I would like to reach beyond the commonsense connections so easily made among the varied engagements of a single individual by recourse to the unity of a human life. In the spirit of this volume on the institutions of social memory, let me suggest an afanity between the immediate postsurrender Hiroshima Culture Movement and the establishment of the National Diet Library by way of collective memory, both its production and its erasure. This connection will only become explicit at the end of a somewhat tortuous itinerary leading through the complexities of Occupation policy and the struggles of early postwar politics. Ultimately, however, I hope to demonstrate that both enterprises partook in a more encompassing project in early postwar Japan...


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