鮮, referring to Korea, and 内, literally meaning inside, representing Japan
In Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argues that the emergence of “official nationalism” was, to a large degree, incited by the national movement in the American nations. Old dynastic groups felt the need to merge nation and empire in order to retain power that is competitive to that of establishing imagined communities. Among such empires, Anderson uses Japan as one example.
Japan officially annexed Korea in the year 1910, and the following 9 years were called the Military Police Reign Era. This era was characterized by massive violence, frequently involving deaths of civilians. The Military Police Reign Era was abruptly ended in March 1st of 1919 when, for the first time, the Korean public across the peninsula joined the demonstration to resist against repressive Japanese colonial rule. Realizing the limitation to rule by force, the government-general switched its policy to “cultural policy”, which was an attempt to break down Korean identity and culture (partly) through forbidding usage of Korean language. In schools, students were severely punished if they spoke in their language, and such punishment methods included forcing children to beat each other if one of them talked to the other in Korean. Through education and forced visit to shines (and many other ways), the government-general laid the foundation for full mobilization as the tide of war was gradually turning against Japan.
Kuniaki Koiso, Japanese Governor-General of Korea, implemented a draft of Koreans for wartime labor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Japanese imperialism continued even after the end of WWII. The period between 1945 and 1948 marked the most intensive education movement by the Koreans in Japan of all time. When the liberation was finally achieved in 1945, the Koreans in Japan immediately set up language schools to prepare for repatriation. However, the GHQ, along with the Japanese government, took oppressive measure to interrupt the Korean identity education enforced by the League of Koreans, a group that undertook the management of schools. In 1947, the occupation force issued the sentence commanding Korean schools to follow the direction of the Japanese administration, which basically denied the education right of Korean children. The second directive was issued in March 1948, which stated that the government will shut down the schools by force if the league does not accept the first order. Receiving the directive, enraged Koreans immediately gathered to organize demonstrations. In April 7th, around 10,000 participants in Kobe gathered in front of the school gate to block the police from entering the school. Police resorted to brutality against parents and teachers who strongly resisted. Following such a large scale demonstration, on April 24th, the government took down the order and the GHQ, for the first time, declared the state of emergency in Kobe, which virtually marked the victory for Koreans. Although there are some other political reasons behind the oppressive measure taken by the oppressors, from the fact that the GHQ and Japanese government tried to exterminate Korean educational institutions, it is possible to make an observation that they were aware of the power of language and its potential to be their threat.
Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Lilia Yamakawa
In 1985, US President Ronald Reagan agreed to visit a cemetery in Bitburg, Germany to lay a wreath in honor of Germany’s war casualties. Reagan’s team of advisors did not do their homework, and it was later discovered that the cemetery contained graves of some of Hitler’s elite officers who had taken part in the massacre of Jews. Here was a president who always talked about “American values”, and he was going to pray for soldiers who had caused the Holocaust. There were strong protests by Jewish groups, US congressmen, US military officials, and regular citizens who all urged Reagan not to make the visit. He felt he could not cancel, however, and instead, a trip to a nearby concentration camp was also scheduled for the day of the cemetery visit. Reagan was not anti-Jewish, nor was he a Nazi sympathizer, and he himself had even served on the “right side” of the war. Although he had simply bumbled into the visit, the “Bitburg Fiasco” turned into one of the lowest points of Reagan’s presidency. He and his handlers had failed to see the powerful symbolism of the visit.
One German political editor noted the day after the visit was announced that Germany “had been able to become a member of the community of civilized nations after the war not by denying but by accepting its Nazi past.”
The Reagan-Kohl idea of a historic harmony is, therefore, an insult not only to those who suffered and died in the camps. World War II was not just another European war. It was the darkest hour of European civilization. Its end brought to an end the world’s most atrocious regime and the world’s hitherto most dangerous conflict. It also laid the basis for a democratic West Germany and a united West (Lou, 1991).
Japanese Prime MinisterShinzo Abe, on 26 January 2013, made his second visit to Yasukuni Shrine, a powerful symbol of Japan’s wartime militarism. Unlike Reagan who had bumbled into his visit, Abe went on purpose. Unlike the Americans, who had fought against the German aggressors, Japan was the aggressor. Unlike many Japanese leaders who deny many wartime actions, the Germans have accepted their Nazi past. Thus, it is understandable that the Koreans and Chinese would be upset by visits to Yasukuni by Abe and other officials.
This post explores national identity and visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Japanese government officials. I examine how the visits help to form and strengthen a sense of nationalistic, racist self-identity among some Japanese. I will also show how the visits help to form a particular identity of Koreans today. This paper is based on Benedict Anderson’s (2006) Imagined Communities.
First, with regard to Japanese identity, Yasukuni Shrine shows us a negative side of Japanese nationalism and patriotism. Twelve class-C war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. In fact, the government pressured the shrine to include the war criminals in 1978. The museum at the shrine, the Yushukan, does not show the atrocities that the Japanese army brought on its neighbors in Asia, controlling the way history is remembered. The shrine symbolizes the beliefs of ultra-nationalist right-wing groups today. Japanese officials not only insult Asian neighbors when they visit the shrine, but they also make the Japanese identity look bad to the world. Finally, while there is supposed to be a separation of religion and state, Yasukuni Shrine seems like a very political place that portrays nationalism based on “us vs. them.”
Love and self-sacrifice are important parts of a nation’s identity, and Yasukuni is a symbol of that positive side of nationalism and patriotism. Anderson points out that a love of nation is often expressed in its literature. Emperor Hirohito paid a visit to the shrine and wrote a poem that said: “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.” Because of this, soldiers who went to war would say “Let’s meet at Yasukuni.” These words signify loyalty to the emperor, to the nation, and to the Shinto religion. In this way, it was and remains a symbol of love and self-sacrifice.
People who believe it is the right or duty of Japanese, even government officials, to pray at Yasukuni argue that it is a spiritual place. To worship at Yasukuni is an act of love and gratitude to those who fought and died for Japan (John, 1991). Many Japanese also believe it is the right of the people of a nation to worship whoever and however they choose to worship.
Anderson discusses the roots of racism and says that in some cases it came from social class differences rather than nationalism. But in the case of the Japanese, is it possible that nationalism and racism were pretty much the same thing?
Koshino Kosaku is a sociologist who studies Japanese identity. He argues that “racialism” includes racism but is broader in meaning. He describes race as a socially constructed and imagined community because it does not have a real biological foundation, and because most members of the group don’t actually know each other. Although the Japanese are mixed, many of them imagine that they are a racially distinct and homogeneous group. These people believe that being Japanese is an unchosen result of nature. The Meiji leaders invented the idea of Japan as a “family-nation of divine origin.” All Japanese were supposedly related to each other and to the emperor. “Kinship, religion, and race were fused to produce a strong collective sense of oneness” (Koshino, 1998).
Koshino says that the notion of blood ties is still a part of the Japanese subconscious. The idea of Japanese blood makes the idea of “us v. them” stronger. Japanese culture is associated with a “Japanese race,” and Japanese tend to be possessive of their culture. Many people believe that no matter how long Chinese or Koreans live in Japan, they will always remain Chinese and Korean because they are different “minzoku”. He says the concept of “minzoku” can mean race, ethnic community, and nation. Anderson says that a nation is closed because it is something you don’t choose. It is, however, also open because through language and naturalization you can enter a nation. It seems that as long as the Japanese tend to think of themselves as a separate race and continue to feel racist toward others, Japanese nationalism is much more closed than open. Abe’s visits to Yasukuni only make this racist identity stronger. (Koshino, 1998)
Next, we will discuss Yasukuni and Korean identity. Whenever a Japanese official visits Yasukuni, the Koreans protest. It seems as Korean nationalism has been strengthened through protest against Japanese policy. Recently, the Korean president refused to negotiate with the Japanese because Japan refuses to apologize for its wartime actions. One Korean said that he can not talk about the history of his country without talking about what Japan did when it controlled Korea from 1910 to 1945.
Jukka Jouhki discusses the Japanese politicians’ visits to Yasukuni and the impact of those visits on Koreans. In the following passage he describes Yasukuni as a “wormhole”:
Symbolically, Yasukuni can be thought of as a wormhole that goes through time and space. When this wormhole crops up, the entire Korean nation seems capable of being transported backward into the era of Japanese colonial rule. (Jouhki, 2009)
Jouhki says that the Korean image of Japan is as it was in the colonial period, and Yasukuni represents imperial Japan just as if it were now. The image exaggerates the difference between us and them, Korea and Japan. He says that when the Koreans were colonized, it made the Koreans see themselves as “Other”, just as they saw the Japanese as “Other”, and Yasukuni represents an identity that they are still trying to work through. Therefore, Japanese leaders’ nationalism, expressed through visits to Yasukuni Shrine and the museum and textbooks that fail to show wartime atrocities, is not only a means to form a certain Japanese identity. It seems that Japanese nationalism strengthens a certain Korean identity as well.
Amartya Sen writes that a sense of identity can be positive because it makes us closer to others in our group, but it can also be negative because it can cause a deep feeling of division with those who are outside your group. He talks about how Al Qaeda tries to create a militant Islamic identity so that the people will feel the West is separate and bad. In the same way, Abe’s visit to Yasukuni creates sense of division from both the side of Japanese and Koreans.
The illusion of unique identity is much more divisive than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that characterize the world in which we actually live. The descriptive weakness of choiceless singularity and … the illusion of destiny exacts a remarkably heavy price” (Amartya, 2006).
Visits to Yasukuni can cause certain groups, both Japanese and Korean, to get caught up in one identity, forgetting they have diverse identities, and this can lead to conflict. These visits cause some Japanese to identify themselves as Japanese in a nationalist, racist way. They can cause some Koreans to identify themselves as Korean and the former victims of Japanese imperialism in an overly nationalistic way.
Clearly, Yasukuni Shrine is a symbol of patriotic love and self-sacrifice. It depends on your political beliefs as to whether you think this is a good thing or a bad thing. I believe the people were used and sent to war by the Meiji oligarchs in their official nationalism, and they need to be prayed for. However, I believe, that we should pray for them in a place that is not so political and insensitive to the Koreans and others. It leads to a nationalist identity, on both sides, that is divisive and may lead to conflict and violence.
Benedict, A. (2006). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism.
Calhoun, C. (1993). Nationalism and ethnicity. Annual Review of Sociology, 19, 211. 239.
Lou , C. (1991). President reagan: “the role of a lifetime. (p. 520). Touchstone Simon and Schuster
John, B. (1991). Yasukuni: the war dead and the struggle for japan’s past. (2007 ed., p. 56). C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd.
English: Peace Park statue A life size bronze of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing, but later died from radiation sickness at age 12. Children visit the park and bring origami cranes to the statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Sheena Sasaki
When does education start? The official education may start from the enrollment of elementary school; however, education itself has begun long before. One of the educational tools for children under age of elementary school is picture books and verbal stories. It is not rare to see the scene where mother is telling bedtime stories to her children. The story and picture book the mother chooses deeply influences the children’s education. This post focuses on three well-known bedtime picture books/stories in Japan, and examines the influences of the picture books, stories, and the character of the story to shape children’s beliefs and education.
How do Japanese children learn morals and values, and why do they decide to follow such social rules? Without a question, a person or people who raised the child would significantly influence shaping the base of the child’s moral belief. My mother used the picture book, Ehon: Jigoku by Tsuguo Miya (1980) as part of moral education. The book vividly illustrates many different parts of jigoku, the place similar to the underworld of Greek mythology. In this place, dead people are judged by Enma-daio, the judge of jigoku, about their behaviors when they were alive. Ehon: Jigoku uses very detailed and brutal pictures to graphically explain how the dead are punished for certain bad conduct and crime. Miya (1980) writes in the preview that the purpose of Ehon: Jigoku is to embed the idea “death is very fearful” into children’s mind since fear against death may be coming from human instinct, however, is possible to strengthen through education. He continues that people who lived during the period with underdeveloped medical science taught their children to stay away from danger and to feel deep attachment to their lives by showing pictures telling stories of jigoku. Thus, Miya (1980) concludes that the book may be one of the sagacities that ancient Japanese have created.
The book gives the readers a great impact of punishments for certain misbehaviors. Children who read the book may be traumatized by brutal pictures and strongly feel that they do not want to go to jigoku. As they grow older, those children may not believe in the life after death anymore; however, sense that they are being watched by somebody remains.
The key of jigoku is that people are being punished there. No matter how much people deny and hide their bad conduct and crime, the judge knows. As a result, many children behave better to appeal to Enma-daio that they do not deserve to be sent to jigoku. Thus, building sense of being watched by somebody is important to lead children to follow moral and rules. Without that sense, children may misbehave since their mothers are not watching, and such children may accept shoplifting when no one is near and quickly drive away when they runs over a person with a car.
There is a phrase in Japan which means, “there is ear on the wall and eye in the door.” The phrase addresses that it is almost impossible to have privacy since there is always a third person behind the curtain. Thus, Japanese adults tend to care very much about their behaviors in the public and reputations. Although children will not read picture books after they become adults, nonetheless, the sense which had been planted during their youth that there is invisible judge remains. Hence, picture books largely influence children to build moral beliefs and to follow social rules.
In his book Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Benedict Anderson (1983) states, “to serve the narrative purpose, [the ongoing mortality rate, exemplary suicides, poignant martyrdoms, assassinations, executions, wars, and holocausts] must be remembered/forgotten as ‘our own.’” (p. 206) He argues that people’s memories and images towards history are at many times purposely constructed by the others especially the ones in power. The bedtime stories are also a part of memory construction.
When being taught about World War II, the information given to Japanese children tends to lean towards the Hiroshima bombing. Along with the story of the thousand paper cranes, children are told story of a girl named Sadako Sasaki who survived the bombing itself but passed away due to the effects of radiation exposure.
The story starts with explanation of character Sadako, how she was energetic and healthy elementary school girl. However, she falls extremely sick. Sadako wished upon the paper cranes she folded during her hospitalization that someday she will recover her health. After her death, she became the heroine of a moving tale, as a girl who fought against leukemia and never gave up hope. Today, the story of Sadako is known throughout Japan, and her statue of raising a big paper crane was built as a representation of hope and peace.
However, the story does not end as just the moving tale. Her story overly emphasized Japan as a victim of the World War II, not a fighting actor. Hence, Sadako makes Japanese “remember” about the Hiroshima bombing and the terrifying influence of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it makes the citizens unconsciously “forget” that Japan also fought during the war and killed innocent children like Sadako. With the use of child’s story, the nation cunningly victimized her citizens and successfully represented herself as poor and weak being.
The issue lies where children do not notice the hidden “remember and forgetting” purpose of the story. Their impression would simply be “poor Sadako” as the government has intended. Thus, from youth, people are forced to see and believe an extremely narrow field of vision. They are blinded by the parents, teachers, stories, education, and nation sometimes unconsciously and at many times, consciously.
Bedtime story heroes are also used to serve the purpose of government. Momotaro is the most famous hero from didactic fiction in Japan. The story is very simple. Momotaro, who was born from a peach, decides to rescue a princess from creatures. With his three friends—a dog, a monkey, and a pheasant—Momotaro reaches the island of the creatures, defeats the evil, and becomes a hero.
The message of the story is similar to Ehon: Jigoku that the evil will be punished. Additionally, the story also holds the message righteous justice wins. Children are taught from the story to help others. However, this hero was used by the Japanese government in propaganda films during World War II.
Momotaro no Umiwashi and Momotaro: Umi no Shinpei were both directed by Seo Mitsuyo and released consecutively in 1943 and 1945. The earlier movie, Momotaro no Umiwashi is based on the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The main character Momotaro attacks the island of the evil with air force and results in victory. The second film Momotaro: Umi no Shinpei illustrates the civilization and colonization of Japan with musical. The hero Momotaro defeats the creatures controlling over poor animals, takes land away from the evil, and civilizes the animals.
Since both films were animated and used Momotaro as main hero, children and even adults repeatedly watched the film. Pretty characters and comical battle scenes enabled Japanese citizens to watch a war movie without hesitation. However, unlike the original story, creatures were represented in human form, and to be more specific, the Americans and British. The film visually shifted the antagonist from creatures to human foreigners. Thus, children are planted with information foreigners (especially Caucasians) are evil and it is necessary to fight against such evil “people.”
Both films are now considered well-made propaganda films. However, the audiences back in the time did not recognize the films as propaganda. Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler’s famous propagandist, once stated “Propaganda should be popular, not intellectually pleasing. It is not the task of propaganda to discover intellectual truths” (Goebbels, 1928, para. 31). His propaganda principle also argued “To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of audience and must be transmitted through an attention-getting communications medium” (Doob, 1950, p.426). According his theory, a good propaganda movie is one which would not be recognized as propaganda film. Both movies used a popular hero, evoked interest of the audience with animation and musical, and were transmitted through the communication media of film. As a result, a bedtime hero became a propaganda hero.
In summation, before their schooling, children are educated with bedtime stories which construct their core images of the world. Brutal pictures of life after death structures and make them follow the social rules. Additionally, as tool for “memory and forgetting,” bedtime stories based on real events sometimes are used to victimize the nation during wars the nation also fought.
The character of the story may turn into propaganda hero to make children feel familiar with war. At the level of globalized society today, it is possible to break the wall of “memory and forgetting” of nation’s history and education. However, the study of internationalization and globalization is still considered to be “high level” and is not taught in elementary school. Students face difficulty changing the core beliefs that were planted during childhood; the magic casted by the stories strongly remains in heart.
Anderson, B. (1983). Imagined communities: Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism. New York, NY: Verso.
Doob, L. W. (1950). Goebbels’ Principles of Propaganda. Public Opinion Quarterly,14(3), 419-442.
Goebbels, Joseph. (1928, January 9). Erkenntnis und Propaganda (R. Bytwerk Trans.). Speech presented at the Hochschule für Politik, Berlin, DE.
Miya, T. (1980). Ehon: Jigoku [Picture book: Jigoku]. Japan: Futohsha.
Seo, M. (Director). (1943). Momotaro no umiwashi [Momotaro’s sea eagles] [Motion picture]. Japan: Geijutsu Eigasha.
Seo, M. (Director). (1945). Momotaro: Umi no shinpei [Momotaro: Sacred sailors] [Motion picture]. Japan: Geijutsu Eigasha.
English: Peace Park statue A life size bronze of Sadako Sasaki, a young Japanese girl who survived the Hiroshima bombing, but later died from radiation sickness at age 12. Children visit the park and bring origami cranes to the statue. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Sheena Sasaki
Can we be ever sure of what we remember, or what we think we remember as the truth of our nation’s history? As one of the living beings in human society, we always belong to some kind of ‘community’ and can never truly be alone. A person may belong to the community of language, nation, family, education, gender, age, and social networking service at the same time. Thus, people can never be uninfluenced by others. Therefore, it is not very surprising to state that our memories are at many times purposely constructed by the others. In his book Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson states, “to serve the narrative purpose, [the ongoing mortality rate, exemplary suicides, poignant martyrdoms, assassinations, executions, wars, and holocausts] must be remembered/forgotten as ‘our own.’” (p. 206)
At many times, citizens of nations are blinded by controlled education system and media. I remember learning about the great explorer Christopher Columbus during my early years in elementary school in the United States. The teacher taught us that it was Columbus who marked the start of the United States’ history and therefore he is the one of the most important American ‘heroes.’ She also showed us a Snoopy animation video which illustrated the ‘finding’ of ‘new land’ and ‘friendship’ between the Europeans and Native Americans. The class was as if the storyteller whispering the tales into our ears. However, I was never taught of Christopher Columbus as an invader, one who enslaved Native Americans, slaughtered, and took over their land. Therefore, the nation, at least the school I attended, intentionally created and taught the mythology of national creation. With this way of education, we ‘remember’ that Christopher Columbus is the key person to the history of the United States; however, ‘forget’ the bloody background as to how the Europeans settled.
This myth-constructing education takes place all over the world. Similar case exists also in Japan. When being taught about the Hiroshima bombing, children are told story of a girl named Sadako Sasaki, a girl who passed away due to radiation by the bomb named “Little Boy,” and her thousand paper cranes. Sadako wished upon the paper cranes she folded during her hospitalization that someday she will recover to her healthy state. Later, she became the heroine of a moving tale, a girl who fought against leukemia and never gave up hope. Today, the story of Sadako is famously known throughout Japan and she represents hope and peace. However, the story does not end as just the moving tale. Her story emphasized Japan as the victim of the World War II, not a fighting actor. Hence, Sadako makes Japanese ‘remember’ the Hiroshima bombing and the terrifying influence of nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it makes the citizens unconsciously ‘forget’ that Japan also fought during the war and killed innocent children like Sadako. By the use of child’s story, the nation cunningly victimized her citizens and successfully represented herself as poor and weak being.
In summation, we are forced to have and believe very narrow field of vision from our youth. We are blinded by the parents, teachers, stories, education, and nation sometimes unconsciously, and at many times, consciously. At the level of internationally globalized society, it is possible to break the wall of ‘memory and forgetting.’ However, it is very difficult to change the core believe that has been planted during the youth; the charm of tales by storyteller strongly remains.
From Asian countries such as the Philippines, Korea, and China, many immigrants have come to Japan. After World War II, the Japanese government accepted many Nikkeijin(日系人), who have one Japanese parent or Japanese parents under the Immigration Control Act of 1952 and taking part in the convention of international immigration. Since the 1970s, in the bubble economy, there were four categories of immigrants, according to sociologist Hiroshi Komai. Firstly, many immigrants such as Filipinos, Koreans, Taiwanese and Thais have come for entertainment work and they can get an ‘entertainer’ visa. Secondly, refugees from Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos have come to Japan for the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees between 1970s and 1980s. The third category consists of Japanese group who went to Manchuria during the World War II. The fourth category consists of businessmen in Europe and the US.
Japanese Immigration laws are more limited to European countries and the US because Japanese society has not accepted immigrants historically. After the crackdown of the bubble economy, the number of immigrants from Europe and the US dropped. However, globalization has been widespread today and immigrants have grown again while international companies come to open their brunches in Japan. The Japanese immigration system needs to be amended because we need to accept more immigrants than before.
In Japan, 24 percent of the population is over 65 years of age, and in 2055 this aged people is estimated as 40 percent of Japan’s total population. We will need more care workers and nurses. We already lack the number of care workers and nurses because these jobs are tough for long working time and heavy tasks. They have a low salary and they struggle to work as care workers and nurses. We need to foster more care workers and nurses and to give higher salary to them.
However, it is difficult for Japan government to use money for more public service because the government holds deficits financing for the pension. Therefore, Japanese government needs to invite more immigrants from Asian developing countries such as the Philippines and to foster immigrants to support our aging society. Especially, Filipino women can care well for elderly people because they have the culture to respect for elder people. Many Filipino women emigrates overseas such as in the US or the UK. They can speak English well and can adopt to an English-speaking environment.
In Japan, although Japan accepts many Filipino women with the skills of nurse or caregivers in the hospitals, Japan government mandates them to pass though each skill exam and Japanese proficiency exam. Because of it, many Filipino nurses or caregivers cannot pass through national qualifying exam and have to go back to their home country. However, they can study Japanese while communicating with patients after they can pass through their skill exam. I think that getting human resources is the urgent problem. The government needs to reconsider and deal with the aging society and the deficit finance for the pensions. Accepting immigrants is a good solution to aging society.
Komai, Hiroshi. 2000 “Immigrants in Japan. Asian And Pacific Migration Journal 9(3):311-326.