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07 December 2011

Book on US Occupation of Japan after WW2 "Washington Heights"

A book "Washington Heights" is written by a female journalist, AKIO Satoko. She studied how the United States government managed occupied Japan after the country defeated his enemy. Then she spotlighted on "Washington Heights," which was exclusive residential area for the U.S. military personnels located in the center of Tokyo. The area was built after the war was over by the order of U.S. occupational force. Before the war, it was Japanese imperial army's property. It was located next to Meiji Jingu Shrine, memorial shrine for the Meiji Emperor (crowned between 1868-1912) .

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After the Olympic the place turned to famous public park, Yoyogi Park and Japan's public broadcasting station, NHK building.

The book mainly described episodes of Japan's Occupied era (1945-1952) and economic booming era until Tokyo Olympic in 1964. When the U.S. force arrived in Japan, they occupied many places in Tokyo for its administration purpose. The General Head Quarter was placed in Dai-ichi Life Insurance Building near the Imperial Palace.

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But they needed housing for soldiers and staff working for the G.H.Q. So they ordered the Japanese government to build housing block for Americans, requiring facilities and equipment  equivalent to American standard of that time. That was the hell of a big job for the Japanese government because the places were all burnt down, and shortage of goods.

The Washington Heights, American style housing provided Japanese new culture and lifestyle. Because American personnels and their family living there wanted entertainment, many Japanese entertainers were recruited for performances for them. That caused a big entertainment icon, Journey's Production, which has released many great talents to Japan's showbiz until now. Morie Hana, a famous Japanese fashion designer opened clothing shop for women living in the residential area. She studied most sophisticated western clothing during that time. As for food culture, Japanese learnt fresh vegetable farming to meet demands from Americans. Japanese learnt how to farm vegetable for the fresh salad taking sanitation into account.

As for how Americans thought about occupying Japan was described as well.

When Americans first arrived in Japan after the war, they were surprised because their former enemy citizens were so friendly to them. Many Japanese in fact, felt liberated when the war was over. So occupation worked more smoothly than expected. The U.S. occupation in fact provided democratization of Japan including women's suffrage, reform of biased wealth distribution towards elite class. The U.S. aim was to demilitalize Japan so they thought cracking down feudal customs and elite class power was best way to do.

The U.S. at that time were so worried about communist threat from Soviet Union. So they treated Japan nicely although Japan was a former enemy.

Most interesting episode noted in the book was that a former Japanese military officer met Afro-American man working as lower rank staff of G.H.Q. who told him that Blacks were glad when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor.

The conclusion of the book was U.S. occupation provided Japan great things but we have to remember Japan has been controlled by U.S. since that time and even after Japan recovered independence, we are always facing indirect occupation by the U.S. such as military bases in Okinawa, Tokyo, and diplomatic pressure to liberalize trade and commerce.  

Recently the U.S. hegemony has been on the edge as you see "Lehman Shock" and "Occupy Wall Street" movement. The U.S. can no longer function as a role model for Japanese.

Thanks to the U.S. we could have developed the nation acquiring many great things from them but it is time we develop us ourselves in our own way.

12 July 2011

Participated in a Naked festival

Last Sunday, I went to the Enoshima Island to participate in the Tenou Festival of the island's shrine.

It is located 1 hour and half train ride from Tokyo. PIC_3964.JPG

 

It is to commemorate the event occurred in 19th century, which local fishermen transported cast-away treasure of the shrine across the sea.

 

So in the festival, the decorated box of the below photo, so called "Mikoshi" was transported by tens of people to the sea from the shrine.

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When the mikoshi arrived near the beach, only naked guys remained there and transport it to the sea.

 

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I joined the naked transporter group. Of course we were not totally naked. We wore white loincloth so called "Fundoshi." Very traditional men's swim wear. The difference from modern one is it doesn't cover hips and asses. It has no rubber band in it. You tighten it by folding and roping.

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Bathing into water wearing fundoshi made me feel so nice. I could feel water almost all of my lower body. I can never wear boxer pants once I learned how it feels. 

See this video to know what we did.

   

After swimming in the sea, the group got out of the sea and walked on the street carrying the mikoshi shouting, jumping to demostrate men's energy. Since we got wet and the fundoshi is soaked, private zone's shape became obvious.

Kind of embarrassing? No if you are really Japanese boy, so called "Nihon Danji." I never minded spectators looking at us or taking pictures. We were there to show what we were.

That is the spirit of Naked Festival. I really enjoyed it. I became "Nihon Danji."

However, in modern time not many Japanese men wear it so often because some are too embarrassed or it takes time and is difficult to wear casually. That is why fundoshi can only be seen as custume in festival today.

If you are interested in knowing how to wear it, please see the below video clip.

 

01:59 Posted in Culture | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: festival, tradition

19 June 2011

"Gone with the Wind" on Stage played by Japanese

I went to the Imperial Theatre near the imperial palace to view the stage show of "Gone with the Wind." As you know this is based on America's most famous novel written by Margaret Mitchel. It was written and made into film in 1930's.

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I've seen the film version many times and read some parts of the original novel. The stage show was 2 hours and half long. It was like summarized fairly tale version of the novel and film. It is surprising to know such show was played by Japanese actors. It is like Americans playing Samurai and Geisha.

Overall the show was well-done. I do not have to compare that with the film version or original novel. Stage version has its own flavour. This story has good essence of making good story telling. Like contrast of characters, contrast of situations. Good transition and developments so that viewers can easily follow.  

 However, I do not enjoy the story as much as before.

The story is in fact, unrealistic in the following points.

1. Egoistic and moody girl like Scarlett could attract so many men.

2. Such spoiled girl growing up in a wealthy family could take care of giving birth of a child and live through turmoil after the war.

3. Such young lady fell in love with much older guy like Rhett.

Furthermore this story has been criticized for romanticizing the slavery time in the South.

Afro-American people were portrayed as loyal slaves reveling with their oppressors. In the original novel the word "nigger" was repeatedly used. There was an event that Scarlett was assaulted by a Afro-American robbery and her second husband, Frank Kennedy took a revenge of that being Koo Klax Kuran.

Indeed the story was written from the viewpoint of conservative white people in the South. Slavery shouldn't be romanticized.

I am recently interested in an actress, Hattie McDaniel in the film version who won Academy Supporting role award. The film was clean-up version compared to the novel. Not using the word "nigger," Scarlett being assaulted by white man instead of Afro-American. Scarlett's Mammy played by McDaniel did played a very important and active role in the film.

I guess it was because the producer Selznick was Jewish and sharing some oppression experience with her. The film was made in 1930's when Nazi-Germany arose in Europe.

McDaniel made a speech that she was glad to receive the award on behalf of Afro-Americans. She did the great job in that sense although she had to play a sterotype role.

I guess it would be more interesting to make a film of how she lived and how she acted in the fim during that time. Such thing should be focused.

On the Stage version I saw slave role actors put black paint on their skin to look like Afro-American. Scarlett screamed at a slave "Kuronbo (meaning Nigger)." Scarlett was assaulted by Afro-American robbery. These are wrong things, aren't they.  

10 October 2010

Japanese film:"My darling is a foreigner" How to overcome difference

The story is the experience of one young Japanese woman dating with American man who speaks very good Japanese.

They got along very well but somehow they found difficulty understanding each other.

One thing the American man could not understand was Japanese people's manner of humility, like saying bad things of yourself and your family to other people. Like giving a present saying "Sorry, this is such a poor thing." That actually means "I am humble so that I do not boast my present although it is a great thing. I do expect you to like it."

If you are foreigner living in Japan or planning to stay in Japan, I would highly recommend you to watch this. The DVD is released so you can rent it and the film comes with English subtitle program.

In my opinion, making friends with or marrying a foreigner is kind of hard thing to do, especially with Americans.

I recently participate in anti-US political activity such as protesting US military presence in Japan.  

 

However, personal relationship and diplomacy between states should be treated separately.

No matter what happens between the countries they belong to, a loving couple should have the right to be happy.