HIEA 112 — discussions week#1–10

week #1

What are the long-term impacts that Hideyoshi’s edicts may have had upon social relations between ordinary people of different strata? For example, how do you think the directive that farmers no longer would be allowed to have weapons, impacted their day-to-day lives?

Hideyoshi made sure he had an absolute control over his new kingdom and citizens. Retrieving weapons from farmers is a very clever method to get them under his control. With farmers being an important part of his social constructing plan by supplying food, he made sure to take this power away from them. Farmers are indeed ordinary people, but once they choose to rebel, it could be a real catastrophe. Hence, allowing them to carry weapons did not seem to be a great idea. This definitely impacted their day-to-day lives, as their strata was not considered as high, and the retrieval of weapons would only endangered their lives even further. In the “Collection of Swords, 1855,” the act of collecting weapons was explained to be used for building temples and Buddha statues. This manipulative reasoning seems to contradict the sacrality of Buddhism, which things should always be done with a moral intention.

week #2

What were the new Meiji regime’s main priorities, judging from these founding documents? What problems do you anticipate in their implementation?

Judging from these founding documents, the Meiji regime’s main priorities were to restore Japan as a great nation with the introduction to new ideology, technology and innovation, with a great focus on military. The fear of being overpowered by Western countries made them decided to limit their interactions with the foreigns, as they prepare to rebuild their nation behind “close doors.” They figured that they needed to find a trustworthy head leader to carry out this major plan, and people needed to begin worshiping their leader again. What I found to be contradicting is that, even though they were in the process of denying foreign influences, they studied from those foreign countries to innovate and enhance their military system, with the goal that they would be unconquerable, after seeing the suffering of China from British invasion.

Share the most interesting think about the Iwakura Mission report — what surprised you most about the report’s characterization of the United States? What does Fujitani’s chapter tell us about the existence (or not) of a shared sense of nation in Japan in the early Meiji period?

I opened this reading with the expectation that it would depict America in a negative way. I also predicted that there would be lots of comparison between Japan’s government and America’s government — which there were, but I did not expect them to take social matters into notice. The sentences that stood out to me the most were “women and men mingle together on the dance platform,” and “in America women are not prohibited from entering the official buildings.” Through the tone of their writing, it seems like they were amazed by the way women were treated in daily lives, as well as in the political aspect.

Fujitani’s chapter tells us that a shared sense of nationality in Japan had not yet been achieved. Due to the corruption of the government that was previously established, people living in different parts of Japan had different cultural and political senses from the other ones, which made nationalism a vague scene in Japan at the time.

Week #3

Why do you think states like to use the language of “protection” when they are enacting violent and extractive policies? Can you think of similar instances from other contexts?

The language of “protection” is used to paint a moral image over their true actions. This manipulative method is used by the government to easily establish control over its citizens. The exploitation of citizen’s dependency on its government is somewhat corrupted in my opinion, even though it is how politicians have always been doing in order to build trust and gain benefit from people. An example to this could be the Cold War, when U.S provided aid towards South Korea and the Soviet Union was doing the same to North Korea. The language of “protection” was used, when in fact it was just their way of indirectly fighting against each other.

Why do you think so many people came out to protest against the government beginning in 1905? How significant do you think this action was in terms of political consciousness (think in relation to the moment we are living in right now)?

I think people came out to protest against the government due to its destruction of the well-being of ordinary people. War tax is costly and it negatively affects people’ lives. It contradicts to what the government promised them, that the war would bring peace and happiness to them. The protest definitely left a significant impact in terms of political consciousness of people at the time. People, even ordinary people were able to acknowledge their rights and power as citizens, and that they could somewhat make an impact in political decisions as a whole community. Nowadays in America, we can see protests with huge crowds of community, who constructed and organized those powerful protests with extremely compelling messages.

Week #4

How do you think the Hibiya Riots (1905) and the Rice Riots (1918) differed in their societal significance? Do you think the difference had anything to do with the primary actors involved?

The main difference between the motive behind both of the riots was that the Hibiya Riot (1905) was the citizens’ protest against the deceiving promise from the government — that they would bring peace and happiness to them while taking their war tax. On the other hand, the Rice Riots (1918) expressed citizens’ disapproval of the country’s irresponsible action during the inflation and the sudden raise of rice, and other agricultural products’ costs. I think both of the different events revealed the desire that citizens have, of being able to voice their opinions, and proving that the government could not have complete control over them.

What do you think about the tenor of the historiography on Japan’s colonization of Korea and Taiwan, as being somewhat improved from the late 1910s because there was a shift from “military” to “cultural” rule? Do you buy this assessment?

There are two sides of shifting from military to cultural rule. The good side of this is that Korean and Taiwanese would stop having to endure the violence and crimes that Japanese committed on them. The bad side of this type of colonization is that, it alters and even worse, it destroys a country’s tradition. I think changing a culture is definitely not easy, and not ethical at the same time. The degradation of Taiwanese and Korean culture, which have been existed for quite a long time, would only cause disapproval and resistance from the native people. I do not buy this assessment, as it shows how insecure Japan’s government was, knowing that they had to brainwash people from their culture in order to keep them in control, while they could still definitely establish and maintain both cultures at the same time.

Week #5

Why do you think Sonia Ryang selected the concept of homo sacer in order to make sense of the 1923 massacre of 6,000 Korean people living in mainland Japan by a combination of police and vigilantes? How does the notion of the “unsacrificeable Korean” help her make an argument about the nature of Japanese modernity?

The adoption of homo sacer was meant to cover up for how irrational and racial-motivated the 1923 massacre was. The notion of the “unsacrificeable Korean” helped Sonia Ryang make an argument that Koreans were not viewed as human to the Japanese, and so their lives were not worth enough to be “sacrificed” but to be “murdered,” blaming Korean for staining their modernity. This could also prove that during this time, Japanese were able to have a shared sense of Japan, as discussed in week 2, because they now understood that the concept of foreignness should be considered a threat to their country.

Discuss the jarring contrast between Ryang’s modernity and the one depicted by Tanizak in his novel. How do we reconcile the two?

The concept of Japan’s modernity was depicted from two different points of view. From Ryang’s point of view, Koreans were looked down by Japanese. They did not deserve to be considered as human and hence, they did not deserve to be influenced under the modernity that Japan has. Nevertheless, Tanizak’s novel showed Japan’s modernity in a different view. Western women, or Western influences in general, were seemed to be superior to Japanese at the time. In order to enhance their modernity, they attempted to integrate themselves into this new influences from the Western world. This revealed a sense of internalized racism that Japanese had, where they turnt away from their own race for “the better” in their opinions.

Week #6

Why do you think mobilizing women for nation and empire-building, in particular, in the domestic sphere (the home, the family, motherhood) was so important for the state?

I think Japan were starting to adopt the new ideology of valuing the importance of women and their work in the process of preparing for war. Japanese women had gotten their dominance within their household, and with teaching, as well as nurturing children. They, sadly take part of preserving and pass down the patriarchal influence to the later generations. Guiyu, the maid who was originally from China is an example. This contributes to the development of Japan’s colonization.

Week #7

What does Yoshida’s discussion of the way that the media’s reporting on the Nanjing Massacre downplayed its atrocities tell us about the role that non-state and non-military actors played in Japan’s total war?

Yoshida’s discussion showed us that the role of non-state and non-military actors played a huge role in Japan’s total war. Propagation has always been a manipulative method to persuade and reinforce nationalism. Censorship was a must to carry out this strategy perfectly. The Japanese media’s reporting on Nanjing Massacre significantly downplayed its atrocities by putting the blame on Chinese people, and censor all of the negativity coming from their part. Personally, I believe that this is what all countries do. I got a chance to study about the Vietnam War in Vietnam before studying the American “version” of it here. It took me a while to sort out the similarities and differences that both “versions” had taught me, before being able to understand what was really going on during the war. This shows how media could play a big part of citizens’ perception of war, and how greatly history could be altered since then.

Week #8

What is a spy? Do you think it is possible to be considered a “spy” as a colonial subject?

At the time, foreign people were conspicuously viewed as spies. Any people who involved in any kind of interaction with American were also considered a spies, and were then punished for it. Even the citizens from their colonized areas such as Korean and Chinese were not an exception. I think it is possible to be considered as ‘spy” for colonial subject, but also possible without. Taking Okinawans as an example, they were still considered as inferior than a original Japanese and hence, there was a higher suspicion upon them — even though they could be loyal — as compared to original Japanese people, who could also go against the government due to their disapproval of the their policy.

How does “Diary of a Housewife” complicate your understanding of the Japanese wartime experience? What does it reveal about the relationship between city and countryside?

When I think about war, I tend to think about fighting, guns, bombs, deaths, destruction, and politicians going against each other. The images of families, the wives, the children would also come to mind, as I imagine how much they also had to fight for their lives, despite not being in the battlefield. The “Diary of a Housewife” had added more details to the image that I was imagining. It was worse than what I thought. Getting food and supplies had never been more difficult, children were separated from their family, people having to reach out to black markets for food,… this reality changed the way city citizens view the countryside citizens, as they had a splurge of food. The increase in marriage rate among city and countryside citizens proved that Japan’s social structure had somewhat changed during wartime.

Week #9

Are you convinced by Dower’s argument in War Without Mercy that the Japanese and Allied forces expressed a great deal of racial animosity during the war, and that this drove its particularly high civilian casualty numbers?

I am very convinced by Dower’s argument in War Without Mercy that the Japanese and Allied forces expressed a great deal of racial animosity during the war. Some pictures that the U.S used to depict — or more like mocking Japanese soldiers were very disturbing and humiliating. I believe that they also acknowledge the horrible treatments that the U.S had given to Japanese-American at the time. These could easily drive their anger and their eager for a revenge.

Considering the intense racial animosity that Dower outlines in his work, why do you think that the Japanese and US governments were so quick to see each other as allies? Do you think that this transition was as quick for ordinary people?

From my knowledge about Japan history, surrendering is something that rarely happen. Japan entered the war with a huge pride and ego of its powerful country. Nevertheless, things seemed to be different after the two atomic bombs event, when they realized that there were countries out there that were way more powerful than them. Alliance was a way to keep their stand, especially after the destruction they got post-war time, which made them extremely vulnerable. I do not think this transition was as quick for ordinary people, as they were the victims whom got affected directly by the war. It could be from the bombs, or in the battlefield,…etc., there were so much loss and damage that I do not believe they would forgive everything as soon, but they had too, because it seemed to be the only way to maintain their power.

Week #10

Think about the previous discussion question. What questions are missing, considering Morris Suzuki’s description of how former colonial subjects were treated following surrender?

There seems to be a lack of description of how the transition was for colonial subjects after the war. I assume that it would be different than that of ordinary people, because I understand that the phrase “ordinary people” in this context did not include Korean, Taiwanese and Okinawans. It turned out that their lives got even more difficult after the U.S had entered Japan. I wonder if they were now the target of racial discrimination, since Japan has allied with the U.S, so the arrow would point towards a different group of people.

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