Mar 29, 2008

One Thing That Made Me Happy, One Thing That Pissed Me Off

When American troops invaded Okinawa at the end of WWII, the Japanese army handed out grenades to the civilian population and forced them to commit suicide in the face of the invaders. It's a nasty incident, to say the least. My personal reading of it was a move on the army's part to stoke American perceptions of supposed Japanese fanaticism. If the residents of a small, southern island would destroy themselves in the face of a military onslaught, then the Americans would except the same, on a grander scale, if they invaded the home islands. Personally, I doubt whether this scenario would have ever played out, and I think that oftentimes the American military exaggerated the extent of Japanese nationalism.

In any case, though, talk about this ugly incident has been quite politically charged for the past fifty years. But, fortunately, an Osaka court just dismissed a libel case against Kenzaburo Oe, an author who wrote openly about the incident. This is awesome. I haven't read any of Oe's books, but now I think I'll pick one up the next time I'm in a bookstore. Apparently most of his books are about existentialism and sex. Sounds fun.

In other, less nifty news, one of Slate's travel correspondents has written an absolutely idiotic bit about Hiroshima. From the tone of the article, he seems disappointed that the city's citizens don't walk around crying all the time, and seems slightly indignant that Hiroshima (a modern city in a modern country) has a perfectly normal Kinkos and a perfectly normal Starbucks. He even seems put out by the Okonomiyaki, the fun, greasy regional specialty. What was he expecting? Atomic Sorrow Lattes? Kinkos All Night Nuclear Devastation Copy Center? Talking about the city's history is one thing- expecting that history to be hung around its neck is another.

Anyway, the abovelinked article wasn't awesome. In fact, it made me actively angry. I'd be interested to know what ya'll think.

1 comment:

Zuzuzus said...

I've always had a fascination with Japan and all things Japanese. When you stand on a busy corner of a Tokyo crosswalk, it's eerily quiet. Especially when compared to my home city of NYC. The stillness, and all the bowing, paints a portrait of a calm and respectful culture. To me, Japan was the most beautiful place I've ever been. It's almost surreal that Japan is responsible for some of the worst war crimes and atrocities of modern times. That, and they kill the most perfect creature on earth, the dolphin.

Despite the dolphin thing, I still want to go back. It's a clean, beautiful land with beautiful women. They preserve many arts that have been lost on the Western World, and put effort into the appearance of everything.

If I could change one thing about Japan, other than the dolphin bit, is that they need to be more open and honest. Persecuting people for writing may be among the repressions that cultivates some of strange cultural Japanese trends (like hikikomori).

I wish I could live there for an extended amount of time. I'm so jealous of you. I'd love to see more photos of snowy days!