Asian America’s Japan
Asian America’s Japan
The Perils of Gendered Racial Rehabilitation
Abstract and Keywords
This chapter initially looks at the film Hiroshima, Mon Amour with respect to the dialectic of forgetting and remembering. Applying the aforementioned dialectic, it analyzes the partially remembered, partially forgotten history of how in Japan, World War II gave rise to the Cold War. A number of Japanese American cultural texts, such as Steven Okazaki’s documentary Survivors, David Mura’s memoir Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, and Ruth L. Ozeki’s novel My Year of Meats, present a critical representation of the history of America’s imperial and gendered racial engagement with Japan. The chapter also shows how the American gendered racial rehabilitation aimed to produce an anticommunist liberal Japan on one hand, and an economically integrated Japanese nation-state on the other.
In the opening scenes of Alain Resnais’s film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the dialectic of remembering and forgetting is hauntingly captured through alternating images of the entwined bodies of a pair of lovers and significant sights in the city of Hiroshima—the hospital for the bomb victims and the Peace Museum.1 Throughout, a voiceover in the form of a succession of assertions and the negation of those assertions, presumably in the voices of the two lovers, articulates the problematics of attempting to represent, see, know, and remember such a historical trauma. This verbal volley ensues thus:
You saw nothing in Hiroshima. Nothing.
I saw everything. I saw the hospital. I’m sure of it. The hospital in Hiroshima exists. How could I not have seen it?
You didn’t see the hospital in Hiroshima. You saw nothing in Hiroshima.
Four times at the museum.
What museum in Hiroshima?
Even as viewers are given a measure of access to the museum through extreme close-ups of its displays, the voiceover (in the female voice) throws that access into question, reminding the viewer that the displays are mere reconstructions, “for lack of photographs,” and that the “explanations” are there “for lack of anything else.” Indeed, though the reconstructions are as “authentic as possible,” and though she has seen the newsreels produced in the days immediately following America’s World War II atomic bombing of (p.96)
Hiroshima, Mon Amour suggests that just as we believe we will remember love, most ardently our first love, we believe we will remember an atrocity such as Hiroshima, yet we forget both. We find out later in the film that the female lover, a French woman who remains nameless, has indeed forgotten the (illicit) first love she had with a German soldier in occupied France during World War II. This intersection of personal and collective memories/histories is visualized in the film when ashes begin to fall on the entwined bodies of the lovers, and their skin is suddenly replaced with that of the burned bomb victims captured in newsreels. The insistence, moreover, that you/I/we “saw nothing in Hiroshima” contains multiple meanings. On the one hand, it voices the process of a willful historical amnesia or forgetting, that we “saw nothing” because we did not want to see, whether because of shame, the sheer horror, or the denial of collective accountability. We also “saw nothing” because gendered racial taxonomies deem some lives to be “human,” and thus worth seeing and mourning, while other lives are differentially (de)valued as (p.98) “nothing.” On the other hand, in the aftermath of total atomic annihilation, there was literally nothing left to see except for that very annihilation, and thus you/I/we “saw nothing in Hiroshima.”2 Indeed, as captured in the subtitled voiceover of the image above, “What was there for you to weep over?” While the U.S. government has attempted to forget its act of atomic terror for obvious political reasons, insofar as a recollection of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been tethered to a concomitant recollection of Japan’s own imperial militarism and perpetration of atrocities in World War II, even the Japanese government has been complicit in this willful historical amnesia.
Hiroshima, Mon Amour presents us with a conundrum: the inevitability of forgetting against the obvious necessity of remembering, or what I have referred to above as the dialectic of remembering and forgetting. By the end of the opening verbal volley between the two lovers, the opposing voices cleave together: “Listen to me. Like you, I know what it is to forget…. Like you, I forget.” Because they/we forget, “It will begin again.” And yet we are asked: “Why deny the obvious necessity of remembering?” The film also highlights how memory and historical knowledge are multiply-mediated and is self-conscious about its own participation in this process. Indeed, as I will be discussing later in this chapter, when Japanese American poet David Mura visits Hiroshima, even in the physical presence of the city itself, he can only apprehend and make sense of it through his experience of the film Hiroshima, Mon Amour.
In this chapter, I investigate the partially forgotten, partially remembered history of how in Japan, World War II led into the Cold War. By “partial,” I mean to signal the word’s two related senses as incomplete and prejudiced. I offer an analysis of how a group of Japanese American cultural texts—Steven Okazaki’s documentary Survivors, David Mura’s memoir Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, and Ruth L. Ozeki’s novel My Year of Meats—critically imagines and grasps the partially forgotten and partially remembered history of America’s imperial and gendered racial encounter with Japan.3 These works display the haunting and at times grotesque remainders and reminders of how World War II bled into the Cold War in Japan—from America’s atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (August 1945) to its military occupation of Japan (1945–52). These cultural productions ask, moreover, why the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can only be grasped in fragments, while U.S.–Japanese economic “cooperation” (what the British once called a “strange neo-imperialism of a mystical irrational kind”) is ubiquitously and often grotesquely present.4 In particular, I argue (p.99) that Okazaki, Mura, and Ozeki give form to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the World War II internment and relocation of Japanese Americans in the United States, and the U.S. occupation of Japan as transnationally linked projects of what I call gendered racial rehabilitation. I demonstrate how gendered racial rehabilitation paternalistically attempts to produce properly assimilated and anticommunist liberal Japanese and Japanese American citizen-subjects, on the one hand, and a tamed and demilitarized yet economically integrated Japanese nation-state that would serve as America’s junior Cold War partner in Asia, on the other. That is, by gendered racial rehabilitation, I mean to suggest the complex ways in which Japanese and Japanese American subjects—formerly enemies and “enemy aliens,” respectively—are transformed into a Cold War junior ally in Asia and a “model minority”5 in America through their interpellation by and suturing to the protocols and logics of America’s Cold War imperial project.
As I will go on to demonstrate, the specific racial contours of rehabilitation attempt to incorporate and assimilate Japanese and Japanese Americans into the U.S. Cold War projects of liberal democracy and capitalism, yet this process is not one of deracination. Rather, the Japanese American cultural texts I analyze thematize the transpacific and transnational logics of racial proximity, mimicry, and tightly circumscribed similarity. Japan is an ally, but still miniaturized and rendered a diminutive junior ally, and Japanese Americans are a model, but still a minority. In other words, both are compelled to be, as Homi Bhabha has succinctly put it in his analysis of mimicry and the ambivalence of colonial discourse, “almost the same, but not quite,” or “not quite/not white.”6 This logic of proximity and mimicry attempts to contain, tame, and “domesticate” racial hyper-competitiveness or superiority, of the kind that was putatively demonstrated by imperial Japan in World War II and by Japanese American farming communities on the West Coast of the United States. These racial contours are intimately linked, as I will elaborate throughout this chapter, to the specifically gendered valences of rehabilitation. We can track the gendered valences through the trope of “domestication” and its related trope of “domesticity.” Whether domesticating a former enemy nation by demilitarizing and feminizing it, or domesticating a former enemy alien by replacing the site of patriarchal authority from the male head of the household to the U.S. government’s carceral War Relocation Authority and thereby producing a sense of diminished masculinity for (former) patriarchs, what we witness are the racial and gendered dynamics of rehabilitation. Domestication simultaneously generates a preoccupation with the (p.100) cult of normative liberal capitalist domesticity and the construction of a proper “Japanese womanhood” modeled on the white American heteronormative feminine bourgeois ideal.7 This project of gendered racial rehabilitation, moreover, did not end with the release and relocation of Japanese Americans at the close of World War II in 1945 nor with the occupation’s end in 1952, but persists in contemporary symptoms of the imperialism of U.S.-led corporate globalization (what we could euphemistically call U.S.– Japanese economic “cooperation”) and its articulation with the gendered racial formation of both Japanese and Japanese American subjects.
While providing a critical imagining of the perils of gendered racial rehabilitation, Survivors, Turning Japanese, and My Year of Meats also register the failures and contradictions of this Cold War imperialist project. We meet people and characters who remain decidedly unrehabilitated, and thus expose how the U.S.–Japanese Cold War alliance that undergirds U.S. global capitalism and hegemony emerges out of a genealogy of a palimpsestic arrangement of gendered racial imperialisms. In this arrangement, U.S. gendered racial imperialism is layered over the Japanese one, and we witness a double, or twinned, burial of this very genealogy by both nations. These unrehabilitated bodies thus provide critical possibilities for arrangements—alternative identifications, desires, social formations, and geopolitics—that refuse to be enframed and ensnared by America’s Cold War “ends of empire.”
“A Strange Neo-imperialism of a Mystical Irrational Kind”
“A Strange Neo-imperialism of a Mystical Irrational Kind” I shall begin my analysis, then, with a brief historical accounting of how the “ends” of World War II overlap with the beginnings of the Cold War in Japan. In the aftermath of Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, American public opinion, linked to a longer history of anti-Asian and anti-Japanese agitation, reached virulently racist heights. This widespread popular structure of feeling was captured by Time magazine when it called the attack “premeditated murder masked by a toothy smile.”8 A few months after the bombing, on February 19, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, authorizing the internment/incarceration of over 120,000 Japanese Americans (including U.S.-born citizens) living on the West Coast. In 1944, as the Pacific War heated up, a Gallup Poll revealed that 13 percent of the American public favored “exterminating all Japanese” (emphasis added). In a June 1945 survey, one-third of the respondents called for the summary execution of Emperor Hirohito, while most wanted him condemned as a war criminal. Members of Congress echoed similar sentiments: Senator (p.101) Lister Hill (D-Alabama) urged the U.S. Army to “gut the heart of Japan with fire”; Senator Ernest McFarland (D-Arizona) argued that “the Japs [should] pay dearly through their blood and the ashes of their cities” for having the audacity to attack America; and Senator Theodore G. Bilbo (D-Mississippi) sent a letter to General Douglas MacArthur shortly after Japan’s surrender calling for the sterilization of all Japanese. Doing Senator Bilbo one better, an advisor to the important State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) proposed the “almost total elimination of the Japanese as a race,” while other top government officials called for the near eradication of Japanese civilization as well as its civilian population. And perhaps not surprisingly, even the president expressed interest in a scheme to “crossbreed” the Japanese with “docile Pacific Islanders,” telling a Smithsonian anthropologist that compulsory eugenics might eradicate the “primitive” brains and “barbarism” of the enemy race.9 Indeed, Naoko Shibusawa argues that the “war in the Pacific unleashed a racial hatred that sometimes bordered on genocidal rage, which continued throughout the conflict.”10 Ironically, however, the United States had entered World War II’s theater in the Atlantic putatively in order to counter Hitler’s genocidal rage. As the war reached its last battles, Time-Life publisher Henry Luce made the frank observation that “Americans had to learn how to hate Germans, but hating Japs comes natural—as natural as fighting Indians once was.”11 While Luce was uncritically linking the “naturalness” of fighting two different races similarly racialized as savage, his remark unwittingly reveals America’s genealogy of continental and extracontinental genocidal conquest.
Within the context of such viscerally felt and violently expressed racial logics, a decision was made, putatively to hasten Japan’s surrender and end the war in the Pacific, by dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. As I noted in chapter 1, according to Nakajima Mineo, this decision was overdetermined by an already detectable Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Although the United States already had knowledge at the time that Japan was sending out peace feelers through Moscow, the atomic bombs were used in large part as an attempt to keep the Soviet Union out of Japan, and thus to minimize its postwar claims and power there.12 This “atomic diplomacy” becomes more apparent when examining the timing of the bombings. Significantly, the Hiroshima atomic raid, on August 6, came two days before the Soviet entry into the Pacific War. Moreover, Thomas J. McCormick observes that the “unseemly haste” with which the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, just three (p.102) days later, before the Japanese government had time to make sense of and respond to the first Hiroshima bombing, explains how the United States “wanted the war ended within days (not weeks or months) in order to limit the size and scope of Soviet involvement.”13
After General MacArthur accepted Japan’s formal surrender aboard the USS Missouri on September 2, 1945, he set about the task of “taming” a warrior race with enthusiasm and claimed for himself an unsurpassed knowledge of the “oriental mind.”14 In a similar vein, American GIs saw themselves as experts on “Babysan’s world,” referred disdainfully to Japanese women as “gook girls,” and self-amusingly joked that their knowledge constituted a unique “slant” on Japan.15 As these racial grammars and epistemologies suggest, the virulent anti-Japanese racism Americans expressed during World War II did not disappear or evaporate once this enemy group was vanquished, but rather transmogrified into a (still) white supremacist racist paternalism relying on and reinvigorating preexisting discourses of manifest destiny and the “white man’s burden.” Indeed, while these racial optics might have overdetermined the occupation of Japan as a racial project, the occupation of Germany did not witness parallel racial affects or effects. John W. Dower writes, “Unlike Germany, this vanquished enemy represented an exotic, alien society to its conquerors: nonwhite, non-Western, non-Christian. Yellow, Asian, pagan Japan, supine and vulnerable, provoked an ethnocentric missionary zeal inconceivable vis-à-vis Germany. Where Nazism was perceived as a cancer in a fundamentally mature ‘Western’ society, Japanese militarism and ultranationalism were construed as reflecting the essence of a feudalistic, Oriental culture that was cancerous in and of itself.” As such, Dower continues, American reformers approached the occupation with “almost sensual excitement,” and felt that they were “denaturing an Oriental adversary and turning it into at least an approximation of an acceptable, healthy, westernized nation.”16 Moreover, Yukiko Koshiro argues, “A strong racial awareness was deemed necessary as the United States battled what it thought was the legacy of Japan’s racial conspiracy against whites. To American eyes, the worst Japanese war crime was the attempt to cripple the white man’s prestige by sowing the seeds of racial pride under the banner of Pan-Asianism. Now it was up to the United States to salvage that prestige.”17
As I will go on to demonstrate later in this chapter, the Japanese American cultural productions I analyze critically thematize how such an attempt to “salvage” America’s “prestige” depends on the transformation and reconstitution of Japanese and Japanese American subjects from World War II enemies (p.103) and “enemy aliens,” respectively, to liberal capitalist consuming and productive subjects on the proper anticommunist side of the Cold War. Indeed, Lisa Yoneyama argues that America’s Cold War perception of itself as the defender of world freedom and democracy (defined against the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union) is intimately connected to America’s memories of the war against Japan (1941–45) during World War II as a “good war.” According to this dominant memory, the war against Japan “not only liberated Asians, including Japanese themselves, from Japan’s military fanaticism, but also rehabilitated them into free and prosperous citizens of the democratic world.” In other words, she continues, “dominant American war memories are tied to what might be called an imperialist myth of ‘liberation and rehabilitation’ in which violence and recovery are enunciated simultaneously. According to this myth, the enemy population’s liberation from the barbaric and the backward and its successful rehabilitation into an assimilated ally are both anticipated and explained as an outcome of the U.S. military interventions.”18 The gendered racial contours of this “imperialist myth of ‘liberation and rehabilitation’” are partly constituted by what Dower, as I quoted above, describes as the project of “denaturing an Oriental adversary,” or what I am calling gendered racial rehabilitation. Gendered racial rehabilitation emerges in the Japanese American cultural texts I discuss as paradoxically the precise antidote for Japanese “racial pride,” or what was perceived to be “Japan’s racial conspiracy against whites.” That is, Japanese colonialism in Asia and the Pacific Islands and wartime atrocities were themselves informed by and thus not necessarily antithetical to Western white supremacy and racial taxonomies. The perception, however, that Japan was engaging in a “racial conspiracy against whites” involved a reassertion of white supremacy in the U.S. occupation of Japan and the gendered racial rehabilitation of Japanese subjects first as vanquished, demilitarized, and emasculated “Orientals” and later as “honorary whites” and partners of strategic value in the Cold War. This gendered racial economy relied on, even as it transformed, what Traise Yamamoto traces as the Western imagination’s infantilization and feminization of Japan since the late nineteenth century.19 Within such a context, the relationship between the “trans-Pacific” racisms of the United States and Japan, as Koshiro argues, can more accurately be described as one of “codependence” rather than mere “coexistence,” and “the race issue was transformed from an instrument of wartime hatred into a negotiable part of a broader Japanese-American arrangement during the Occupation.”20
Though formally called the Allied Occupation of Japan, it was in effect a (p.104) U.S. occupation. In what Dower calls a “neocolonial revolution from above” in the specific form of a “neocolonial military dictatorship,” MacArthur and his command ruled Japan like colonial overlords who were beyond criticism and as inviolate as the emperor and his officials had been.21 It is no wonder, then, that this attempt to create democracy by fiat was full of inherent contradictions. How does a neocolonial military dictatorship promote “freedom” within the context of unconditional surrender, and what do freedom and democracy mean when they become tethered to and synonymous with a policy of massive reeducation, strict demilitarization, and anticommunism? How, in other words, can democracy and strict authoritarian rule coexist? In this schizophrenic project of democracy-within-authoritarianism, the massive U.S. army of occupation, which created a colonial enclave, or segregated “little America” in the unbombed section of Tokyo’s downtown, constituted and enjoyed the privileges of a separate caste, class, and race.22 Such a “revolution from above,” moreover, failed to extend democracy to Japan’s former Asian colonies (Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria, Okinawa, and the Pacific Islands) and ignored their role in helping to bring about Japan’s defeat in the Pacific theater of World War II. The contradictions of attempting to promote freedom within the space of military dictatorship and unconditional surrender played out concretely in occupation reform policies, which sought a wholesale gendered racial and economic rehabilitation of Japan. Reforms favored the expansion of U.S. global capitalism and shaped Japan into America’s junior Cold War partner in Asia.23 These efforts call to mind Kennan’s preoccupation with national health and vigor as the necessary “immunities” against the disease of Soviet communism. Yet even as Japan’s economy was being rehabilitated by the U.S. occupation authority, the gendered racial rehabilitation I speak of pointedly excluded the literal rehabilitation and treatment of atomic bomb victims. Indeed, survivors of the bombs were heavily censored by the U.S. government and prohibited from even grieving or speaking publicly about their traumatic experience.24 Meanwhile, America’s imperial vision came into sharper focus as the Cold War intensified with the Chinese civil war, and as I analyzed in the previous chapter, the “loss” of China in that war to Mao’s Communist victory in 1949.
Historians generally periodize the occupation of Japan in two phases.25 During the initial “reformist” phase, which lasted through early 1947, General MacArthur and his Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP) office enjoyed greater control and were more in sync with Washington’s vision, which, after the demilitarization of Japan, encouraged New Deal reforms, (p.105) including representative government, free labor unions, anti-monopoly laws, and the enfranchisement of women. As such, Japan’s new constitution, which took effect in May 1947 and was drafted and imposed by the American occupation authorities, preserved the emperor system (while stripping him of temporal political authority), reformed civil and criminal law, strengthened the Diet, broadened voting rights, increased the power of local government, redistributed land, purged left-leaning “communists” from government and civilian life,26 eliminated ultranationalist philosophy from the educational system, and in Article 9 declared Japan’s renunciation of “war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat of force as means of settling international disputes.”27 Akira Iriye argues that because the emperor system was maintained, and because the United States enjoyed sole power in Japan, it was paradoxically “possible to carry out some far-reaching reforms of Japanese society.”28 As such, the subjects of the emperor were theoretically transformed into citizens, but as Dower observes, they became in effect “the subjects of the Occupation.”29
In the second phase of the occupation, called a “reverse course” or undoing of the previous reformist phase of attempting to democratize Japan, we see an increasing split between MacArthur and the Truman administration. This “reverse course” away from democratic reforms and toward economic revitalization was shaped by the intensification of the Cold War after the 1949 Communist victory in China and the need to solve, as I elaborated in the introduction, the structural impasses or crises of Western capitalism. The United States was propelled by the desire to develop Japan as the hub of a regional Asian economic zone and as the model of capitalism in Asia, linked to and supporting the regional economies of the Western Hemisphere, which were headed by the United States and Western Europe. This triumvirate of economic zones would, of course, present a strong anticommunist challenge to the Soviet Union and the further spread of communism in Asia. Thus, liberal reforms, plans to try Emperor Hirohito as a war criminal, and the payment of war reparations to Japan’s Asian conquests were eschewed in favor of building Japan’s industry and developing a strong export-led economy, while at the same time expanding American military bases on the island. In this way, Japan’s Asian neighbors were subjugated once again, this time as a “quasi-colonial source of raw materials”30 for both Japan and its U.S. Cold War sponsor. Members of the British Parliament and Foreign Office would characterize this policy as a “strange neo-imperialism of a mystical irrational kind,” a “drive for exports which has acquired a certain force of desperation.”31 (p.106) Increasingly, America’s “strange neo-imperialism” relied on a reactionary containment of the “threat” of radical democracy, a certain degree of remilitarization, and the “Red Purge” as an instrument to discipline Japanese society away from left-leaning and communist strains. The purge was aggressively used to search out and eliminate left-wing and communist influences in all sectors of Japanese society, including communist leaders, radical intellectuals, and workers. By 1948 and 1949, SCAP (with Washington increasingly restricting its independence) passed revised labor legislation that drastically curtailed the political and economic power of organized labor, banned strikes by public workers, abolished collective bargaining, and severely restricted labor activity in the public sector. In 1950, after the outbreak of the Korean War, the purge was extended to the private sector, including the mass media. This “Red Purge” coincided with the “Depurge,” which effectively pardoned “for all time” individuals who had previously been purged for actively abetting militarism and ultranationalism.32
George F. Kennan, believing that the stability and economic development of Japan were crucial in building a secure, U.S.-friendly Asia, helped abolish the antimonopoly and reparations programs, and he became instrumental in getting a recovery package passed by Congress. In June 1948 Congress funded the Economic Recovery in Occupied Areas (EROA) aid package (with $125 million in aid for Japan, Korea, and the Ryukyus) as part of the larger Government and Relief in Occupied Areas (GARIOA) program, which included another $422 million for Japan.33 The U.S. government policy in Japan of privileging an export-driven economic recovery over and against a speedy peace settlement or social reform was formally drafted by Kennan and his staff as NSC 13 (amended as NSC 13/2). While Kennan, as I elaborated in chapter 1, would later distance himself from what became his famous doctrine of containment, he singled out his policies in Japan and the Marshall Plan as his most significant contributions. In thus shaping Japan into an industrial powerhouse, or the “Germany of the Orient,”34 it is important to note that the United States relied on the collaboration of Japanese conservatives, for whom the paradigm of modernization theory held great promise.35 Modernization theory’s emphasis on the possibility of racialized nations developing or maturing into modernity—defined as liberal capitalist democracy—provided policy makers with a scheme that purported to disrupt global racial hierarchies by holding out the promise of modernity to all nations but actually worked to reinforce those hierarchies by defining “modernity” itself and controlling the terms under which nonwhite nations would have relative “access” to it.
(p.107) On September 8, 1951, a Peace Treaty and U.S.–Japanese Mutual Security Pact were signed, formally reinstituting Japanese sovereignty while at the same time extending the United States’ right to maintain armed forces and military bases in Japan and its vicinity. Japan did prohibit, however, the United States from stockpiling nuclear weapons on those bases. The United States found a solution to this by virtually annexing Okinawa, an island already annexed by Japan in the late nineteenth century.36 Japanese prime minister Yoshida Shigeru was also pressured by the United States into signing a separate peace treaty with Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist regime in Taiwan (the Republic of China). In mainland China, Foreign Minister Chou En-lai declared this two-China policy to be insane and argued that Japan’s signing of peace treaties with the United States and Taiwan “showed that Japanese imperialism still dreamed of enslaving the Chinese and other Asians in collaboration with United States imperialism.”37 Hanson Baldwin, the military commentator for the New York Times, captured the contradictions of the U.S. occupation and the restoration of Japan’s formal national sovereignty by pronouncing the inauguration of a “period when Japan is free, yet not free.”38 Moreover, in a poll conducted soon after the signing of the treaty, the Japanese were asked if Japan had now become an independent nation. Only 41 percent answered yes. Yoshida Shigeru later compared the U.S. occupation of Japan to the partition of Korea, describing how the occupation had left a “thirty-eighth parallel” running through the heart of the Japanese people because it had led to the emergence of a liberal, left-wing opposition that vocally critiqued the collusion of United States and Japanese conservative political and economic interests and the incorporation of Japan into the Pax Americana.39
In perhaps one of the many tragedies of the Cold War in Asia, Japan’s continued and rapid economic development, and by extension that of U.S. global capitalism, was made possible by American military orders (called off-shore procurements or Special Procurements Program) in the Korean and Vietnam wars. Virtually every sector of Japan’s economy was enlisted in America’s war efforts and proved to be a critical boom.40 Indeed, the governor of the Bank of Japan encapsulated the significance of the Korean War to Japan’s economic recovery by calling the U.S. government’s procurement program “divine aid.”41 This “divine aid” or “gift from the gods” would continue throughout the protracted Vietnam War not only for Japan but also especially for Korea. While U.S. imperialist intervention in Vietnam was guided by Cold War efforts to maintain Southeast Asia as a regional market and (p.108) source of raw materials for Japan, the intervention or war itself turned out to “aid” Japan. Michael Schaller concludes that “these expenditures cemented the relationship between Japanese recovery and American security policy throughout Asia.”42 In an interesting reversal of sorts, one of the legacies of America’s Cold War logics and military architecture is that today, Japan pays the United States for this architecture. As of the late 1990s the Japanese government was paying the United States approximately $4 billion per year to help defray the costs of maintaining U.S. military bases in Japan, whose troops have no military functions and are held in reserve for deployment in other parts of Asia. As Chalmers Johnson notes, this makes Japan “perhaps the only country that pays another country to carry out espionage against itself”43 and constitutes one manifestation of how Japan was transformed into the “richest prize in the American empire.”44
In the following sections, I turn to how Japanese American cultural producers imagine, critique, and link this transformation of Japan to the World War II internment of Japanese Americans as related projects of gendered racial rehabilitation full of perils for Japanese and Japanese American subjects. Just as Japan undergoes a gendered racial rehabilitation or “domestication” from a former enemy to a proper Cold War junior ally, Japanese Americans undergo a similar process of gendered racial rehabilitation in the internment’s attempt to domesticate the “enemy alien” into a “model minority.” Internment was articulated and rationalized as the U.S. government’s benevolent protection of Japanese Americans from racial violence during World War II. However, if we consider how Japanese American farmers had been figured and legislated against as improperly hyper-competitive farmers on the West Coast, we see how this rationalization occludes the ways in which internment functioned to protect white farming and property interests. Yet as imagined by Japanese American cultural producers, this linked transpacific project of gendered racial rehabilitation was rife with contradictions and full of perils for Japanese and Japanese American subjects. These contradictions and perils, and thereby the limitations and failures of gendered racial rehabilitation, are precisely and transnationally indexed by the Japanese American cultural productions I analyze. Such productions thus undermine Cold War imperial and gendered racial mandates.
Hiroshima’s Future Anterior
Donald Pease argues that the governmentality of the United States as a “National Security State” derived from Hiroshima. The fear of nuclear (p.109) holocaust, which the United States itself unleashed in the wake of Hiroshima but which got enfolded within the Manichaean logics of the Cold War, legitimated the National Security State and compelled the U.S. populace to submit to wartime discipline in a time of “peace.” In other words, as Pease notes, “Hiroshima” in this symbolic economy refers not to the actual historical event—America’s atomic bombing of the city on August 6, 1945, that resulted in over 140,000 Japanese military and civilian deaths in just a few months—but to the “possible fate of U.S. citizens if Soviet imperialism remained unchecked.”45 Hiroshima, then, functions as a purely symbolic Cold War referent, in which the United States evades responsibility, and displaces and projects its actual nuclear aggression as that of the potential nuclear aggression of the Soviet Union. This logic of the future anterior, or “what will have happened” had not the United States deterred or opposed the Soviet Union’s nuclear capacity, displaces the historical reality and materiality that the “what will have happened” became possible as a legitimating narrative—and was simultaneously forestalled/foreclosed as an actual historical event or occurrence—through what the United States had already done. In this instance, then, the logic of the future anterior functions as an imperial temporality. Pease writes:
As the no-place the United States might have become had it not proleptically opposed, as the precondition for the postwar settlement, the Soviet Union’s nuclear capacity, Hiroshima also presignified the geopolitical fate of those nation-states which had not identified the paradigmatic event of the U.S. national archive (“liberation from [Soviet] imperial aggression”) as the “political truth” of their nationhood. The name of the always already displaced event which every other cold war event at once deferred yet anticipated, Hiroshima held the place of what might be called the cold war’s transcendental signifier.46
To some extent, this “transcendental signifier” transcends the Cold War itself, since in the “post–Cold War” extension of the National Security State via the “War on Terror,” the notion of a “preemptive war” against Iraq relies on a metaleptic substitution in which Iraq comes to stand in for al-Qaeda and its actions and on a proleptic “preemption” of future attacks against the United States. Moreover, several months before the war against Iraq began, a New York Times article headlined “U.S. Has a Plan to Occupy Iraq, Officials Report” revealed that the Bush administration planned a postwar occupation of Iraq “modeled on the postwar occupation of Japan.”47 As Yoneyama suggests, this (p.110) particular remembering of the occupation as a success anachronistically enabled the American public to foresee the success of the U.S. postwar occupation of Iraq prior to the war itself.48 Still further, in the realm of popular culture, we have witnessed a biting critique of such logical and temporal obfuscations in The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a “fake” news show on cable television’s Comedy Central channel that satirizes both the content of actual or “real” news and the form in which it is covered by the media. On the May 6, 2004, episode, in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, the show’s correspondent Rob Corddry explains to Jon Stewart, “Jon, there’s no question what took place in that prison was horrible, but the Arab World has to realize that the U.S. shouldn’t be judged on the actions of a … well, that we shouldn’t be judged on actions, Jon. It’s our principles that matter, our inspiring, abstract notions. Remember, remember Jon, just because torturing prisoners is something we did doesn’t mean it’s something we would do.”49 These dominant discursive constellations and memories, instantiated through a confounding marshaling of metalepses, prolepses, and anachronisms, serve as the casus belli of our times.
Working in the prolonged aftermath of Hiroshima, and in the protracted afterlife of the Cold War, Japanese American cultural producers Steven Okazaki, David Mura, and Ruth Ozeki write against this perverse temporal logic of Hiroshima as Cold War “transcendental signifier.” They displace the future anterior of “what will have happened” with the past tense “it happened” and the interrogative “why did it happen?” Their intervention thus complicates not only U.S. imperial nationalist ontology and discourse, but also Japanese nationalist disavowals of its own imperial past and perpetration of World War II atrocities. In the following discussion, I would like to offer an analysis of how Okazaki, Mura, and Ozeki “return” us to the site(s) of Hiroshima, the subsequent U.S. occupation of Japan, and the internment of Japanese Americans not in order to render them wholly and transparently visible, but to grasp them in fragments that critically index what the United States had already done. These fragments reveal the constitutive link between American empire and American gendered racial formation (both in its domestic and overseas modalities) by thematizing Hiroshima, the occupation, and the internment of Japanese Americans as linked projects not only of gendered racial formation, but also specifically of gendered racial rehabilitation.
I begin, then, with Steven Okazaki’s Survivors, a rare English language film on the Japanese American survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.50 Among the estimated one thousand atomic bomb survivors (p.111) living in the United States at the time of the film’s initial distribution in 1982 in anticipation of the fortieth anniversary of the bombings (later updated for the fiftieth anniversary), most are American citizens of Japanese ancestry who were working or studying in Japan during the war, and some immigrated to the United States after the war as wives of U.S. servicemen. The film focuses on the personal testimonials of these survivors, whose names remain unidentified in order to protect their privacy. Viewers are forced to contend not only with these painful memories and experiences, but also with graphic images of the suffering victims taken in the immediate aftermath of the bombings.51 The largely neglected and invisible population of Japanese American survivors has a unique conundrum: of not only being the survivors of the first and only atomic bombings in history, but also of having survived the atomic atrocities of their own government. As such, the film allows the important voices of these survivors to be heard and highlights how they are in a uniquely qualified position to be the pedagogical witnesses and bearers of the lessons to be derived from the bombings. This powerful Japanese American witnessing thus complicates the assumption that wartime atrocities and acts of violence can only be committed against the people of an enemy nation, and like the incarceration of Japanese Americans, it signals the limits of Cold War productions of knowledge of who belongs to and will act as the “enemy race.” In a poignant effort to make a gesture beyond such limits, the last frame of the film ends with this intertitle: “Five Decades After the first / And only atomic bombings in / History, the remaining survivors / Worry that their stories will / Be buried with them and that / The lessons of the past will / Be Forgotten.” In this dialectic of forgetting and remembering, even as many survivors wish to forget and leave behind their trauma, they are haunted by flashbacks, dreams, and nightmares, and their bodies bear the knowledge, imprints, and lingering effects of radiation exposure. In Survivors, gendered racial rehabilitation emerges through the radical disjuncture between these scarred bodies that were denied mental and physical rehabilitation or treatment, and the very reason why they needed such rehabilitation and treatment in the first place. This reason is, of course, the atomic bombings as themselves a project of gendered racial rehabilitation that attempted to vanquish and properly rebuild and reform the enemy. Moreover, the gendered logics of rehabilitation are made visible through a consideration of how women have been disproportionately affected by illnesses caused by radiation exposure, and the gendered politics of what it means to have a scarred and disfigured face or body. The film also shows that while the pained constitution (p.112) of those who managed to survive—the bearers of survival guilt, psychic and physical scars, and illnesses—is acutely overburdened precisely because it cannot forget the horror, this painful inability to forget is an important form of witnessing, testimony, and commemoration.
I begin my analysis of Survivors with a discussion of another radical disjuncture: that between the aesthetic beauty of the detonating bomb’s light and the unimaginable ugliness of the death, pain, and suffering it produced. One survivor remembers the bombing as a “beautiful light,” one she had never before seen in her life. That something aesthetically “beautiful” can cause such devastation is one of many paradoxes unleashed by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A heretofore “unimaginable” horror was made imaginable through graphic images documenting the bombs’ effects, yet the U.S. government’s quick censorship of such images promoted a collective forgetting that would render nuclear annihilation again “unimaginable” and temporally and spatially abstract. A deafening explosion was followed by the deafening silence of shock, and the pain suffered by the grossly wounded who actually managed to survive led one witness and fellow survivor to ask why they couldn’t die, because at that time, “death was the most kindest way of going.” Another witness in Survivors, a Japanese American man born in Honolulu, remembers being angry at himself for not being able to ease his dying friend’s pain and suffering instead of being angry at the United States, his own government, for dropping the bombs on such heavily populated cities. He says, “I’ve never felt any anger toward [the] United States because I am one of the United States’ citizens. But I feel and I felt sad that, you know, our leaders had to drop the bomb on a populated area. I feel they should have been able to drop it on an unpopulated area, and even then the people of Japan and the leaders of Japan would have realized that it was no use in continuing to fight against the United States.”
Through the witnessing of such survivors, the documentary also reverses and multiplies assumed trajectories of “guilt.” While guilt in the aftermath of the atomic bombings commonly refers to the guilt felt by individual Americans for the actions of their government, Survivors meditates on the haunting legacies of what has been called “survivor guilt,” or guilt felt by the survivors themselves for having survived while their family and friends did not. A few survivors recollect feeling certain that they would die, in fact believing that they were dead. And perhaps more poignantly, still others wished that they had died and wondered why they had been spared. A Los Angeles–born Japanese American woman who had gone to Japan with her grandparents in (p.113) 1941, when she was only eight years old, remembers getting separated from her grandparents and brother during the bombing. She walks for three weeks straight looking for them. She finds her grandparents under some rubble, both dead, and musters the strength to dig them up and cremate them. But she does not find her brother. She testifies, “It was a feeling of really loneliness and looking at the devastation of the whole city wondering why God left me here alone, why he didn’t take me too … at the time I wanted to go too. I thought I should have gone instead of being left alone.” The haunting complexities of this cycle of what has been called survival guilt is captured eloquently by Robert J. Lifton, author of Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima, and a professor of psychiatry at Yale when interviewed for Survivors: “A survivor always asks himself or herself why did I survive while he, she, or they died? That’s the beginning of what we call survivor guilt or sometimes guilt over survival priority. What priority did I have in living while he or she or they died? It’s a haunting personal question. One never fully satisfactorily answers it. In fact, this feeling begins at the moment the bomb falls when one’s ordinary self would have in some way tried to combat it or tried to save people. There was no opportunity to save people. People struggled desperately if they could to save their children or somebody in their family and they had great difficulty doing even that. They remained haunted by the cries of others around them.” How does one give adequate expression to and represent such a “haunting personal question,” one that can never “fully satisfactorily” be answered? As if to symptomize this representational conundrum and problem of knowledge, instead of remaining on Lifton’s face in the mode of the talking-head style, Survivors couples his remarks with an animation segment that attempts to visualize the process he is describing. The simple cartoon can only gesture toward and approximate the haunting. While Survivors makes reference to the guilt felt by individual Americans about the bomb—one survivor expresses surprise that so many people feel guilt, “as if they personally dropped it themselves”—the documentary exposes the more troubling and lingering effects of survivor guilt.52 Survivor guilt is a way of marking the fact of having survived the catastrophe amid the very erasure of the fact of that catastrophe’s occurrence. The trauma of the event itself, and the trauma of having survived it, represents a “death in life” that ruptures the assumed or taken-for-granted radical discontinuity between life and death. Guilt in this context thus marks a mode of remembering, most achingly a form of remembering and memorializing the dead. While the dead have physically been buried, and while the United States and Japanese (p.114) governments have attempted to bury the memories of the horrific manner of their death, survivor guilt articulates that which remains unburied, the trauma that refuses to be completely buried even as its adequate representation presents a certain impossibility.
In addition to this complex meditation on psychic economies of guilt and what it means to be a “survivor,” Okazaki’s documentary also conjures and disrupts the racial optics governing the atomic bombings through an elaboration of what it means to “pass” as someone who is indeed not an atomic survivor and why it might be desirable to do so. While the trope of passing is usually used to describe racial passing, in which a racialized person attempts to pass as white or is simply perceived as white, passing can take on a different valence. Japanese American (and Japanese) atomic bomb survivors who have no external or visible physical manifestations of the experience can pass as not having gone through such a horrific ordeal. On the other hand, as Lifton explains in Survivors, if, for example, you have a scar formation, a keloid scar, that is unavoidably visible, you cannot “pass” in that manner, and
As painful and difficult as this visible scarring caused by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be, Survivors reveals how such scarring can only scratch the surface of the deep psychological and physical infliction of pain and disease, including survivor guilt, what we would now call posttraumatic stress disorder, radiation sickness, and a host of short- and long-term ailments, including leukemia; cancers of the thyroid, breast, lung, and other organs; early menopause; coronary heart disease; stroke; and cataracts. Women have been disproportionately affected by these illnesses, and there have been genetic effects on subsequent generations. Close to a half million people have perished from the atomic bombings. Over 80 percent of people within one kilometer of each bomb’s hypocenter died instantly or soon afterward, and many have died from the long-term effects of radiation exposure.53
While the U.S. government engaged in projects that I have conceptualized as gendered racial rehabilitation, those in actual need of physical and mental rehabilitation—the survivors of the U.S. government’s atomic bombings—were denied it. Indeed, as I noted previously, the U.S. occupation government would not even allow the survivors to talk about their pain or grief publicly. That is to say, the U.S. government would not even acknowledge the survivors as survivors, as having survived, in other words, what the United States “had already done” in dropping the atomic bombs. These silenced survivors were thus rendered effects without a cause and lifted outside of time and history. In titling his documentary Survivors, then, Okazaki reverses this trajectory and inserts the survivors back into history.54 He reveals, moreover, the disjuncture between the loyalty of Japanese American survivors (p.117) to their country and their country’s abandonment of them. One survivor recalls, “Coming back it was a thrill that you can’t imagine, because this is my country. Even during the wartime you dream about your country, the streets you walked, the trees you climbed. Japan was a temporary place for me; it wasn’t my country. I just stood there and cried. I knew I was home.” Yet when a group of survivors formed the Committee of Atomic Bomb Survivors in the USA to lobby the U.S. federal government for medical benefits, the government refused to provide them. This is all they were asking for, “just a group of little old ladies, Japanese American ladies, trying to get some medical benefits before [they] all die.” Similarly, in Japan, although the U.S. government established the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) to study the effects of the bomb on humans, it prohibited the ABCC doctors from providing treatment to the Japanese subjects whom they were studying. Such treatment, argued the government, would be tantamount to an apology, an apology that it did not owe and did not wish to give. So in yet another instance of the Cold War as an epistemological and pedagogical formation, racialized Japanese subjects—the very targets of atomic violence—were to be used instrumentally as the U.S. government’s objects of knowledge in ways that would benefit the United States.
In the following discussion, I turn to how Japanese American writers David Mura and Ruth Ozeki imagine the disruption of this instrumental knowledge and instruction by Japanese and Japanese American subjects who thwart interpellation as the objects of America’s gendered racial rehabilitation. In a cruel irony of sorts, while wounded and dying atomic bomb victims were refused physical rehabilitative treatment by the U.S. government, in the more recent Cold War conjuncture, “healthy” Japanese and Japanese American subjects are being dosed with ideological rehabilitative treatment and poisoned food.
A New Japan
In Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, poet David Mura, a third-generation Japanese American, writes of his year abroad in Japan as a 1984 U.S./Japan Creative Artist Exchange Fellow. We see how Mura encounters the traces of Hiroshima and the U.S. occupation of Japan, and how he articulates his own family history with Japanese American internment. The specific contours of what I have been calling gendered racial rehabilitation emerge in this text through Mura’s meditations on his troubled racialized masculinity, which has been overdetermined, on the one hand, by his encounters with a gendered racism in the United States that has cast Asian American masculinity (p.118) as deviant and nonnormative. On the other hand, as I will trace in my analysis, these meditations in turn generate a critique of Japanese American internment as a significant historical and familial source of his beleaguered and shame-inducing masculinity. Indeed, the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II as an attempt to racially rehabilitate and domesticate this “enemy alien” group into what later became America’s “model minority” had the connected gendered register of transforming already unstable patriarchal formations within Japanese American communities. Such patriarchal formations were already unstable or precarious precisely because of gendered racism in the United States, which casts men of color as falling outside the parameters of normative (white) masculinity and patriarchal authority. Internment replaced the Japanese American figure of patriarchal authority with that of the U.S. carceral state, specifically the War Relocation Authority (WRA), which administered the internment.55
While I do not wish to rehearse here the well-known litany of racist and what might seem to contemporary ears absurd reasons that were marshaled for why Japanese Americans had to be interned, it is significant to note what Colleen Lye calls “racism’s heterogeneity” in her analysis of the “uncomfortable tie” between internment and the liberalism of the New Deal. The privileged subject, beneficiary, or target of FDR’s New Deal Program has been thought to be the poor white migrant laborer, who found a new visibility through such figurations as the Joads of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Yet as Lye argues, that visibility “intersected with a prior discourse on Asiatic unassimilability.”56 The WRA sought to extend the Farm Security Administration’s discourse and project of rural rehabilitation, realized in the 1930s through the building of government camps for white workers. This came in the wake of attempts to racially rehabilitate or curb Japanese American farmers, who had enjoyed a notable degree of success, by passing a string of Alien Land Laws that stripped “aliens ineligible for citizenship” (especially Japanese immigrants) of the right to own land.57 The WRA explained internment as an act of conservation, claiming that Japanese American farming practices decreased the fertility of the soil. Therefore, Lye writes, “the perception of Japanese Americans as environmentally damaging—and damaged—pointed to another sense in which they would figure as the WRA’s targets of reform.” In a report entitled A Story of Human Conservation (1946), the WRA acknowledged that it had been unsuccessful in protecting “evacuee” property but had been successful in protecting the evacuees themselves from the “racial terrorism” of unreasonable West Coast politicians and business interests.58 (p.119) By thus casting itself as the protective custodian of Japanese Americans, the WRA could claim not only a story of soil conservation, but also “a story of human conservation.” Lye concludes that “in an important way, internment was part of a federal reconstruction of California, whose ‘Asiatic problem’ was joined to the enlargement of the nation’s global stakes.”59 This would explain in part why Japanese Americans in Hawaii, the location of Japan’s Pearl Harbor attack, were not interned. At the same time, internment was symptomatic of and dependent on, as Kandice Chuh argues, “the conversion of the threat of Japanese empire into Japanese (American) racial difference by governmental and legal apparatuses of U.S. nationalism through … a ‘transnationalization’ of Japaneseness. That conversion into a ‘nikkei transnation’ enabled the justification of internment as necessary to contain that threat.”60 Thus was produced the category of the Japanese immigrant and Japanese American “enemy alien.” The WRA’s project of “human conservation” was (also), I suggest, a project of gendered racial rehabilitation through which Japanese Americans could learn to be productive subjects without “damaging” the environment, becoming hyper-competitive in any field, or contributing to California’s “maladjustments.” As such, they were “relocated” or scattered from the West Coast to such remote locations as Jerome, Arkansas.
The New Deal liberalism of the internment paralleled in many ways the New Deal liberalism, as I have previously discussed, of the first “reformist” phase of the occupation. Indeed, Caroline Chung Simpson shows that “liberal anthropologists stationed in the internment camps to observe Japanese Americans were also instructed to use the opportunity to develop policies for administering the Japanese after the war.” Specifically, interviews of internees were to be used to develop theories of “Japanese behavior” that would be useful in the occupation.61 Just as the WRA saw its role as that of a protective custodian, MacArthur saw his role as that of a benevolent father figure who would reform his naughty children. According to his logic, the job of the occupation was the “job of rearing seventy million problem children.” This racist paternalism, informed by anthropological theories of the childlike features of “Japanese character structure,” made its way to a Senate subcommittee hearing. MacArthur testified that the Japanese “would be like a boy of twelve as compared with our development of forty-five years.”62 This developmentalist and reformist discourse mirrored similar arguments about the need to acculturate and assimilate Japanese Americans.
Indeed, a significant legacy of the internment has been the attempt by Japanese Americans themselves to assimilate and prove their “Americanness” (p.120) such that a similar fate of being singled out as a racial group and incarcerated would not befall them again. Already during World War II, for example, we saw this process take shape with Japanese American men actively enlisting in the army to prove their loyalty to the United States, and since the war, we have seen high rates of outmarriage among Japanese Americans. With Mura’s memoir, his very choice of title, Turning Japanese, already signals how his encounter with Japan is mediated by his Japanese American experience. “Turning Japanese” is the title of a song by a British band, the Vapors, that was a hit in the United States in the early 1980s. As a Sansei, or third-generation Japanese American, Mura identifies as American, and this identification is overdetermined by his family’s internment experience. He admits that he applied for the fellowship because he needed time to write, and not because he had a burning desire to go to Japan. Indeed, growing up, Japan for him was either a “nonplace” where his grandparents lived but no one spoke about or an Orientalist phantasmatic space projected on American movie screens. He writes:
Japan? That was where my grandparents came from, it didn’t have much to do with my present life. But then Japan had never seemed that important to me, even in childhood…. I didn’t notice that my grandfathers were in Japan, my grandmothers dead. No one spoke about them, just as no one spoke about Japan. We were American. It was the Fourth of July, Labor Day, Christmas…. For me Japan was cheap baseballs, Godzilla…. Then there were the endless hordes storming G.I.’s in war movies. Sometimes the Japanese hordes got mixed up in my mind with the Koreans, tiny Asians with squinty eyes mowed down in row after row by the steady shots of John Wayne or Richard Widmark. Before the television set, wearing my ever-present Cubs cap, I crouched near the sofa, saw the enemy surrounding me. I shouted to my men, hurled a grenade. I fired my gun. And the Japanese soldiers fell before me, one by one.63
As this passage reveals, if Mura had been interned during World War II and subjected to the loyalty questionnaire, it’s quite possible that he would not have been a “no-no boy” but a “yes-yes boy”: yes, he would have served in the U.S. armed forces wherever ordered, and yes, he would have sworn “unqualified allegiance” to the United States, “faithfully defend” it, and “forswear any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor” or any other foreign entities.64 Yet even as Mura is distanced from and distances himself from Japan by taking on the gaze of and identifying with John Wayne, the hegemonic (p.121) figure of white American masculinity, his “Americanness” is haunted and circumscribed by the World War II internment of his Issei (first-generation) grandparents and Nisei (second-generation) parents, by the history of American racism that structured this internment and continues to persist in various modalities, and by the silences surrounding the internment.65
This conundrum of what it means to be an ethnic American is captured by the titular “Turning Japanese,” for in the hit song, “turning Japanese” turns out to be a euphemism for excessive masturbation, a problem that plagued Mura himself at one point in his life. He writes of this, and his addiction to pornography, as symptoms of the gendered racism that Asian American men have been subjected to, as well as of the gendered racial shame that it produces, in Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality, and Identity (1996). Cynthia Franklin notes that we see in the song an equation of “alienation, masturbation (and its overtones of deviant and shameful sexuality), and Japanese identity (and here the lack of distinction between Japanese and Japanese Americans is precisely the point—both are equally alien).”66 Indeed, within the historical context of exclusionary immigration laws that effectively barred women from most Asian countries from migrating to the United States until after World War II, and the so-called Asian American “bachelor societies” that were formed as a result of such restrictive legislation, Asian men in the United States have been cast as embodying a deviant, alien masculinity and sexuality. In terms of masculinity, Asian American men have been figured either as overly or backwardly patriarchal and sexist or more often as emasculated houseboys, laundrymen, restaurant workers, and so forth. This association between Asian American men and “domestic” labor has functioned to domesticate, neuter, and feminize them. Similarly, in terms of sexuality, Asian American men have been cast either as sexually lascivious, and therefore threatening to white female chastity and domesticity, or more often as asexual, queer, or otherwise falling outside the bounds of proper heteronormativity. This race-gender-sexuality matrix that configures Asian American men as deviant, what David Eng calls “racial castration,” overdetermines the gendered racial dynamics of Japanese American internment.67 While Japanese Americans, unlike other Asian American groups, had been able to form families in greater numbers, familial patriarchal arrangements, which were already unstable because of gendered racism, get transferred, as I have noted, from the male head of the household to the carceral state, the War Relocation Authority.68 While the formation of families and a less skewed gender ratio might thus have presumably exempted or relatively (p.122) shielded Japanese American men from the trope of deviance, the gendered racial dynamics of internment come to shatter this presumption. Even as Japanese American men might have had opportunities to reassert their masculinity, in some cases by volunteering for the army or resisting as no-no boys, what ensued was not a restoration or bestowal of a proper masculinity. Rather, as Caroline Chung Simpson argues, debates about the no-no boys, for example, “cohered as part of more visible fears about the state of national masculinity in the postwar period,” demonstrating how dominant narrative framings of the internment as a conflict between race and nationality “was coincident with the then current anxieties about gender and class, including in particular anxieties about American manhood.”69 Thus, even as Japanese American men were held at a distance from normative (white) American manhood in order to fortify it and keep it coherent, this very distancing worked to reveal its fractures and contradictions. These histories and arrangements complicate Mura’s gendered racial identity and sexuality, and the trope of deviance in some ways gets recycled through his excessive masturbation and addiction to pornography. This dynamic also overdetermines his object choice, specifically his desire for white women, and his strong identification as American.
We get the sense that in professing how American he is, and in claiming that geopolitics does not have much to do with him because he is, after all, “a poet” (8), perhaps Mura is protesting too much. Indeed, his memoir is replete with political discussions and incidents, ranging from the treatment of Koreans in Japan, to the differences between American and Japanese feminisms, to the rights of farmers. Even as Mura often does not know how to make sense of these issues and refuses to get embroiled, he cannot help but write about them. Moreover, while in Japan, he cannot help but visit Hiroshima. He writes: “Perhaps naively, I felt I might somehow capture the Japanese perception of the event, but with an American eye. Still, I worried about seeming like a vulture, scraping away at the remains of the dead” (17). What he finds out, however, is that the “Japanese perception” and “American eye” are in many ways intricately entangled. While the United States would rather forget its atomic bombing of Hiroshima or at least, as Donald Pease suggests, enframe it symbolically in a way that displaces responsibility and the fact of its actual historical occurrence, one would expect that the Japanese, the victims, would have political investments in remembering it. Mura is told by Miura, a well-known novelist and head of the Bunkacho, the Cultural Affairs Department of the Japanese government, that it would not be a good idea to (p.123) visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Miura insists that it’s “best you forget about such things. We have gone on from there. This is the new Japan. We have forgotten such things…. There’s so much else to see. I’ve read you’re interested in visiting your grandfather’s hometown. Where is that?” (19). In speaking of the willful forgetting of the bombings, Miura cannot even name that which he is forgetting and can only refer to it as “such things.” What this collective amnesia cannot recognize is that “such things” and the subsequent U.S. occupation of Japan were the very conditions of possibility for the “new Japan.” Yet the unintended effect of Miura’s injunction to “forget about such things” is precisely a demonstration of the significance of “such things,” the bombings, and of why such U.S. war atrocities and the “new Japan” cannot exist within the same space in the dominant nationalist memories of both countries. As Christine Hong argues, “At this point always already contextualized against the spectacular economic rise of Japan, as exemplary Cold War U.S. client-state, the spectacularity of the bombing of Hiroshima has been effectively canceled out.”70 When Miura says that “we have gone on from there,” he claims for himself and the “new Japan” a properly rehabilitated, that is to say demilitarized and U.S.-friendly, state. Gendered racial rehabilitation transforms a “warrior race,” an enemy race, into properly consuming and producing agents within U.S. global capitalism and into healthy citizen-subjects within an economically rehabilitated “new Japan” that is America’s junior Cold War partner in Asia. Yet not all subjects are successfully rehabilitated.
Against Miura’s advice, Mura does visit Hiroshima. As I noted at the beginning of this chapter, he can only experience and make sense of it through scenes from the film Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Hiroshima signifies many things—a city, a commemorative site, a movie, a historical event, a Cold War “transcendental signifier,” a forgotten thing, even peace—and can only be apprehended through multiple mediations. Indeed, as Lisa Yoneyama writes, the commemorative city of Hiroshima is itself an American invention and construction:
the Occupation authorities and U.S. officials determined that their interests would be furthered by connecting the atomic bomb to the idea of peace and, more important, by displaying that linkage to the world. The commemorative city of Hiroshima was, as it were, designed specifically to demonstrate the inter-changeability of “the atomic bomb” and “peace.” Remembering a link between the bomb and peace fostered the conviction that without use of the atomic weapon, peace in the Pacific could not have been achieved in a timely manner.
(p.124) This is a historical narrative that stubbornly continues to form our assumptions even today, despite historians’ efforts to show that such an argument—more specifically, that use of the bomb was unavoidable if the war was to end without enormous cost in human lives—was fabricated ex post facto.71
As I have noted previously, the decision to drop the atomic bombs on a racialized populace that many Americans wanted to see almost completely eradicated had much to do with American efforts to thwart potential Soviet power and influence in Japan. Put simply, the United States did not wish to “share” Japan with the Soviet Union. To this extent, then, the atomic bombings made Japan “America’s Japan,” as suggested in part by the title of this chapter. In writing about this horror, of what America had already done in Hiroshima, Mura reveals a profound ambivalence. Although he feels the burden of attempting to represent such a historical trauma, claiming that “not everything needs to be in a poem” (even though he had already written a poem about the hibakusha, the atomic bomb victims, before going to Japan), he cannot help but describe in graphic detail the museum displays at the Peace Museum (120). Even as he critiques the “lifeless wax art” for seeming to “mock the memory of the victims,” he makes them come alive, so to speak, through the vividness of his description (19). Moreover, in his poem entitled “The Hibakusha’s Letter (1955),” Mura writes powerfully about the atomic bomb survivors, whose name, “hibakusha” (literally meaning “A-bomb received person”), comes to be associated with keloid scars, defects, disease, and disgrace. Though they physically survived, they live a living death, haunted by the ghosts of those who perished, and find themselves shameful ghosts in the eyes of Japanese society: “I can’t conceive, and though Matsuo says / It doesn’t matter, my empty belly haunts me: / Why call myself a woman, him a man, / If on our island only ghosts can gather? … / … Here / Fewer eyes shower us in shame.”72 We witness here a haunting articulation of the specific gendered effects of the violence unleashed by the bomb and a simultaneous overturning of gendered distinctions in the acknowledgment that all survivors, whether woman or man, are similarly shunned. As such, they are all “ghosts” who suffer a living death. Yet because the ghost is, as Avery Gordon compellingly argues, a “crucible for political mediation and historical memory,” paying attention to its presence, its haunting, allows an “alternative diagnostics” that links the politics of accounting to “a potent imagination of what has been done and what is to be done otherwise.”73 Mura’s ghosts, and the “survivors” of Okazaki’s film discussed in the previous section, thus (p.125) provide an “alternative diagnostics” of the atomic bombings as a project of gendered racial rehabilitation.
These ghostly presences haunt and complicate Mura’s own racialized and gendered identity. Indeed, what interests me about Mura’s decision to write about Hiroshima in this poem and in his memoir, and therefore to bear the burden of its historical weight, albeit ambivalently, is not only the question of the politics of commemoration (for every such attempt is ideologically overdetermined), but also more immediately the question of how Hiroshima allows an occasion for him to link the atomic bombing to his own politics of racial identification and to the unspoken past of his Nisei father’s internment during World War II. He writes:
I had bought some books in the museum and later, in a bookstore nearby, picked up a copy of Marguerite Duras’s filmscript for Hiroshima, Mon Amour. I was caught by the conjunction of the images of destruction with the image of a Japanese man and a Caucasian woman. The city had somehow made me aware of our racial differences in a rather disturbing way; after all, I felt, it’s partially because [my wife’s] a white gaijin that the Japanese doctors like her so much. She’s like a prize to them. Immediately a voice inside echoed: “And to you.” (199)
That a white woman is “like a prize” to a Japanese American (and Japanese) man bespeaks the racialized and gendered hierarchies of power and desire that structure intimacies not only in the United States, but globally. For racialized subjects who are compelled to internalize this hegemonic economy, racial shame promotes a desire to be white and to be with a white person. The lovers in Hiroshima, Mon Amour mirror the race and gender matrix of Mura’s own coupling with a white woman, and while Mura had been comforted by the fact that in Japan he looked just like everybody else, his encounter with Hiroshima via Hiroshima, Mon Amour produces an unexpected heightened self-consciousness about his race. While he tries to overcome his gendered racial shame through his white object choice, that same choice produces a racial “self-consciousness” in the context of Japan. This complex gendered racial shame, itself in part a legacy of the gendered racial shame produced by Japanese American internment, is intricately connected to the shame experienced by the “ghosts” of the bomb. Survivors of the bomb and Japanese American subjects like Mura are both constituted by and objects of gendered racial rehabilitation, which functions at once to heighten gendered (p.126) racial shame and weaken it by holding Japanese and Japanese Americans at a certain, seemingly close proximity to whiteness. And while survivors might remain unrehabilitated because they have been denied medical treatment and their very survival is “living proof” of the United States’ atomic atrocity, Mura remains unrehabilitated partly because he “dares” to have a white wife. Even as gendered racial taxonomies instigate a desire to be white or to have a white partner, such interracial desires have historically been heavily censured, legislated against, and violently attacked. While white men have historically enjoyed sexual license, interracial and otherwise, racialized subjects have been barred from crossing this particular color line through practices ranging from antimiscegenation laws to lynching.74 Mura’s experience of Hiroshima, particularly as mediated through the film Hiroshima, Mon Amour, threatens to unravel and further complicate an already fraught gendered racial identity and the identifications and desires that at once consolidate and destabilize such an identity. Thus, he attempts to manage and contain his experience “into certain neatly carved grooves—anti-nuclear politics, questions of racism and the dropping of the bomb, outrage at the militarism of the United States, the only nation that has used the bomb” (121).
Yet scenes from Hiroshima, Mon Amour persistently find their way back into Mura’s thoughts, and they trigger or flare up memories about how his psychic discomfort with his skin color (and the racialized masculinity that is tethered to that skin color) would somatize as literal flare ups of his skin:
Walking past the displays, I’d felt both moved and morally numbed, accused both by my response and my inability to respond. All the while, I kept flashing on the images from Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the skin of the lovers and the skin of the bomb victims. From adolescence on, I seem to have always been aware of my skin. But it was more than the color of my skin that occupied me. I also suffer from eczema, a condition that is both hereditary—my skin is abnormally dry—and psychological: my eczema flares up during times of stress. (121)
In juxtaposing the skin of the lovers in Hiroshima, Mon Amour, the skin of the bomb victims (who could very well have been relatives of his), and his own skin, Mura reveals in this passage what the passage itself attempts to deemphasize: the color of his skin. The source of his preoccupation with skin, what he deems to be “more than the color of [his] skin,” turns out to be eczema, and his eczema “flares up during times of stress.” However, this equation elides the fact that the color of Mura’s skin is often the cause of his (p.127) stress. Moreover, if we are to consider “skin” more generally, as that which seals in, contains, and demarcates discrete individual subjecthood, when it is “compromised” as such (whether through war injuries, scarring, lesions, dermatological ailments, and the like), it becomes a powerful metaphor for debilitation. Indeed, you literally cannot live in your own skin; your very body becomes uninhabitable.75
What Mura attempts to repress in the above passage, even as the passage itself reveals what is being repressed, returns right after his trip to Hiroshima. The trip causes Mura to think, “for the first time,” about where his father might have been on the day the war ended, because by then he would have been released from the camp in Jerome, Arkansas. In wondering about this unspoken (family) history, Mura links the racial logics of what was done to the Japanese in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to what was done to the Japanese Americans on the West Coast of the United States. His rumination about his father’s whereabouts is all the more poignant because it has to be imagined anew rather than recollected as stories his father has already told him. In the absence of such tellings, Mura fills the gaps and silences with the “what could have been”:
After we returned from Hiroshima, for the first time I started to think of where my father was on the day the war ended. By then he had been released from the camp in Jerome, Arkansas, for more than a year and was going to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, living with the family of a professor. Probably my father is both pleased and anxious about this precarious new freedom. Perhaps he has looked through the pages of Life or Time, has seen the cartoons depicting the Japanese: they are lice, vermin, tiny thoraxes with huge heads attached, a bucktooth smile and squinty eyes behind thick glasses; they are small, slant-eyed rats squirming under the huge boot of a G.I. giant smashing down with unfathomable power. Perhaps he has seen the way some of his classmates look at him, casting glances sideways in history or English or as he passes in the halls. Perhaps they whisper loud enough for him to hear. Perhaps not. (Is he imagining this? Or am I?) I know he does not date in college. There are no other Nisei, none of his kind. Does he admit to himself his desire for the white girls in his classes? Or is the sexual conflict inside him too dangerous to acknowledge? It is the year the war has ended, the summer between his freshman and sophomore years. August, a few days after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A holiday has been declared, men sweep women up in their arms in the middle of streets and kiss them…. On August 15, 1945, my father is sitting on the steps of a (p.128) house in Kalamazoo, Michigan…. “It won’t always be like this,” he remembers his teacher in the camps saying. “After the war you will be free again and back in American society. But for your own sakes, try to be not one, but two hundred percent American….” I am American, he says to himself. I am glad we won. He repeats his mantra over and over. He learns to believe it. (123–24, emphasis added)
In the face of his father’s silence, Mura imaginatively (re)constructs what “perhaps” could have been. We might also interpret his imaginative reconstruction as actually a case of the son projecting onto his father his own issues and desires.76 Mura himself asks parenthetically, “Is he imagining this? Or am I?” However, what remains significant is that traumas are passed down from one generation to the next. That is, the internment is a source of transgenerational haunting, or what Marianne Hirsch calls “postmemory.”77 If Mura is indeed projecting onto his father in the passage above, it might seem to reverse the trajectory of “postmemory,” in which traumatic memories are passed down, rather than projected upward, to the next generation. Yet this unidirectional economy and trajectory get complicated when we consider that Mura’s own projections (and the identifications and desires they reveal) are themselves overdetermined and haunted by his father’s experience of the internment and his silence about it.
This silence is not unique to his father, but was a collective silence among Japanese Americans who had been interned. Just as Miura tells Mura in Japan that the Japanese have forgotten “such things,” Japanese Americans attempted to forget (the shame of) the internment and tried to assimilate and integrate themselves into American society as “not one, but two hundred percent American,” or proper subjects of gendered racial rehabilitation.78 Perhaps then a similar fate would not be repeated on them. Japanese Americans had been singled out for internment, while German and Italian Americans had not. Being “two hundred percent American” later transmogrifies as the so-called model minority—a model, but still a “minority.” Mura’s imagining of his father’s life at the end of the war shows his father to be a proper subject of gendered racial rehabilitation, interpellated as “American.” Yet the passage also shows the irony of this 200 percent Americanness, for as a 200 percent Japanese American, Mura’s father cannot date the white classmate, or “sweep women up in [his] arms in the middle of streets and kiss them” to celebrate America’s victory in World War II. Rather, he sees cartoons of “slant-eyed rats squirming under the huge boot of a G.I. giant smashing down with (p.129) unfathomable power” or sits “on the steps of a house in Kalamazoo, Michigan.” His “precarious new freedom” is at once pleasing and anxiety-inducing.
Through this irony and others, Mura’s memoir registers “racism’s heterogeneity” in connecting Hiroshima, internment, and occupation as linked projects of gendered racial rehabilitation. Turning Japanese also displays the heterogeneity of racism’s effects. That is to say, it turns out that not all Japanese are grateful children; they remain racially unrehabilitated. Certainly, there are those who are rehabilitated and are grateful to MacArthur. Mura meets such a person in Okubo, the realtor who helps him find an apartment in Japan. Interpellated by America, Okubo has a favorite raincoat, because “it’s like the T.V. detective Corombo.” He declares: “I will always be grateful to America. After the war, we were starving, we thought the Americans would come and kill us. And the G.I.’s came and started handing out chocolate to the children. We are all so surprised…. I owe everything to MacArthur. When the Americans came, I got a job with them. I translated and helped distribute food. MacArthur saved my life” (29). Dumbfounded, Mura does not know how to respond to this. He has a different genealogy of America’s Cold War in Asia, a different hermeneutic. He writes: “Influenced by thoughts of MacArthur and Korea, by the stereotypes of Teahouse of the August Moon, by the relocation camps and West Coast wartime hysteria, I didn’t completely share this attitude toward postwar Japanese and American relations; still, I was glad Okubo seemed to like Americans so much” (29–30). Here, Mura names and connects the imperial and racial architecture of U.S. domestic politics and overseas exploits. The U.S. occupation of Japan, the Korean War, and the internment of Japanese Americans are linked to one another, as well as to the racial ideologies of popular culture as articulated in films such as Teahouse of the August Moon (a 1956 satire of U.S. occupation efforts in Okinawa) and of popular sentiment as expressed in the “wartime hysteria” that clamored for the elimination of the Japanese race and the internment of Japanese Americans.
Mura’s alternative interpretive frame demonstrates that the coherence of U.S. popular memory and culture, while consolidated and made legible by the re-narrating of imperialism as democratization or internment as conservation or assimilation, is inherently unstable and cannot contain or predict all of its narrative effects. For example, in Sayonara, the companion piece to Teahouse of the August Moon, the U.S. occupation is allegorized as an interracial romance between an American air force major and a Japanese woman.79 This relationship triumphs over what are deemed to be the mutual prejudices (p.130) of Japanese tradition and American custom, and is cemented by the liberal discourse of tolerance and understanding. This liberal discourse elides how such interracial intimacies, and the sexual license of white men, are indeed the intimacies of empire. There is a curious moment in the film, however, when the presence of the U.S. military in Japan is made explicit as that of an occupying power. Major Lloyd “Ace” Gruver (played by Marlon Brando) encounters a group of Japanese bearing signs that read “Say Good By Yankee,” “We Don’t Want Yanks,” “Go Home Yank,” “Don’t Date Our Girls,” and “Orient for Orientals.”
Within the diegesis of the film, there is an attempt to contain this “signing” of the U.S. occupation when Major Gruver’s commanding officer (and one-time future father-in-law) General Webster explains to him that the “hoodlums” who attacked him were not all his Japanese neighbors, but were for the most part “professional troublemakers” sent to his street to create an incident “specifically” with him. Thus, while the movie as a whole relies on allegory, General Webster’s explanation for the Japanese attack on Major Gruver attempts to go against an allegorical register. In other words, we are told specifically that Major Gruver should not be seen as a metonym of the U.S. occupation and that the “professional troublemakers” do not represent Japanese resistance to that occupation.80 While this scene is thus constructed to heighten the resistance to Gruver’s relationship with Hana-ogi (played by U.S.-born Miiko Taka), and therefore the need to put an end to it, it cannot help but exceed its diegetic function and containment with the signage of “Say Good By Yankee.” Ultimately, the Yankee does say “Good By” or “Sayonara,” but he does so along with his Japanese betrothed.
These fissures in U.S. popular culture and memory and Mura’s critical genealogy and hermeneutic make room for the emergence of the ungrateful or racially unrehabilitated Japanese subject. We hear the story of Matsuo, a political activist who was only a child during the occupation years. He had been “fed on food from America served at his school” (238), so like Okubo, it would appear that he has reason to be “grateful to America.” But one day, while still a young boy, he discovers that “the labels on the crates of food from America said, for animals only: not for human consumption” (239). This moment in Mura’s memoir ruptures the dominant liberation and democracy tropes through which the U.S. occupation has been narrated. Indeed, Japanese writer Kawakami Tesutaro had cleverly mocked the contradictions of the occupation in October 1945 by describing U.S. policy as one of “rationed-out freedom,” evoking the food-rationing program that the Japanese had been subjected to both during the war and the occupation.81 The U.S. government’s food rationing program had been so disastrous that a nationwide demonstration against it, dubbed “Food May Day,” had occurred on May 19, 1946, ten years after the Japanese government had outlawed the celebration of “May Day” itself.82
In Turning Japanese, Matsuo’s story also reveals U.S. complicity in burying Japan’s own wartime atrocities. He discovers that the food rationed out by America is “not for human consumption” soon after his uncle shares with him a harrowing story about his experiences as a Japanese soldier in the (p.132) invasion of Manchuria. Ordered by his commander to kill a group of villagers, the uncle refuses, only to then be a witness to the mass execution perpetrated by the remaining soldiers of his unit. Haunted by memories of Japanese militarized state violence, and unable to participate in the postwar rebuilding, the uncle kills himself during the waning years of the U.S. occupation. Because he refuses to “forget such things,” he cannot be a part of the “new Japan.” As an adult, Matsuo remembers his uncle’s suicide and what his uncle saw in Manchuria. He recognizes that the “new Japan” is the product of a densely colluded project of forgetting. The “new Japan,” structured as and dependent on economic cooperation or partnership between Japan and the United States, emerges out of a genealogy of a palimpsest of racialized imperialisms in which the U.S. variety is layered over the Japanese one. The “new Japan” also emerges through a twinned or double burial of this very genealogy by both the United States and Japan. In other words, Matsuo’s childhood diet (the U.S. occupation) and the cause of his uncle’s suicide (Japanese atrocities in World War II) also constitute the “such things” that must be collectively erased and cannot even be named. And though the “new Japan” is deemed to be a thoroughly demilitarized one, Matsuo names the violence the Japanese state continues to inflict. He tells Mura and their friends that the Japanese government has won a suit supporting its banning of a text stating that the Manchurian invasion was in fact an “invasion” and not an “incursion.” He says, “The government wants to wipe out that history, keep the people from remembering. And it’s succeeding. That’s what kind of violence the state does” (239). “Violence” here signifies not only the violence of the Manchurian invasion itself, but the violence of wiping it out of official nationalist history and ontology. It is the psychic, epistemic violence of a statecompelled forgetting.
“Not for Human Consumption”
If Mura narratively regurgitates the literal and ideological diet of the “new Japan” as “not for human consumption,” then Ruth Ozeki also demonstrates the perils of such consumption practices. Her novel My Year of Meats links the U.S. occupation’s food distribution program to what could be called the food distribution program of the contemporary moment of U.S. global capitalism: a scheme to market unhealthy hormone-injected beef to Japan, a historically non–beef consuming nation. In order for this economic imperialism to be successful, it must be coupled with the cultural imperialism of selling and teaching good old-fashioned American values, coded as white, (p.133) heteronormative, and middle-class, to Japanese housewives. My Year of Meats depicts this conjoining of imperialisms through a show called My American Wife!, a “day-in-the-life” documentary series commissioned by the Beef Export and Trade Syndicate (BEEF-EX) as a vehicle to market the “wholesomeness” of beef and American values to Japanese consumers. Just as Hiroshima, the occupation, and Japanese American internment were projects of gendered racial rehabilitation, Ozeki shows how a more recent instance of American imperialism—the aggressive exporting and marketing of beef—requires gendered racial rehabilitation of Japanese consuming subjects. Indeed, such trade agreements between the United States and Japan have their genealogy in the U.S. occupation, or what, as I have noted, the British called a “strange neoimperialism of a mystical irrational kind.” Except in the contemporary conjuncture, the trade imbalance with Japan that the United States itself caused with its occupation reforms of creating an export-led economy must be reversed. As I discussed in the previous chapter, America’s junior Cold War partner in Asia comes to haunt and challenge its imperial sponsor with its economic hyper-competitiveness, a process that finds a historical antecedent in the perceived agricultural hyper-competitiveness of Japanese Americans on the West Coast of the United States in the years leading to the World War II incarceration of Japanese Americans. In the late and post Cold War, since such American-made products as automobiles are not competitive, unwholesome American beef, packaged as embodying wholesome American values, is exported instead. My Year of Meats tells the tale of the grotesque dangers of this hormone-fattened meat, of how it too, like the cans of food distributed by the American army during the occupation, is “not fit for human consumption.” We see the monstrous ironies of American largesse. This literal largesse/largeness is revealed to be barren on two levels: it is a gift of poison and it can cause barrenness in the women who consume it. The specific contours of gendered racial rehabilitation are thematized in Ozeki’s novel through this disjuncture among rehabilitation, reproduction, and poisoning, as well as a biting critique of the attempt to mold “Japanese womanhood” and domesticity modeled on what we can link together as the white-Americanheteronormative-feminine-bourgeois-nuclear-family ideal.
My Year of Meats is constructed as a metadocumentary of sorts. This novel about the making of a fictive documentary series called My American Wife! itself contains a series of actual “Documentary Interludes” explaining the dangers of consuming American beef injected with growth hormones, detailing how such beef was banned in Europe and needed to find a new market (p.134) in Asia. It is worth quoting one especially revealing “Documentary Interlude” at length:
DES, or diethylstilbestrol, is a man-made estrogen that was first synthesized in 1938. Soon afterward, a professor of poultry husbandry at the University of California discovered that if you inject DES into male chickens, it chemically castrates them. Instant capons. The males develop female characteristics—plump breasts and succulent meats—desirable assets for one’s dinner. After that, subcutaneous DES implants became pretty much de rigueur in the poultry industry, at least until 1959, when the FDA banned them. Apparently, someone discovered that dogs and males from low-income families in the south were developing signs of feminization after eating cheap chicken parts and waste from processing plants…. But by then DES was also being widely used in beef production, and oddly enough, the FDA did nothing to stop that. DES changed the face of meat in America … this was an economy of scale…. Researchers and doctors were prescribing it for pregnant women in the belief that DES would prevent miscarriages and premature births…. Then, in 1971, a team of Boston doctors discovered that DES caused a rare form of cancer, called clear cell adenocarcinoma, in the vaginas of young women whose mothers had taken the drug during pregnancy. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, DES was finally exposed as a complete sham. That was the real tragedy. It was all hype. As early as 1952, researchers had found that DES did absolutely nothing to prevent miscarriages…. Today, although DES is illegal, 95 percent of feedlot cattle in the U.S. still receive some form of growth-promoting hormone or pharmaceutical in feed supplements. The residues are present in the finished cuts of beef sold in the local supermarket or hanging off your plate…. In 1989, Europe banned the import of U.S. meat because of the use of hormones in production. BEEF-EX started looking for a new market. In 1990, as a result of pressure by the U.S. government, the New Beef Agreement was signed with Japan, relaxing import quotas and increasing the American share of Japan’s red-meat market.83
Here again, we see a resurgence of America’s abiding desire for the Asian market. As imagined in My Year of Meats, the exported product turns out to be unfit for human consumption. Such “documentary interludes” function beyond the force of evidentiary value or facticity, and like Okazaki’s Survivors, are a crucial form or site of critical remembering. They disarticulate the fictions of U.S. benevolence and alternatively articulate the perils of gendered racial rehabilitation and its link to market logics.
(p.135) The sordid tale is told from the alternating perspectives of Jane Takagi-Little, the hapa (mixed-race) American production coordinator and later director of My American Wife!, and Akiko Ueno, the Japanese housewife who represents the show’s target viewing audience. It would appear that Jane and Akiko are the purveyor and recipient, respectively, of the gendered racial rehabilitation that My American Wife! promises and promotes. Indeed, as the novel opens, Jane nabs the job as production coordinator with this convincing pitch:
Meat is the Message. Each weekly half-hour episode of My American Wife! must culminate in the celebration of a featured meat, climaxing in its glorious consumption. It’s the meat (not the Mrs.) who’s the star of our show! Of course, the “wife of the week” is important too. She must be attractive, appetizing, and all-American. She is the meat made manifest: ample, robust, yet never tough or hard to digest. Through her, Japanese housewives will feel the hearty sense of warmth, of comfort, of hearth and home—the traditional family values symbolized by red meat in rural America. (8)
As this pitch captures, My American Wife! is a commercial pedagogy whose function is to sell meat by selling and teaching the ethos of traditional family values, abstracted as “American” but as it will soon become clear, particularized as white heteronormative middle-class domesticity. For consumers in Japan, then, the ingesting of each featured meat recipe is an ingestion of American “traditional family values,” or an induction into gendered racial rehabilitation. As production coordinator, it is Jane’s job to scout out and procure the “wife of the week” and to act as a liaison between the wife, her family, and the Japanese crew sent to shoot the series. In Jane’s words, she is a “go-between, a cultural pimp” (as both a hyphenated Japanese American and mixed-race woman) who sells off “the vast illusion of America to a cramped population” in Japan (9). She persuades the targeted “wife of the week” that it is her patriotic duty to appear in the program and “promote American meat abroad and thereby help rectify the trade imbalance with Japan” (35). Since BEEF-EX is the show’s sole sponsor, the entire series itself functions as a long commercial for beef: “Each episode of My American Wife! carried four attractive commercial spots for BEEF-EX. The strategy was ‘to develop a powerful synergy between the commercials and the documentary vehicles, in order to stimulate consumer purchase motivation.’ In other words, the commercials were to bleed into the documentaries, and documentaries were to function as commercials” (41).
(p.136) Relieved to have a job at last, Jane finds herself in the position of having to apologize for and explain the white heteronormative middle-class directives for the show sent from the Tokyo office to her American research sta. The list of “Desirable Things” includes such things as attractiveness, wholesomeness, obedient children, a docile husband, and a clean house. “Undesirable Things” include physical imperfection, obesity, squalor, and “second class peoples” (10–11). Jane explains that “second class peoples” does not refer to race or class, and that Kato, the Japanese head of production, does not want the American staff to “think that Japanese people are racist” (13). Rather, she suggests, Japanese market studies show that the average Japanese housewife finds a middle- to upper-middle-class white American wife with two to three children “sufficiently exotic yet reassuringly familiar” (13). Why would such a demographic configuration be “reassuringly familiar”? Here, Ozeki traces the past out of which the contemporary moment emerges. She reminds her readers of the U.S. presence in Japan, a presence that long precedes the introduction of My American Wife! into Japanese homes. As Yoneyama writes, the postwar demilitarization and occupation of Japan were a “highly gendered process.”84 MacArthur ranked the enfranchisement of women at the top of his so-called Five Great Reforms, and the new constitution’s granting of full civil rights to women as a marker of the political liberation of Japanese women was deployed as a measure through which to assess the overall success of the occupation. Yet, as Yoneyama argues, this putative “liberation” was constrained by the contexts within which it took place: first, the space of military occupation, which is a space of unfreedom and nonrights, is ruled by the “state of exception,” and is simultaneously violent and benevolent; and second, “cold war feminism,” an anticommunist liberal, white bourgeois feminism that “proceeded to marginalize and subordinate a number of other diverse feminist modalities and aspirations.”85 In a similar vein, Mire Koikari contends that “rather than an unprecedented moment of liberation for Japanese women, gender reform in occupied Japan was intimately connected on the one hand to prewar nationalist and imperialist politics, and on the other to emerging Cold War cultural dynamics…. [I]t is an extraordinarily complex and problematic instance of Cold War imperial feminism in the Far East.”86 Japanese women were thus encouraged to look upon American women, who had themselves been disciplined and contained (as Elaine Tyler May and others have shown) within the confines of a heteronormative bourgeois domesticity, as their role models.87 Indeed, MacArthur’s own wife, who lived with him in Japan during the occupation, was touted as a model because (p.137) she chose to remain a housewife. This Japanese modeling of American women predated the postwar period but took on new urgency within the context of occupation reforms.88 In turn, American women needed Japanese and other racialized women to constitute and consolidate their own self-identity as the practitioners of a true “cold war feminism” and embodiments of that which is modern and progressive. The supposed liberation of Japanese women, reported in Newsweek as “Free Butterfly,” represented a sudden and strategic reversal or amnesia of wartime figurations of Japanese women warriors, paralleling what we could call the “callback” of American women from wartime jobs back into bourgeois domesticity, or the transformation of Rosie the Riveter into Rosie the Homemaker.89 The global ramifications of these gendered racial logics of Cold War politics were famously expressed in what has been dubbed “The Kitchen Debate” between Vice President Richard Nixon and Premier Nikita Khrushchev, in which Nixon argued that modern kitchen and household appliances found in American homes demonstrated liberal democracy’s superiority over communism.
My Year of Meats reveals the contemporary manifestation of this project of gendered racial rehabilitation. What are the legacies of such a paradoxical and constrained “liberation” of Japanese women? In unpacking the appeal of “all-American values” to the research staff, Jane argues that the American wife of the 1990s is much like her World War II–era predecessor: both are role models for Japanese women. The difference in the 1990s is that given Japan’s “economic miracle,” the Japanese woman is no longer impressed with modern gadgetry. In fact, she is more familiar with such consumer items than her American counterpart. Therefore, the point is not to sell American consumerism, but good old-fashioned American values and nourishment as congealed in a good meat dish. The appeal of My American Wife!, then, depends upon the “American wife” already having an iconic presence in the Japanese cultural imagination. She is “reassuringly familiar” as the normative feminine ideal that Japanese women have been told to emulate and aspire to since World War II and the U.S. occupation. As such, we may ask, precisely whose wife is the My American Wife! of the show’s title? It is the Japanese man’s wife, who becomes and is interpellated as “American” without having to set foot outside of Japan. It is precisely because of this racialized and gendered imperial genealogy that My American Wife! is legible to Japanese housewives. Indeed, the introduction of beef itself to Japan in large quantities was part and parcel of the U.S. occupation. Before this period, dating back to the sixth century, beef had been forbidden by Japanese Buddhism, in accordance with (p.138) the Buddhist doctrine of mercy for all living beings. After contact with the Western world, the Japanese disparaged beef as Western and barbaric. In the wake of the U.S. occupation, however, disparagement turned into praise, such that a dish dubbed “a civilized bowl of rice” meant that it contained beef or pork slices.90
In the novel, this U.S. imperial genealogy intersects with Jane’s own family genealogy. While she plays up the stereotypes of American–Asian romances by joking that her mother was a prostitute on the streets of Tokyo and her father a GI, it turns out that her father’s presence in Japan was indeed a part of America’s imperial mission. Jane explains, “Dad was a botanist in the army. They sent him to Japan as part of a team of scientists doing research in Hiroshima. They were kind of checking up on their handiwork—you know, looking at people and monstrose [sic] plant mutations—to see if we should drop an A-bomb on Korea. Dad died of cancer and I’ve always wondered whether there’s some connection” (235). While scouring the country in search of possible “wives of the week,” Jane learns that the traces and victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki can also be found on American soil:
On the way to Fly, Oregon, driving through southwest Washington state, we had unwittingly stumbled across the border of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hanford site … when we came to the barbed wire and a sign said “Department of Energy—Keep Out,” how was I supposed to know that we’d reached the perimeter of the 570-mile nuclear city that produced the plutonium for “Fat Man,” the bomb that leveled Nagasaki? Later, as we were passing through the adjacent town of Sunnyside, I happened to ask our waitress at a diner about the facility, and she raised her eyes and whistled.
“You went in there?” she said. “Ooh, that’s a no-no.” Hanford was one of three atomic cities hastily constructed in 1943 to produce plutonium for the Manhattan Project. Over the next twenty-five years, massive clouds of radioactive iodine, ruthenium, caesium, and other materials were routinely released over people, animals, food, and water for hundreds of miles. In the 1950s, it was discovered that the radioactive iodine had contaminated local dairy cattle, their milk, and all the children who drank it. As the incidence of thyroid cancer grew, the farmers in the surrounding areas—“downwinders,” they’re called—began to wear turtle-necks to hide their scars. It was the fashion, the waitress told me. (246)
Ozeki transnationally connects and makes visible the Japanese and American victims of the bomb, both groups that have been forgotten by the nationalist (p.139) narratives of the United States and Japan. Through Jane’s role as “go-between” or “cultural pimp” emerges the critical capaciousness of being in-between national(ist) frames, and having the vision to see beyond those frames.
Indeed, while Jane had started out her job composing apologetics for the race, gender, and class bias of her Japanese employer, she soon finds herself subverting the white-bourgeois-heteronormative-feminine-nuclear-family-ideal matrix by seeking out wives and families who decidedly fall outside this rubric and can be seen as critically indexing the enabling contradictions of “American values” and American imperial logics. She also starts featuring “lesser meats” like pork and lamb as well as vegetarian(!) dishes. We meet the Beaudroux family, white Southerners who opt to adopt babies of color. They adopt not black American babies, but twelve “little oriental babies from Korea and Vietnam who don’t have anyone to care for them or buy them toys or educations” (69). The first of these, Joy, is picked from a Christian adoption catalog and is the abandoned “Amerasian” daughter of a GI and a Korean prostitute. We also meet Helen and Purcell Dawes, a poor black couple with nine children who eat chitterlings and hog maws, and Laura and Dyann, an interracial vegetarian lesbian couple, as well as the Martinezes, a Mexican immigrant family in Texas with a father who has lost his hand to a hay baler. Finally, we meet the Dunn family, who run a cattle feedlot. While at the feedlot, Jane and her crew learn a horrible, grotesque truth about the meat business: that the growth hormone DES, while illegal, is still being used by many in the beef industry. The cowboys at the Dunn feedlot inject the cows with “boss’s special formula,” not knowing that it is DES. One of them remarks that “these cows here’s goin’ straight to Japan…. Straight to Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. You ask me, it’s a darn shame, wasting all that good American meat on a bunch of gooks” (266–67). The dramatic irony of the cowboy’s reference to DES-poisoned beef as “good American meat” is heightened by his racist conjuring of “gooks.” He is unaware that far from wasting “good American meat on a bunch of gooks,” he is (again) engaged in a project of poisoning a “bunch of gooks.” As I discussed in the opening of this book, the etymology of “gook” and its “pan-racist” usage bespeak America’s history of racialized imperialist aggression and war-making. My Year of Meats links this imperial aggression and war-making with the peculiar “American value” called frontier culture and justice, composed of a violent alchemy of “guns, race, meat, and manifest destiny” (89), and shows how this linkage allows the ongoing poisoning of “gooks.” It also allows a white man in Louisiana to be acquitted in a criminal trial of shooting dead a sixteen-year-old Japanese (p.140) exchange student who knocked on his door to ask for directions.91 He was acquitted on the grounds that “he had acted in a reasonable manner to defend his home” (88). Jane has no excuses or explanations to offer her Japanese crew. Simply put, she says that “We are a grisly nation” (89). As the production coordinator and later director of My American Wife! Jane thus thwarts the project of gendered racial rehabilitation that she was initially hired to promote.92
Similarly, back in Japan, we see that Akiko, who is unhappily married to the advertising executive whose firm has been hired by BEEF-EX to promote its mandate of “foster[ing] among Japanese housewives a proper understanding of the wholesomeness of U.S. meats” (10), initially dutifully watches the show her husband’s firm has created. She painstakingly makes each featured weekly meat recipe and ranks each episode in terms of its “Authenticity,” “Deliciousness of Meats,” and “Wholesomeness.” Instead of identifying with the white middle-class heteronormative feminine ideal, however, she cathects to Laura and Dyann, the interracial vegetarian lesbian couple with children. While watching their episode, she sheds “tears of admiration for the strong women so determined to have their family against all odds. And tears of pity for herself, for the trepidation she felt in place of desire …” (181). Something Dyann had said about “impossibility and desire, or lack of it” (181) resonates with Akiko, and she comes to the realization that “she wanted a child; she’d never wanted John; once she became pregnant, she wouldn’t need him ever again” (181). So when she does become pregnant, she leaves him. In thus refusing to be his “American wife,” and questioning her assumed heterosexuality, she refuses to be the object of gendered racial rehabilitation.
Ozeki’s Akiko and Jane in My Year of Meats and the other voices in Okazaki’s Survivors and Mura’s Turning Japanese thus imagine the critical possibilities offered by the multiple failures of gendered racial rehabilitation. Through my analysis of these cultural works, I have tracked in this chapter the imperial and gendered racial contours of America’s encounter with Japan and demonstrated how Japanese American cultural producers reveal and critically reimagine these encounters. While we are much familiar with the domino theory or analogy of the Cold War, Saturday Evening Post journalist Stewart Alsop, in a March 11, 1950, article entitled “We Are Losing Asia Fast,” offered a bowling analogy, recalling the “ten pin theory,” to demonstrate the importance of Japan. Lamenting that the “loss of China” made Southeast Asia—“the greatest reservoir of untapped natural wealth”—ever vulnerable, and arguing that the Kremlin had designs to organize an “infinitely vaster Asiatic (p.141) Co-Prosperity sphere” than Japan’s previous one, he predicted a certain pattern of Soviet penetration into Asia, and claimed that it had an analogy with bowling. China, the head pin, was down already, and if Burma and Indochina, the two pins in the second row toppled, so would Siam, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the three pins in the third row, and this would almost certainly knock down the four pins of the pivotal fourth row: India, Pakistan, Japan, and the Philippines.93 Published just a few months before the Korean War, the matrix sketched in this article does not include the small peninsula. In the next chapter, I turn to how the Korean peninsula, forgotten in Alsop’s Asian pyramid scheme, becomes the violent site of a still “Forgotten War.” (p.142)
(1.) Alain Resnais, dir., Hiroshima, Mon Amour (Argos Films, 1959), 90 minutes.
(2.) I would like to thank Setsu Shigematsu for pointing out this multiple valence of “You saw nothing in Hiroshima.”
(3.) Steven Okasaki, dir., Survivors (Video Project, 1982, updated 1994), 35 minutes; David Mura, Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei (New York: Anchor Books, 1991); Ruth L. Ozeki, My Year of Meats (New York: Penguin Books, 1998).
(4.) Quoted in Michael Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan: The Origins of the Cold War in Asia (New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), 100.
(5.) The term “model minority” came about in the 1960s in newspaper and magazine accounts of perceived Japanese American and Chinese American socioeconomic success. High levels of educational achievement, low rates of mental disorder and criminality, and job mobility were used as factors to measure this success. Subsequently, it was extended to Asian Americans as a whole. Characteristics attributed to the model minority—of hard work, thrift, family cohesion, deference to authority—were explained by pointing to an undifferentiated, essentialized notion of “Asian culture.” These Asian values, it was argued, while still alien, were highly compatible with Anglo-American values, especially the Protestant work ethic. How did Asians, who had historically been subject to immigration exclusion, political disenfranchisement, various forms of discrimination, and physical violence as the “yellow peril,” become the model minority, seemingly overnight? Turning to the domestic and international historical context at this time sheds light on the apparent shift. In the 1960s, African Americans were actively challenging institutional racism through the civil rights struggle. The figure of the Asian American model minority was constructed as a conservative backlash against these activists, who were deemed to be unruly and underachieving. African Americans were told that if Asian Americans could succeed, why couldn’t they? A U.S. News and World Report article in 1966 presented a progressive account of the history of Asians in the United States, the road “from hardship and discrimination to become a model of self-respect and achievement in today’s America.” Asian American “success” was used as evidence to support the claim that American liberalism could indeed function as a multiracial democracy. Therefore, if the system is not flawed, it was argued, the fault must somehow lie with the African Americans themselves. If African Americans “worked” as hard as the Asian Americans, then surely they could become model minorities as well. Indeed, as reported by U.S. News and World Report, “At a time when it is being proposed that hundreds of billions be spent to uplift Negroes and other minorities, the nation’s 300,000 Chinese-Americans are moving ahead on their own—with no help from anyone else.” So the figure of the model minority was less about Asian Americans per se and more a lesson to be learned by African Americans and a deflection away from the focus on the problem of institutional racism and racial inequality. It attempted to sublate the contradictions of (p.268) the U.S. nation-state. Such a deflection was necessary not only for domestic race relations, but for Cold War international geopolitical relations as well. In the Cold War battle against communist totalitarianism, the United States was very concerned about its international image and sought to counter and mitigate charges of racism. See William Petersen, “Success Story, Japanese-American Style,” New York Times Magazine, January 6, 1966, 20–43; “Success Story of One Minority Group in U.S.,” U.S. News and World Report, December 26, 1966, 73ff.; and “Success Story: Outwhiting the Whites,” Newsweek, June 21, 1971, 24–25.
(6.) Homi K. Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994), 86, 92.
(7.) I would like to thank Aisha Finch for helping me refine this part of my argument.
(8.) Quoted in Naoko Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally: Reimagining the Japanese Enemy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006), 1.
(9.) Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 4.
(10.) Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally, 1. For a critical analysis of race in the Pacific War, see also Dower, War without Mercy.
(11.) Quoted in Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally, 2.
(12.) Mineo, “The Sino–Soviet Confrontation,” 207. See also Ronald Takaki, Hiroshima: Why America Dropped the Atomic Bomb (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1995).
(13.) McCormick, America’s Half-Century, 46.
(14.) Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 24.
(15.) John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1999), 211.
(17.) Yukiko Koshiro, Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 17.
(18.) Lisa Yoneyama, “Traveling Memories, Contagious Justice: Americanization of Japanese War Crimes at the End of the Post–Cold War,” Journal of Asian American Studies 6.1 (2003): 58–59.
(19.) Traise Yamamoto, Masking Selves, Making Subjects: Japanese American Women, Identity, and the Body (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 5.
(20.) Koshiro, Trans-Pacific Racisms, 12, 2. Koshiro argues that it was a codependence “within the Western hierarchical order,” and that “Japan’s Pan-Asianism was well nested within the Western version of a worldwide racial hierarchy. Modern Japan’s dualistic racism needed American racism to reinforce the validity of white supremacy, upon which Japan built its own superiority in Asia. Japanese racism also reinforced American racism” (12).
(21.) Dower, Embracing Defeat, 561, 81, 27.
(23.) Shibusawa argues that “the ideologies of gender and maturity helped to minimize racial hostility. Feminizing the hated enemy or regarding them as immature youths made it easier to humanize the Japanese and to recast them as an American responsibility” (America’s Geisha Ally, 5).
(24.) John W. Dower, “The Bombed: Hiroshimas and Nagasakis in Japanese Memory,” in America’s Wars in Asia: A Cultural Approach to History and Memory, ed. Philip West, Steven I. Levine, and Jackie Hiltz (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1998), 27–48.
(25.) For histories of the U.S. occupation of Japan, see Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan; Dower, Embracing Defeat; Takemae Eiji, Inside GHQ: The Allied Occupation of Japan and Its Legacy, trans. Robert Ricketts and Sebastian Swann (New York: Continuum, 2002); Robert E. Ward and Sakamoto Yoshikazu, eds., Democratizing Japan: The Allied Occupation (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1987); and Koshiro, Trans-Pacific Racisms. For a cultural history of the post–World War II shift in U.S. figurations of Japan as racially savage enemy to Cold War ally, see Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally. For a literary history, see Michael S. Molasky, The American Occupation of Japan and Okinawa: Literature and Memory (London: Routledge, 1999).
(26.) Eventually, about 200,000 people were formally purged, a vast majority coming from military ranks. See Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 44.
(27.) Iriye, Cold War in Asia, 147.
(29.) Dower, Embracing Defeat, 206.
(30.) Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally, 4.
(31.) Quoted in Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 100–101.
(32.) Although the “reverse course” helped produce a long-standing conservative hegemony, Communists and Socialists continued to be elected to the Diet and held significant roles in voicing serious opposition to U.S. Cold War policy. See Dower, Embracing Defeat, 272–73.
(33.) Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 132.
(34.) LaFeber, America, Russia, and the Cold War 1945–1992, 66.
(35.) Lisa Yoneyama, Hiroshima Traces: Time, Space, and the Dialectics of Memory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 21.
(36.) Chalmers Johnson writes that from 1945 to 1972, Okinawa functioned as a U.S. colony, directly governed by the Pentagon. As such, during this period, Okinawans became stateless, neither American nor Japanese citizens, and were governed by an American lieutenant general. Okinawa was sealed off from the outside world, a secret enclave of U.S. military and intelligence operations. Those who protested were deemed to be communists, and hundreds were taken to Bolivia and dumped in a remote area of the Amazon and left to fend for themselves. In the 1970s, when the Okinawans openly revolted against the use of their island as a bomber base for the Vietnam War (in light of revelations that the United States was storing nerve gas and nuclear weapons there without warning the people), the United States reluctantly agreed to a pro forma “reversion” of Okinawa to Japan but still maintained its base rights there. The Japanese government has gone through great effort to keep the American military confined to Okinawa. About 75 percent of U.S. military bases in Japan are in Okinawa, even though the island constitutes only 1 percent of the total Japanese land area and is the poorest of its prefectures. Since the Japanese annexation of the Ryukyu Kingdom (of which Okinawa is the largest island) in the late nineteenth century, Okinawa has remained in semicolonial conditions. See Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, 199–200.
(37.) Iriye, Cold War in Asia, 183.
(38.) Quoted in Dower, Embracing Defeat, 553.
(40.) According to Schaller, during 1951–52 American military orders (known as offshore procurements) reached $800 million per year, and by the end of 1954, Japan had received almost $3 billion in orders. Between 1945 and 1955 the $6.2-billion gap was balanced by $2 billion in economic aid and $4 billion in military procurements. (Dower notes that after the Korean War ended, military-related U.S. purchases continued under “New Special Procurements,” a “prolonged windfall” that allowed Japan to increase its imports significantly and almost double its scale of production in key industries [Embracing Defeat, 542].) From 1965 to 1970, as America’s war in Vietnam escalated, these procurements rose by another $3 billion. This averaged out to be about $500 million per year over twenty years. Since the bulk of these orders was for “nonlethal” supplies and not weapons (such as clothing, electronics, transportation vehicles, etc.), production could easily be shifted and applied to consumer and export sectors. See Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 288, 295, 296.
(41.) Quoted in Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 289.
(43.) Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire, 202.
(44.) Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2000), 21.
(45.) Pease, “Hiroshima, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the Gulf War,” 562. Similarly, Rey Chow writes that the image of the mushroom cloud has itself become a “sign of terror, a kind of gigantic demonstration with us, the spectators, as the potential target” (“The Age of the World Target,” in West, Levine, and Hiltz, America’s Wars in Asia, 205).
(46.) Pease, “Hiroshima, the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and the Gulf War,” 563.
(47.) David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Has a Plan to Occupy Iraq, Officials Report,” New York Times, October 11, 2002.
(48.) Lisa Yoneyama, “Liberation under Siege: U.S. Military Occupation and Japanese Women’s Enfranchisement,” in “Legal Borderlands: Law and the Construction of American Borders,” ed. Mary L. Dudziak and Leti Volpp, special issue, American Quarterly 57.3 (2005): 886.
(49.) The video of Rob Corddry May 6, 2004 segment, titled “Prison Abuse Scandal,” can be accessed and viewed on the The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Web site at http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-may-6-2004/prison-abuse-scandal (accessed November 16, 2009).
(50.) It is estimated that approximately 3,200 second-generation Japanese Americans were in Hiroshima when the bomb was dropped. Extrapolating from overall casualty rates, it is then probable that 2,000 of these American citizens were killed. Moreover, thousands of Koreans, colonized subjects who had been conscripted to labor for the Japanese, were also killed in Hiroshima (between 5,000 and 8,000) and Nagasaki (between 1,500 and 2,000). See Dower, “The Bombed,” 41. For an analysis of the Korean survivors of Hiroshima, see Toyonaga Keisaburo, “Colonialism and Atom Bombs: About Survivors of Hiroshima Living in Korea,” in Perilous Memories: The (p.271) Asia-Pacific Wars, ed. T. Fujitani, Geoffrey M. White, and Lisa Yoneyama (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 378–94.
(51.) A film such as Survivors goes against the grain of dominant memories and commemorations of the end of World War II. For example, as Lisa Yoneyama observes, after much debate and controversy, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum exhibit of the Enola Gay (the bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima), in commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II, ultimately omitted the following details from the exhibit: the debates surrounding the decision to use the atom bombs; photographs and descriptions of Japanese military and colonial atrocities in Asia and the Pacific Islands; photographs of physical and human damage in Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and a discussion of the atomic age and nuclear weapons proliferation inaugurated by the bombings. See Lisa Yoneyama, “For Transformative Knowledge and Postnationalist Public Spheres: The Smithsonian Enola Gay Controversy,” in Fujitani, White, and Yoneyama, Perilous Memories, 324–25.
(52.) After the war, Americans channeled their “atomic guilt” without explicitly acknowledging it as such through privately initiated and sponsored programs such as those of Saturday Review of Literature editor Norman Cousins: the Hiroshima Maidens Project (1955–56), which provided plastic surgery in New York City for twenty-five Japanese women disfigured by the bomb, and the “moral adoptions” program (1949 to the mid-1960s), which assisted about three hundred children orphaned by the bomb. See Shibusawa, America’s Geisha Ally, 213–54. See also Caroline Chung Simpson, An Absent Presence: Japanese Americans in Postwar American Culture, 1945–1960 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001), 113–48.
(53.) By December 1945 an estimated 140,000 people had died in Hiroshima and 70,000 in Nagasaki, leaving thousands of children and elderly without caretakers and driving many to suicide. By 1950 another 140,000 had died from the ongoing effects of radiation exposure, and since then, radiation-related cancer deaths have been estimated to be as high as 100,000.
(54.) I would like to thank Grace Kyungwon Hong for pointing this out to me.
(55.) I would like to thank Grace Kyungwon Hong for helping me articulate this point about the transfer of patriarchal authority.
(56.) Lye, America’s Asia, 142.
(57.) In 1913 California passed the Alien Land Law prohibiting “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from buying agricultural land or leasing it for more than three years. This law selectively targeted Asian “aliens” and Japanese immigrants in particular. A subsequent 1920 law made it illegal for them to lease land altogether, to purchase land in the name of corporations in which they held more than 50 percent of the stock, or to buy land in the names of their American-born (and thus citizen) children. Arizona, Washington, Louisiana, New Mexico, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Kansas passed similar alien land laws. See Chan, Asian Americans, 47. For an analysis of how Japanese immigrants in the United States, the Issei, forged transnational identities that negotiated and contested American racism (such as the Alien Land Laws) as well as imperial Japan’s nationalist protocols in the period before World War II, see Eiichiro Azuma, Between Two Empires: Race, History, and Transnationalism in Japanese America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).
(58.) Lye, America’s Asia, 161.
(60.) Chuh, Imagine Otherwise, 59.
(61.) Simpson, An Absent Presence, 9, 43.
(63.) Mura, Turning Japanese, 8; further citations to this work will appear in the text.
(64.) In January 1943 the U.S. government announced that Japanese Americans, including those interned, could volunteer for a racially segregated U.S. army unit. Those interned were subjected to a loyalty questionnaire. Given that their civil liberties as U.S. citizens had been abrogated, many found two particular questions to be absurd. These questions were number 27: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty, wherever ordered?” and number 28: “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any and all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance to the Japanese Emperor or any other foreign government, power, or organization?” Those who answered “no” to both these questions came to be known as “no-no boys.”
(65.) For histories of the World War II internment of Japanese Americans, see Roger Daniels, Prisoners without Trial: Japanese Americans in World War II (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993), and Concentration Camps, U.S.A.: Japanese Americans and World War II (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1970); and Richard Nishimoto, Inside an American Concentration Camp: Japanese American Resistance at Poston (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1995). For analyses of Japanese American legal challenges to internment, see Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese American Internment Cases (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983); and Peter Irons, ed., Justice Delayed: The Record of the Japanese American Internment Cases (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989). For an analysis of popular representations of Japanese American internment and the formation of Cold War culture, see Simpson, An Absent Presence.
(66.) Cynthia Franklin, “Turning Japanese/Returning to America: Problems of Gender, Class, and Nation in David Mura’s Use of Memoir,” LIT (Literature, Interpretation, Theory) 12 (2001): 242. For an analysis of how Mura’s narratives challenge and rework “the heteronormative logic through which Asian-American masculinity has been formulated,” see Crystal Parikh, “‘The Most Outrageous Masquerade’: Queering Asian American Masculinity,” Modern Fiction Studies 48.4 (2002): 858–98.
(67.) David L. Eng, Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001).
(68.) Whereas many Asian groups in the United States, especially Chinese and Filipino immigrant communities, were not able to form normative families in great numbers due to exclusionary immigration laws, Japanese Americans were able to form families in greater numbers. The gender ratio among Japanese Americans was not as skewed, because agreements between the United States and a geopolitically ascending Japan allowed the migration of Japanese women to the United States. See Chan, Asian Americans; and Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans, rev. ed. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998).
(69.) Simpson, An Absent Presence, 17.
(70.) Christine Hong, “Flashforward Democracy: American Exceptionalism and the Atomic Bomb in Barefoot Gen,” Comparative Literature Studies 49.1 (2009): 130.
(71.) Yoneyama, Hiroshima Traces, 20.
(72.) David Mura, After We Lost Our Way (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1989), 5. The poem was previously published in Breaking Silence: An Anthology of Contemporary Asian-American Poets, ed. Joseph Bruchac (Greenfield Center N.Y.: Greenfield Review Press, 1983).
(73.) Avery F. Gordon, Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 18. I would like to thank Erica Edwards for suggesting that I emphasize the ghostly.
(74.) For an analysis of miscegenation discourse and Asian Americans, see Susan Koshy, Sexual Naturalization: Asian Americans and Miscegenation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004).
(75.) I would like to thank Jayna Brown for pointing this out to me.
(76.) I would like to thank Arlene Keizer for helping me note this.
(77.) Marianne Hirsch, Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997).
(78.) For an analysis of how the memory of the camps—“bracketed by the twin catastrophes of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima”—has shaped Japanese American identity and literary expression, see Gordon O. Taylor, “‘The country I had thought was my home’: David Mura’s Turning Japanese and Japanese-American Narrative since World War II,” Connotations 63 (1996): 283–307.
(79.) Joshua Logan, dir., Sayonara (MGM, 1957), 147 minutes, adapted from James Michener’s 1953 novel of the same title.
(80.) In her analysis of Sayonara, Gina Marchetti writes that the film “can be looked at as structured by a series of narrative transpositions that serve to obscure a good deal of the film’s apparent social criticism. Through these narrative twists, the film manages to voice and then ignore ideological contradictions by transforming them into more distant but related problems” (Romance and the “Yellow Peril”: Race, Sex, and Discursive Strategies in Hollywood Fiction [Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993], 128).
(81.) Dower, Embracing Defeat, 70.
(82.) Ibid., 254. May Day, now also known as International Workers’ Day, was established by the International Socialist Congress of 1889 as an expression of worker solidarity. Starting in 1920, it had been observed by Japanese workers annually until the government banned it in 1936.
(83.) Ozeki, My Year of Meats, 124–27; further citations to this work will appear in the text.
(84.) Yoneyama, “Liberation under Siege,” 887.
(86.) Mire Koikari, Pedagogy of Democracy: Feminism and the Cold War in the U.S. Occupation of Japan (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2008), 5.
(87.) See, for example, Elaine Tyler May, Homeward Bound.
(88.) See, for example, Indra Levy Sirens of the Western Shore: The Westernesque (p.274) Femme Fatale, Translation, and Vernacular Style in Modern Japanese Literature (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), which traces the figure of the Japanese woman who invokes a “Westernesque femme fatale” in literature and theater.
(89.) Yoneyama, “Liberation under Siege,” 895. This discursive reversal from warrior woman to anticommunist liberated woman reveals how World War II bled into the Cold War, but also obscures related histories, such as that of the conviction of Iva Toguri d’Aquino, a U.S.-born Japanese American who had gone to Japan at the start of the war and could not return to the United States after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. She was accused of being Tokyo Rose, the mythical radio personality who was reputed to have demoralized American soldiers in the Pacific War with her subversive broadcasts. Convicted within the context of the U.S. occupation’s Tokyo War Trials, this “oriental vixen” also represented American fears of gender transgressions. See Simpson, An Absent Presence, 76–112.
(90.) Monica Chiu, “Postnational Globalization and (En) gendered Meat Production in Ruth L. Ozeki’s My Year of Meats,” LIT (Literature, Interpretation, Theory) 12 (2001): 102–3.
(91.) This incident in the novel is based on an actual case.
(92.) For an analysis of how a vision of “cosmofeminism” emerges in the novel, see Shameem Black, “Fertile Cosmofeminism: Ruth L. Ozeki and Transnational Reproduction,” Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism 5.1 (2004): 226–56. For an analysis of how the novel is ultimately unsuccessful in its attempt to unhinge adherences to nation and patriarchy within the context of globalization, see Chiu, “Postnational Globalization and (En) gendered Meat Production.” David Palumbo-Liu agrees with both of these contrasting interpretations and suggests that the novel is more complex and self-conscious than it might appear, displaying a tension between its calculated ethical critique and a skepticism toward the ability to narrate that critique in any pristine, uncompromised manner (“Rational and Irrational Choices: Form, Affect, and Ethics,” in Minor Transnationalism, ed. Francoise Lionnet and Shu-mei Shih, 41–72 [Durham: Duke University Press, 2005]).
(93.) Quoted in Schaller, The American Occupation of Japan, 232.