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Transpacific Complicity and Victims’ Consciousness

In his chapter “Transpacific Complicity and Comparatist Strategy”, Sakai demonstrates that some of the key strategies of the Allied Occupation of Japan during the immediate postwar period of national instability have had lasting effects on the political landscape of East Asia. During a transitional period when radical change was possible, a new ideology, which Naoki Sakai has termed “New Emperorism”, released both the Japanese people and the Emperor from war responsibility, and was encouraged by both the occupying forces and the government of the time as a means to effecting a stable and smooth transition of power. 56 Sakai uses the term

“transpacific complicity” to refer to the harmonizing of ideological objectives and methodologies undertaken by the Occupation forces and the Japanese government to reinforce New Emperorism. The term “New Emperorism” itself signifies both the advent of a new political imperative in postwar Japan, and also the continuity between the wartime/pre-war kokutai (“national body”) ideology and postwar ideology. In other words, the image of the Emperor as an organising and centralized “national body” that needed to be protected remained unaltered under the Occupation.

Other historians such as John Dower also stress the continuity between wartime and postwar systems, or that which was strategically preserved by the

55 Azuma (2009), 73.

56 Sakai (2010 b), 246.

occupying forces and the Japanese government.57 Despite the Allies’ wartime demand to de-establish the Emperor system as part of an unconditional surrender, rather than being abolished the Emperor system was appropriated and absorbed into the Occupation strategy for postwar reform. While changes such as the Emperor publicly renouncing his divine status were shocking and significant for ordinary Japanese people, the dissemination of the narrative that both he and the Japanese people had been misled by warmongering politicians ensured that a public sense of national unity, patriarchal devotion, and shared trauma could be maintained, and act as a buffer for radical changes such as the implementation of the Occupation’s new constitution for the country, the installation of U. S. military bases, and so on. Historian Tanaka Yuki goes further, alleging that the postwar leader Kishi Nobosuke (grandfather of the current prime minister Abe Shinzō), having been reinstated by the Occupation despite their branding of him as a war criminal, literally owed his life to American policy makers, and that this personal but symbolic salvation of a wartime militarist shaped the political objectives of his Liberal Democratic Party as supportive of an American hegemony in East Asia from the Cold War to the present day.58

Concurrently, the image of Japan as the Other of Western civilization, frequently reproduced in the traditional rhetoric and methodologies of studies of Japan, is more than just a remnant of colonialist discourse. It is more specifically an effect of the transpacific complicity instigated during the Occupation, as it suits the political aim of making invisible the role of the U. S. in what are portrayed as regional affairs.59 Speaking of academic work on the East Asia region in general, Chow writes the following:

…while plenty of work is done on East Asian women, much of it is not feminist but nationalist or culturalist; while plenty of work is done on the modern history of East Asia, much of it is not about East Asia’s shared history with other orientalized [sic] cultures but about East Asia as a “distinct”

territory with a distinct history. What is forgotten is that these notions of East

57Dower, John W. (1999) Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II.

New York: W.W. Norton & Company/The New Press. 389.

58 Tanaka, Yuki (2017). “A Critique of An Open Letter to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe”. <http://yjtanaka.blogspot.jp/2017/01/a-critique-of-open-letter-to-prime.html> [02/02/2017].

59 Sakai (2010 b), 260.

Asia are fully in keeping with U. S. foreign policy in the post-Second World War period, during which the older European Orientalism was supplanted by the emergence of the U. S. as the newest imperial power with major military bases in countries such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.60

Thus transpacific complicity can be understood as the Japan-specific and pioneering version of a new postwar ideology that structured discourse about the East Asia region in general. Accordingly, Orientalist discourse in Japanese popular culture must be understood not merely as a legacy or discursive branch of European and American colonialism, but as a function of the transpacific complicity between the U. S. and Japan establish in the postwar period.

Edwin O. Reischauer, both an academic and advisor of U.S. foreign policy in wartime and postwar Japan, is one of the figures which most strongly embodies Sakai’s articulation of the Foucaultian power/knowledge complicity between

“Japanology” as an academic discipline and the political strategies employed as a means to implementing U. S. hegemony within Japan. As Sakai and scholars such as Takashi Fujitani have pointed out, Reischauer openly advocated using tactics similar to those that Japan had attempted in its imperialist expansion into Manchuria by treating the Emperor as the leader of a “puppet” regime.61 Reischauer argued that the Japanese strategy of instating the descendant of the Qing dynasty as an Emperor of the puppet state “Manchukuo” was admirable in that it aimed at dominating the Manchurian people not through force but through a sense of shared history and culture, embodied by a non-Japanese ruler while the real power remained with the Japanese. However, Reischauer goes on, the weakness of this strategy lay in the fact that the Manchurian people had no previous allegiance or solidarity with such a regime or such an Emperor-figure, and so this new national identity would have to be enforced from top-down intitiatives, and ran the risk of seeming artificial and imposed.

In Japan, on the other hand, an Emperor system which demanded allegiance and solidarity was already in place and working effectively to mobilize Japanese citizens.

Therefore the U. S. stood to gain by using Japan’s imperial tactics against it, as

60 Chow (1993), 7.

61 Fujitani, Takashi (2000). “Reischauer no kairai tenno-sei koso”. Sekai. March 2000: 137-46.

reinstating the Emperor in Japan would be a much smoother and more effective affair than the Japanese installation of an emperor in Manchuria.62

While Sakai focuses on the spread of New Emperorism at official and strategic levels, he also figures it as a key ideology in the formation of postwar Japanese national identity. Therefore in order for it to be effective as a technology of governance over the region, it had to reach and be accepted by the Japanese people themselves somehow. While Sakai convincingly argues for the inclusion of U.S.-based academic work produced at the time as texts that extended the apparatus of New Emperorism, his argument opens a gap between the public sphere and the political one. Perhaps another study could address the ways in which the ideology of New Emperorism was disseminated to the peoples of both Japan and America, in the form of newspaper articles, museum exhibitions, popular books, films, and so on.

Existing work already aligns with Sakai’s main argument: for example, Hirano Kyoko argues that the Occupation preserved the fundamental aspects of the Japanese wartime propaganda cinema industry for the same reason it preserved the Emperor system: control and influence would be more easily secured if the new ideological agenda was seen as coming from Japanese people and institutions rather than American ones.63 Following Hirano, John Dower makes various links between film censorship and ideology in postwar Japan which could be used to support Sakai’s analysis. Dower highlights the collusion between the Japanese government and the Occupation in the banning of the anti-imperial documentary The Tragedy of Japan (Nihon no higeki, 1946), even after it had passed the censors and been screened.64 Dower goes as far as to say that “the suppression of the documentary essentially marked the moment when serious debate concerning imperial war responsibility

62 Sakai (2010 b), 262. Sakai reproduces an extract from Reischauer’s Memorandum on Policy in Japan: “Japan has used the strategem of puppet

governments extensively but with no great success because of the inadequacy of the puppets. But Japan itself has created the best possible puppet for our

purposes, a puppet who not only could be won over to our side but who would carry with him a tremendous weight of authority, which Japan's puppets in China have always lacked. I mean, of course, the Japanese Emperor.”

63 Hirano, Kyoko (1998). Tenno to Seppun: America senryoka no nihon eiga kenetsu (Emperor and Kiss: Japanese Cinema Under the American Occupation).

Tokyo: Soshisa. 60-67.

64 Dower (1999), 428.

disappeared”.65 He describes how the banning provided a strict lesson for “media people”, who learned

that serious criticism could carry an intolerably heavy price tag. Despite its reliance on already existing footage, The Tragedy of Japan proved expensive to produce for Nichiei, the studio that backed it. The film’s suppression pushed the company close to bankruptcy and provided a compelling warning to anyone else who might be contemplating playing with controversy.

Individuals working in the print media, where delays as well as outright suppression could be financially devastating, were likewise keenly attuned to the accounting costs of expressing what they truly thought.66

Thus Dower provides a compelling link between governmental strategies of control and their impact on the public sphere via the media industry, using the example of a single film to illustrate new “self-censoring” behaviours and norms as a result of a political imperative shared by the Japanese government and the Occupation at a time of economic hardship and national insecurity.

For the purposes of this dissertation, I aim to follow this methodology – of using film as a means to explore the impact of transpacific complicity on the public sphere – as it pertains to contemporary societies. For according to Sakai, the power dynamic of transpacific complicity has had a dramatic and lasting impact on Japanese modern society: from the U.S. fortifying of Japan as a bastion against the perceived threat of communism in the Cold War, to the resentment against U.S. hegemony articulated by both progressives and conservatives in Japan, for example in the mass protests against the two renewals of the Security Treaty between the U. S. and Japan in the late 1960s. Other significant political struggles in Japan, such as those against the bases in Okinawa or those for revising the constitution to regain military independence, have all been embodiments of the tensions created by the alignment between American and Japanese political objectives during and shortly after the Occupation years – in this sense, transpacific complicity can be said to have radically shaped the political life of the country. This suggests that, like all forms of power, it reproduces itself in the everyday life of citizens, indeed the presence of an ideology at

65 Dower (1999), 428.

66 Dower (1999) 429.

this level of transmission is necessary for it to exert “power” in the Foucaultian sense.

While Sakai lucidly articulates the flows of ideology between Japan and the West on a macro level, I believe his analysis could be extended to include a material explanation for how that ideology reproduces itself at the popular level. An analysis of contemporary cultural products and industries will reveal that the transpacific complicity forged during the Occupation period has not only a geopolitical and academic legacy, but a cultural one too.

Since the postwar period, transpacific complicity has been hegemonic to the extent that it has permeated the sphere of global cultural production, where it combines and competes with various other ideological narratives. Just as the advent of New Emperorism ensured continuity between kokutai ideology and postwar ideology, transpacific complicity encompasses a continuity between postwar ideology and that which is embodied in Japanese popular culture today. I believe this continuity can be observed in a variety of cultural phenomena, two of which form the inspiration for this dissertation: the cinema of “victims’ history”, which has existed from the postwar period until today, and the remake economy between Japanese and U. S. film industries that emerged in the wake of the J-horror boom in the early 2000s.

Victims’ history has long been observed by critics who argue that the cultural propagation of an image of the Japanese people (and Emperor) as primarily victims of World War II exonerates the nation by extension, thereby fulfilling the political aims of the state. To connect this to Sakai’s argument, we can say that the creation of a victim’s history for Japan using popular technologies such as literature and cinema was one of the ways in which the ideology of New Emperorism established itself in the hearts of the Japanese people. In his book The Victim as Hero, James Orr admirably articulates the flows of power through which the image of the Japanese victim moved from the political arena into the cultural domain.67 He notes not only the complicity between the occupation forces and the government in their efforts to exonerate Japan, but (from his perspective more crucially) the rise of the anti-nuclear movement in the postwar years, which went from being a fringe anti-state initiative instigated by socialists and hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) to being embraced by conservatives and non-partisan citizens alike, and being established through various

67 Orr, James (2001). The Victim as Hero: Ideologies of Peace and National Identity in Postwar Japan. University of Hawai’i Press. Honolulu.

means as part of a state-approved national narrative. 68 I will consider this convergence of political opinion on the image of Japan-as-war-victim in the chapters on Studio Ghibli. In that section I will also argue that while victims’ history has been observed as a theme in Japanese cinema that narratively depicts the wartime period, I believe that as an ideology dependent on affect, it surpasses narrative constraints and is observable in various non-war-related Japanese films. As for the J-Horror remake economy involving the U.S. and Japanese film industries, I will detail the ways in which it exemplifies transpacific complicity in both the industrial production of films and the filmic production of images in Chapter Four.

Beyond these two assertions – of the presence of victims’ history in Studio Ghibli films and the presence of transpacific complicity in the J-Horror remake economy – I will consider the related ideological presence of Orientalism and Japanese nationalism within these filmic assemblages. As I have briefly outlined here, Orientalism, Japanese nationalism, and victims’ history must be understood as complementary functions of transpacific complicity, and just as they are undoubtably distinct from each other, so too they are fundamentally connected. In the coming chapters I will illustrate how these connections have material embodiments and consequences, considering especially what they appear to both domestic and international audiences. Therefore my investigation is rooted in the argument that both the Ghibli and J-Horror assemblages are to some degree entwined with ideology developed in the postwar period in Japan and the West. Through this argument I will answer the questions of how transpacific complicity has manifested itself in contemporary Japanese popular culture, how it has mobilized and transformed in order to ensure its hegemony, and what role the globalization of Japanese popular culture has had on its dissemination.