Category Archives: Japan

Remembering Pearl Harbor 75 years later: Excerpt from “Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War” by Noriko Kawamura

Wedemperorhirohito-kawamuranesday, December 7, 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii that thrust the United States into World War II. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe will visit Pearl Harbor with US president Barack Obama later this month, making Abe the first Japanese leader to visit the site of the attack since 1941 (Washington Post). This excerpt from Emperor Hirohito and the Pacific War by Noriko Kawamura explores the decision by Japan to go to war with the United States.

The final decision to commence war with the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands was made at the imperial conference on December 1. The nearly two-hour-long meeting simply formalized the decision for war that had already been made a month earlier, and “His Majesty, ever the silent spectator of the scene,” as Robert Butow puts it, “left the chamber.”  It is not too difficult to document the emperor’s personal agony and hesitation to sanction the final decision for war. Deputy Grand Chamberlain Kanroji Osanaga recalled in his memoir,

The anguish he [the emperor] suffered on the eve of war with America was extreme. . . . At such times the emperor would be in his room alone. . . . But we could hear him pacing the floor, sometimes muttering to himself, and we knew that something had happened again, and was worrying him, but it was not our place to ask what. The pacing would continue for a long time, each step resounding painfully in our minds, so that we wished to stop up our ears.

On November 26, the emperor suggested to Tojo that the jushin attend the imperial conference to deliberate the war question, but the prime minister did not accept that idea.  Instead, the emperor invited eight jushin to a luncheon on November 29 and listened to their opinions for about an hour afterward. Although recognizing the grave situation Japan was facing in the wake of the failed negotiations with the United States, most of the jushin expressed doubts or hesitation about making a hasty decision for war, but without directly saying that it was not the right time to go to war.  If the emperor was looking for a strong voice against war from the jushin, he must have been disappointed. Later he recalled, “The opinions of those who were against war were abstract, but the cabinet argued for war by providing numbers to back up its case, and therefore, to my regret, I did not have power to curb the argument in favor of war.”

On November 30, the day before an imperial conference was to be convened to endorse a final war decision, the emperor briefly withheld his order to convene the meeting, after being told by his brother, Prince Takamatsu, that the navy still had lingering doubts about going to war with the United States. Neither the emperor nor his brother was able to get rid of worries that Japan might not be able to win the war. The emperor consulted with Kido, who in turn advised him to summon Navy Minister Shimada and Chief of the Naval General Staff Nagano and ask for their candid opinions.

According to Navy Minister Shimada’s November 30 diary entry, the two admirals had an audience with the emperor for twenty-five minutes in the evening. The emperor asked them, “The time is getting pressed: an arrow is about to leave a bow. Once an arrow is fired, it will become a long-drawnout war, but are you ready to carry it out as planned?” Admiral Nagano expressed the navy’s firm resolve to carry out an attack, upon receiving an imperial mandate (taimei ), and told the emperor, “The task force will arrive 1,800 ri  [4,392 miles] west of Oahu by tomorrow.” The emperor turned to Admiral Shimada and asked, “As navy minister, are you prepared in every aspect?” Shimada replied, “Both men and supplies are fully prepared and we are waiting for an imperial mandate.” The emperor continued, “What would happen if Germany stopped fighting in Europe?” The navy minister replied, “I do not think Germany is a truly reliable country. Even if Germany withdrew, we would not be affected.” At the end of the audience, “in order to make the emperor feel at ease,” in Shimada’s words, the navy chief and the navy minister guaranteed a successful attack on Pearl Harbor and the navy’s resolve to win the war at all cost. The navy minister observed that “the emperor appeared to be satisfied.”  After the audience, the emperor told Kido that Shimada and Nagano were “reasonably confident” about the war, and consequently he approved of holding an imperial conference the next day, as originally scheduled. This was the point of no return.

Thus, the role that Emperor Showa played in Japan’s decision to go to war with the United States could be compared to Max Weber’s discussion of the absolute monarch who is “impotent in face of the superior specialized knowledge of the bureaucracy.” The emperor was personally against war with the United States and exerted his influence to delay the war decision for one and a half months; but his influence was circumscribed within the nebulous triangular power relationship among court, government, and military. Emperor Hirohito eventually succumbed to the persistent pressure of the military bureaucracy and accepted the argument that war was inevitable and possibly winnable. But though Hirohito eventually sanctioned the government’s war decision, he was never free from the fear that his country might lose the war.

Exhibitions on View: ‘Conflicts of Interest’

We are delighted to present the catalog to accompany the exhibition, Conflicts of Interest: Art and War in Modern Japan, presented at the Saint Louis Art Museum from October 16, 2016 – January 8, 2017.

Conflicts of Interest showcases extraordinary visual material documenting Japan’s rise as a military power in East Asia, starting with the Meiji Restoration in 1868, then depicting events of the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), two wars between Japan and its imperial neighbors China and Russia, and then culminating with Pearl Harbor.

The exhibition is organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum and curated by Philip Hu, associate curator-in-charge of Asian Art, in collaboration with Rhiannon Paget, Andrew W. Mellon Fellow for Japanese Art. The corresponding book edited by Philip Hu features essays by Hu, Andreas Marks, Sonja Hotwagner, Sebastian Dobson, Rhiannon Paget, and Maki Kaneko; catalogue entries by Hu and Paget; and contributions by Sonja Hotwagner.

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915),The Fall of Jinzhou Fortress: Private First Class Onoguchi Tokuji, 1895, published by Katada Chojiro (active late 19th-early 20th century), center panel of triptych of color woodblock prints, 121:2010b.

Kobayashi Kiyochika (1847-1915),The Fall of Jinzhou Fortress: Private First Class Onoguchi Tokuji, 1895, published by Katada Chojiro (active late 19th-early 20th century), center panel of triptych of color woodblock prints, 121:2010b.

In presenting highlights of this collection to the public, the Museum endeavors to foster understanding of the extraordinary art and visual culture of wartime Japan and the complex causes and repercussions of these conflicts, as well as reflect on the ways in which the images communicate, sometimes with devastating consequences, narratives and ideals of nation, empire, and ethnic identity.—From the foreword by Brent R. Benjamin, The Barbara B. Taylor Director, Saint Louis Art Museum

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Excerpt: Onnagata: A Labyrinth of Gendering in Kabuki Theater

For a close-up look at transgender expression in another time and place, this Pride Month we wanted to share a selection from Maki Isaka’s book Onnagata: A Labyrinth of Gendering in Kabuki Theater. Onnagata, usually male actors who perform the roles of women, have been an important aspect of kabuki since its beginnings in 17th-century Japan. Isaka examines how the onnagata‘s theatrical gender “impersonation” has shaped the concept and mechanisms of femininity and gender construction in Japan. The implications of this study go well beyond the realm of theater and East Asia, informing theory about gender more broadly.

—Lorri Hagman, Executive Editor

Quatercentenary kabuki theater in Japan is a “queer” theater. That is not so much to say that kabuki is an all-male theater, in which male actors play women’s roles, as to note how radically this art form has altered the connotations of the word “kabuki.” Just as with the word “queer,” the implication of which has changed fundamentally over the years, the meanings of the word “kabuki”—nominalized from a verb, kabuku (to lean; to act and/or dress in a peculiar and queer manner)—have transformed dramatically. Not only did it shift from a generic word (that which is eccentric, deviant, queer, and the like) to a proper noun (this theater), but its connotations also altered tremendously from something negative to something positive. That is, kabuki theater was born as a kabuki thing—merely another stray entertainment among many, which was considered akin to prostitution—and ended up proudly styling itself the kabuki theater. With a checkered past marked by bans, shutdowns, exile, and even capital punishment for the parties concerned, kabuki—once a theater of rebellion for the common people—is now one of four classical genres of Japanese theater that the nation proudly presents to the world, along with noh (a medieval Buddhist theater a few centuries older than kabuki), kyōgen (a theater of mime and speech that accompanies noh), and bunraku (a puppet theater), all of which are all-male theater.

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June 2016 News, Reviews, and Events

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Niccole Coggins staff news photo

We are pleased to announce that Niccole Leilanionapae‘āina Coggins has joined us as the 2016-2017 Mellon University Press Diversity Fellow, effective June 1. Niccole comes to us from the department of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Please welcome Niccole to the Press!

Congratulations to artist, author, and University of Washington alumna Barbara Earl Thomas, recently awarded the 2016 Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award from Artist Trust, and a nominee for a 2016 Stranger Genius Award in visual arts. Thomas is the author of Storm Watch (1998) and co-author of Never Late for Heaven (2003) and Joe Feddersen (2008).

College Art Association has awarded a grant through the Millard Meiss Publication Fund for Painting by Candlelight: The Art of Resistance in Mao’s China by Shelley Drake Hawks (Fall 2017). Congratulations to the author and all involved!

Congratulations to Antje Richter, awarded an Honorable Mention for Letters and Epistolary Culture in Early Medieval China (2013) by the Eugene M. Kayden Book Award at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

We also congratulate Barbara Goldstein, editor of Public Art by the Book, winner of the 2016 Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Award.

spring-sale-2016Our Spring Sale 2016 is on now! Visit our site through June 30, 2016 to save 50% off hundreds of titles. Use code WSPR to order online or call 1-800-537-5487.

The University of Washington Press shares in the remembrance of three remarkable people. Anne Gould Hauberg, a major figure in Seattle’s cultural life, advocate for the learning disabled, and subject of the biography Fired by Beauty: Anne Gould Hauberg by Barbara Johns, passed away on April 11 at age 98. Arthur (Art) R. Kruckeberg, influential botanist and author of Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, among other books, died on May 25 at age 96. Renowned Chinese writer Yang Jiang—author of Six Chapters from My Life ‘Downunder’ (Ganxiao liuji), translated by Howard Goldblatt—passed away on May 25 at age 104.

Reviews and Interviews

An excerpt of Once and Future River with photographs by Tom Reese and essay by Eric Wagner appears online at the Seattle Times and in print in Pacific NW Magazine.
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May 2016 News, Reviews, and Events

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GiveBIG-book-heartOn this #GiveBIG Day, thanks for giving big today and every day! This year your support helped us publish some of the region’s most talented nonfiction writers, offer fellowships in scholarly publishing, and ensure a future for smart, accessible books. Thank you for being part of the University of Washington Press community!

We are also thrilled to announce that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded the University of British Columbia a three-year $509,000 grant to support a new collaborative digital publishing platform for multimedia books in Indigenous studies between UBC Press and the University of Washington Press. Read more at Library Journal‘s InfoDocket and the full announcement on our blog, or contact Beth Fuget at bfuget [at] uw.edu.

Congratulations to senior designer Tom Eykemans, winner of the 2016 Standing Ovation Award from UW’s Professional Staff Organization. Winners and nominees will be celebrated on Wednesday, May 4, from noon till 1:30 p.m. in the Lake Washington Room of the UW Club.

Jerry Franklin displays his Pinchot Medallion award. Photo via University of Washington / UW Today.

Congratulations to UW forest ecologist and The Olympic Rain Forest co-author Jerry Franklin, who was recently awarded the Pinchot Medallion by the Pinchot Institute for Conservation (via UW Today).

Last, our Fall 2016 catalog is hot off the presses—we hope you’ll be as excited about what we’re publishing over the next months as we are!

Reviews and Interviews

The Utne Reader publishes an excerpt from Ana Maria Spagna‘s Reclaimers.
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April 2016 News, Reviews, and Events

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Author David Williams with his mom and fellow author, Jacqueline B. Williams (Photo via AKCHO)

Author David B. Williams with his mom and fellow author, Jacqueline B. Williams (Photo via AKCHO)

Congratulations to David B. Williams, winner of the 2016 Association of King County Historical Organizations (AKCHO) Virginia Marie Folkins Award for Too High and Too Steep. The awards event will be held on Tuesday, June 7, 5:30-8:30 p.m., at the Northwest African American Museum. Read more at the AKCHO site.

Reviews and Interviews

The PBS series 10 Parks That Changed America, featuring Gas Works Park and interviews with Richard Haag and The Landscape Architecture of Richard Haag author Thaisa Way, will air on Tuesday, April 12. Watch the preview and select clips now.
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The Association for Asian Studies in Seattle

The Association for Asian Studies (AAS) is the world’s largest organization focusing on research on and teaching about Asia. Its annual conference, attended by over three thousand members, is our most important opportunity to recruit new book projects and make our new publications in Asian studies available to scholars. This year, AAS will meet in Seattle for the first time, from March 31 through April 3, at the Washington State Convention Center.

AAS’s members are academics and other professionals whose work involves East, South, Northeast, and Southeast Asia, and whose expertise spans across disciplines—history, anthropology, and literary studies, to name just a few. At the hundreds of themed panels scattered across several days, they will give oral presentations on their current research. Our acquisitions editors scan the program to identify topics that could be developed into books, and arrange in advance to meet with potential new authors and to follow up with authors whose manuscripts already are in development. A popular feature of the conference is the exhibit hall, in which dozens of book publishers introduce new titles published in the last year, as well as feature backlist highlights.

In addition to lining up the usual dozens of meetings with authors, other scholars, and publishing partners, this year our Seattle-based staff will have the opportunity to meet the many University of Washington Press authors attending the meeting. Come see us at booth 310-312! We will also celebrate several recent prize winners: Continue reading