The Week: “The plight of Japanese Peruvians in America”

Natasha Varner for The Week:

In the immediate aftermath of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the FBI made its first arrests of Japanese American leaders and held them in detention facilities and jails across Hawaii and the West Coast. The panic spread to Latin America too, and within 48 hours blacklists of Japanese businessmen, community leaders, teachers, and others appeared in Peruvian newspapers.

The U.S. government under president Franklin D. Roosevelt had already been surveilling Nikkei, people of Japanese descent, for years in the U.S. and in Latin America. Central and South American presidents tried to win the favor with the U.S. its allies by allowing FBI agents to be stationed at embassies to generate lists of those they deemed “suspect.”

(Thanks to Kiki Shim for sharing!)

Some thoughts on Neo Yokio

A few weeks ago, I finally sat down to watch Neo Yokio: Pink Christmas, a Netflix show created by Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend.

During my undergraduate years, I spent a not insignificant amount of time in an office reeking of human fluids intimidated by people who actually knew how to write about pop culture. Nonetheless, I would like to share a few words about this show.

Continue reading “Some thoughts on Neo Yokio

Tokyo MX: Chocolates to treat yourself on Valentine’s Day

How have Ginza’s department stores been preparing for The Big Day this year? According to this report by Tokyo MX:


More and more women are now buying chocolate for themselves. It’s said that they are beginning to treat Valentine’s Day as a “Treat Yourself Day”. Products specifically designed to appeal with female customers, such as multicolored packages that look like gemstones and beauty care chocolates filled with acai and chia seeds, are the ones that stand out most this season.

NYTimes: “Japan’s Working Mothers: Record Responsibilities, Little Help From Dads”

Motoko Rich, Tokyo bureau chief for the New York Times, in a bilingual article on modern motherhood:

Consider Ms. Nishimasa’s daily routine. The preschool her two youngest children attend requires the family to keep daily journals recording their temperatures and what they eat twice a day, along with descriptions of their moods, sleeping hours and playtime. On top of that, her 8-year-old son’s elementary school and after-school tutoring class require that a parent personally signs off on every homework assignment.

The paperwork, of course, is just the beginning. There is cooking, cleaning and laundry, often at a scale that far exceeds what most Westerners do. Cooking a typical Japanese dinner often involves preparing multiple small dishes. Packed lunches can be works of art. Dishwashers are not yet ubiquitous. And as for laundry, few families own dryers big enough for large loads, so wet clothes are generally hoisted on clotheslines.

She does the vast majority of it all.

This article contains no exposés or clichés about Japanese society. Rich quietly observes these exhausted moms. Perhaps she already knows, from the outset, that misogynistic bosses, preschool pressures and absent husbands are nothing new.

Three and a half years after Shinzo Abe told the world that Japan needs to make their women and elderly work before accepting any refugees, nothing has changed, and nothing might ever change. And that is the real tragedy that this article speaks to.

Reuters: “‘Fear’ and ‘favor’ chill newsroom at storied Japanese paper”

Mari Saito and Ami Miyazaki on an appalling right-wing attack on the editorial integrity of The Japan Times, an English-language newspaper which is under new ownership:

In the past, the Japan Times described Korean workers as “forced laborers” and comfort women as those “forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.”

But the five-sentence note published on Nov. 30 said the country’s oldest English-language paper would refer to Korean workers simply as “wartime laborers.”

It would be disappointing if the paper’s new editors bend to the non sequitur of equating honest criticism of Japan’s shameful past with Japan-bashing.

The executive editor of the Japan Times, Hiroyasu Mizuno, told staff in the December meeting that he had two goals: to avoid creating the perception the paper was “anti-Japanese,” and to increase advertising revenue from Japanese companies and institutions.

Some readers said the change glossed over Japan’s wartime actions.

Prominent Japanese conservatives, meanwhile, applauded the move, calling it a coup for nationalist activists agitating for English-language news outlets to change such descriptions.

Why are all the people in power supporting all the wrong causes?

Barbara Greene: “High School of the Dead and the Profitable Use of Japanese Nationalistic Imagery”

The abstract of Barbara Greene’s latest article in the latest issue of the electronic journal of contemporary japanese studies:

The horror manga series High School of the Dead, which ran from 2006 to 2013, is notable for its manipulation and allusions to a variety of militarist or ultranationalist imagery. The ultimate goal of this decision remains obscure. The two artists involved, particularly the late Satō Daisuke, are known to have a personal interest in Japanese military history or war-focused media and allegedly held views that aligned with those of the Japanese ultra-Right. However, an interest in military history and contemporary weaponry does not predicate that one is sympathetic towards the further loosening of restrictions on the Japanese Self Defense Force or to arguments in favour of Imperial Japanese military actions.

Within the series itself, however, numerous narrative and character choices appear to support the ideologies of the Japanese ultra-Right. The defense alliance between the United States and Japan repeatedly fails in the wake of global catastrophe, leaving Japan open to attacks from mainland Asia. Members of the Japanese Self Defense Force and special police, unlike their overseas counterparts, are the only effective parts of the Japanese state to survive in a zombie apocalypse. Ultra-nationalists, rather than the government, create effectively defended refugee camps.

However, while the series initially appears to support ultra-nationalist ideologies, this may be a strategy utilised by the authors to distinguish their work in an oversaturated market. By artificially sparking controversy around their work, the authors ensured that they reached several target audiences, such as buki-otaku, netto-uyoku, as well as a more general audience.

Tokyo Shimbun: vindication for an Article 9 haiku

A woman in Saitama who attempted to publish her haiku calling on people to protect Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution has been vindicated.

She had originally written her haiku at the height of protests against Shinzo Abe’s push to allow the Self-Defense Forces to participate in “collective self-defense” overseas.

According to the Tokyo Shimbun, which does not name the haiku’s author:


The woman’s haiku was selected to for the [Mihashi Community Center’s] July 2014 newsletter at a haiku meeting. However, in June 2014, the Community Center refused to published to haiku, saying that “it was polarizing content, and its publication would damage the fairness and neutrality of the Community Center.” The woman brought an action for damages against [Saitama] city for its refusal to publish the newsletter.


In December 2017, the Supreme Court of Japan rejected final appeals from both the woman and the city government, and affirmed the appeal ruling of the Tokyo High Court, which held that the city had “damaged the author’s personality rights (人格的利益).” While the court held that the city had no obligation to publish the haiku, the city said that it would look into publishing the haiku after its appeal was dismissed.

The full apology from the Mihashi Community Center’s newsletter and the haiku as printed in the newsletter are as follows:

Screenshot 2019-02-01 at 9.25.15 AM