Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

Trans-Pacific Racisms and the U.S. Occupation of Japan

Synopsis

The U. S. occupation of Japan transformed a brutal war charged with overt racism into an amicable peace in which the issue of race seemed to have disappeared. During the Occupation, the problem of racial relations between Americans and Japanese was suppressed and the mutual racism transformed into something of a taboo so that the two former enemies could collaborate in creating democracy in postwar Japan. In the 1980s, however, when Japan increased its investment in the American market, the world witnessed a revival of the rhetoric of U. S.-Japanese racial confrontation.

Koshiro argues that this perceived economic aggression awoke the dormant racism that lay beneath the deceptively smooth cooperation between the two cultures.

This pathbreaking study is the first to explore the issue of racism in U. S.-Japanese relations. With access to unexplored sources in both Japanese and English, Koshiro is able to create a truly international and cross-cultural study of history and international relations.

Excerpt

The U.S. occupation of Japan after World War II transformed a brutal war charged with overt racism into an amicable peace in which the race issue seemed to have vanished. How did this happen and what were the domestic and international racist threads that intertwined to produce such a result? This is the question that defines this study.

During the war, each side demonized the other. The United States portrayed the conflict as a battle for the preservation of Anglo-Saxon civilization against Japanese aggression and depicted the Japanese as inferior imitators of the white races (sometimes even characterizing them as “apes”). Japan claimed to be the sole champion of civilization in Asia and railed against white supremacy, portraying the Anglo-Saxon foe as “demonic and beastly Americans and British” (kichiku Bei-Ei). Both sides indulged in heated racist rhetoric, criticized each other’s racist attitudes, and proclaimed their own superiority.

Once the war was over and U.S. occupation of Japan began, the overwrought propaganda subsided and both Americans and Japanese quickly moved to collaborate in the remaking of Japan. In April 1952, under the terms of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, Japan reemerged as an independent and permanently unarmed nation with the United States as its designated guardian. The success of the Occupation and the subsequent formation of an alliance spawned the myth that the two nations had learned a lesson from the Pacific War and had forever removed the race question from U.S.-Japanese discourse. Under the spell of this myth, racism became a mutual taboo, something both countries avoided discussing altogether for the sake of postwar friendship. Thus racism itself, albeit hidden though it was tacitly practiced on both sides, provided the basis for a new relationship.

The relative harmony of the Occupation should not be surprising, since prewar Japan and the United States shared, in terms of basic values and atti-

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