Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review: Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan

by Bob Duncan
Review by Liz Berndt Morris, Central Michigan University

This summer I spent several pleasurable sittings viewing and reading Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan with text and captions by Bob Duncan. This 10” x 10” coffee-table book features 198 full-page, black-and-white photos of scenes from America’s Pacific Campaign. These photographs are arranged in roughly chronological order and in three chapters: Crisis in the Pacific (1941-1942), Leaning New Ways of War (1942-1944), and A Colossus Emerges (1944-1945). A final chapter, Notes on the Photographs, serves as an appendix providing each picture’s title, location, and, if available, call or box number. The vast majority of these photos came from the National Archive and Naval Historical Center, but there is a dash of privately owned photographs as well. While this book is the second volume in a two volume set compiled by Duncan, it can easily stand on its own as an independent book.

A consideration that Duncan had to make for a book of World War II photographs is to what extent to include graphic photographs. This book does not contain any photographs that I found gory, but it does contain a few photographs of fallen soldiers. With this being a coffee-table book, it is very tasteful in how it handles the violence of war and one should not be worried of the age appropriateness of the book.

The book is well united by Bob Duncan’s preface, chapter introductions, and short picture captions. However, the tone of the writing is unabashedly nationalistic in the United States’ favor. This is easily divulged by reading the dust jacket summary:

On December 7, 1941, America’s hopes of remaining neutral in World War II disappeared in the oily smoke that roiled from her battleships burning at Pearl Harbor. The nation faced Herculean tasks to strike back against the Imperial Japanese military that had attacked her. Victory demanded crossing thousands of miles of ocean, creating new weapons, and arming hundreds of thousands of young men to fight their way across a series of desolate islands that a fanatical enemy had fortified to exact the highest possible price from the American troops.

Historic Photos of World War II Pearl Harbor to Japan portrays this epic story, using black-and-white photographs selected from the finest archives and private collections. From the sinking of the Arizona to the raising of the Stars and Stripes over Japan, Historic Photos of World War II Pearl Harbor to Japan depicts in a way mere words cannot the determination, struggle, and sacrifices of America s fighting men as they rose to the challenge of liberating free peoples of the Pacific from a conquering invader.

The sweeping statements of this book’s nationalistic tone at times irked me. For example, a picture of captive Japanese prisoners states the reason Japanese soldiers abandon the code of Bushido was because of “how well they were treated in American captivity” (82). A picture of the aftermath of the atomic bomb in Nagasaki describes Japanese citizens’ “near-instant death”; ignoring through generalization the terrible fortune Japanese people endured and the reality that war is horrible. This undermines the sacrifices made on both sides.

With that said, I found the majority of the captions quite helpful in contemplating the pictures. The selection of photographs in this book is terrific. Simply glancing at any of these pictures is not possible. I found myself at times contemplating some pictures for long periods of time. Historic Photos of World War II: Pearl Harbor to Japan book would be an excellent gift for any World War II history enthusiast and could serve as a catalyst for anyone searching for inspiration for World War II research.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Free Asian History Courses

Several universities are putting complete courses online for free now. Visitors can peruse course materials and watch lectures even if they do not get any academic credit for it. MIT is probably the best known for this but some other schools are as well including Notre Dame and the University of Washington.

Here are three example courses dealing with Asian history:

East Asia in the World - This MIT course is from 2003. This course examines the interactions of East Asia with the rest of the world and the relationships of each of the East Asian countries with each other, from ca. 1500 to 2000 A.D. Primary focus on China and Japan, with some reference to Korea, Vietnam, and Central Asia. Asks how international diplomatic, commercial, military, religious, and cultural relationships joined with internal processes to direct the development of East Asian societies. Subject addresses perceptions and misperceptions among East Asians and foreigners.

Babylonian Mathematics - This is an Open University course. This course looks at Babylonian mathematics. You will learn how a series of discoveries have enabled historians to decipher stone tablets and study the various techniques the Babylonians used for problem-solving and teaching. The Babylonian problem-solving skills have been described as remarkable and scribes of the time received a training far in advance of anything available in medieval Christian Europe 3000 years later.

Japan in the Age of the Samurai: History and Film - This MIT course is from 2006. This course covers medieval Japanese society and culture from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries, when political power rested largely in the hands of feudal warriors. Topics include religion (especially Zen Buddhism); changing concepts of "the way of the warrior;" women under feudalism; popular culture; and protest and rebellion. Presentations include weekly feature films. Assigned readings include many literary writings in translation.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dutch East Indies

I was fortunate enough to find a good oral history site on the Web the other day. It is the Dutch East Indies. It is the account of Elizabeth van Kampen. She is the daughter of a Dutch plantation manager in Sumatra in the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia). She describes her childhood and experiences during World War Two.

I hope Elizabeth van Kampen publishes her story in a book. The Web is a good way to share her account with the world. However, I fear it may not be a good long-term storage mechanism. I would hate to see her tale lost after she dies and then something goes bad with her site.

From the site:

After a wonderful youth in the Dutch East Indies, today Indonesia, my family and I went through three and a half years Japanese occupation. I lost my father, I lost the country I loved, I lost everything, but I kept my memories.

My son advised me to start a website and write all those memories down. So here I am, 79 years old, sitting behind my computer, going back to the Dutch East Indies.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Jomon Japan

Jomon Japan. This site has a practical introduction to Jomon archaeology in Japan. It includes museums, links to other related sites, and research literature.

The site describes this ancient Japanese period. It notes, "The Jomon period, from approx. 12,000 years before present (BP) to 2,400 BP, saw relatively rapid expansion in human population in the islands that now make up Japan. Settlements became larger and more numerous, and various introduced and local plants came into cultivation. It seems that most food was obtained by hunting, fishing, and the collection of wild plant foods. The diversity and creativity of Jomon art is hugely appealing to modern audiences and is a source of inspiration to many people, within Japan and abroad."

The site leaves much to be desired. It has good content but is unsatisfying. Here are a few other equally informative but slightly flawed sites to check out for Jomon information:

Fukui Cave. Recounts the discovery of a cave showing Jomon culture on the southern island in Nagasaki.

The Jomon Period in Japan - This site has a nice timeline.

The Paleolithic Period / Jomon Period - Discussion of the history and food of the Jomon era and its pottery.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Battle for Iwo Jima

The US Department of Defense has a nice site up dedicated to the Battle for Iwo Jima. This was a fierce conflict between American and Japanese forces during World War II fought in early 1945. The site features articles, maps, videos, and a picture gallery.

From the site:

Iwo Jima was the site of the most horrific amphibious assault of World War II and perhaps modern warfare. Approximately 70,000 Marines from the Vth Amphibious Corps (made up of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions) fought 21,000 Japanese in a brutal contest that left about 28,000 American casualties with nearly 6,821Americans dead. The battle remains the most costly in Marine Corps history.

Iwo Jima literally means "Sulfur Island" in Japanese, and as the planes landed on the island, the pungent smell of sulfur filled the air. After donning their 782 gear, Marines made the 5-mile trek from the airfield to the 565-foot towering summit of Mount Suribachi - the sight of the famous American flag-raising and the second most recognized icon in the world.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Pearl Harbor: Strong Reactions Still

(The USS Arizona Memorial on 6 January 2008.)

For the last several years, this blog has featured a post on Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii every December 7th. I did so again recently in 2007. However, I am going to post about it again now. Recently, I visited Honolulu, Hawaii. This was my first visit to America's 50th state. I was in town for a conference but I made sure my initial activity was to wake up early in the morning of my first day in Hawaii and go to Pearl Harbor.

I signed up for a tour to Pearl Harbor. A bus came and picked me up at the hotel I was staying at during my visit. The driver was a native Hawaiian in his 50s. He was very cheerful and knowledgeable. He began his commentary by saying, "I always like to greet visitors in my native tongue. Are you ready? HOWDY! HOW YOU DOING!" The laughter that ensued broke the ice and the whole bus load of visitors spoke freely during the outing.

We arrived at Pearl Harbor around 9 am. The tour guide had us all take a ticket that dictated which showing we would be seated in to visit the USS Arizona. We only had a 50 minute wait and we used the time to visit the bookstore and the Pearl Harbor Museum.

The official program began with a 25 minute viewing of a film in a theatre. It did a good job explaining the events that lead to December 7th, 1941. It also showed in great detail the attack and what the consequences of it were. The film was well done and everyone in the theatre had an understanding of exactly how the USS Arizona came to be a memorial and grave site.

(The Flag of the United States of America flies proudly over what may be one of the most sacred places in all of America.)

After the film, we all boarded a boat which took us out across Pearl Harbor to the USS Arizona Memorial. It was a silent, solemn, but comfortable trip. We were let off at the memorial with the admonishment to be quiet at the USS Arizona and show respect for the dead.

My brief 20 or so minutes on the memorial was very powerful. I was not born until decades after the Pearl Harbor attack. Despite this, I teared up on several occasions. I felt a great deal of sadness and anger. The names of the 1100+ dead entombed in the water below was almost overwhelming. I was also touched by the names of those who died years (in many cases decades later) from the USS Arizona who made the decision to have their remains placed with their shipmates when they passed away.

I also felt angry towards Japan. Why did they do this? Intellectually I understood their reasoning but I still felt some vile. Many of the men who died on the Arizona had been below decks when the ship exploded and rolled over due to a direct hit from a Japanese torpedo that hit the munition magazines. They never knew that America was at war. They may mercifully never have even been aware of their own deaths as they occurred so suddenly. I let the anger go well before I left the memorial. I was very surprised to have felt it so deeply even if it was for a short time.

There were many Japanese tourists at the memorial. I wondered, what are they thinking? How do they feel about this? Clearly, their nation was in the wrong attacking unprovoked without a declaration of war while their diplomats in Washington were negotiating a treaty with the United States. No amount of mental gymnastics or rewriting the history books will alter who the villain and who the victim were on this day. The events in the Pacific War all started here. Hiroshima and Nagasaki would never have tasted nuclear war without this day of infamy happening first.

I left Pearl Harbor very grateful to have finally visited it. I enjoyed the next three days I stayed in Hawaii and had a productive conference. My presentation went well too. Despite this, my visit to Pearl Harbor was the highlight of my trip.

In a few days, I will write about my visit to 'Iolani Palace.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Pearl Harbor

It is the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii today. It plunged the United States into World War Two. This very short video has footage from that day as well as the beginning of FDR's speech to Congress asking for a declaration of war. The video has the wrong year at the beginning (it is 1941 and not 1942!) but other than that is well done and worth a minute and a half of your time.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nanjing Massacre Video

This video is disturbing and has graphic pictures from the Rape of Nanjing in 1937. These photos may not be appropriate for all. It is short (under five minutes) and gives a good overview to the event.

Monday, September 10, 2007

History of Japan

History of Japan. This is a brief history of the Asian nation of Japan. It gives very little attention to most of Japanese history and instead focuses on the last 250 years. I have been in Japan twice but it was only to change planes. I hope to really visit someday.

Wikipedia notes, "Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of China, Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea in the south. The characters that make up Japan's name mean 'sun-origin', which is why Japan is sometimes identified as the Land of the Rising Sun. Japan comprises over three thousand islands, the largest of which are Honshū, Hokkaidō, Kyūshū and Shikoku, together accounting for 97% of land area. Most of the islands are mountainous, many volcanic; for example, Japan’s highest peak, Mount Fuji, is a volcano. Japan has the world's tenth largest population, with about 128 million people. The Greater Tokyo Area, which includes the capital city of Tokyo and several surrounding prefectures, is the largest metropolitan area in the world, with over 30 million residents."

From the site:

Traditional Japanese legend maintains that Japan was founded in 600 BC by the Emperor Jimmu, a direct descendant of the sun goddess and ancestor of the present ruling imperial family. About AD 405, the Japanese court officially adopted the Chinese writing system. Together with the introduction of Buddhism in the sixth century, these two events revolutionized Japanese culture and marked the beginning of a long period of Chinese cultural influence. From the establishment of the first fixed capital at Nara in 710 until 1867, the emperors of the Yamato dynasty were the nominal rulers, but actual power was usually held by powerful court nobles, regents, or "shoguns" (military governors).

The first recorded contact with the West occurred about 1542, when a Portuguese ship, blown off its course to China, landed in Japan. During the next century, traders from Portugal, the Netherlands, England, and Spain arrived, as did Jesuit, Dominican, and Franciscan missionaries. During the early part of the 17th century, Japan's shogunate suspected that the traders and missionaries were actually forerunners of a military conquest by European powers. This caused the shogunate to place foreigners under progressively tighter restrictions. Ultimately, Japan forced all foreigners to leave and barred all relations with the outside world except for severely restricted commercial contacts with Dutch and Chinese merchants at Nagasaki. This isolation lasted for 200 years, until Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy forced the opening of Japan to the West with the Convention of Kanagawa in 1854.

Within several years, renewed contact with the West profoundly altered Japanese society. The shogunate was forced to resign, and the emperor was restored to power. The "Meiji restoration" of 1868 initiated many reforms. The feudal system was abolished, and numerous Western institutions were adopted, including a Western legal system and constitutional government along quasi-parliamentary lines.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Could GM Have Beaten Back the Japanese Auto Invasion?

I found this question on an alternate history site the other day. It got me thinking. Here is the question:

If you had been the top marketing executive at General Motors during the early years of the Japanese invasion of the US auto market, which strategy would you have recommended to defend GM's leading market share against this new competitive threat?

My response:

I find it somewhat difficult to put myself in the mindset of GM executives when the Japanese auto invasion began. Looking back, it is easy to apply an ex post de facto reading on events after they have happened. Although we know now that the Japanese auto makers are going to dominate, that outcome was not at all certain in the early 80s. The result was not pre-destined and GM perhaps could have found a counter and avoided losing significant market share. Any approach I would suggest now is based on a subsequent reading of events not known to GM at the time. Further, any suggestion I make now may have been anticipated and countered by the Japanese auto makers. They still might have come out ahead even had GM tried a different approach.

My first retro advice for GM comes from the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 notes, “So then let him who thinks he is standing securely beware of falling.” When anyone is on top, getting a sense of complacency is dangerous. Circumstances change and the mighty can be brought low quickly.

Quinn (1980) wrote, “an effective strategy first probes and withdraws to determine opponents' strengths, forces opponents to stretch their commitments, then concentrates resources, attacks a clear exposure, overwhelms a selected market segment, builds a bridgehead in that market, and then regroups and expands from that base to dominate a wider field" (p. 160, 161).

Using the language of war, a counter offensive strategy might have made sense for GM in this circumstance. As Japanese companies expended resources to invade the American auto market, it would have made sense for GM to counter attack and attempt to cut into the Japanese domestic market. If the Japanese companies lost shares at home, they may have been forced to retreat to protect the home market.

Unfortunately, that approach would not have worked. The Japanese government at the time used extreme protective legislation to make it difficult for foreign companies to succeed in Japan. Although the American government may have been able to pressure Japan on GM’s behalf, it is unlikely that it would have done so. In the midst of the Cold War, Japan was an outpost flanking Red China and the Soviet Union. It was almost entirely defended by the American military and the American policy wanted a strong Japanese economy. A counter offensive probably would have failed.

As such, I would have recommended an expansion in the domestic American market. GM needed to aggressively go after American consumers using a market expansion strategy. That meant trying to go after several market segments at the same time. GM needed to go after value consumers who wanted a cheap vehicle as well as those who wanted a luxury car. This would have allowed them to protect their luxury market base but also allowed expansion into the low cost market before the Japanese could have defined themselves as the value car producers.

Such a strategy would have required a paradigm shift on the part of GM. The company had gotten used to catering to the luxury market. Black and Gregersen (2003) wrote that leaders fail to initiate change because they fail to see the need, they feel to act when they do see the need, or they fail to finish the change. As such, it would have been very important for GM executives to accept the need for change and then actually doing something about it other than continuing their previous business strategies.


Black, J and Gregersen, H. (2003). Leading strategic change: Breaking through the brain barrier. New York: Prentice Hall.

Quinn, J. (1980). Strategies for change: Logical Incrementalism. Homewood, Illinois: Richard D. Irwin.

Monday, May 22, 2006

How Japanese Warlords Got Their Armies

How Japanese Warlords Got Their Armies. This site has pictures and a history of how Japanese warlords between the year 800 to 1615 acquired their armies and navies. It also includes details on how the troops were managed. There are also details on what kind of men were soldiers, captains and generals for the warlords.

I will admit that this site is confusingly laid out. I almost gave up on it. However, if you ignore all the links at the top and scroll down, you will find some good content. The writing is strange but readable (English as a second language?) although I am not sure about all the facts that the author (Nina Wilhelmina) is asserting.

The writing is often funny. Check out this quote, "A ninja corp is an olden days Japanese version of the CIA and FBI condensed; the first part of their job was outbound while the second part of the same job was homebound, as undercover cops."

I am sure that most visitors will learn some good information. Enjoy the humor at the site at the same time. However, double check any facts before you use this as a reference for your dissertation or book!

From the site:

There were 4 ways for you, were you living in Japan between 660 BCE and 1615, to be a warlord or 'daimyo':

1. You could be a chief of some decent samurai band, which had been lending their arts to other people's clans, for which your band got rewards in the form of land. This would have made you the head of samurai clans such as Mori and Matsuura and the entire Oda Nobunaga Generals.

2. You could have gotten the Emperor's own letter of assignment that said you were the rep of His Majesty in so-and-so area. This was how the warlord clans of Imagawa (Suruga), Takeda (Kai) and Otomo (Bungo) rose.

3. You could have worked for other people who were appointed by the Imperial Decree as governors or reps in certain territories, and showed your boss how to get real by taking up actual ruling of the said area. That's the way of the Oda, Asakura, Asai, and Uesugi.

4. You could just be yourself, i.e. jobless samurai, who spent all your youth to wander around aimlessly until you could somehow kill a warlord and snatch his territory. This was what Saito Dosan did to get Mino, and Hojo to take Kamakura over.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ainu - Spirit of a Northern People

Ainu - Spirit of a Northern People. The Ainu are the original indigenous people of Japan. This site is an online exhibition of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History exploring the ancient origin of the Ainu, their relations with the Japanese, and the Ainu cultural rebirth. The exhibit itself was from 1999.

The Ainu are native to Hokkaido which is north of Honshu in Northern Japan, the Kuril Islands, much of Sakhalin, and the southernmost third of the Kamchatka peninsula. Wikipedia notes that early contacts with the Japanese were friendly but later became violent. The article reads, "At first, contact with the Japanese people was friendly and both were equals in a trade relationship. However, eventually the Japanese started to dominate the relationship, and soon established large settlements on the outskirts of Ainu territory. As the Japanese moved north and took control over their traditional lands, the Ainu often gave up without resistance, but there was occasional resistance as exemplified in wars in 1457, 1669, and 1789, all of which were lost by the Ainu. Japanese policies became increasingly aimed at assimilating the Ainu in the Meiji period, outlawing their language and restricting them to farming on government-provided plots."

There is evidence that the Ainu may have been among the first settlers of North America as Kennewick Man is believed to be of Ainu origin.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Ritual Suicide

Ritual Suicide. This short article has information on the ritual suicide practice known as Seppuku (or Hara-kiri). It was normally practiced by samurai in medieval Japan.

The article notes, "To the samurai, seppuku--whether ordered as punishment or chosen in preference to a dishonorable death at the hands of an enemy--was unquestionable demonstration of their honor, courage, loyalty, and moral character. "

It is hard to believe but many warriors made the decision to kill themselves in a painful manner for making poor tactical decisions on the battlefield or for being on the wrong side of a political alliance. It is noted that this behavior became common after Buddhism was introduced in Japan.

Death in this manner was also ritualized. It is noted, "The location of an officially ordered seppuku ceremony was very important. Often the ritual was performed at temple (but not Shinto shrines), in the garden or villas, and inside homes. The size of the area available was also important, as it was prescribed precisely for samurai of high rank. All the matters relating to the act was carefully prescribed and carried out in the most meticulous manner. The most conspicuous participant, other than the victim, was the kaishaku (kie-shah-kuu), or assistant, who was responsible for cutting off the victim's head after he had sliced his abdomen open. The was generally a close friend or associate of the condemned."

Although ritual suicide is rarely practiced in Japan today, the legacy lives on. There is less social stigma attached to suicide in Japan than there is in other parts of the world.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Russo-Japanese War Research Society

Russo-Japanese War Research Society. This site has narratives of the campaigns, a selection of maps and images, text of documents, and biographies of the major personalities. This is a well designed site with easy navigation and tons of great content.

The Russo-Japanese War is the first war in modern history where an Asian nation beat a European nation. It was humiliating for Russia and signaled that Japan was a major world power. The loss showed how weak the Czarist government was and lead to the Russian Revolution of 1905. Japan gained a lot of respect internationally and the success in the war may have been one of the reasons Japan joined with the allies in the First World War.

One interesting side note to the war is that American President Teddy Roosevelt helped to negotiate the end of hostilities. For his efforts, Roosevelt became the first US President to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

From the site:

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, which began with the Japanese naval attack on Port Arthur, had its roots in the simultaneous determination of both Japan and Russia to develop 'spheres of influence' in the Far East, mainly at the expense of China. Japan fought a very successful war against the crumbling Chinese Empire in 1894-95 and imposed a severe treaty. Japan demanded from China a heavy war indemnity, the island of Formosa, and Port Arthur and its hinterland. The European powers, while having no objection to the indemnity, did feel that Japan should not gain Port Arthur, for they had their own ambitions in that part of the world. Russia persuaded Germany and France to join her in applying diplomatic pressure on the Japanese, with the result that Japan was obliged to relinquish Port Arthur. Two years later Saint Petersburg forced the Chinese into leasing Port Arthur to Russia, together with the Liaotung Peninsula on which it stood. For Russia this meant the acquisition of an ice-free naval base in the Far East to supplement Vladivostok. For Japan it was a case of adding insult to injury.

The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 caused the European powers and Japan to send troops to China to suppress the rebels. When the fighting was over, Russian troops were occupying Manchuria. Russia promised to withdraw these forces by 1903, but failed to do so, wishing to hold Manchuria as a springboard for further expansion of her interest in the Far East. Meanwhile Japan was heavily engaged in Korea, successfully increasing her influence in that country. Russia also had interest in Korea, and although at first Russians and Japanese managed to peacefully coexist, it was not long before tensions on both sides led to hostilities. Negotiations between the two nations began in 1901 but made little headway. Japan then strengthened her position by forming an alliance with Britain. The terms stated that if Japan went to war in the Far East, and a third power entered the fight against Japan, then Britain would come to the aide of the Japanese.

During her negotiations with Japan, Russia did not expect the Japanese to go to war. After all, Japan was a newly emergent country, whose naval officers might have been trained in Britain and her army officers in Germany, but several of those officers had begun their careers wearing armor and brandishing swords. The Russian army was the world's most powerful, or at least that is what the Russians believed. But the Japanese had other ideas. Japan knew that they could not win a long war fought over a vast expanse, but they could win a short localized war.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Ninja of Ancient Japan

The Ninja of Ancient Japan - Lists the origins of the ninja, their weapons, history, and famous ninja. Please note the author of this has repeatedly misspelled ancient. I have taken the liberty of correcting it here.

It is of interest that President Clinton spoke about ninjas. He said, "It would scare the shit out of al Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters in to the middle of their camp. It would get us an enormous deterrence and show those guys we're not afraid."

I am not sure how al Qaeda feels about ninjas, but I know ninjas are certainly big in popular culture today.

From the site:

Of Japan before the fifth century little is known. It was then in the 400s that Chinese scholars were invited over and began to instruct the Japanese in writing and Chinese styles of art and architecture as well as Chinese methods of war. Between the 5th and 8th centuries Japanese culture as we know it today began to develop. The last development came between the 8th and 10th centuries when Japanese warriors who since the 500s wore armour and carried weaponry that were similar to those of Chinese and Korean soldiers, began to develop their own distinctive military ware and code of ethics to become what was to be one of the most ferocious warrior classes of medieval times. The samurai.

By the early medieval period Japan was divided up among many warlords known as Daimyo. Each daimyo ruled over huge armies of his own samurai, all of whom obeyed their lord with the upmost loyalty. According to the Japanese military code of honour known as Bushido (which means ‘the way of the warrior’), each samurai was expected to be ever loyal to his master and to his companions without question. He was to hold his life and even the life of his family in contempt. he would if ordered fight to the death and even take his own life or again if ordered even kill his own wife and children with out hesitation. (One story is told of a samurai who learning that his lord’s son was in danger placed his own son into the hands of his lord’s enemies, saving his lord’s son but delivering his own to certain death.). A samurai was expected to follow his own master’s orders even if they were morally wrong. Even if, according to the 18th century military philosopher, Yamamoto Jucho, it meant following his master to hell itself.

But the code of Bushido was also was a code of respect and fairplay, if only towards samurai. No samurai was suppost to kill another in cold blood and many samurai were reluctant to engage in various aspects of warfare which they regarded as cowardice even if it meant disobeying their lord. Such areas of warfare such as spying and assassination and other forms of covert warfare were regarded as distasteful to many samurai. So many daimyo began to look elsewhere for their spies and assassins.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima

Atomic Bombing of Hiroshima - An eyewitness report written by a Jesuit priest living near Hiroshima at the time of the atomic bombing. Describes the aftermath of the bombing, and the effects on the people of Hiroshima.

Today is the 6oth Anniversity of the atom bombing of Hiroshima. Over 60,000 Japanese died (most of who were civilians) when the Enola Gay dropped the bomb.

It is hard to predict what may have happened had Truman decided not to atom bomb Japan. Maybe the war would have gone on with a full-scale allied invasion of Japan and the death toll would have been much higher. Further, the Soviet Union may have occupied portions of Japan which would have further complicated the Cold War. But maybe not. It probably was the right decision but we can still mourn those innocents who died on August 6th, 1945.

From the site:

In September of 1945, Bishop Franklin Corley was sent to the Japanese city of Hiroshima as part of the American occupation forces then entering that country. As one of the first American soldiers to enter the stricken city, he encountered many of the people who were helping to re-establish order from the chaos. One of these people was Father P. Siemes, a German priest with the Novitists of the Society of Jesus in Nagatsuki. Father Siemes was directly involved in the post-bombing rescue, and had also witnessed the explosion itself while barely avoiding the bomb's lethal heat and shock waves.

Shortly after they met, Father Siemes gave a typed account of his observations to Mr.Corley, who then brought the manuscript back to the United States where it lay mostly hidden for fifty years. Thanks to the kind cooperation of Mr. Corley's son, Father Siemes' account is now given below without any editing or modification. His eyewitness account is a priceless insight into this event, as are his thoughts on the implications of total war and its application. Shown along with the account are Mr. Corley's photographs of Hiroshima, some of which were taken while the city still smoldered.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

John Batchelor

John Batchelor - Life story of John Batchelor (1854-1944), an English missionary who became the first westerner to learn the Ainu language, record its grammar in English, and make the Ainu (who live in Japan) known to the western world.

From the site:

John Batchelor made his mind to work for the Ainu as follows. The first was to teach Ainu Christianity, the second was to make them know the generosity, mercy and light of the God, the third was to inform Japanese people of Ainu religion and language because they did not now know them.

Batchelor came to Hakodate from Hongkong when he was 23. One day when he had a chat with the students he had taught English at the Catholic Church, he happened to hear their insisting that Ainu were not human. He got angry and had a quarrel with them.

Immediately soon after that, he saw Ainus with bows and arrows on the street of Hakodate. The Ainus looked so obedient and kind that on the contrary he did not feel any fear. They made a bow politely, touching their heavy beards with their hands. Though Batchelor did not wear beard, he also did similar thing to what they had done before. Then they were talking of something smilingly one another. He determined to work for Ainu more and more.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Memorial Day Special - Pacific Battle Islands of World War Two

Memorial Day Special - Pacific Battle Islands of World War Two. Today is Memorial Day in the United States of America. The World History Blog salutes the soldiers who are defending America by fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and solemly remembers those who gave their lives for the USA over the last 230 years. Here is a collection of histories of a few Pacific islands that saw major battles during World War Two.

History of the Northern Mariana Islands - "World War II came to the Marianas in 1941. Major American battles occurred in the Northern Marianas in 1944, including the pivotal Marianas campaign which signaled the end of the War in the Pacific. The Emperor of Japan surrendered to the Allied Forces on August 15, 1945, ending World War II, and a U.S. military government was instituted in the Northern Mariana Islands."

History of Midway Islands - "At the end of the Battle of Midway, all four Japanese carriers involved in the attack on Pearl Harbor had been sunk, while the United States lost the carrier Yorktown. The Japanese lost 256 of their finest aircraft, and more than 200 of their most experienced pilots and several thousand sailors perished. The Japanese Navy never fully recovered and its expansion into the Pacific had been stopped. American naval power in the Pacific was restored. The American victory at Midway was the turning point of the Pacific campaign of World War II. "

History of Wake Island - "With the aviation element now disposed of, the Japanese felt confident that they could land. Accordingly, at 0200 on 23 December 1941, the enemy managed to establish a beachhead, running two old destroyer-transports ashore in the process under heavy gunfire. After bitter fighting, the men of the Japanese Special Naval Landing Force managed to overcome the defending marines but not without sustaining heavy casualties. Wilkes was the last island to surrender, on the afternoon of the 23d. "

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Japan, Korea and 1597: A Year That Lives in Infamy

Japan, Korea and 1597: A Year That Lives in Infamy - Excerpt of a New York Times article detailing Japan's invasion of Korea in 1597 and Korean resentment lingering from it.

From the site:

When they invaded Korea 400 years ago, Japanese samurai warriors brought back priceless porcelain, ingenious metal type for printing and noses and ears hacked off the corpses of tens of thousands of Koreans.

In one of the world's more macabre war memorials, a 30-foot-high hillock here in the ancient Japanese capital marks where the noses and ears were buried. The 400th anniversary of this Mimizuka, or Ear Mound, will be commemorated in September, underscoring the tensions and hostilities that still set the countries of East Asia against each other.

Few Japanese outside Kyoto know of the Ear Mound, but almost all Koreans do. In Japan, even among those who have heard of it, the Ear Mound is largely seen as a bizarre relic of little relevance today. To many Koreans, it is a symbol of a Japanese brutishness that still lurks beneath the surface waiting to explode.

"Frankly speaking, I think there is a risk" of Japan some day again attacking its neighbors, said Ryu Gu Che, an ethnic Korean in Kyoto, and he suggests that the best way of reducing the risk would be for Japan to acknowledge and repent the savagery symbolized by the Ear Mound.

"So although 400 years have passed," he said, "I think both peoples should study this episode and learn some lessons."

Ryu, who is organizing the anniversary ceremony, says that the lesson that Japan should learn is to show greater remorse. The lesson for Korea, he said, is to avoid corruption and weakness that could tempt foreign invaders.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Teaching about Japan

Teaching about Japan This essay gives ideas for teaching about Japan in American classrooms. This includes ideas for history instruction.

From the site:

Present a historical perspective whenever possible. This notion is very closely tied to the idea of multiple cultural perspectives. Both Japan and the U.S. have a national historical consciousness of past events, and these often differ markedly. Furthermore, these historical perspectives often influence contemporary concerns such as trade and diplomatic relations. For example, U.S. textbooks inevitably herald the coming of Perry to Japan. The good Commodore is credited with the "opening of Japan." Most textbooks then go on to extol the virtues of increased trade. Japanese textbooks, however, stress that raw silk production at that time could not match market demands. Domestic shortages and rice hoarding ensued. Soon traders cornered the market and prices rose dramatically. Domestic economic chaos resulted. Two very different history lessons are taught here.

Similarly, Japanese textbooks characterize the United States after World War II as a "taikoku" or "huge country." Profitable trade, burgeoning industry, and a high GNP are stressed. This image of the U.S. continues today. Is it any wonder that Japanese trade negotiators seem surprised that a nation like the U.S. feels economically threatened by Japan? These images die hard, but they can be used to help enhance historical and cultural understanding.