Medium Post #3 (Week 4)
This week’s main theme is complicity — that is, how did ordinary Japanese people become implicated (consciously or not) in the act of inflicting colonial violence? Consider this question from the readings for lecture 7.
According to Google, complicity is “the state of being involved with others in an illegal activity or wrongdoing.” As such, ordinary Japanese people became implicated in the act of inflicting colonial violence by unconsciously influencing those around them with imperialist ideas.
The Japanese government used the idea of the “imperial(ist) mother” to convince others that Japanese culture was superior. And in order to become a “civilized” country, one has to abandon their own culture and in a sense become Japanese.
During the Meiji Period, the women lived by the saying “good wife, wise mother.” Women’s duty expanded to not only serve their husband and son but also their nation. Furthermore, the figure of the mother became a way for imperialist Japan to indoctrinate their colonial subjects through mobilizing citizens, asserting their superiority, and assimilation.
For example, in “Manchu Girl” Koizumi Kikue hires a local Manchu girl named Li Guiyu to help around the house. By the end of her contract, Guiyu sees her employers as her own mother and father. She begins to question her own cultural practices and even sends a letter to her family stating that “Japan and Manchuria trust each other.” Koizumi acknowledges her own bias and only assumes that Guiyu’s attitude toward Japan has changed despite having no evidence.
Is there a link between someone like Ayako in Mizoguchi’s Osaka Elegy and Koizumi Kikue, who wrote “Manchu Girl” based on her experiences in Manchuria?
I believe there is a link between the Ayako Murai in Osaka Elegy and Koizumi Kikue in “Manchu Girl.” Ayako and Koizumki represent the “modern girl” and the concept of “giri,” or obligation, towards serving their family and country respectfully. Giri is based on Confucianism’s five cardinal relationships in which children show their parents respect and subjects are loyal to their ruler.
How might these very different representations of late 1930s femininity in imperial Japan connect to the kinds of imperialist masculinity we see explored in the readings for lecture 8?
Ayako and Koizumki represent different ways that women supported the war effort. Both women made small changes within their own lives and attempted to influence those around them.
This feminist mindset is connected to “The Way of Subjects, 1941” from Lecture 8 which portrays Japan as one big family and the emperor as accepting of anyone: “The benevolent rule of the Emperor may be extended so as to embrace the whole world” (439). As we have seen in our readings, Japan is clearly not accepting of anyone. Japan sees itself as superior to all other countries except the west. They are simultaneously trying to westernize and become more occidental while making other its colonies become more oriental.
The last sentence of “The Way of Subjects, 1941” sums up the Japanese inferiority/superiority complex pretty well: “Japan is the fountain source of the Yamato race, Manchukuo is its reservoir, and East Asia is its paddy field” (44). In other words, Japan resides in greater East Asia and has taken control of Manchukuo in order to build its empire.