This week, we start off some coverage of the period of American rule over the Ryukyus, and the entwined histories of USCAR – the US Civil Administration for the Ryukyu Islands — and the GRI, the Government of the Ryukyu Islands. How did this arrangement work? What were the issues between them? And why did so many Okinawans come to despise American rule?
The CIA Reading Room has a bunch of declassified documents on USCAR and the Ryukyus. Here’s one of them.
Aldous, Christopher. “Achieving Reversion: Protest and Authority in Okinawa, 1952-70.” Modern Asian Studies 37, no. 2 (2003)
Inoue, Masamichi. Okinawa and the US Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization
Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People
US military stockades on Okinawa after the battle. The need to house a large number of troops for a potential invasion of Japan led to the earliest American base infrastructure; those bases, in turn, were so valuable the Americans decided to keep the area under their control.
The USCAR HQ building in Naha, 1950.
Okinawa island. Land in red is in use today by the US military for bases. This is less than the amount of land used by USCAR; there has been substantial base consolidation since.
Yaejima street in Koza, a town outside the major American base at Kadena, c. 1955.
A meeting of a pro-reversion association in 1954.
The front cover of the special passports needed for Okinawans to travel to Japan under USCAR rule.
Finally, a long overdue look at one of the most romanticized and exocitized parts of traditional Japanese culture. What are geisha? Where do they come from? Aren’t they basically fancy prostitutes? And haven’t I learned everything I need to know about them from reading Memoirs of a Geisha?
Dahlby, Liza Crihfield. Geisha
Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life
Masuda, Sayo. Autobiography of a Geisha.
Yamamura, Kozo, ed. The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 3: Medieval Japan.
An Edo period print of the shirabyoshi Shizuka.
A maiko named Fumino.
Geisha entertaining clients, c. mid-Taisho period.
Miehina, a maiko of Miyagawacho.
The geisha Kimiha from the Miyagawacho hanamachi, dressed in traditional style.
The maiko Katsumi and Mameteru practicing a traditionald ance.
This week, we cover an obscure bit of samurai history: the Keian Incident, a planned coup against the Tokugawa Shoguns that was foiled by a lucky bit of happenstance. What can we learn from something that, in a certain sense, didn’t actually happen?
Totman, Conrad. Early Modern Japan
Nishiyama, Matsunosuke. Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868
Paramore, Kiri. Ideology and Christianity in Japan
Shirane, Haruo and Tomi Suzuki. The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature
Walthall, Anne. Peasant Uprisings in Japan
A marker on the site where Yui Shosetsu’s head was put on display.
Another Keian Taiheiki print. Marubashi is at left, played by Ichikawa Sadanji the first. Shosetsu is in the middle, played by Nakamura Shikan the fourth. These two actors allow us to date this performance to either the late Edo or early Meiji Periods.
A print from Keian Taiheiki. Marubashi Chuya is at left; Yui Shosetsu is in the center.
This week, we round out our look at the celebrated women of Heian Japan with two very different careers: that of the celebrated poet Akazome Emon and the recluse known either as Takasue’s daughter or Lady Sarashina. Plus some final thoughts on women in the Heian era.
Morris, Ivan. As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams
Watanabe, Takeshi. “Akazome Emon: Her Poetic Voice and Persona.” Yale Waka Workshop 2013 conference paper
Sato, Hiroaki. Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology.
A karuta card for Akazome Emon.
Lady Sarashina would have come to the capital in a procession like this one. For a young woman, leaving the provinces would have been a big step in life.
Two pages of a transcription of the Sarashina Diary. Note the hiragana text; remember that hiragana was once known as “women’s hand.”
This week: the start of a two-part series on women in Heian Japan. What makes the social position of women in the Heian Era so distinct from later points of Japanese history, and from the East Asian cultural sphere more generally? How do we know what we know about the lives of women? And what can we learn from the story of one particularly badass woman: the poet and “femme fatale” Izumi Shikibu?