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Rediscovering America

Rediscovering America: Japanese Perspectives on the American Century

Peter Duus
Kenji Hasegawa
Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    Rediscovering America
    Book Description:

    In this extraordinary collection of writings, covering the period from 1878 to 1989, a wide range of Japanese visitors to the United States offer their vivid, and sometimes surprising perspectives on Americans and American society. Peter Duus and Kenji Hasegawa have selected essays and articles by Japanese from many walks of life: writers and academics, bureaucrats and priests, politicians and journalists, businessmen, philanthropists, artists. Their views often reflect power relations between America and Japan, particularly during the wartime and postwar periods, but all of them dealt with common themes—America’s origins, its ethnic diversity, its social conformity, its peculiar gender relations, its vast wealth, and its cultural arrogance—making clear that while Japanese observers often regarded the U.S. as a mentor, they rarely saw it as a role model.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95037-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    Ever since the Frenchman Michel-Guillaume Crèvecoeur wrote his famousLetters from an American Farmer(1782), foreign visitors and sojourners in the United States have been alternately attracted and repelled, dazzled and distressed, inspired and irritated, awed and angered by their encounters with America. For Crèvecoeur, the country was full of promise. It welcomed all comers to its shores, and it offered them opportunities they could not find at home. “Here,” he wrote, “individuals of all nations are melted into a new race of men, whose labours and posterity will one day cause great change in the world.”¹ Unlike most visitors,...

  6. CHAPTER 1 Illusion and Disillusion
    (pp. 15-44)

    Of all the foreign powers the Japanese encountered in the nineteenth century, the United States seemed the most different from the rest. It was a country to be admired, not feared. American gunboats under Commodore Matthew Perry had persuaded the Tokugawa shogunate to establish diplomatic relations with Western countries, but the threat of French and British gunboats is what ultimately convinced them to open their ports to foreign trade and foreign residents. And during the final struggles that led to the overthrow of the shogunate, the Americans remained benignly neutral while the French and the British, competing for influence, backed...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Students and Immigrants
    (pp. 45-86)

    Until the end of the twentieth century, Japanese visitors to the United States were few and far between. Only three thousand or so arrived before 1890, among them “undesirables” from the country’s lower orders: entertainers, gamblers, acrobats, prostitutes, and pimps. The majority, however, were students. For centuries, the Japanese had seen the outside world as a threatening place. Under the shogunate, movement out of the country (or back in) had been forbidden. But even before the Meiji Restoration, travel abroad became an opportunity to acquire “new knowledge” from the outside world to strengthen the country. In 1866 two young samurai...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Modan America
    (pp. 87-127)

    The victory of America and its allies in World War I changed the way that many Japanese viewed the outside world. The war “to make the world safe for democracy” had toppled the autocratic regimes such as imperial Germany, which Meiji leaders had sought as models, and it had thrust the United States to the front of the world stage. America had become a cultural, economic, and diplomatic force that had to be reckoned with as never before. It was no accident that in 1918, the year the war ended, the first professorial chair in American studies was established at...

  9. CHAPTER 4 The American Enemy
    (pp. 128-180)

    Despite a rash of fictional accounts of future wars between Japan and the United States, diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries were relatively tranquil during the 1920s. Not only did Japan join the League of Nations as a charter member, but the Japanese government also cooperated with the Americans in establishing naval arms limitations in the Pacific and supported (albeit less enthusiastically) American diplomatic efforts to phase out the “unequal treaty system” in China. Economic ties between the two countries also expanded. The United States became Japan’s largest customer (accounting for 40 percent of Japan’s exports), and Japan...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The American Occupiers
    (pp. 181-221)

    On August 15, 1945, the emperor’s radio announcement telling his subjects to “endure the unendurable”—defeat in the war with America—was met by feelings of anxiety and relief, humiliation and anticipation. Occupation by American forces was surely better than a bitter fight to the death on the soil of the homeland, but no one could be sure just how the American “beasts” would behave as conquerors. The central government cautioned local authorities to prepare for friction with the American troops, and it authorized the use of funds and materials to build “recreation facilities” (i.e., brothels, dance halls, and cabarets)...

  11. CHAPTER 6 America Ascendant
    (pp. 222-275)

    In the early 1950s liaisons between American GIs andpanpangirls became a metaphor for the Occupation years. Occupation censors had stifled media commentary on the presence of the American military forces, butpanpangirls clad in bright dresses and carrying handbags bought at the PX as they walked hand in hand with their American “boyfriends” were a constant reminder of the country’s defeat and humiliation. Critics of the Japanese government’s fawning cooperation with the occupiers, for example, railed against “panpanpolitics.” Thepanpanthemselves were the object of scorn and pity but also of respect and envy, for they...

  12. CHAPTER 7 America in Decline
    (pp. 276-336)

    Whilehan-Bei(anti-American) sentiment and ambivalence toward the United States emerged during the early postwar years, particularly on the political left, a majority of the Japanese people continued to view America favorably, often in awed reverence. It was only with escalation of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and recurrent trade disputes during the 1970s and 1980s that the popular image of America tumbled to earth. By the 1990s, a new word was coined to summarize nonideological negative feelings toward America:ken-Bei(revulsion toward America).

    During the Vietnam War the Japanese mass media coverage played a major role in spreading...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 337-341)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-342)