AAS Annual Meeting

Japan Session 155

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Session 155: "The Beauty in the Barbarian: Touring Colonialism/Postcolonialism inthe Japanese Empire"

Organizer: Kirsten L. Ziomek, Adelphi University, USA

Discussant: David L. Howell, Harvard University, USA

This panel reevaluates the dynamic period of Japanese colonialism through the eyes of the tourist. Just as those who lived during Japan’s imperial age crisscrossed frequently colonial borders and journeyed into different geographies, this panel mimics this dynamism by critically revisiting various locales of empire. Specialists focusing on Korea, Hokkaido, Taiwan and Micronesia will interrogate the power relations that underlay various tourism projects that involved and implicated the lives of Japanese colonial subjects. The interconnectivity of the empire, advancing technologies in media and transportation and ideologies such as nostalgia and a longing for the authentic promoted such ventures, leading to opportunities for Japanese, and in some cases for colonial subjects, to see the empire as leisure tourist. These crossings, which often lasted on into the postcolonial age, had socio-economic and political consequences and refashioned notions of who and what was savage or civilized and what was beautiful in the barbarian. By examining tourism in both Japan’s colonial and postcolonial periods and in different locales we bring together a motley cross-stitching of empire. Some of the papers on this panel call for new directions in understanding relations between Japanese and various colonial subjects, while others urge us to rethink the terrain of empire and how empire defines its subjects. Lastly, some of the papers make a step toward understanding the imperial consequences of tourism as it impacts indigenous peoples in their own communities. Overall, the papers convey the permeability of the boundaries between metropole and colony, and the colonial and postcolonial.

“How to Civilize a Barbarian in Less than Fifteen Days”
Kirsten L. Ziomek, Adelphi University, USA

Naichi kankô (tours to the metropolis) were one of the longest running colonial policies targeted at Taiwanese Aborigines and pursued by the Japanese colonial government in Taiwan from 1897-1942. Colonial officials thought that through sightseeing and tourism savages could immediately be transformed or civilized (kyôka) upon seeing the wonders of modern civilization in Japan proper. For those of a savage nature, schooling and education were viewed as fruitless endeavors, and tourism (and to a certain extent movies) became the touted and preferred quick fix to savagery. In this paper I will explore the experiences of some of the participants from tour groups of different years. By focusing on individual people’s stories, I will foreground the larger trajectory of Japanese colonial rule over Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples throughout its fifty-year period as well as the significance of tourism within the Japanese imperial context. The principle of “civilizing through tourism” was not unique to Taiwan’s Indigenous peoples– Koreans, various ethnic groups from Manchuria and the indigenous people of various Micronesian islands were also brought to Japan under the same policy (proponents argued that the Ainu from Karafuto also made ideal candidates for such tours). At the same time tours to Japan were undertaken, tourism to the various colonies became a booming business for the Japanese. Therefore, I argue that tours to the metropolis can give us an insight into the larger phenomenon of colonial border crossing which often resulted in colonial roles to be in flux and colonial relationships to be reconfigured.

“Tourism and the Regionalization of Korea under Japanese Imperialism”
Kate McDonald, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

In 1929, the Government General of Korea launched Notes on Travel in Chôsen (Chôsen ryokô annai ki), a new format of tourist guidebook for Japanese travelers to the peninsula. In contrast to previous guidebooks, which provide no overarching narratives on Korea or Koreans, the editors of Notes on Travel in Chôsen took pains to provide Japanese travelers with an historical and cultural context within which they could locate tourist sights. To do this, Notes included substantial introductory essays on Korean history, customs, and geography, a feature that had previously been limited to guidebooks for foreign travelers. This presentation will examine the regionalization of Korea within the Japanese Empire during the 1930s through tourist guidebooks and travelogues. Beginning with the 1929 Notes on Travel in Chôsen, the Government General of Korea assumed that Japanese travelers lacked an appropriate framework for the interpretation of tourist sights in Korea. New guidebooks, pamphlets, and magazines, such as Tourism Chôsen (Kankô Chôsen), endeavored to provide this framework through narratives that reoriented the history of the Korean peninsula from a region marked by the overlapping histories of various dynasties to a self-contained and historically a priori territory defined by its interactions with Japan. With a history that ended with the so-called reunion of Korea and Japan (otherwise known as annexation), this new history constituted Korea as region within Japan as it attempted to define a Korean culture and history that could exist within the Japanese imperial body.

“Contested Heritage and the Textiles of Colonial Conquest among Postcolonial Ainu”
Ann-Elise Lewallen, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Control of Hokkaido was a primary concern of Japan’s modernist project. Ainu ancestral lands, which straddle the borderlands between present-day Japan and Russia, constituted terrains of imperialist desire into the 19th century. Cartographic histories teach us that northeastern Asia was among the last region of the globe to be mapped, and Ainu women’s clothworked narratives are imbued with the fabrics of these early exchanges. These early tourist commodities are laden with colonial power: Ainu bark-fiber robes, coveted as exotic textiles, were purchased by surveyors as Ezo-miyage (souvenirs of Ezo) as early as 1799. These primary texts trouble standard historiographies of Japanese colonialism as a 20th century project. Concommitantly, and despite their interpellation in colonial agendas, these robes embody ancestral authority for today’s Ainu artists. From Meiji onward (1868-present), Ainu and tourism became linked in the national imaginary, as Ainu villages were transformed into sites of performing Otherness for majority Japanese. Twentieth-century tourist villages commodified “traditional Ainu” and would come to be despised by fellow Ainu for circulating antiquated stereotypes. On the other hand, these communities served as incubators for aesthetic practice, creating a niche for earning income through heritage production and performance. In tourist locales Ainu could openly express their ethnicity, generating a space for pan-Ainu solidarity and cultural revitalization. In this paper I reflect on the roots of today’s Ainu cultural revitalization and the quest for authenticity, assessing the resonance between vestiges of colonial conquest in souvenir commodities, and the contested nature of heritage in contemporary Ainu tourism.

“Chasing the Chieftain’s Daughter: A Journey through Japan’s Imperial Desires in Micronesia”
Greg Dvorak, University of Tokyo, Japan

This paper takes a critical tour through the 1930s and 1940s prewar Japanese popular cultural imaginary of the “South Seas Islands,” centered around the narrative of the 1931 song “Shūchō no Musume” (The Chieftain’s Daughter) and the expectations and fantasies that spawned throughout the Japanese Empire. I look at the genre of “Nanyō Odori” (South Seas dances) that accompanied this song and served first as touristic pageantry before the war but later as nostalgic performances for Japanese settlers forced to return to mainland Japan after the war. Exploring the racialized and gendered aspects of Japanese Orientalism and “Tropicalism” in Micronesia, we will make a musical and visual journey to trace the Chieftain’s Daughter archetype and her enduring legacies into contemporary times.